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RSDP Happenings newsletter

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RSDP Happenings - March 2018

By Caryn Mohr

Crosslake loon center project attracts national attention

loon floating on a lake



Central RSDP is playing a lead role in managing and facilitating a broad-based community-University effort that will result in the first of its kind: a National Loon Center.

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City of Gary shows the big talents of a small town

Linda Kingery, Karie Kirschbaum and Virajita Singh standing together

Northwest RSDP Executive Director Linda Kingery, City of Gary Mayor Karie Kirschbaum, and UMN Assistant Vice Provost and Senior Research Fellow Virajita Singh.




When the City of Gary worked with Northwest RSDP to develop a master plan for the Gary Pines forest, residents came together not only to chart their vision, but to contribute their hands-on skills.

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Duluth nature center project demonstrates the future of solar

hartley nature center in background with a group of people standing in front listening to a speaker

Source: Alison Hoxie.




With support from the Northeast RSDP, Hartley Nature Center in Duluth boosted the storage capacity of an older solar array with a new battery system. The result? A model not only for peers, but for future generations.

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New online database helps Minnesota farmers share sustainable practices

large tractor plowing a harvested field

Source: Jerry and Nancy Ackermann.




A new online database supported by Southwest RSDP will connect farmers with other farmers to share their experiences with sustainable farming methods.

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Southeast Minnesota towns share wastewater treatment successes

map that shows the Southeast Minnesota Wastewater Initiative community projects

Southeast Minnesota Wastewater Initiative community projects (source: Cannon River Watershed Partnership).




An innovative project with the Southeast RSDP is spreading wastewater treatment successes from town to town.

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September 2017

RSDP Happenings - Focus on RSDP Students

portraits of Top row: Claire Stoscheck, Aaron Job, Isabel Marsh, Joe Polacek, Elizabeth Braatz, Matt Grimley. Bottom row: Kate Svitavsky, Chris Gass, Kelly Fischer, Patrick Roisen, Elizabeth Bushaw, Cole Reagan.

Top row: Claire Stoscheck, Aaron Job, Isabel Marsh, Joe Polacek, Elizabeth Braatz, Matt Grimley. Bottom row: Kate Svitavsky, Chris Gass, Kelly Fischer, Patrick Roisen, Elizabeth Bushaw, Cole Reagan. Photo collage by Isabel Marsh.

By Mary Hannemann

Across the state of Minnesota, University of Minnesota students serve communities and make connections between hands-on community-based projects and their own academic pursuits. As part of the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships’ (RSDP) mission to connect community needs with University resources, students’ energy, passion, and burgeoning skill sets provide fuel for many RSDP projects. Between 2016 and 2017, RSDP worked with more than 60 students, enrolled at all five University of Minnesota campuses.

Connecting students to community needs

Students engage in RSDP projects through multiple pathways, depending on their campus and if they are an undergraduate or a graduate student. The Center for Small Towns at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) partners with the Southwest and Central RSDP regions through the Connecting Students and Communities Program. This program aims to assist rural communities with self-identified projects that also create opportunities for UMM undergraduate students to contribute to these communities and build their own skills. Students work on a wide range of projects, from understanding the local food system, to biological field studies of reptiles, to supporting downtown development efforts.

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Carol Ford

Carol Ford holding a basket of fresh produce

Carol Ford at home with local produce.

By Elizabeth Braatz

Imagine the edge of four-dimensional spacetime—that line where mystery meets science. Imagine growing bright, fresh foods in the middle of winter. Imagine helping bring local foods into a food desert.

Carol Ford is good at imagining a brighter future. Even more importantly, Ford is good at taking steps to make that vision a reality. Whether writing a “hero’s tale” modern novel, creating a winter Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project, or building one of the first Deep Winter Greenhouses (DWG), Ford is an innovator. We at the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) are fortunate to have her vision on our team as a Program Coordinator.

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Summer 2017

RSDP Happenings - Focus on Minnesota Wool Projects

close up of a black sheep's head

Photo by Jean Mueller.

By Elizabeth Braatz

It's nearly the peak of summer, but Minnesotans always keep in mind that our winters are cold. While the pastures are green, we can think ahead to warming up with fluffy, cozy wool blankets or hats made from locally raised sheep. One of the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships’ (RSDP) primary functions is to drive sustainability through resilient communities, and supporting local sheep farmers is good for local businesses, good for farming communities, and of course good for those cold winter nights.

