Inspire(d) Summer/Fall 2020

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Learn actively Limitless possibilities

At Luther College, we prepare students for personal and professional success, with deep expertise in their career area of interest as well as broad knowledge that will get them thinking in new and unexpected ways. Here, students have a say in what and how they learn. Luther students are musician-athletes, biologist-actors, nurse-mathematicians, and much more.

Learn more at

A legacy of caring for Northeast Iowa for over a half century Skilled Nursing • Rehabilitation • Senior Living Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Five-Star Quality Rating System helps families & caregivers compare nursing homes. Those with five stars – like Good Samaritan Postville – are considered to have above average quality facilities & services. 563-864-7425



Display Gardens | Trails | Fishing | Orchard


Details and hours:

Seed Savers Exchange

3074 North Winn Road | Decorah, Iowa 563.382.5990

Anything fresher is still growing.

your partner in

local food.

Downtown La Crosse, WI and Rochester, MN 7 days, 8 am–8 pm Open to the public • Free parking!

1930s Soda Fountain • Ice Cream, Chocolates, Nostalgic Candies, 14 Flavors of Fudge – All homemade, in-house daily

Small batch Fresh Fudge

You won’t find anything like this without a time machine.

207 Pearl St. Downtown La Crosse, WI • • 608-782-6655



Emerging Artists’ Exhibition Deadline: Sept 11. Apply online


C ePa r aim C aufre O w n C e r a m i c s n itcYo 1-5 Mon-Sat



Virtual, Outdoor, & Small Group Studio Classes

Makers Market

O p e n S t u d i o Pa s s e s

Support local artists by purchasing their work!

M-Th 1-5, Fri 1-9, 9-5 • 107 W. Broadway, Decorah, IA • 563.382.5440 • 2020Sat / 04 Summer/Fall

This ad paid for in part by the Iowa Tourism Office

SUMMER/FALL 2020 contents

16 23

what we’re loving right now


Sum of your Biz: mike nelson of Red piglet


Iowa state preserves


paper project: mini megaphones


infographic: keep showing up


Maren beard


amy glomski


kim bonnet


alycann taylor


pollinator gardens




q&A w/ rachel jepson wolf - unplugged


driftless grown + houston county


Probit: gerald bakken


Community Builders!


...and more! ON THE COVER:


Mike Neslon of Red Piglet in Calmar, Iowa, designed the Keep Showing Up logo on the cover. Read about what the message means to him in his Sum of Your Business interview on page 16, and ways Aryn thinks you can Keep Showing Up on page 29. 05

Why bank Decorah?

Because we’re the kind of bank you’d tell your peers about at work. The kind of bank that celebrates your successes. Because when you choose us, you’re choosing: A bank that fits your life, not the other way around. A strong bond with your banker that creates a powerful asset to your business. Thoughtful guidance and financing for your farm or organization. An online and digital platform to keep your business running effectively.

What’s it mean?

From the Editor


ot Mess. I threw my back out during press week, so an Icy Hot, No Mess rollon applicator sat like a fixture on my desk. I kept catching a glimpse of the side of the bottle – all that was visible was “Hot Mess” – and I laughed every time. I’ve felt like a Hot Mess a fair amount in the last several months. You should see all the emails I’ve started with, “Apologies for my delay...” These are crazy times we’re living in with COVID-19, civil unrest, and in a presidential election year to boot…it’s SO HARD to get things done with the stress of it all, and with our regular support systems in upheaval. First off, no more apologizing. It’s true: We are all in this together. And most everyone is feeling behind and a little lost right now. You are not alone! It’s so easy to want to just run away from responsibilities, from reality. But we can’t, not really. We’ve got to Keep Showing Up – for ourselves, our families, our communities, our country, our world. We’ve got ownership of it all; it’s our Hot Mess to clean up. I am optimistic, as always. We must never forget the power of kindness, positivity, and hope. There are so many wonderful people in the region (and world), doing the work to make positive change happen, and bring communities together. Inspire(d) is here to share their stories. The logo on the cover is by Mike Nelson, purveyor of positivity and owner of Red Piglet, a retail & apparel company based out of Calmar, Iowa. Check out his Sum of Your Business interview on page 16 to learn his meaning behind Keep Showing Up. Then check out what the message means to me in my infographic on page 29. Because of COVID-19, we’ve adjusted our 2020 production schedule – the magazine you hold in your hands is our “Summer/Fall” Inspire(d), on stands July, August, September, and October. That means this magazine is our anniversary issue: 13 years (October 4 is the official date)! As each year rolls around, we use this time to highlight Community Builders in the Driftless – because community building is one of the most important things you can do in this life. It’s how we bring understanding and growth to the world. This year we’re featuring Decorah’s Maren Beard of Luna Valley Farm and Kim Bonnet of Rubaiyat, Amy Glomski from the Wabasha Public Library, and Alycann Taylor of Bluedog Cycles in Viroqua. Don’t miss Erin Dorbin’s piece on some great initiatives happening with Houston County farmers in Southeast Minnesota (and beyond), then learn about State Preserves in Northeast Iowa, and how to make a pollinator garden. While you’re on the “making things” list, try out our Paper (Mini) Megaphones! They were so fun to put together! Then keep on reading for our interview with Rachel Jepson Wolf, who recently published her “Unplugged Family Activity Book,” filled with amazing projects, activities, and recipes to inspire you to get your head up from the screens and out into the world. Another fun “unplugged” activity is letter-writing, and Kristine Jepsen shares how folks can sign up to give or receive “Mail Cheer” and about the work the Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging is getting done during this time of crisis. Keep your eyes peeled for the next Inspire(d) coming after this one – it will be a “Holiday/Winter” issue, on stands November, December, January, and February. We thank you, dear readers, and especially you, dear advertisers, for your support now and over the past 13 years. We couldn’t do this without you, and we are forever grateful.

