Earth Fest 2010

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All Things Earth Fest!


Celebration of Local Traditions 

 Earth Fest is a celebration of local traditions and practical resources for sustainable living on the Iron Range of Northeastern Minnesota. The event offers opportunities to explore how we can all live more sustainably in our homes and communities, our economy and our environment. Participants are invited to learn about new and existing technological approaches as well as rediscover some of our long standing local traditions. We will tap into the knowledge of cutting edge experts as well as our local indigenous knowledge through exhibits, demonstrations, speakers and vendors. Emphasis is placed on local products, local services, local foods, local entertainment, and our local wilderness.



Iron Range Earth Fest 2010

Dear Readers,

The second annual Iron Range Earth Fest is coming soon! Last year, Hometown Focus was proud to be the exclusive print media sponsor for this event. We did six weeks of pre-event coverage featuring stories from community members across the Iron Range on topics that dealt with sustainability practices. The day of the event, I was driving there and as I came over the hill on Hwy. 169 and saw hundreds of cars in the parking lot, I was so thrilled! The event was a resounding success with over 500 attendees. This year the event promises to be even bigger and better, with more presenters, exhibits, and activities. We hope you’ll mark your calendar and participate in this great event. Visit with friends and neighbors sharing information and ways to have fun, enrich our lives and make our communities an even better place to live.

Jean Cole, Editor.

Calling all Young Inventors!

At a meeting of the Earth Fest committee for the 2009, a high school junior named Devon came to the meeting with an idea to have a contest on inventions that would promote sustainability. We did not have time or resources to pull that great idea off last year, but this year we started our planning early. Iron Range Earth Fest 2010 is proud to host the first annual “Green Inventors Contest.” Now we are looking for students to share their ideas on how we can make planet earth more sustainable through new gadgets, changing habits, improving old ways or a myriad of other creative ideas. The contest will be broken into three age brackets, grades 4-6, grades 7-8 and grades 9-12. Prizes will be awarded to the top three inventions for each age bracket and all participants will receive a certificate of completion. Judging will occur at the Iron Range Earth Fest on April 17, 2010. For a complete registration packet and guideline sheet, visit If you are not an inventor, please come and support our youth in their efforts to make a difference. All the inventions will be on display from 9-5 at the Merritt Elementary School as part of the Iron Range Earth Fest on April 17. See you there!

WHEN: Saturday, April 17, 2010, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. / Concert at 5:30 p.m.

WHERE: Mt. Iron Community Center, Messiah Lutheran Church, Merritt Elementary School, Mesabi Family YMCA

Presented by: Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability (IRPS); Northeast Minnesota Sustainable Development Partnership / U of M; Iron Range Resources; NE Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs)

What is Iron Range Earth Fest?

Earth Fest is a celebration of local traditions and practical resources for sustainable living on the Iron Range of Northeastern Minnesota. The event offers opportunities to explore how we can all live more sustainably in our homes and communities, our economy and our environment. Participants are invited to learn about new and existing technological approaches as well as rediscover some of our long standing local traditions. We will tap into the knowledge of cutting edge experts as well as our local indigenous knowledge through exhibits, demonstrations, speakers and vendors. Emphasis is placed on local products, local services, local foods, local entertainment, and our local wilderness.

Sponsors: Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability, Club Mesabi, Inc.; Congregations Caring for the Earth; Iron Range Youth in Action; Laurentian Environmental Center; Natural Harvest Food Co-op; North St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District; Virginia Sustainability Task Force

Media Sponsors:Hometown Focus Newspaper; KAXE Radio, Range 11 / Northland’s NewsCenter

Community Sponsors: ArcelorMittal Minorca Mine; Minnesota Power

Donors: Eveleth-Gilbert Community Education; Holiday Inn Express and Suites (Mt. Iron); Iron Range Labor Assembly; Laurentian Energy Authority; Mesabi Unitarian Universalist Church; Mt. Iron-Buhl Community Education; Virginia Community Education Schedule of Events 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Exhibitors, Speakers, Vendors at all three venues 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Food served by Natural Harvest Food Co-op 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Youth activities 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. YMCA Healthy Kids Day 5:30 p.m. Concert with Pat Surface and the Boundary Water Boys, Merritt Elementary School

General Information:

Connie Olson, North St. Louis Soil & Water Conservation District • 218-742-9504

Our email address:

Exhibitor / Sponsor Information: Ardy Nurmi-Wilberg Earth Fest Coordinator PO Box 139 Virginia, MN 55792 218-749-4331

Go to our web site: Topics of Presentation

Sustainable Communities Local Traditions:

• Storing and preserving food• Wild rice • Fiber arts - spinning, weaving, knitting • Blacksmithing • History of agriculture in our region • We call it sustainability, our ancestors called it survival.