RSDP New Crop Market Integration Specialist Connie Carlson has been busy connecting key people in the wool industry supply chain across the state from north to south. Carlson has a strong background in food systems. She serves as the chair of a regional food council and as President of the Crow River Chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association (SFA).

"The wool conversation is very exciting," Carlson said. "We are rebuilding and re-learning the value of sheep and wool on the landscape."

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Doug Franchot

Headshot of Doug Franchot

Doug Franchot

By Elizabeth Braatz

Doug Franchot has spent almost his whole life helping others. As a young man, he proudly served as an officer in the U.S. Navy for five years. After earning an undergraduate degree from Yale University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, he went on to have a successful corporate career with General Mills and Shedd-Brown, Inc., started two of his own companies, volunteered for many nonprofit organizations, and helped raise two wonderful daughters. We at the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) are proud to have Doug’s talents as chair of the Northeast RSDP Board of Directors and a community representative on our statewide RSDP Executive Committee.

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April 2017

RSDP Happenings - Focus on RSDP Faculty Board Members

Carl Rosen giving a presentation to a group of people in a classroom

Soil, Water, and Climate Department Head and Professor Carl Rosen describes research on vine nutrition as part of a Northern grapes project.

By Elizabeth Braatz

“I encourage you to do it! It was a neat experience, and [RSDP’s board of directors] was one of my favorite boards.”
-Dr. Michael “Mike” Mageau, Director, Environment and Sustainability Program, UMD

“It enabled us to see how developmental models worked in the field. There is nothing like on-the-ground experience to situate the work in reality.”
-Dr. Ingrid Schneider, Professor, Forest Resources

“There were so many great people, and I enjoyed interacting with them. All in all, they made it pretty easy—they have a lot of respect for faculty and respect for their many responsibilities. … The people I got to work with were the best part.”
-Dr. James “Jim” Luby, Professor, Horticultural Science

“It’s easy for us on campus to be very ‘content driven’ (i.e., evidence-based research). What the Partnership experience did for me was help me realize that the community context is very important to that scholarship.”
-Dr. Craig Hassel, Extension Nutritionist and Associate Professor, Food Science and Nutrition

These are quotes from University of Minnesota (UMN) faculty who previously served on one of Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships’ (RSDP) five regional boards of directors. RSDP boards offer faculty opportunities to:
  1. Connect their own interests and projects to the Greater Minnesota community
  2. Expand their community-engaged scholarship
  3. Learn about new issues and meet the people involved
  4. Serve as ambassadors for the land-grant university

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on RSDP Faculty Board Members

facial pictures of University of Minnesota faculty

Upper: Dr. James “Jim” Luby, Dr. David Mulla, Eric Castle, Dr. Carl Rosen
Lower: Dr. Ingrid Schneider, Dr. Craig Hassel, Dr. Michael “Mike” Mageau

By Elizabeth Braatz

Where on earth could you find a team of people that includes a former member of a White House Task Force, the head of the University of Minnesota (UMN) Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, a team leader for the group of scientists that created the Zestar!Ⓡ and Honeycrisp apples, a former member of Minnesota’s governor-appointed Council on Tourism advisory board, the director of both the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Environment and Sustainability Program and the Center for Sustainable Community Development, a specialist supporter and coordinator between Minnesota Extension and six Tribal Colleges, and the consultant behind several nature play spaces in Minnesota?

All of these people are faculty members who have served on University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) boards or led an RSDP project. In keeping with the mission of a land-grant university, RSDP connects faculty to opportunities for community engagement and community-engaged scholarship through our regional boards, projects, and resources.

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February 2017

RSDP Happenings - Focus on Stocking Freshness and Abundance

Greg Schweser talking to people in a grocery store

RSDP Director for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Greg Schweser and Matt Olson of Mississippi Market (left) talk with workshop attendees in Kiester, Minnesota.

By Elizabeth Braatz

How do I store fresh asparagus? Why has my avocado shipment gone gray? When are my watermelon beyond saleable? These are questions that owners of small, rural grocery stores may ask when facing the challenges of increased customer demands for a wide variety of fresh, local produce.

