The view from Smoke Farm 
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The view from Smoke Farm
Credit: KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

A farm. A barn. A sylvan symposium for our times

For 11 years, the Rubicon Foundation has invited the public to a barn in Snohomish County. The place is called Smoke Farm. It was named after the family who ran a dairy there.

The occasion is a day of talks, food and conversation. The Rubicon Foundation is dedicated to “restoring and protecting habitat and natural diversity and providing environmental education, observation, and appreciation activities at Smoke Farm.”

The first time I heard a bootleg recording of this event I was struck by a sense of place. There was the rain on the barn roof, the occasional dog bark and baby cry, informed presentations and thoughtful questions from the audience. My mind set the scene for me. I imagined folks sitting on bales of hay in a shelter in the woods up north. Now I know firsthand what it’s like to visit Smoke Farm. It’s a pleasure to be sure, but if you haven’t been, take this opportunity to imagine for yourself what it’s like.

This year, the talks included an exploration of the concept and reality of open prisons; insights into navigating Asperger's syndrome; a neuroscientific update on what we know about dopamine and learning systems; a consideration of the economics of urban relationships in Seattle and Hamtramck, Michigan, and the possibilities of post-capitalist civilization; and a poetic meditation of sorts on receptivity.

The speakers are Fulbright fellow Mary Weir, Highline College’s Program Manager for Prison-Based Education, who studied Danish prisons for two years; retired clinical psychologist and “Aspie” Clark Martin; Adrienne Fairhall, professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Washington; writer and filmmaker Charles Mudede; and author and Evergreen State College professor Miranda Mellis.

The Smoke Farm Symposium 2019 took place on September 21. It was hosted, as usual, by Stuart Smithers, who, when he isn’t Smoke Farming, teaches at the University of Puget Sound, and Brendan Kiley, who reports on arts and culture for the Seattle Times.

Hear each complete talk below:

Mary Weir
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Mary Weir
Credit: KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

Smoke Farm Mary Weir

Clark Martin
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Clark Martin
Credit: KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

Smoke Farm Clark Martin

Adrienne Fairhall
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Adrienne Fairhall
Credit: KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

Smoke Farm Adrienne Fairhall

Charles Mudede
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Charles Mudede
Credit: KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

Smoke Farm Charles Mudede

Miranda Mellis
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Miranda Mellis
Credit: KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

Smoke Farm Miranda Mellis