What are our communities doing?

• Community Colleges • Faith Based Creation Care • Virginia Green House • Energy Efficient Ely


• Reiki • Myofacial Release Therapy • Chair Massage

Sustainable Economy

Energy Efficiency

Renewable Energy (wind, solar, geothermal)

Green jobs - Iron Range

Labor Assembly

Local Vendors:

• "Green" products • Making your home energy efficient • Locally produced foods

Sustainable Environment Sustainable Agriculture:

• Gardening • Composting • Making a rain barrel • Buying locally produced foods

Protecting our Environment:

• Hybrid cars • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency • Recycling • Hazardous waste management

Youth Activities:

• Green Inventors Contest • Concerts with the Okee • Dokee Brothers • Puppet shows • Jeopardy • Energy projects •YMCA Healthy Kids Day 2010 Exhibitors, Speakers, Vendors (as of 3/10/10 - watch for more coming!)AEOA Big Timber Coffee Boreal Natives Jo & Bruce Bjerke – master gardeners NE CERTs Cherry Greenhouse Conservation Technologies Cook Area Farmers Market DNR Ecological Resources Division DNR Waters Division Echo North Massage ECO (Environmentally Conscious Options) Energy Efficient Ely (E3) Fat Chicken Farm Gilley’s Naturals Gone 2 Green Wind Energy Gustafson Bicycle Service Habitat for Humanity Hometown Focus 1894 Treaty Authority Iron Range Labor Assembly Iron Range Resources - tree seedling give away KAXE Kunnari’s Farmers Market Laurentian Environmental Center Mark’s Country Market Menart Forge Mesaba Park Mesabi Recreation Mesabi Trail Midwest Renewable Energy Association MN Episcopal Environmental Stewardship MN Institute for Sustainable Agriculture Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Minnesota Power Natural Harvest Food Co-op Natural Resources Conservation Service NE CERTS North Country Heating, Cooling & Refrigeration Northeast Higher Education NE MN Sustainable Development Partnership Northland Electric Services No St Louis Soil & Water Conservation District Piragis Range Fiber Arts Guild Renewable & Sustainable Solutions St Louis County Environmental Services Sherwin Williams Virginia Greenhouse Virginia Historical Society Virginia Sustainability Task Force


Doing my subtainable best

By Ardy-Nurmi Wilberg
HTF Contributor

I’ve been on a pretty exciting and wild ride of sustainability this past year and a half as the coordinator of Iron Range Earth Fest, (held this year on April 17 in Mt. Iron) and project manager for the Virginia Sustainability Task Force.

Sixteen months ago I couldn’t even define the word sustainability, and today through a series of wonderfully synchronistic opportunities I’ve become a bit of a go to person in our area. I regularly get out of the blue phone calls from businesses, organizations and state agencies that want to network with us “Rangers” regarding a wide variety of sustainability issues. Who would have thought it - a sustainability movement on the Iron Range - with me in the middle of it?

Here’s what I’ve learned about that mysterious word sustainability; you can view it like a threelegged stool: our communities, our economy and our environment. They all have to exist in a healthy, holistic relationship – or, just like a stool with one leg too long or too short, it becomes unstable. If we don’t have a balance between the three elements of sustainability we won’t have a healthy sustainable Iron Range, state of Minnesota, USA, or world. A sustainable community has good schools, good health care, opportunities to recreate and appreciate the arts, a healthy faith-based community and active citizens. A sustainable economy produces, delivers and consumes goods and services in ways that will allow our kids and grandkids the same opportunities we have today. A sustainable environment means wisely using our soil, water, air, wood, water, plants and wildlife so all of that will be around for those future generations too. You don’t have to be a “tree-hugger” to believe in and practice sustainability; it starts by just caring about your home, your family, your friends and your community.