After extensive research, face-to-face talks, and consultations, a team of University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) staff created Minnesota’s first Fresh Produce Toolkit. The toolkit helps rural grocery store owners store, handle, and market fresh produce as well as locally grown produce.

The idea started when RSDP staff took note that rural grocery store owners often didn’t have the produce managers that larger stores had. In addition to all the other tasks required to run a grocery store, the basic care and display of the produce cooler was another item for these grocers to tend. A review of the literature and outreach to contacts within the grocery community soon found that basic information on the care and display of produce was not available.

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Sean Yang

Sean Yang crouched in front of community garden with his son in front of him

Sean Yang on a family trip to the community garden.

By Elizabeth Braatz

Today, Sean Yang is a Board Director for the University of Minnesota Extension Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (RSDP), a council member for the City of Walnut Grove, an active volunteer with the Economic Development Administration, a volunteer for the elderly, and a loving husband and father. However, he didn’t start that way.

From Laos to America

It’s so easy to take many things for granted. It’s so easy to take for granted that we were born in a land where people can live peacefully, speak freely, and travel easily. It’s so easy to forget that fundamental rights are also incredible privileges. Today, Yang reminded me of these rights and privileges. This is his story.

To quote Yang,

I was born in Laos and brought to the States at a fairly young age. I remember the routes and traveling by nights to take refuge in Thailand. I also remember our group stranded and sitting duck at the Mekong River banks waiting for boats from Thailand to help us cross the river to safety. Hungry children, exhausted adults, and families with women telling their children not to make any noise traveled for nights and days. I remember seeing my father’s exhausted expression from carrying heavy loads of food, and my mother’s frail face from carrying my younger brother on her back and holding my hand. We crossed mountains to get to the banks of the river edge wearing only flip-flops. Worst was seeing everyone's worried faces, waiting anxiously and desperately for the boat, wondering if it would come or not. My brother and I didn't dare make any noise nor beg for food, even when we had been starving for days, because the last word Mom had said was, 'Remember my child, do not make any noise or whine of anything, a single noise will seal your fate for the journey.'

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January 2017

RSDP Happenings - Focus on Deep Winter Greenhouses

wood framing of a deep winter greenhouse

David Abazs of Organic Consumers Association in Finland, the first community partner to build the prototype DWG as part of RSDP’s statewide initiative.

By Elizabeth Braatz

So, what are you hoping you’ll see in the future with Deep Winter Greenhouses (DWGs)?

“A good place for the whole garden operation.”

“I think it’d be neat to see this implemented both on the home scale and on the more production scale.”

“More research and development!”

“I’m really hoping to see more of these greenhouses being used at schools.”

If there’s one thing I learned while interviewing people about Deep Winter Greenhouses, it’s that these greenhouses can mean a lot of different possibilities to different people – and each of those possibilities is exciting.

What’s a DWG?

A Deep Winter Greenhouse (DWG) is a passive solar greenhouse that decreases fossil fuel use by relying on solar heat and an underground system of rock bed, soil, and drain tiles to store heat. The University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships' (RSDP) work with DWGs took root 13 years ago, when founders Carol Ford and her late husband Chuck Waibel built a Deep Winter Greenhouse.

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Hank Ludtke

Hank Ludtke

Hank Ludtke, Mayor of Frazee, Central RSDP board member, and RSDP Statewide Coordinating Committee and Staff and Executive Committee member.

By Elizabeth Braatz

Politician. That word has a lot of connotations. However, politician stems from the root world polis, or city, making politicians “people of the city.” Meeting Hank Ludtke—nine-year mayor of Frazee, Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (CRSDP) board member, volunteer with over half a dozen organizations, neighbor, friend, and father—I was reminded of that original meaning. Ludtke is what a politician should be: of the people, by the people, and for the people. RSDP is grateful for all the work that Ludtke is doing in his community and for our broader partnership as part of the CRSDP Board of Directors and RSDP Statewide Coordinating Committee and Staff and Executive Committee.

"Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” —Jimmy Carter

Ludtke’s path toward public service started with, of all things, a terrible accident. Ludtke spent most of his younger adult life working in the transportation industry, but a work disaster at age 47 left him severely injured. “I was paralyzed. … The doctors told me to get used to a wheelchair,” Ludtke recalled. “But I didn’t listen too well to them.”

