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.
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.
100 Rural Women
100 Rural Women held four convenings in March in the northwest region. In each of the four focus groups, women related their own experiences making connections and stepping into leadership.
Greater MN Resilient Housing Project
Jacob Mans, architect and educator in the UMN College of Design leads the Greater Minnesota Resilient Housing Project. The project aims to co-create affordable housing by working with the communities who will live there. During the summer of 2020, four graduate students worked with Mans to scope the project. A design studio will advance the work in fall 2020.
Reducing energy costs in Bemidji
The Shine a Light on Science project at Headwaters Science Center (HSC) in Bemidji shows the impact of upgrading to LED lighting at their facility. HSC is projected to save $1,787 annually in energy costs with the upgrade. The quality of lighting has improved dramatically and makes for a better visitor experience. Otter Tail Power rebates and a Clean Energy Resource Teams Seed Grant helped make the project a reality.
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.
Northwest RSDP welcomes new board members.
Ken Mendez was born and raised in Crookston, Minnesota and he is proud to have attended the University of Minnesota Crookston. Ken was an older than average student when he graduated in the spring of 2010 with a degree in communication. Ken has been the head of the mailroom on the UMC campus since January of 2011. He has two adult children, both of whom also attended UMN Crookston. Ken is excited to be a contributing part of the Regional Sustainable Development Partnership.
Lyndon Johnson farms east of Hallock, at a 140 year old homestead. He earned his BA from Concordia in Moorhead and completed graduate work in Sweden. In addition to the farm, he has taught Swedish, continuing education courses and high school. He is an active musician. Lyndon lends his broad experience and perspective to the Northwest RSDP board.
Awanookwe. Veronica Kingbird-Bratvold is from Red Lake Nation where she currently lives, works and volunteers. Her current position with Ombimindwaa Gidinawemaaganinaadog (Uplifting our relatives) provides adult mental health services through a culturally responsive lens-- with an emphasis on Ojibwe culture, language, traditional ecological knowledge, food sovereignty and healthy Indigenous foods. She brings broad experience in sustainability, including food sovereignty, clean water and clean energy. She has a Bachelor's degree from University of Minnesota Duluth with an undergrad minor in Environment & Sustainability. As a student, she proposed the idea and helped to launch the Minnesota Green Steps Tribal Nations program. Veronica has started a grassroots volunteer group within her community called Awesiinyag are Loved by the Anishinaabeg of Red Lake Nation which is meant to help the animals of Red Lake Nation-- as well as promote and display appropriate Anishinaabe culture of animal and environmental stewardship. Veronica is well connected to environmental advocates in the Indigenous and non-native communities in the region.
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, email@example.com - Moorhead, MN
- Bob Backman, firstname.lastname@example.org - Ogema, MN
- Sheila Capistran, email@example.com - Ada, 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
- James Snyder, firstname.lastname@example.org - Crookston, MN
- Tim Williamson, email@example.com - Bemidji, MN
- Adam Woljer, firstname.lastname@example.org - Mahnomen, MN