Sustainability doesn’t have to be flashy and it doesn’t have to be expensive, it can start as a grassroots movement, and it CAN happen on the Iron Range. Our ancestors lived sustainable lives, only they called it survival. My grandmother had a garden in Pike-Sandy, she canned and froze most of her vegetables and made her own sauerkraut (she was a good German) - that was sustainability. My hubby has been employed at Natural Harvest Food Co-op for many years, so for a long time we’ve reused those paper grocery bags or used cloth bags, we buy locally produced eggs and veggies at the Co-op, and by buying most of our food in bulk we eliminate a lot of extra packaging - that’s sustainability. We are pretty diligent about recycling, and have a small garden at our home in Virginia - that’s sustainability. While I love learning about wind and solar energies, we don’t live off the grid - a system like that is beyond our budget. So we keep our thermostat low (one positive to having reached the age of menopause) and put plastic on our windows in the winter - that’s sustainability. We don’t own a hybrid car, but I do drive a little Ford Focus (my father the Ford mechanic is proud), and it gets pretty good mileage - that’s sustainability. When the kids come to our door for Little League or the high school hockey team, we give them a couple of bucks - that’s sustainability.

We can have a few folks doing those big flashy things like living off the grid by installing wind and solar systems in their homes - that’s awesome, and I admire their passion and enthusiasm. But we can also have a huge impact collectively by doing a lot of small things like changing to CLF light bulbs, picking up a compost bin from St Louis County this spring and putting it up your backyard, brushing up on your recycling (what more can you put out on the curb instead of in the landfill), OR come to Iron Range Earth Fest on April 17, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Mt Iron, and learn more about what you can do and what others are doing. It’ll be a fun day filled with food, music, friends, an appreciation of the Iron Range, and lots of opportunities to learn. Check us out at or call Connie at 218-742-9504.

Ardy Nurmi-Wilberg is the Organizational Consultant and Coordinator of Iron Range Earth Fest 2010.

One Man's Substainable Lifestyle

Dear Readers: Kristian Jankofsky lives off the grid in a log cabin he built on 40 acres of land. Surrounded by the Superior National Forest and with no nearby neighbors we caught up with him at the Laurentian Environmental Center where he works and asked him what sustainability meant to him. We hope you enjoy this special Earth Fest feature. – Jean Cole, Editor

What does sustainability mean to you?

I think the biggest component of sustainability is figuring out how the little day to day things that we do impact the resources that we use, and environment around us. In a word our “choices.” I try to make a conscious effort to inform myself and make good choices, but it’s tough to do. I realize that I am very fortunate to life the lifestyle that I have. And living the way I do is a choice.

When did you first start thinking about living sustainably?

Well I think that goes back about ten years ago when I needed a place to live and bought 40 acres of land and a chainsaw. I had the childhood dream that a lot of boys have of living in a log cabin in the woods and through random phone calls and support from friends I started to make that dream into a reality. I really didn’t know much, but things fell into place, sometimes literally, and the people I needed in my life seemed to show up at just the right times to keep me going. It wasn’t easy, but in two months I went from digging a foundation to living in an “unfinished” log cabin.

What do you mean by “unfinished?”

Well let’s just say that it was sealed up enough by deer season that the snow wasn’t going to drift in too badly during the winter. I was pushing the temperature limits of getting mortar filled in between the logs on the outside. A project that, sadly today, is still in progress. And I cut firewood, as it turned out a lot of firewood, so I had a good pile going into the winter not knowing exactly how much I would need. With the wood stove going the cabin was warm, and with no worries about carbon monoxide buildup. I’m pretty sure that it will never be “finished.”

Are people surprised to hear that you live off the grid and don’t have running water?

I think the concept of using an outhouse every day really throws people off. But again that is a choice that I’ve made. It is something that you just get used to and to be honest really doesn’t bother me, although I am pretty quick about taking care of business when it’s 30 below! When you have to haul water you are careful with how much you use. I built a sauna and that gets fired up every other day or so. In the summer a jump in the pond is all I need to get cleaned up.

As far as electricity goes I’ve got a generator for big projects, but for the day to day electricity I use solar power. I’ve got a few solar panels and a battery bank that keep me going with 12 volt lighting and a radio. If I want to watch a movie I switch on the inverter and have ‘regular’ electricity.

How did you start out growing your own food?

I guess the first thing that showed up on the homestead were the chickens. I worked out a deal with them: in exchange for room and board they gave me eggs. They were simple to care for and not only provided food but amusement. And if things didn’t work out I figured I could always eat them. Needless to say generations of chickens are still around.

Following the chickens came the garden. Again, things just seemed to fall together. Friends of mine who lived in town had gardening experience but no space. I had all the soil, sun, and water they could want. They were the inspiration for the garden and fired the first shot in the epic battle with quack grass.

They now have their own place in the country but their green thumbs have left an indelible mark on me. I now have a prolific garden and grow more vegetables that I can eat myself, so I pass them on to friends. I also got into seed saving and understanding the concepts behind companion planting, crop rotation, and soil structure.