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December 2016

RSDP Happenings - Focus on Lake Pepin

two kayaks beached on Lake Pepin

Lake Pepin - Photo by Dan Traun

By Elizabeth Braatz

"We Live in the Lake" video

Lake Pepin is the endpoint of the most polluted stretch of the Mississippi River in the state. Nearly 1 million tons of sediment are deposited each year, primarily from the Minnesota River. Sedimentation rates are 10 times higher than they were 150 years ago, and by the end of the century the entire upper end of Lake Pepin will be completely filled if no restorative efforts occur.

Luckily, a lot of people care about Lake Pepin and are working to spread awareness and promote conservation efforts. In a lighthearted educational video promoting these efforts to protect Lake Pepin, Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance (LPLA) Executive Director Rylee Main, St. Croix River Association (SCRA) River Corridor Steward Natalie Warren, and University of Minnesota Extension Southeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (RSDP) Executive Director Erin Meier perform together about the importance of Lake Pepin. Although the call for help for Lake Pepin is quite serious, the video highlights that sedimentation is something we can solve.

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Bob Backman

Bob Backman

RSDP Statewide Coordinating Committee and Northwest board member Bob Backman.

By Elizabeth Braatz

Bob Backman, a member of the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) Statewide Coordinating Committee (SCC) and Northwest RSDP Board of Directors, has had an interesting life. I (Elizabeth) always enjoy listening to people’s stories when I interview them, and I was amazed by the variety of things Backman has done.

Backman started his work life at a TV station while going to high school, and after college he helped develop educational videotapes for a college consortium. Later, he established four departments while working in the healthcare industry, strengthened the River Keepers as Executive Director where he continues to serve as a volunteer, and opened his own feed store business with his wife, Lynda.

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October 2016

RSDP Happenings - Focus on Student Engagement and Solar Energy

Kelly Fischer standing by an information table

Kelly Fischer at RSDP information table. Photo by David Fluegel.

By Elizabeth Braatz

In June 2016 a new user manual on solar thermal heating became publicly available. The manual explains how pool facilities can use RETScreen, a free software program that helps businesses learn whether it would be feasible to use solar power to heat pools. It is a wonderful tool that increases accessibility of renewable energy. However, what the manual doesn’t tell is the story of the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) project behind it, the student who wrote it, and the teamwork that brought it all together.

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Mary Hannemann

Mary Hannemann

Mary Hannemann (Photo credit: University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment)

By Elizabeth Braatz

The University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships’ (RSDP) goal is to connect Greater Minnesota communities to the University of Minnesota. We’ve had many successes, from Deep Winter Greenhouses to helping preserve high quality lakes. However, to most effectively connect the broader region to the University, we also need to keep strong ties with the myriad of student communities on the University of Minnesota campuses. This is where Mary Hannemann comes in.


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September 2016

RSDP Happenings - Focus on Fiber Supply Chain Study

white goat with horns looking into the camera

Photo by Jean Mueller.

By Caryn Mohr

Deciding what hat or sweater to buy might conjure criteria from warmth to fashionability. To local wool and fiber producers and consumers, considerations also include the impact on the landscape.

“If we help small landowners hold onto a few more animals, the impact on the landscape is really substantial,” said Erin Meier, Executive Director of the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships’ Southeast region (SERSDP).

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Rose Clarke

Rose Clarke

Rose Clarke, Conservation Corps volunteer and RSDP Natural Resources guru.

by Caryn Mohr

You have workgroups supporting natural resource projects in five different regions. Projects vary, and so do local needs and landscapes. Regional project autonomy matters, but so does inter-regional communication. What do you do?

You hire Rose Clarke, Conservation Corps volunteer, natural resource guru, and millennial idea generator extraordinaire, to cross-pollinate across regions.

Since January, natural resource work groups in RSDP’s five regions have benefited from Clarke’s attention and coordination. The idea to bring on added capacity and fresh perspectives through a Conservation Corps position was the brainchild of RSDP veteran and Northwest region Executive Director Linda Kingery.

