The University of Minnesota Extension Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (Northwest RSDP) contributes to a vibrant future for Northwest Minnesota. We partner with residents and organizations in the northwestern region of our state to support their ideas to improve the sustainability of their local communities. We support projects in the areas of agriculture and food systems, resilient communities, clean energy and natural resources. All projects we support are connected to University of Minnesota resources.
The Northwest RSDP serves Kittson, Roseau, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, Clearwater, Beltrami, Polk, Norman, Mahnomen, Clay and Wilkin counties as well as these sovereign Native nations: Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation. Ottertail and Becker counties are also included in food systems projects. Water-related projects include the area that drains to the Red River of the North.
The region’s natural history shows up in a diverse landscape shaped by ice and water and representing all four major biomes in Minnesota. Its cultural history traces the stories of indigenous people, voyageurs and fur traders, immigrants from northern Europe, and later from all parts of the world. The Red River of the North and its tributaries drain just over one fifth of Minnesota. The landscape includes remnants of native boreal forest, aspen parkland and maple, basswood forests, and tall grass prairie. The Red River Valley has a strong agricultural identity and brings to mind images of deep, rich soils and agricultural productivity.
The region is home to 215,000 people. Median age in the region is 41 compared to 37 in Minnesota. Agricultural production, manufacturing and healthcare are important economic sectors. Minnesota Compass tracks and analyzes trends that affect regional quality of life.
Asset and network mapping in Moorhead
The Moorhead Asset/Network Mapping Project occurred over a three month period during the summer of 2021. In cooperation with RSDP and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), the Moorhead Asset/Network Mapping Project was able to provide the Moorhead Community Resilience Task Force with a better picture of the organizations, resources, and networks in the community through the creation of asset maps and a network connections map.
Middle River Veterans Outdoors-solar battery storage
On November 1st, 2021 a Solar plus battery storage project powered up for the first time in Middle River. The idea was conceived by Middle River Veterans Outdoors (MRVO), a non-profit organization that provides outdoor hunting and fishing experiences for Disabled Veterans. Solar power is used to charge wheelchairs that have been equipped with tracks in place of wheels. This allows Disabled Veterans to experience outdoor activities that were not possible for them otherwise. Additional solar power is stored in a lithium ion battery mounted on the wall which is used primarily for lighting the building and the American flag outside. MRVO Treasurer Wayne Kilen spearheaded the project.
Design for Community Regeneration
Design for Community Regeneration (D4CR) is off and running in the community of Warren. The process seeks to dream, discover, envision, and implement regenerative projects and policies related to the use of public land. Geodesign is at the heart of the process which allows team members to experience their ideas through "playing" a game-like process. Four "point of view" teams have been created from community members representing: existing residents and businesses; organizations; institutions and newcomers; and government and investors.
The framework orientation meeting took place in March and was the kick-off for most community members. Although planning with local stakeholders has been taking place over the past few months. The process is being led by the University of Minnesota Design Center and includes partners from the Institute on the Environment, NW Regional Development Commission and RSDP.
Exploring electric vehicle car sharing in Northern Minnesota
Car-sharing programs can save individuals money on car payments and repairs, provide transportation access and protect the environment. Incorporating electric vehicles (EVs) into car sharing offers even more environmental benefits. Learn more about what Minnesotans had to say about using EVs through research supported by the Northwest RSDP.
Farm to Grocery workshops
The University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships program works with small and medium-sized farms to help them increase their markets for locally grown food. As such, we developed a Minnesota Farm to Grocery Toolkit that is tailored to small town grocery stores. We shared this information with both farmers and grocers through a series of three interactive online workshops that featured speakers and content on various topics related to farm to grocery.
Supporting food access & youth through rapid response program
Northwest RSDP supported food access and youth through its Rapid Response program in early 2021. Four projects increased food access during the pandemic and served those in quarantine, those isolating to prevent exposure, and those impacted by the recession. Two projects will increase garden-fresh produce access through the summer. Four projects provided access to technology and provided clean and safe places for youth and family housing. The NWRSDP board appreciates the ways communities have risen to meet the challenges posted by the pandemic and were happy to assist in these projects.