As always, looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

P.S. We got a puppy in April (pictured above)! Her name is Athena and she is a F1 bernedoodle! P.P.S. COVID-19 Notes: • We thought it best to leave off the calendars this issue. We hope to have them back in the future! • Hours are subject to change these days – PLEASE check with our awesome advertisers online before visiting. Many of them also offer online sales. Stay safe, be well, and be kind, friends!

Inspire(d) Inspire(d) – pronounced in-spy-erd... you know: inspired – stands for both inspire and be inspired. The idea is that person one inspires person two. That person is now inspired. Then that person inspires person three (or person one again), who is now inspired. Then the cycle continues! That’s what those arrows around the (d) are about! And our mission is, ultimately, to change the world… starting with our own community!

Who are we? Co-founders:

Aryn Henning Nichols / editor & designer Benji Nichols / advertising sales & logistics

We couldn’t do it without: Kristine Jepsen / contributor Sara Friedl-Putnam / contributor Sara Walters / contributor Maggie Sonnek / contributor Erin Dorbin / contributor Mary Hyland / contributor Craig Thompson / contributor Lauren Bonney / flower illustration Inspire(d) Magazine is published quarterly by Inspire(d) Media, LLC, 412 Oak Street, Decorah, Iowa, 52101. This issue is dated Summer/Fall 2020, issue 62 volume 14, Copyright 2020 by Inspire(d) Magazine.

support inspire(d) Although Inspire(d) is free on stands, you can have it sent to your door (or extended family!) for only $28/year. Email for a membership or visit for more info.

Write inspire(d) Want to make a comment about something you read in the magazine? Email

Interested in advertising? Contact Benji at or call 563-379-6315. Visit our website: 07


Grab & go (...or stay!) food & drinks – coffee, ice cream, baked goods, local bites, wine, cider, craft beer & more!


The Landing Market’s mission is to create a space to gather, provide opportunities and support for all groups in Decorah through positive interactions and inclusion. This vision of warmth & community delivers a comfortable & convenient setting to relax & indulge, while also extending a welcoming opportunity to engage & employ our friends at The Spectrum Network.


local vendors

bottle shop

211 College Drive, Decorah, Iowa


406 WEST WATER ST. DECORAH, IOWA. 563.382.4103


right now

A little list of what we think is awesome in the Drifltess Region this summer & fall... Seed Savers Exchange Resilience Gardens + 2020 Benefit Concert to go Virtual! This spring, Seed Savers Exchange launched a Resilience Gardens Project, and we think it’s pretty darn cool. The mission behind the project is to help promote food-gardens, bring gardeners together in a community, and help create a stronger, more secure food system in Northeast Iowa. Plus, getting your hands in some dirt is great for your mental health, and growing (and eating) fresh food is great for you in general! Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) generously offered free seeds to folks in Northeast Iowa throughout the spring at specific locations and seed distribution events. Then, starting in mid-May, SSE began featuring educational videos on social media (Facebook and Instagram) twice a week - Tuesdays and Thursdays. These videos will continue through the summer. Find archives in the video tab at seedsaversx/ or at channel/ Have you planted a garden and are looking for help? With assistance from the COVID-19 Recovery AmeriCorps Program, SSE is also offering help to area folks interested in growing food and saving seeds. All assistance is completely free of charge and will follow safety protocols and social-distancing guidelines.

Those interested need only meet one of the following criteria: • Be new to gardening • Be new to seed saving • Be interested in growing surplus food for community donation. Anyone can go to to fill out a form to express interest in help from AmeriCorps members. While we’re talking about Seed Savers – Save the Date for an online concert! Many in our region can recall past years of the Seed Savers Exchange benefit concert, held deep in the summer each year at Heritage Farm. Fireflies, beautiful skies, the occasional stormy year (!), and the big red barn and gardens lending themselves as backdrop. 2020 will again see a stellar lineup of Midwestern musicians lending their abilities to raise money for this incredible organization – but in a slightly different manner. The SSE Benefit Concert will be held virtually this year, with donations accepted to support the work of SSE, right here in Decorah. The lineup is still being finalized, but safe to say will rotate around perennial favorites like Greg Brown, Iris Dement, Dave Simonett, Lissie, David Huckfelt, Karen Savoca & Pete Heitzman, and more. The benefit will be held Saturday, August 1, 7pm, online only – so keep your ears and eyes tuned to, as well as social media channels for exact details. It’s safe to say we’ll be tuning in from the backyard at Inspire(d) HQ!

Iowa Food Hub Grows On! Our region – and the country – has seen a boom in local food markets and demand through the pandemic. And it’s generally been a good thing for producers and retailers, even while often outstripping supply. Many of our readers may be familiar with the past work of the Iowa Food Hub, and while the organization has met both successes and challenges over the years, their work has become more important than ever in these times. Since early Continued on next page


What We’re




Join us! Learn more online at \ Summer/Fall 2020







Sustainable Beautiful Efficient David J. Wadsworth • 563.419.0390 •


M-F 10-15 • Sat 10-4 • Sun 12-4

563-382-4646 | 10

Summer/Fall 2020 /

What we’re loving right now

A little list of what we think is awesome in the Drifltess Region this summer & fall... spring, the Food Hub has been responsible for helping create, maintain, and fulfill one of the region’s best online sources for home-delivered and curbside pick-up of local foods. From early-season spinach, to justnow-ripening vegetables, local meat and dairy products, eggs, honey, and even baked goods and condiments – this incredible resource has not only provided for local consumers, but also given local small farmers the outlet to safely sell their products. The online market is “open” for orders from Sunday at noon until Thursday at noon each week, with delivery and curbside pick-up options on Saturdays. Three cheers to the Iowa Food Hub for providing this amazing service, available for all to use! Shop local, eat local, and enjoy the process!