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RSDP Happenings - Student Perspective: Protecting Pollinators and Making Partnerships

Kristen Anderson and Nathaniel Baeumler crouching down next to flowers

University of Minnesota students Kristen Anderson and Nathaniel Baeumler at the West Bank Community Garden. Photo by Alejandro Morales.

by Elizabeth Braatz

Enjoy this special feature by Elizabeth Braatz, RSDP’s Student Writer/Communications Assistant and a student in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS). This article was inspired by Elizabeth’s summer Student Conservation Association internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the St. Croix Wetland Management District. RSDP engages University of Minnesota students through project- and campus-based work across regions, and has developed a new partnership with the Institute on the Environment to further develop our student-engagement strategy. Elizabeth’s article illustrates the deep commitment and engagement of our students in sustainability issues.

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Summer 2016

RSDP Happenings - Focus on National Rural Grocery Summit

group of rural grocers standing in front of a coach bus

RSDP's Greg Schweser (5th from left) and Karen Lanthier (10th from left) travel with a busload of rural grocers to the National Rural Grocery Summit in Wichita, Kansas.

By Greg Schweser and Karen Lanthier

A town's grocery store is the root of its community, supplying local jobs and serving as a resource beyond job creation. Small town grocery stores are the town meeting place, they're the cheerleaders of the school and community events, and they both serve and purchase from other businesses in the community, recirculating local dollars. Grocery stores are closely linked with the pride of their community.

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Kelly Coughlin

Kelly Coughlin holding a pot of food

Past Central RSDP board member Kelly Coughlin.

by Elizabeth Braatz

“Alicia” had a family of four, and she had never cooked a homemade dish. She simply didn’t have the experience. However, after she enrolled in the Choose Health Program and took a cooking class taught by a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program educator with the University of Minnesota Extension, Alicia’s life – and her family’s lives – changed for good. Alicia started cooking homemade food, feeding her family more fruit and vegetables, and even saving money on groceries.

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May 2016

RSDP Happenings - Focus on SE MN Together

people sitting at a table holding notecards they wrote on

SE MN Together Community Conversation in Albert Lea. Photo by Peter Schuneman, Pocket Watch Photo, for SE MN Together.

By Elizabeth Braatz

One of the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships’ (RSDP) three core goals is “to strengthen the long-term social, economic, and environmental health of Greater Minnesota through active citizen leadership.” An excellent example of this can be seen in the Southeast RSDP’s (SE RSDP) co-sponsorship of and collaboration with SE MN Together.

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Connie Carlson

Connie Carlson

RSDP New Crop Market Integration Specialist Connie Carlson.

By Caryn Mohr

To Connie Carlson, relationships are everything. Whether she’s traveling the state for the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) or serving on a community board at home in Buffalo, she builds connections between people.

Carlson recently brought her relationship-building skills to RSDP. As the New Crop Market Integration Specialist, Carlson was hired to support ongoing projects that needed extra attention in what can broadly be called “supply chain connections for Minnesota’s sustainable, locally grown products.”

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April 2016

RSDP Happenings - Focus on Big Trout Lake

monarch butterfly on a purple flower

Source: Crow Wing SWCD.

By Elizabeth Braatz

Big Trout Lake is a beautiful place. Part of the Whitefish Chain of Lakes in northern Minnesota’s Crow Wing county, the lake is home to thriving populations of cisco, tullibee, and the rare lake trout while contributing to local tourism and high shoreline property values. It’s also one of the 176 deep, cold-water refuge lakes prioritized for protection by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) because its deep, clean, cold water provides a refuge for cold water fish that is resilient to climate change.

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Jane Olive

Jane Olive with a puppet

Jane Olive displays her hat-making and costuming skills at the 2014 TeslaCon convention in Madison.

By Elizabeth Braatz

The Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships’ (RSDP) work wouldn’t be possible without the many wonderful contributions from local community leaders. One such leader is Jane Olive, a member of the Southeast RSDP Board of Directors. Olive has been an integral member of the board, helping promote its projects for sustainable tourism and resilient communities while bringing in a wealth of knowledge from her experience as a member of the Mantorville Economic Development Authority board, a member of the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council board of directors, and as the president of the Mantorville Restoration Association.

As fellow board member and RSDP Statewide Coordinating Committee Chair Bob Cline said, “Jane is a dynamic individual with arts contacts and experience [within] our entire Southeast region.”

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March 2016

RSDP Happenings - Focus on Small Scale Aquaponics

Plant bed in a greenhouse

Plant bed in a greenhouse operated by PortFish in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Source: PortFish.