How do you store all that produce?

Jars. Lots of jars. Getting a pressure canner changed my life. I’m able to can most of what I grow, from beans and carrots to tomatoes and zucchini. Whatever I don’t can I either dry (in the sauna of course, on screen doors) or root cellar. I’ve had spaghetti squash that, believe it or not, have been stored for two years!

Do you ever go to the grocery store?

I try to avoid it, but yes, there are some staples that I have to buy. Salt, spices, and dairy products to name a few. I try to get most of my food myself though. It makes me feel better to know where it comes from.

You mentioned deer season, are you a deer hunter? What other food do you get yourself?

Growing up my family spent a lot of time together fishing, berry picking, mushroom hunting, and otherwise foraging in the woods. Hunting was a different story though and it took a lot of convincing before my folks let me go. Fortunately my mom took a liking to grouse with a chanterelle cream sauce and the rest is history. Hunting is definitely one of my greatest passions (obsessions?) in life. Hunting regulations make sure that the resource is sustainable.

What other foods I get depends upon the season. Starting in the spring I tap maple trees and make syrup. As spring progresses there are a lot of other greens that start popping up, one of my favorites is wild leek. When the lakes and rivers open up more fish make their way on my plate as well as the occasional wild turkey. Summer comes along and the garden starts producing; first with radishes, then spinach and peas. Other things follow throughout the summer. Berries are another favorite, I especially like Juneberries. Blueberry wines and beers are good too. Next come the wild mushrooms - chanterelles and boletus. Pretty soon it’s time to paddle the wild rice lakes. And before you know it there is fresh bear meat, the garden needs to be harvested in earnest, and the nights are cool enough to butcher chickens and pigs. Deer season is next with its sausage and jerky making. Winter is a quiet time, time well spent pondering on frozen lakes in search of one of the tastiest of wild meats: trout.

Wow! Sounds like you spend a lot of time working on dinner!

I do, most people don’t. And I feel very fortunate in that way to be able to choose what I eat. Again a lot of it just seemed to fall into place. Take making sausage for example. I’ve always butchered my own deer because to me it was a continuation of the hunt, a hunt that I am part of from the beginning to the end. As my skills moved from the category of “roast” or “stew meat” to butterflied steaks so did my sausage making. Then it occurred to me that I was taking one of the healthiest meats out there and mixing it with pork that I had no idea where it came from, what antibiotics it was treated with, its living conditions, or what it ate.

So I started raising pigs. They were like chickens it seemed, only bigger. How hard could it possibly be? Live and learn right, nothing like a good dose of experiential learning to adjust the perception reality continuum. I’ve since managed to keep the pigs where I want them, more or less, and think I am still reasonably sane. Did I mention pigs are quite comical as well? Plus their natural rototilling added to my gardening matrix.

Is it hard to butcher your own animals?

I’ve always been one to keep my tools sharp, especially my knives, so no, the process goes pretty smoothly. Oh, you mean mentally. For me it is a connection. A very important connection that I understand is not for everyone. I think if someone can take an animal’s life without feeling anything that person has lost the connection. I’ve trained my chickens to come when I call them, and my pigs enjoy getting scratched behind their ears, but I have them for a purpose. My hope is that I provided them the best life I could before they, in turn, provide me with nutrition in my life. I guess when they become part of me they complete that connection.

That’s getting a bit philosophical isn’t it?

It is, but that is a choice I’ve made. Every day we made thousands of choices. At work I’m either emailing, on the phone, typing away on the computer or I’m out “inspiring learners’ awareness of their natural environment and respect for others, through a unique outdoor educational experience.” I don’t have a job, I have a lifestyle. At home I don’t have running water but I do have a cell phone. A curious mix of the old homestead ways and instantly communicating to someone on the other side of the world. I could live differently but I choose not to.

The poet Marvin Bell said “One should find the place one wishes to be, then find a way to live there. And if making a living is the same as making a life, which I believe it must be for some of us, a dream of avocation and vocation blending in a beautiful symmetry, then home must be where the dream rises. Not just where we find ourselves, but where we are found.”

I think I’ve found that place. Little sustainable choices add up, anyone who chooses to live in sustainable ways can make a difference. I’m not the expert in any of this, but if I can get you to just stop and think about any thing I said then I have made a difference. I’m very fortunate to be at a time and place where I am able to live the way I do, and more importantly to share my story with others.

Thanks for your time. No, thank you for listening.



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