A conversation with Dan Burkhardt, co-founder of Magnificent Missouri, an organization that hopes to spread awareness and educate people on the importance of conserving the state’s natural resources. It also organizes fundraisers for Missouri conservation groups, primarily those that connect to the land in eastern Missouri through hands-on efforts. Dan, who is retired after almost three decades as an investment banker with Edward Jones, owns a 220-acre farm, Bethlehem Valley, near Marthasville, Missouri. He and Connie, his partner-in-conservation and wife, grow grapes for wine, cut hay and raise cows (restaurateur Gerard Craft of Niche, Taste and Brasserie by Niche has been known to buy one or two). The couple also started the Katy Land Trust to preserve Missouri’s woodlands and farms, and in 2013, Dan published “Missouri River Country: 100 Miles of Scenery and Stories from Hermann to the Confluence,” a coffee-table book featuring essays, historical photos and original artwork. His environmental concerns also extend to the Everglades, where he’s active in conservation work. His book on those Southern waterways, “Florida Bay Forever, A Story of Water from the Everglades to the Keys,” came out in 2013 as well.
What is your current frame of mind? Conflicted. When and where are you happiest? At my farm with Connie on a summer day. What is your favorite smell? Fresh-cut hay. What is one word that describes you? Lucky. What did you eat for breakfast today? A very complex granola concoction. What is your most marked characteristic? Optimism. What is your greatest weakness? Optimism. What trait do you most admire in others? Humor. Who or what is the greatest love of your life? Connie. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I’d have musical talent. What do you consider your greatest achievement? My family. Which living person do you most admire? Peter Raven. He’s the only person I know in the Pontifical Academy of Science. It’s a very cool, select group of scientists who meet with the pope to talk about environmental matters. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, who or what would it be? A panda. What is your most treasured possession? My farm. What is your greatest extravagance? My farm. What is your greatest fear? A corrupt US Supreme Court.
Who is your favorite writer? John Steinbeck. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “That’s great.” Which artists do you admire most? An artist who paints the Missouri River. What is your favorite hobby? Creating. Where would you most like to live? Northern California. Who is your hero in real life? “Ted” Jones [Edward D. Jones, Jr.], the visionary who created both the brokerage firm and the Katy Trail. If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be? FDR. What’s something interesting that you just learned? How to make pickles. What are you most looking forward to? The completion of Peers Store, an old general store we just bought on the Katy Trail. What is one thing you wish would happen? Peace and tranquility in Washington, DC. What is one thing you want to do before you die? Have one more good vintage from our chardonnay vineyard. If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be? “Relax, the Vietnam War is going to end someday.” Interview by Krystin Arneson Photography by Wesley Law ‘Archetypes’ are off-the-cuff interviews with St. Louis' most inspiring, well-known personalities based on the 19th century Parisian parlor game known as the Proust Questionnaire.
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