Cycling without Age Last year, a group of interested and dedicated individuals got together to discuss what it might take to bring the concept of “Cycling Without Age” to Decorah. Nori Hadley, local resident and activity director at the Barthell Eastern Star Home and Arlin Falck Assisted Living, formed meetings and garnered input from various local and regional sources on the topic. The group has been fundraising for months now, and an initial three-wheeled rickshaw – the “Chat” trishaw – has been purchased and folks are training on it for use amongst Decorah’s Senior populations. Hooray! Cycling Without Age is a volunteer organization with the goal of assisting Decorah’s long-term care facilities to purchase, maintain, and utilize adaptive bicycle equipment. This project will enable trained individuals to offer free bike rides to nursing home and assisted living residents, and others, to be able to enjoy a local bike ride safely and with needed assistance. Donations will be put towards the purchase of a trailer for the Chat bike’s transportation and storage, and safety and maintenance equipment including helmets, tools, and more. Cycling Without Age Decorah Affiliate has met with Decorah City Officials including the City Council, the Police Department, Parks and Recreation Department, and the Trails of Winneshiek 28-E Committee. All entities agree that the Chat trishaw is appropriate for trail and street use. For more information on making a donation or the program, please contact Nori Hadley at Eastern Star 563-3828787. Info can also be found online at:


The Landing market to Open in West Decorah The west side of Decorah has a new welcome addition: The Landing Market, housed in a former furniture store (although you wouldn’t know it!). It’s an indoor food and retail market, featuring local food vendors and community members brought together under one roof – there will be coffee, ice cream, baked goods, local bites, wine, cider, craft beer & more! Owners, Pete and Kari Espinosa and their team want to create a space to gather, provide opportunities and support for all groups in Decorah through positive interactions and inclusion. This vision of warmth and community delivers a comfortable and convenient setting to relax and indulge, while also extending a welcoming opportunity to engage and employ our friends at The Spectrum Network, a great organization in Decorah serving adults with various disabilities and challenges. The 5000-square-foot space features high ceilings with an industrial vibe and Scandinavian design. Dining and hanging-out spots are available indoors (don’t miss the fireplace) and out (hello, covered patio). If you’re just hoping to pop in to grab a bite to go, use the convenient 20-minute parking in the front – there’s additional parking behind the building for folks staying longer. Find out more at, and follow them on social media for updated hours, offerings, and more.

CEDARFALLSTOURISM.ORG #WeKnowHowToWeekend 800.845.1955

Mark your calendars for


July 11: American Graffiti Car Cruise 4-7 with movie at 7 pm

Spring Grove Main St International Film FEST Giants of the Earth Heritage Center in Spring Grove has been hard at work creating a three-day film festival that will take place October16-18, 2020. Not only is it a beautiful time of the year in Southeast Minnesota, but it will be a fantastic chance to catch films from near and far. As part of the festival, special guest star Ed Asner will be visiting Spring Grove on Sunday, October 18, and the festival will feature “Ed Asner” day Asner photo by Tim Leyes with events and festivities. Asner, best known for his rolls as “Lou Grant” on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, and has been awarded several primetime Emmy Awards over his career. To find out more about the festival, schedules, and ticketing, visit Continued on next page

August 15: Special Event – details to come! Showing movies nightly at 7 pm and a Sunday matinee at 2 pm

PLAN AHEAD: Contact us to rent the Opera House for large events or Champlin Hall for reunions, showers & more! Visit or call 563-547-1066 for details \ Summer/Fall 2020




Check Facebook for hours

NEW LOCATION – 118 E Water St, Decorah, Iowa


3012 Middle Sattre Rd, Decorah, IA .

What we’re loving right now

A little list of what we think is awesome in the Drifltess Region this summer & fall... 40 Acres and A Mule Project Adrian Lipscombe of Uptowne Bakery & Café in La Crosse is on a mission – we mean, besides the one she’s already been on, bringing delicious food to La Crosse since 2017. As one of the very few Black restaurant-owners in the region, Lipscombe is now taking her talents to the next level for Black owned agriculture in our region. On June 7, she launched a GoFundMe campaign to support and create an initiative to preserve Black food ways: the “40 Acres and a Mule” Project. The goal of the project is to purchase 40 acres of land in the Coulee Region to utilize for teaching others how to farm, archiving Black food ways and the importance of Black farms, and telling the story of how Blacks grew food through their ancestral ways into today. Lipscombe hopes to create a legacy for future generations. She saw an immediate outpouring of support for the project – by the end of June, the project was nearly 75 percent funded ($100,000 is the GoFundMe goal). Any contributions made to the “40 Acres & a Mule Project” – beyond the needed funds to purchase the land, taxes, and tools for the farm – will be made available to Black organizations that concentrate on preserving Black foodways and support Black farmers in purchasing their own land, buy the land they lease, and/or provide assistance to Black farmers for their mortgage payments. We love that. <3