RSDP welcomes new board members
Rani Bhattacharyya is a community economics Extension educator who has been working with the University of Minnesota since 2012. In her role as a regional Extension educator, she has been serving 11 counties in Northwest Minnesota. As one of the more rural parts of the state, the Northwest region has many entrepreneurial resources available to residents that are not being used. To help address this issue, she has been exploring how Extension can support and leverage local efforts that promote entrepreneurship and small business development.
Katy Spoden wears a few hats in Warroad. She is the business manager of Visit Warroad, handling tourism promotion for the community and supporting businesses with the Warroad Area Chamber of Commerce. Katy also works with children through Head Start, providing essential care for busy families. She is passionate about family, friends and community. She can truly relax with basics from nature. Katy brings a background in tourism, communities and experience in parks and recreation.
Del Rae Williams is a retired CPA who lives in Moorhead, MN with her spouse, Ron Williams. Del Rae is the former Mayor of Moorhead. Her career was in public accounting but she has been involved in a variety of organizations that may be helpful with RSDP. Some of her organizations that connect to diversity include Moorhead Human Rights Commission, Freedom for Independent Living, Inc, Mujeres Unidas and Moorhead Healthy Community Initiative. During her term as Moorhead’s Mayor, she initiated the City with the Green Step program. Moorhead has a public utility for electricity and most recently was recognized for using 100% renewable energy. She also chaired the FM Diversion Authority, initiated Moorhead’s Arts and Culture Commission, and lobbied for over $130 million in underpass funding.
She has two grown children, Lyndi and Sam Williams. Lyndi lives in Moorhead and works at the West Fargo Public Library. Sam is a student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.
RSDP Fellow Dennika Mays focuses on Indigenous Sovereignty
Dennika Mays builds bridges between Indigenous Native and non-tribal communities in many ways, including through a fellowship co-hosted by RSDP and the Chancellor's Office at the University of Minnesota Crookston. She hopes her work will show the opportunities that can be found in connecting regional food, water and energy security with Indigenous Sovereignty frameworks. After conversations with several RSDP workgroups, Dennika is thrilled to see the strides rural Minnesota is making toward increasing local food capacity and addressing climate change. Dennika is also an artist currently planning a new installation with the University Arts Committee. Her current work focuses on finding best practices that facilitate inclusion, representation, and build inter-community connections between Native, minority, and rural communities.
Entrepreneurship and partnership strengthen food sovereignty in Red Lake
RSDP Partner, 4-Directions Development (4DD), provides training, technical assistance, financing and facilities to the Red Lake Nation and community members. As part of 4DD’s work, the Red Lake Nation’s Gitigaanike Foods Initiative has grown to supply an abundance of fresh food to community members throughout the year. It has also hosted numerous events, including an Annual Food Summit bringing participants from across the Great Lakes Region, to highlight the community’s efforts and traditional foods. Learn more about how they’re training Native farmers and food entrepreneurs in a partner spotlight and interview with Sharon James, Executive Director, 4-Directions Development.
New survey reveals challenges and opportunities facing rural grocers
Minnesota rural grocery stores are finding ways to adapt to a challenging year such as strengthening connections to the local food system. Learn key findings from RSDP's latest statewide survey of rural grocers.
Northwest RSDP board
- Ben Anderson, firstname.lastname@example.org - Moorhead, MN
- Rani Bhattacharyya, email@example.com – Crookston, MN
- Mike Hirst, firstname.lastname@example.org - Baudette, MN
- Lyndon Johnson, Lyndon_Johnson@yahoo.com - Hallock, MN
- Veronica Kingbird-Bratvold, email@example.com - Red Lake, MN
- Jacob Mans, firstname.lastname@example.org - Minneapolis, MN
- Ken Mendez, email@example.com - Crookston, MN
- Shannon Mortenson, firstname.lastname@example.org - Warren, MN
- Matt Simmons, email@example.com - Crookston, MN
- Katy Spoden, firstname.lastname@example.org – Warroad, MN
- Del Rae Williams, email@example.com – Moorhead, MN
- Tim Williamson, firstname.lastname@example.org - Bemidji, MN
- Adam Woljer, email@example.com - Mahnomen, MN