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.
A clear picture of intermediate wheatgrass adoption in Southern Minnesota is the subject of a new report by graduate student Erik Muckey. The report combines information from farmers, other stakeholders, and researchers with a survey of existing research and outlines recommendations for decision-making regarding commercialization of intermediate wheatgrass grain, also known as Kernza®. Read the report here.
Nine farms in Southwest Minnesota are featured in a new set of soil health case studies collected by graduate student Kathy Dooley. Dooley’s interviews with the farmers explored their motivations, benefits, and challenges of their experiences building the health of their soil. The project reflects the understanding that farmers learn best from each other and that strong connections across the landscape will result in wider adoption of sustainable practices. Read the case studies here.
The Morris Area High School robotics team has fulfilled their goal of installing an array of solar panels at their school. The panels were installed in May, and will be interconnected and producing power this fall as students attend classes. The school will realize a cost-savings because of the electricity produced by the panels, which will then be re-invested in the robotics team as they compete in science, technology, engineering and math projects. Read more from the Stevens County Times here.
Learn more about projects supported by Southwest RSDP in our storymap.
You might be interested in these happenings and reports from the Southwest RSDP:
- MNYou Youth Gardens increase access to fresh vegetables through gardening with minority youth and offering a CSA program that donates shares to low-income families. On August 15, 2019, Southwest RSDP’s local food systems work group met at the MNYou site near Willmar, where co-founder Ben Larson showed the group around the extensive gardens that supply 60 CSA shares. Half of these shares are provided at no cost to low-income families through a partnership with local healthcare organizations. MNYou is currently working with Southwest RSDP and a graduate student to develop case studies of non-farm Deep Winter Greenhouses operated by nonprofits, schools, or coalitions, and those operating in urban settings.
- A team including Southwest RSDP staff is looking at the market for Halal and Kosher meats in Minnesota. The project’s goal is to outline the current market scope, as well as market segmentation, growth trends, and potential for expansion within the region, with the ultimate goal of supporting Minnesota farmers and consumers. The project is being led by the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and AURI. Stay tuned for a report to be published this autumn.
- Dawn and Grant Breitkreutz are leaders in soil health and conservation practices on Stoney Creek Farm near Redwood Falls. In addition to being featured in the Soil Health Case Studies published recently by Southwest RSDP, Sustainable Farming Association, and UMN’s Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management, this summer they have been honored in a new way: they are featured on a Wheaties box. Read more here.
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.
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