Oodles of Doodles at DoodleFest in October HANDCRAFTED IN DECORAH, IOWA Open 7 Days A Week • 207 College Dr, Decorah • 563-380-3610

25 REGIONAL MAKERS - 100% WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES! 309 E Water St. Decorah, Iowa •


Summer/Fall 2020 /

As Waverly, Iowa hosts their annual Oktoberfest celebration, they will be playing host to a new event as well: the first-ever Midwest DoodleFest. DoodleFest, you ask? Why yes, doodles - as in labra-, berne-, golden-, etcdoodles! But the Midwest DoodleFest is, at its core, really a celebration of community, the event’s founder, Jayne Kielman, explains. That community rallied together and won an online contest to secure funding for the Waverly PetSafe Bark Park, where Doodlefest is to primarily take place. And, a hardworking Waverly group grew the grassroots idea to host an Oktoberfest celebration into a cherished annual event. Jayne says that partnering the Doodlefest with Waverly Oktoberfest was a great way to showcase the caring and enthusiastic community in Waverly. Midwest DoodleFest will be holding events throughout the

weekend, including Barks & Brews on Friday night, Doodles Downtown and Oodles of Doodles on Saturday, and Doodle Doggy Paddle Kayak Excursion on Sunday. When not attending DoodleFest activities, humans and their leashed doodles are welcome and encouraged to attend the Waverly Oktoberfest events taking place downtown, where there is great food, local beer, plus games and fun activities celebrating the town’s German heritage. Doodle owners may also choose to attend these festivities dog-free, as doggy daycare/nightcare will be provided by Paws Amore. Updated scheduling, highlights and links for Oktoberfest, Doodle day/night care, hotels, etc. are available on the Facebook page Midwest DoodleFest or by visiting the website: www. or by contacting Jayne Kielman at 319.559.0050 or

Dragonfly Books owner Kate Rattenborg introduces

formerly The Master’s Touch

Community Art Class Back in March, I (Aryn) was asked to partner with Decorah art teacher Amy Courtney and music teacher/instructional coach Sarah Zbornik for an eighth grade middle school “Community Art Class.” The goal of the class was to consider various ways people can apply and share their art in the world. For the collaboration with Inspire(d), we decided to create an ad campaign, design a logo, and create an ad for the next issue of Inspire(d). We were so excited to launch the class, and the students had many great ideas. The first step was to decide, as a group, on what their campaign would be. They listened to me present about successful ad campaigns, then got to work. The only stipulation was that it had to be positive, and it should be something they would have wanted to learn or hear when they were starting out in middle school (their audience being mainly other middle schoolers, but also the larger community). They decided on the excellent message: “Without Balance, Nothing Can Stand.” The next step was to create logos. After reviewing and talking about some professional logos out in the world, each student came up with their own logo for the campaign, which we later workshopped in groups. The students then picked one logo from each group to present to the class. From this selection, a winner was chosen. That’s the image here! Love! Unfortunately, then COVID-19 hit and we couldn’t complete our Community Art Class. Boo. But I still wanted to congratulate this great group on their hard work and their wonderful goals of spreading positivity to their school and the larger community. Without Balance, Nothing Can Stand – let’s remember that as we move forward through these days. XOX - Aryn

104 W Water St, Decorah • 563-382-4430


restoration & weatherization

Residential & light commercial construction David J. Wadsworth • 563.419.0390 •



Lanesboro Arts – Open and Online! Our friends at Lanesboro Arts have continued the work of bringing high-quality programming to Southeast Minnesota and the surrounding region through the past months. New ways to implement programs, performances, and ideas have been brought to the forefront – and there are some great opportunities! The Continued on next page



What we’re loving right now

3 Stores in 1 Boutique

A little list of what we think is awesome in the Drifltess Region this summer & fall...

• Women's Clothing & Accessories • Merle Norman Cosmetics & Skincare • High Fashion Wigs

111 E. Water St. Decorah, Iowa. 563.382.6212

Open 6:30 am to 6 pm Mon-Sat • 6:30 am to 3 pm Sun


Where the coffee is always on and the food is always homemade! Lunch Specials Mon-Fri Baked Goods Everyday

Lanesboro Arts Gallery is open again on weekends (Fri-Sun), with the “On The Fly” Group Exhibition up through August 16. This fantastic collection centers on trout and trout fishing. Opening Saturday, August 22 will be “Anthropocene,” featuring the work of ceramicist Glynnis Lessing. Inspire(d) Media is happy to help sponsor this fantastic exhibit of work, which will show through October 18. Meanwhile, the juried sales gallery also has featured items up online for purchase at –there you can also find the “Root River Anthology” Radio to play for your listening pleasure, as well as podcasts from Art In the Park 2020, and opportunities to explore master classes. Don’t miss out on these great opportunities, and tell our friends at Lanesboro Arts that we sent you! 400 W Water St. Decorah, IA • 563-382-5690 5 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms. Sleeps up to 13 with a separate bright & airy sewing space complete with individual tables & ironing & cutting stations.

