Backyard Stories Finds Connection through Land


By: Stacie Sullivan

Photo courtesy of Jonnah Perkins

For Jonnah Perkins, trail runner and POW Athlete Alliance member, the outdoors are far more than just a place to recreate and connect with nature. Perkins, based in southwest Wisconsin, is also a farmer. Over time, she developed a deep love and understanding of her own backyard and the ecosystems that sustain her community through growing food. This intimate connection inspired Perkins to create Backyard Stories, a podcast series about connecting both managed and wild spaces through agriculture. 

Jonnah Perkins
Jonnah Perkins on her home farm in Wisconsin

“It’s an exploration of how we interact with our backyard, not just as a playground, but also as an ecosystem that we benefit from both agriculturally and also recreationally,” said Perkins.

The concept of Backyard Stories was born during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many others, forced inside, Perkins reconnected with her backyard and dug into being present. What she found, was that the pandemic exposed this vulnerability, causing breakdowns in the consolidation of food distribution. “When we do become isolated within our own communities whether it be another pandemic or if there is a massive drought or flood, we need to have resilience within our own regions,” said Perkins.

On Backyard Stories, Perkins explores different communities and regions, by visiting other athletes and farmers with a stake in their own backyard ecosystems—whether it be through athletic pursuits, agricultural practice or land management. Throughout the series, Perkins immerses herself into the guests’ lives for a couple of days in order to have a firsthand account of how they interact with, and rely on, their own backyards. 

A snapshot from Nick Brown’s Backyard Story. | Photo courtesy of Trail Runner Magazine

“There’s been a lot of cooking, sharing stories around the campfire and getting to know people’s dogs and children,” said Perkins. “It’s been an amazing friendship-building experience that will extend far beyond this project which is really meaningful to me.” 

While community and friendship run deep throughout the series, reliance on water emerged as another consistent theme. The location of Perkins’ farm is susceptible to flooding. But in the regions she visits across the western part of the country, water is a scarce resource. “A big reckoning that our agricultural industry will face in the next five to ten years is whether agricultural lands are producing the crops and supporting food production systems in a naturally sustainable way,” said Perkins. “I think the answer is no. We’re coming to a point where we need to face the realities of our available natural resources.”

Episodes touch on the journey of water from up in the mountains back to fellow POW Athlete Alliance member, Dani Reyes-Acosta’s, farmstead in southwest Colorado; mining for water in California’s Central Valley; or water’s importance not only in agriculture but to fight wildfires. Each individual has their own unique story pertaining to their backyard. 

You can learn about the importance of connecting to and nurturing your own backyard ecosystem, and how you can take action to protect it, by listening to Backyard Stories below: 

Episode 1 — Stephanie Howe
Episode 2 — Kimo Laughlin
Episode 3 — Dani Reyes-Acosta

Episode 4 — Nick Brown
Episode 5 — Mike Foote
Bonus Episode — POW Executive Director, Mario Molina

Stacie Sullivan

Author: Stacie Sullivan

Stacie always knew she wanted to pursue a career in the ski industry from a young age, having first clicked into skis at the age of 4 and writing her 8th grade career project on being a professional skier. While her dreams of becoming a professional athlete didn’t quite pan out the way she planned at […]