About Joel

“Where language meets the earth, there is the holy, there is the sacred.”
N Scott Momaday

My name is Joel Johnson, and as a practicing writer and agroecologist, the sacred space that Momaday mentions is my calling and passion. Every place has a story to tell.  When shared well, these stories ground our ideas and actions and lead us to promote the flourishing of all forms of life on earth.

It wasn’t until I left my home in Tucson, Arizona that I began to ask questions about where I came from and what defines a homeland. These questions continue to guide my ongoing journey towards nativity.

The petroglyphs above are inscribed on a rock on Tumamoc Hill, a familiar landmark on the horizon of my childhood, and unbeknownst to me, the location of 4,000 years of continuously cultivated agricultural space, the oldest in North America.

As I have wrestled with the concepts of place, belonging, and identity, the language depicted on this earth, and the tradition of connectivity it reveals, has become part of my story. This is the heritage of my place, and it challenges me to participate in a tradition of stewardship that transcends spatial and political boundaries.

I graduated from Messiah College in central Pennsylvania, where my commitment to place-based narrative led me to study both English and Sustainability Studies, with concentrations in Writing and Sustainable Agriculture. I graduated summa cum laude with departmental honors in English and was awarded the Donald and Anna Zook Alumni Merit Award for my undergraduate work.

Recent Work Experience

Trades and Agriculture Interpreter
Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, Tacoma, WA

  • Designing yearly agricultural calendar, including garden and crop rotations and care for heritage fruit orchard.
  • Interpreting 19th century agricultural practices, researching and leading educational programs and trainings on heritage farming skills for museum staff and public.
  • Training Fort Nisqually Garden Guild to save seeds and maintain kitchen garden
  • Leading group educational tours and facilitating Fort Nisqually’s escape room games.
  • FN liaison to the ALHFAM Indigenous Interpretation and Issues PIG
  • Cultivating fields, aiding in woodworking and construction of a period smokehouse, sowing, threshing, and winnowing grain, planting, harvesting, and preserving heirloom crops and seeds.

Independent Contractor
Narratives of Place, Tacoma, WA

  • Steward—writing whitepapers, website copy, and newsletters about regenerative agriculture
  • Western Ag Life Magazine—contributing quarterly articles about southwestern agriculture
  • Next Gen Consulting—researched information for factsheets on CA regenerative agriculture
  • Nikki Pava and Alegria Partners—provided ghostwriting, research, and editing for Green Wisdom book and blog posts to drive pre-publication marketing
  • GrowGreen—synthesized scientific research into marketing reports on biofertilizer effectiveness

Fellow
The Center for Public Humanities, Mechanicsburg, PA

  • Provided oversight to all public writing, including websites, blog posts, and museum installations.
  • Conducted independent research on the tribal and ecological history of the Susquehanna River.
  • Designed and implemented environmental education curriculum at Poetry in Place events for inner city Harrisburg school.