Vesterheim Carries On… Relax as you take time for YOU & use your creativity for your next quilting & sewing retreat! • 602 W Water St • 563-380-5772 ACUPUNCTURE / TUINA / CHINESE MEDICINE / COMMUNITY CLASSES + EDUCATION / UNIQUE SMALL-BATCH HERBAL PRODUCTS

FOR EVERY BODY. Gabi Masek, Dipl.OM, L.Ac / 563-382-4312 14

Summer/Fall 2020 /

Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum in Decorah continues to rediscover and present the Immigrant experience as the world around us changes daily. The Museum is currently in the midst of a fantastic physical transformation as Heritage Park takes shape on the open-air portions of the Campus. And while the pandemic has put a temporary halt to many in-person classes, the Vesterheim Folk Art School is continuing to offer new and updated variations on valuable skills and crafts that can be shared online and in new formats. On that note, Vesterheim Folk Art School introduces Folk Arts Online, new digital learning opportunities throughout 2020. Stay connected with the community and find ways to grow in your folk-art skills through online classes, conversations, and sharing. Programs and registration will be available at folkartschool. Last but not least, if you are looking for a fun and interesting way to engage with some of Vesterheim’s museum items, take a look at the Virtual Galleries, found online. From Ole Bull to Anna Hong, and tankards to pipe cases – scrolling through the interactive gallery is a great way to visually feast on the designs and styles of Norway. Find out more and support Vesterheim at www.

Outside & Inside seating! Great Venue for your next event! Summer & Fall hours: Fridays 4-9pm, Sat. 10-5 & Sun 1-5

Voted Visit Bluff Country’s 2020 Best of the Best Winery!

Empty Nest Winery

Find us at Farmers Markets: Harpers Ferry Fridays 5-7 pm Decorah Wednesdays 3-6 pm & Saturdays 8-11

Serving Wine, Fresh Sangria, 10 Craft Beers on Tap & House Ciders

Upcoming Events

Save the Dates!

July 3: Release Summer Splash & White Lace Wines July 5: Live music on the patio July 25: Murder Mystery Dinner Theater Tickets at July 31: Release Guilty Pleasure & Boozeberry Wines Hot Food Buffet August 29: Hero Run May through October – Fund raiser for Waukon Fire Department Friday nights 5-8 pm & Saturdays 11-2 pm. August 28-31: Labor Day Weekend! Menu at Friday 4-9 pm; Sat/Sun/Mon 11-5. Food buffet all four days or Facebook September 4: Release fall wines & Truffle Wine October 2-4: 7th Annual Wining with the Arts featuring local artists October 2: Release Naked Iced Apple, Little Black Dress & Radiant Strength Wines November 7: Release Night Temptation, Seduction, Berrylicious, Private Reserve Wines November 28: Murder Mystery Dinner Theater Tickets at December 31: New Years Eve Murder Mystery Dinner Theater. Tickets at | 563-568-2758 1253 Apple Rd. Waukon, Iowa

Like us for details!

Nancy Lukes Photography


Summer/Fall 2020 /



Mike Nelson of



ords, at their base, are simple. Just a series of letters placed in a certain order. Yet, in the right order, they can hold immense power. They can lift you up or tear you down; bring you hope or bring you to tears; inspire you to love yourself, and others. Words can motivate you to get up, every day, and keep. showing. up. In 2013, when Mike Nelson founded Red Piglet, the mission from the start Mike Nelson with his wife, Jodi. Photo by Red Piglet was to wield words for the good of the world. With messages like “Shift Status Quo,” “Radiate Love,” or “Observe Without Judgment,” the Calmar, Iowa-based business – specializing in apparel, cards, prints, stickers, mugs, and more – encourages people to see their own uniqueness and worth. This kind of mission is vital in times like these – and, frankly, all other times too. And for Mike, it all started with the simplest of tools: pencil and paper “I’m one of those humans that have a note pad and pencil at my bedside for the sole purpose of documenting those ‘bright’ ideas that pop into my head at 2 am,” he says. “A night in 2010, I woke to the name ‘RED PIGLET.’ My mind started racing to the possibility of creating a Red Piglet brand. After 10 minutes, I popped out of bed, fired up the computer, and went straight to was available. I couldn’t believe it. I purchased that URL on the spot.”

While Mike spent more than three years dreaming of the possibilities for Red Piglet, fear of failing kept him stuck. It was this very struggle of being “stuck” that inspired him to finally take the leap and launch Red Piglet in 2013. He wanted to help others get unstuck and pursue their passions and purpose. Mike, his wife, and three kids live in Northeast Iowa, where they, like many other people and businesses across the world, have pivoted to make things work during COVID-19. Originally booked for shows and markets each Saturday through summer, the Red Piglet schedule is now wide open. The plus side for folks local to or traveling through Calmar, is that you can now find the Red Piglet Shop open more frequently (see sidebar for Open Shop Weekends). Name: Mike Nelson Age: 47 Business: Red Piglet Years in Business: 7 Business address: 101 S. Charles St., Calmar IA (across from the Fire Station) Website: Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss? I remember sitting in my car after a job interview and thinking, “My worth is not linked to others’ opinions, a career advancement or paycheck.” The chase was coming to an end. Continued on next page \ Summer/Fall 2020


I decided to shift my perspective and pursue a more purposeful life – to help people get unstuck by taking action with their lives. I proceeded to lead by example and got myself unstuck – I launched the Red Piglet brand.

Photo courtesy Red Piglet

Why “Encourage Uniqueness” as the foundation message for the Red Piglet brand? I have a theory: People get stuck because they judge themselves. Why do they judge themselves? Because they compare their life in some fashion to other people’s lives. What happens when comparison takes place? Fear sets in and prevents us from pursuing our passions and gifts. You know, those things that make us happy. The truth is, we are all unique. No one can do what you do, in precisely the way that you do it. How miraculous is that? Be you, your authentic self. Everyone else is taken. What’s the best thing about being your own boss? I don’t have to wait for others to validate my decisions. I have 100 percent creative freedom, and I guide Red Piglet based on my life experiences, beliefs, and unique style. Who knows, I might reinvent the Red Piglet brand in a few years. Stay tuned. How about the worst? I love the ideation and execution process so much that sometimes I get carried away and find it difficult to cut designs for a launch. In the end, it might not be the best business decision because customers can get overwhelmed from too many options. I’m getting better at reigning myself in and learning from my business mistakes.

