The University of Minnesota Extension Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (Southwest RSDP) is a community-driven board of directors working with community members across the region to create and sustain healthy ecosystems, strong local economies and vibrant, self-reliant rural towns.
Southwest RSDP launches education and research that help people understand and achieve sustainability across southwestern Minnesota. We support projects that demonstrate public purpose and build partnerships with residents of the region, and link these projects to local assets and University of Minnesota research and educational resources.
The Southwest region includes the counties of Big Stone, Brown, Chippewa, Cottonwood, Douglas, Grant, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, McLeod, Meeker, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Pope, Redwood, Sibley, Renville, Rock, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Watonwan and Yellow Medicine, and shares geography with the Upper Sioux and Lower Sioux sovereign Native nations.
Southwest RSDP has been serving rural Minnesota for two decades. From 1998 through 2011, the West Central RSDP operated as a 12-county region. The geographic region was expanded in 2012 to include all counties in the southwest part of Minnesota, and the program renamed Southwest RSDP. New members of the board of directors were elected to represent the newly included counties.
The Mary J. Page Community-University Partnerships Fund honors former Olivia Mayor, Renville County Commissioner and University of Minnesota Regent Mary Page for her contributions to community-driven sustainability projects across Southwest Minnesota and beyond. Mary helped create, and then served on, the founding board of the West Central RSDP from 1999-2007, and gave statewide leadership to RSDP until 2009.
Rapid responses to COVID-19 in Southwest Minnesota
Southwest Minnesota community members have been supporting their neighbors this spring. Starting in late March, Southwest RSDP's board invited ideas for rapid responses to COVID-19 and supported six projects in which a small infusion of support was able to have a meaningful impact.
In Lakefield, the nonprofit Kirby's Closet collected a list of homebound elderly and immune-compromised residents who needed basic hygiene and cleaning supplies. Volunteers created baskets and delivered them to people in need.
In Graceville, Graceville Women's Organization provided food and snacks for elders and for the school's backpack program. GWO members shopped for the essentials at local stores, providing additional business traffic during this challenging time.
Prairie Ally Outdoor Center and food forest benefited from a rapid response assistance to help with planting of spring perennials in Luverne, at a time when volunteer events had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.
And the Department of Public Transformation, based in Granite Falls, is calling for artists from around the region to propose creative solutions to challenges in their own communities. Workers in the creative economy, whose incomes have been disrupted by cancellations, will have the opportunity to use their skills to address local concerns while at the same time earning a stipend for their work.
Read more about how RSDP has rapidly responded to the pandemic.
New projects summer 2020
In summer 2020, Southwest RSDP is launching new partnerships with community partners from around the region. New partners include Operation Prairie Venture in Slayton, the We Are Water team in west central Minnesota, the Southwest Hmong Association, and the Southwest Regional Development Commission.
In addition, Southwest RSDP is collaborating on several new multi-region projects. For example, the Minnesota Office of Soil Health is working with Soil and Water Conservation Districts to collect photos and other information about cover crops, in order to better inform farmers about what to expect when planting cover crops at different locations across Minnesota.
Stay tuned for stories about new RSDP projects as they unfold in coming months.
See all projects
Learn more about projects supported by Southwest RSDP in our storymap.
Happenings and reports from the Southwest RSDP
Farmers across the state are expanding their knowledge of soil health by keeping soil covered, minimizing tillage, and keeping living roots in the soil. A new report, "Soil Health Case Studies 2020," describes the experiences and lessons learned of nine farms across southern Minnesota. The case studies were developed by graduate student Aidan Read, in cooperation with Southwest RSDP, the Sustainable Farming Association, and the Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM).
Innovations in Cooperative and Small Grocery
What resources, tools, and techniques are small food retailers, particularly cooperatives, using to be successful? Looking at six different food retailers across Greater Minnesota, this study explores the benefits and challenges of various innovative business practices. Graduate research assistant Monica Jarvi developed this set of case studies, “Innovations in Cooperative and Small Grocery,” in cooperation with New Ulm Community Market and Cooperative and Southwest RSDP. Read the case studies.
Nonprofit Deep Winter Greenhouses
MNYou Youth Garden in Willmar is planning to build a Deep Winter Greenhouse (DWG) in Willmar as a training site for new immigrants to learn the basics of growing food in Minnesota. To better understand how DWGs work best in nonprofit settings, they worked alongside graduate student Zoë Masterpole, Masters of Community Development Practice, to research other non-farm (nonprofit, educational, and/or located in urban settings) DWGs in Minnesota. Read the report "Nonprofit Use of Deep Winter Greenhouses: Minnesota Case Studies."
Project ideas are submitted to one or more of RSDP’s regional boards based on the location of the project. These project ideas are reviewed based on the following shared criteria. Southwest RSDP encourages idea submissions by February 10 for the following fiscal year period of July 1 to June 30.
- Community members identify project goals in one or more of the four RSDP sustainable development focus areas.
- The project involves meaningful roles for both local community members and University of Minnesota faculty, staff and/or students.
- The project engages diverse populations and advances new community collaborations.
- The project supports environmental, social and economic sustainability for public purpose or benefit. Project learning or actions will be shared.
- Community partners provide leadership and support throughout the life of the project.
- Priority may be given to projects that leverage funds or other contributions.
Southwest RSDP board members
- David Benson, firstname.lastname@example.org - Bigelow, MN
- Jodi DeJong-Hughes, email@example.com - Willmar, MN
- DeeAnn Gieseke, firstname.lastname@example.org - Sleepy Eye, MN
- Sara Gronfeld, email@example.com - Graceville, MN
- Kathryn Kelly, firstname.lastname@example.org - Olivia, MN
- Arne Kildegaard, email@example.com - Morris, MN
- Eric L'Abbé, firstname.lastname@example.org - Worthington, MN
- David Lieser, email@example.com - Montevideo, MN
- Linda Meschke, firstname.lastname@example.org - Fairmont, MN
- Cheyanne St. John, email@example.com - Morton, MN
- Sean (Xiong) Yang, xyoojyaj3D@hotmail.com - Walnut Grove, MN
- Becky Yust, firstname.lastname@example.org - St. Paul, MN