By Caryn Mohr

“Putting pieces together” is how Southwest Minnesota resident Noah Ryan described the origins of a community research project that marries aquaponics systems with Deep Winter Greenhouse design. Ryan and his friend Dylan Martin had small-scale aquaponics systems at their homes. When they learned of growing interest in passive solar greenhouses, they wondered whether there might be some magic in combining the two.

The pieces
Aquaponics is a type of agricultural system that combines aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (raising plants without soil). The fish waste provides nutrients for plants, and the plants filter the water for the fish. In most cases, a third party -- microbes and worms -- first processes the fish waste into usable material for the plants (The Aquaponic Source, 2015). According to aquaponics experts at the University of Minnesota, the number of aquaponics producers in the state has grown from three in 2010 to more than 40.

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Diane Booth

Diane Booth

Northeast RSDP Board member Diane Booth.

By Caryn Mohr

In the tip of Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region, Cook County spans 1,452 scenic square miles of land that traverse portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the north shore of Lake Superior. The county also has the second-lowest population density of any Minnesota county, with 3.6 people per square mile compared to a statewide average of 66.6 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census). According to Northeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (NERSDP) board member Diane Booth, addressing shared goals takes on added complexity in a sparsely populated region where less than 10 percent of the land is privately owned.

“For those of us who are a bit isolated here, the Partnerships have really helped us make some crucial connections with U of M resources,” Booth said.

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February 2016

RSDP Happenings - Focus on Children in Nature

kids hiding in a stick pile

Castle Park, Crookston, Minnesota

By Caryn Mohr

In his bestselling book Last Child in the Woods (2008), author Richard Louv spotlighted a phenomenon he called "nature-deficit disorder." Co-founder of the Children & Nature Network, Louv maintains that exposure to our natural world is integral to healthy childhood development and emotional and physical well-being. As Louv writes, "a growing body of research links our mental, physical, and spiritual health directly to our association with nature - in positive ways," yet at the same time children are spending less time in their natural surroundings.

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Sunny Ruthchild

Sunny Ruthchild

Southwest RSDP Board member Sunny Ruthchild

By Caryn Mohr

In the southwestern corner of the state, in the area where Little House on the Prairie gave a model of pioneer life, Sunny Ruthchild is building a model agroecosystem. On Merryweather Farm in Walnut Grove, Southwest RSDP (SWRSDP) board member Ruthchild grows organic apples, garlic, herbs, and vegetables, taking care to give back as much to the land as she harvests from it.

"I am learning how to live on this piece of ground recognizing it as an agroecology of its own," Ruthchild said.

But Ruthchild also knows that change requires more than modeling practices. Through her role as chair of the SWRSDP's Resilient Communities and Tourism workgroup, her past service to the Redwood County Soil and Water Conservation District board and Sustainable Farming Association, and the tours and community gatherings she hosts at Merryweather Farms, Ruthchild engages newcomers and longtime community members in conversations about environmental sustainability. In January, Ruthchild's efforts were honored with an Individual Achievement award at the Minnesota Climate Adaptation Conference for her work to advance understanding of climate change.

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January 2016

RSDP Happenings - Focus on Zumbro River Watershed

Draft design for educational/recreational site at Riverside Park

Draft design for educational/recreational site at Riverside Park in Mantorville.
Image by UMN Center for Changing Landscapes

By Caryn Mohr

Canoeing or biking along the Zumbro River in Southeastern Minnesota, families may not connect how their activities today impact the region’s long-term environmental health. Personal connections to the river and its watershed help community members understand their role in protecting their region’s natural resources. Yet for much of its history, the Zumbro River Watershed has remained an underutilized resource, with 98 percent of its land privately owned.

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RSDP Happenings - Spotlight on Caryn Mohr

Caryn Mohr

The Regional Partnerships are pleased to introduce Caryn Mohr, who came on board in early December as our new Assistant Statewide Director. Caryn brings a background in social science research and communications, having worked with educational institutions, nonprofits, and foundations to evaluate their work and share results. Caryn will oversee RSDPs' communication and evaluation efforts and work closely with Statewide Director Kathy Draeger to guide overall operations.

“I feel really lucky to be able to engage in such meaningful work with inspired people around the state,” Caryn said. “Meeting board members in the regions and my colleagues on campus, I’ve been struck by the dedication and expertise we have. It’s incredibly rewarding to play a role in spreading the word about our work and understanding the impact."

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