What/Who inspires you? My wife, who is a talented maker and wonderful mother to our children, kind photographers that have a unique eye and aren’t afraid to take creative risks, woodworkers, clay sculptors, A-frame cabins, garden studios, birds, birdhouses, barns, Black Angus cattle, Old School Country music (Waylon, Merle and George), typography, roached-out metal signs

in on i t a c y a SHOPPING d Take a


+ YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS: OCTOBER 9: Witches Night Out OCTOBER 10-11: Hi-Way13 Vintage Market

Archive Elkader Floral Shop The General Store

Once Was / Twisted Alley

G’s Closet & Gallery

So much to do!

Bridge Street Boutique & Gift



Walking trails, Float the Turkey River, Camping...and more! Shop, Dine, Play, Stay in Elkader

Nancy Lukes Photography

How do you manage your life/work balance? I’m just really grateful that my wife, Jodi (pictured with Mike on page 19), is patient and she handles the bookkeeping. Red Piglet is definitely a team gig. Most of my designing and order fulfillment starts at night after we tuck the kids in. Any quotes that keep you going? Many years ago, I read a book called “Choose Yourself” by James Altucher. He talked about his 1/3 Rule: “1/3 of the people in your life will like you (or like the products you are selling). 1/3 of the people in your life will dislike you (or dislike the products you are selling). And 1/3 of the people in your life will not care about you (or not care about the products you are selling).” That message was an a-ha moment and really stuck in my skull. Those words were a breath of fresh country air. I inhaled, exhaled like I meant it, and topped it off with a relaxed, ear-to-ear smile. IT’S TRUE, you can’t be all things to all people, no matter how hard to try. It taught me that I am not for everyone, and my Red Piglet products are not for everyone. I’m content with that. Just continue to be you. The people who are meant to cross paths with you will and they will definitely dig what you are cookin’. Be patient. The cover on this magazine features a Red Piglet design: Keep Showing Up. What does this message mean to you? You plug in your phone. Your eyes see the lightning bolt appear. All is right with the world when that connection is made with the electrical outlet. If you choose not to plug in your phone daily, the phone loses its purpose. Well, think of yourself as a real-life, breathing smart phone. You store a ton of data. You multi-task every day. You are an intelligent, multi-purpose being. Think about how valuable you are to every person that you’re connected to. Give yourself the same care and attention you give your phone, by recharging your battery every single day and showing up for yourself and the rest of us. We value you. Any inspiration happening during the COVID-19 crisis? All three of my NEW 2020 First Edition shirts were inspired by this pandemic crisis: Pause and Appreciate: We get up early. We work out. We commute. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. We work all day. We rush to pick up the kids. Noise is knocking at your eardrums from all angles. Guilt creeps in and exhaustion sets in... And then, the pandemic and quarantine happens. The world pauses. We are forced to become present and appreciate what surrounds us. We open our eyes, look left, right, up and down. We watch the sun set. We gather for meals. We hear the giggles and see the smiles. The guilt fades away. Our bodies heal. We become our better selves in the midst of uncertain times. Continued on next page \ Summer/Fall 2020


Nancy Lukes Photography

HA, Laughter is the Best Medicine: We need it now more than ever. It decreases stress. It increases infection-fighting antibodies. It improves your resistance to disease. It releases endorphins. It promotes wellbeing and relieves pain. Surround yourself with the joke-tellers, the full-o-pep peeps, the funny-facer makers and the stand-up wannabes. Their wit will nurture your health and you will nurture theirs.


IOWA: Where Impossible is just an opinion: As a wild whipper snapper, my answer to grandpa was often “That’s Impossible!” when he assigned me a task beyond my pay-grade. His reply to my answer was always “Impossible is YOUR opinion, young man!” Grandpa never liked it when someone told him that something couldn’t be done. He didn’t care if you were young, old, or somewhere in-between. You see, that ol’ farmer blazed through the Great Depression, a few wars and several natural disasters, without a plan B in the back pocket of those weathered OshKosh B’goshes. He was a self-made doer that just made it happen without the gums flappin’. Grandpa was Pure Moxie! I know, I know “Moxie” is an old school word. Sorry, I can’t help myself. I’m an old soul with wit and it shows up on many of my designs. “MOXIE” means: The ability to face difficulty with spirit, courage, and skill. If you have moxie, you won’t let a minor setback stop you from trying again, because you’re a determined person who doesn’t give up easily. Since Red Piglet was born in 2013, I’ve traveled this fine state of Iowa and have had so many conversations with hard-working people that forge forward with a whole lot of moxie. To all the Iowans that do what others don’t think is possible, this shirt is for you.

nty i n C l a y t o n RNCAVoILLu O • GU TTE NB ER G


Where we take pride in food that is



In Clayton County, we strive to create unique dining experiences with food that is made with homegrown goodness.

check out these great places to eat at 20

Summer/Fall 2020 /

for more information or a free brochure, call (563) 245-2201

Photo courtesy Red Piglet

Advice to help folks get “unstuck” now? Life is a challenge right now. Our health, self-esteem, and bank accounts are taking a hit. Don’t judge yourself. This is a great time to reflect and possibly reevaluate your direction. Last year, I designed the T-shirt “Clarity is in the climb”. I think the Red Piglet meaning to this message fits nicely under this question. Clarity is in the climb: Ahhh, good ol’ clarity. For me, clarity never shows up when I’m taking a stroll down easy street or when I’m coasting downhill. Hell no. Clarity happens when I’m pushing uphill. When I’m pulling myself out of hole. The harder I work towards something or the more I struggle... that’s when things become clear. The climb reminds me what’s important. The climb tells me what things to shed and what things are worth the hard-ass work. What’s one positive outcome you see coming from this pandemic (for you or for the world)? I believe all humans will be more grateful for their loved ones and more present in their daily connections. We have the freedom to inspire others with action. Let’s get moving and make the world a better place. Peace and love from Red Piglet.

