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The Scarlet & Black

True Grinnellian: Tom Lacina, Grinnell’s Renaissance Man

True Grinnellian - Susanne Bushman
Tom Lacina, whose involvment in the community expands into the the arts, law practice and tofu farming, poses in his law office in Grinnell.

A local lawyer, a patron of the arts, a tofu tycoon and much more, native Grinnellian Tom Lacina is Grinnell’s very own Renaissance man.

While Lacina may be all of the above, Grinnellians most likely recognize him for his work as a partner at Charnetski, Olson & Lacina LLP, the local law office located on Broad Street.

However, when Lacina left for college, he never expected that he would end up a lawyer, let alone return to Grinnell to do so. His path was an unnatural and unexpected one.

“It wasn’t like that’s what I always wanted to be,” Lacina said. “My dad always pushed me that way. He thought that I would be good with words and people and negotiating things, but I also loved music and the arts. So now I practice law, but I do a lot of work in the arts.”

Currently at the local law office, Lacina specializes as Outside General Counsel for Pulmuone USA, Inc. He unexpectedly became involved with Pulmuone, a natural tofu company, when he moved onto his parent’s farm in Grinnell with his wife in 1986. After earning a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning with an environmental emphasis, he received job offers in Minneapolis, Des Moines, San Francisco and Grinnell. Fresh out of law school, Lacina was faced with a decision as to where to plant his roots.

“It was like [comparing] an apple and an orange, or at least that disparate. But my parents also offered that we could move into the farm because they were older and wanted to move into town. So we decided to go ahead and come here,” he explained.

Lacina transformed that inherited farm into a tofu manufacturing farm, which eventually burgeoned into a consolidation of Pulmuone USA. Lacina still manages this farm, which specializes in organic soy produce and features non-GMO crops.

Lacina’s son, Joe, turned the family farm in another interesting direction when he returned from college and wanted to bring his new friends to Iowa. With Lacina’s blessing, they dwelled in the family farm for several months, creating art and inadvertently becoming the first generation of artists in residence of what is now known as the Grin City Collective.

“I said that’s fine … but [they had] to do a show at the end for the community. They thought that was neat, so the seven of them came and they spent a month doing art and had a show. And it was actually pretty successful. They sold a lot of their works,” Lacina recalled.

After that first generation, the Collective grew and evolved. Now a subdivision of the Grinnell Area Arts Council, the Collective has four artists in residence a year and attracts artists from across the country and globe. According to Lacina, because the artists involved in the Grin City Collective are attracted to the rural setting of Grinnell, he is in the process of surrounding the collective with 40 acres of organic pasture for the artists, many of whom are from large cities, to work on.

In addition to helping support the Grin City Collective, Tom Lacina is very active in Grinnell’s community arts and theatre administration. He served as the President of the Grinnell Area Arts Council for five years and helped to create the local Arts Center in the former library. He has directed various theater productions including “Peter Pan,” “Annie” and “Waiting for Godot.”

Law, art and theatre are not the only contributions that Lacina has made to Grinnell in his many years here. He has served on many different committees and boards in order to try to improve the town of Grinnell, including Imagine Grinnell, the Mental Health Center and the Mayflower Community.

“I love the community. It’s a unique place and it [has] evolved,” Lacina said. “Like so many Grinnellians, I’ve worn many hats over time.”

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