Red piglet open shop dates Check out the positive messages in person at Red Piglet open shop weekends in Calmar, Iowa. Dates are below, and hours are Saturdays (9 am - 3 pm) and Sunday (10 am - Noon). Please follow Red Piglet on social media to double-check that open shop dates are still happening due to COVID-19. And remember, you can always shop online at

July 11-12 July 18-19 August 8-9 August 29-30 September 12-13 September 26-27

October 10-11 October 24-25 November 7-8 November 28-29 December 12-13 December 19-20


• Trial Lawyer Nick Rowley – 2018 Trial Lawyer of the Year • Record Setting Verdicts & Settlements with the Experience of Over 300 Jury Verdicts • Over $1.5 Billion in Wins for Injury Victims & Their Families

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REQUEST A CONSULTATION – Trial Lawyers for Justice – • 886-854-5529 • 421 W. Water St, 3rd Floor, Decorah, IA

Only 30 minutes away from Decorah, this full service community offers a variety of great dining options, unique antiques, furniture & gift shops, & exciting recreational opportunities. Explore Niagara Cave, tour the Amish countryside, & pedal your way through 60 miles of paved bike trail! Harmony also offers a wide array of service businesses ready to meet your every need.


July 3 –5: Harmony Anniversary Celebr Fourth of July Cele

We can’t wait to see you in Harmony! Due to Covid-19, please call or check business websites to confirm your travel plans! @beebalm_harmony


Open to the public daily

Golf Club

Tuesday Ladies Day Thursday Mens Day

See you there! Catering now available!

Carts Available

Banquet facilities available for meetings or special events

535 4th St. NE • 507-866-5622 • From Hwy 52 N, turn east on 4th St. (Kwik Trip Corner), go 3 blocks

Amish Tours of Harmony Experience a lifestyle...


Chef/Owner Matt Brown 121 Main Avenue N 507.886.1234

Niagara Cave & Mini Golf Nationally recognized as one of the Top Ten Caves in the United States

Enjoy an exciting tour of Harmony’s Amish community with one of our knowledgeable guides!

On our 1-hour guided tour…

Mini Bus Tours . Car Tours . Group Bus Tours . Spring thru Fall Call 507-886-2303 or 800-752-6474 .

• Hike 1 mile underground to depths of 200 ft. • Discover fossils ~450 million years old • See delicate & massive cave formations • Temperature is 48° F (9°C) • Walking shoes are recommended

Also enjoy… Cold Brew Frappes & Smoothies Assorted Sandwiches Bridgeman’s Ice Cream

• Miniature Golf • Concessions • Gemstone Mining • Picnic Grounds • Unique Gifts

Check website for hours & availability

Located in the Village Green Open Year-Round 94 2nd St NW, Harmony, MN • • Check for hours

507- 886 - 6606 29842 County Road 30 -

Harmony, MN 55939

For a FREE Visitor Guide, call 1-800-288-7153 or visit us on the web at

Ice Cave State Preserve, Decorah, Iowa. Photo by Benji Nichols

Preserving beauty history science nature


tate Preserves are: Undeveloped…Wild… Natural...Beautiful… Historical...Treasured Places, often away from city lights, where the stars shine brightly. Where creeks run wild. Where you find towering rugged bluffs and steep canyons that were not smoothed by glaciers of the Ice Age. Wildlife and fish. Flowers and fauna. Where educational opportunities abound. State Preserves are living museums, meant to remain for centuries to come.


State Preserves in Northeast Iowa with public access: Allamakee County Fish Farm Mounds – 3 acres Clayton County Retz Woods – 49 acres Mossy Glen – 80 acres Bixby – 184 acres Merritt Forest – 20 acres Turkey River Mounds – 62 acres Fayette County

Montauk – 46 acres Brush Creek Canyon – 217 acres Winneshiek County Cold Water Spring – 60 acres Bluffton Fir Stand – 94 acres Malanaphy Springs – 64 acres Decorah Ice Cave – 3 acres Saint James Lutheran Church – 1 acre Fort Atkinson – 5 acres \ Summer/Fall 2020


Amazing Algerian & American Food

Try our camel burger!

Appetizers • Entrees • Sandwiches • Salads • Vegetarian • Desserts Gluten-free Options • Signature Cocktails • Craft Beer • Natural Wine

Elkader, Iowa • 563-245-1992 •

The State Preserve System exists to identify, protect, and maintain significant archaeological, historical, geological, biological, and scenic areas for this and future generations. In Iowa, legislation in 1965 created the Iowa State Preserves System to maintain preserved lands as close to their natural condition as possible. Natural areas can become dedicated nature preserves only with the agreement of the landowner, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Natural Resources Commission. Once a preserve is dedicated, it is forever protected from development that would harm its natural character. Iowa currently has 97 State Preserves. These preserves range from less than 1 acre to 845 acres and incorporate a total area of almost 10,000 acres. Ice Cave State Preserve, Decorah, Iowa. Photo by Benji Nichols


GALLERY 129 N. Main St. Elkader, Iowa

Check Facebook for updates on classes and events, plus information for curbside order pickups. Visit to order prints & learn more!




110 East Water St 563-382-4297

More than 60 years of great food!


l h a d e k l o F ice Serv

Pick up & delivery available 563-382-4010 563-380-5851

We’ll take care of it!


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Northeast Iowa hosts 18 of those state preserves, located in the counties of Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, and Winneshiek. Some are wild places and some are in the city limits, such as historic church buildings, estates, and even forts. According to the Iowa DNR website, five categories of preserves exist in Iowa. (Many preserves qualify for more than one category.) Natural Preserves demonstrate Iowa’s outstanding biological features. Some are excellent examples of the prairies and forests that once dominated the state. Others hold plants and animals now rare in Iowa, like the endangered plains pocket mouse in Turin Loess Hills. Geological Preserves illustrate Iowa’s ancient past. Distinctive and rare deposits or features are included. The Old State Quarry Preserve was mined in the 1840s for limestone used in the construction of our original state capitol in Iowa City. Later, blocks of this unusually hard limestone were transported to Des Moines for the foundation of our present-day capitol. In Winneshiek County, Decorah Ice Cave was declared a state geological state preserve in 1973. It was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1978. The cave was

given to Decorah in 1954, and remains the property of the city. Archaeological Preserves give us a glimpse of the state’s original inhabitants, the Native Americans who roamed this land from at least 12,000 years B.C. into the 1800s. Examples include Indian Fish Trap, a 200-foot long rock funnel used for fishing the Iowa River, and Wittrock Indian Village. The fortified village was occupied from 100 A.D. until changing climate and hostile neighbors forced abandonment 300 years later. Historical Preserves include significant structures or objects associated with early EuroAmerican occupation. Several historical preserves exist in Northeast Iowa: Fort Atkinson is a federal military post built in the 1840s to protect Winnebagos from other tribes. Saint James Lutheran Church was constructed Fort Atkinson / courtesy photo between 1840 and 1866, and abandoned in 1894 – only ruins and the cemetery remain. Montauk – located in Clermont in Fayette County – was the home and estate of Iowa’s twelfth governor from 1886 – 1890. Scenic Preserves are selected for their outstanding natural beauty. However, most scenic preserves are valued for scientific merits as well. For example, one of the most scenic areas in Northeast Iowa, Bluffton Fir Stand Preserve, is noted primarily for its northern plant associations. This balsam fir stand, the largest in Iowa, reaches from the banks of the Upper Iowa River to the summits of bluffs 150 feet

above. Canada yew, white pine and several other relics from glacial eras flourish here. While state preserves are dedicated for the permanent protection of significant natural and cultural features, most are open to hiking and photography. Activities prohibited on most preserves include: driving of motor vehicles, camping, fires, horses, removal of or damage to plants, animals, and other natural, archaeological, or cultural materials. Exceptions to any of these rules are posted on that specific preserve. There are also some preserves that are closed to the public because they are privately owned, because all access is privately owned, or for the protection of sensitive communities on the site. Do not visit a private site without permission from the landowner. The landowner is not obligated to allow visits. When you do visit State Preserves, please remember that many are sensitive habitats, and many do not have established trails. Sometimes an informal footpath will lead from the parking lot toward prominent features, and some can be easily traversed without formal trails, especially the open expanses of the prairie preserves. There are preserves that do exist on steep terrain, though, so be alert about where you are walking. Always tread lightly – we do not want these preserves to be damaged by careless foot traffic. Continued on next page \ Summer/Fall 2020


When you go: Wear hiking boots – not sandals. To protect yourself from ticks and poison ivy, it is also recommended to wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Tuck pant legs into your hiking boots. Be sure not to wander so in awe of these beautiful places that you forget how to get back to your vehicle. Remember also that cell phone reception could be spotty or non-existent. What to Bring Water • Binoculars • Camera • Compass • Field guides (to wildflowers, birds, butterflies and other natural features) • Insect repellent • Rain gear • Snack • Sunscreen

State Parks vs State Preserves: What’s the difference? The wildlife: Parks aren’t usually that ecologically diverse – there isn’t generally a huge variety of animals and plants. Nature preserves, on the other hand, are filled with many different kinds of birds, bugs, and plants. Development: Where parkland is generally purchased to be developed for recreation purposes, nature preserves are mostly undeveloped land. And a property is either appropriate for a preserve (meaning it has a creek, stream, prairie, or other outstanding habitat) or it’s not. Parks can be created, designed, and built upon to include certain amenities, whereas preserves cannot. We love our State Parks AND our Preserves! The Iowa State Parks is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. Backbone State Park (Delaware

Bixby State Preserve, Edgewood, Iowa. Photo courtesy Iowa DNR

County) just outside of Strawberry Point was the first state park dedicated on May 28, 1920. There are 82 more State Parks & Recreation Areas in Iowa. Make a point of visiting as many as you can this summer and fall – check out the Iowa State Park Passport to amp up the fun! It’s your ticket to celebrate the 100th anniversary, earn prizes, and explore the outdoors! Make it a family-friendly challenge to visit parks across the state and track your progress with this personalized passport, available online at www. It’s free to sign up and the more parks you visit, the more prizes you may earn, including a t-shirt, art print or a weekend at Honey Creek Resort!

Interested in visiting one or more of the Iowa State Preserves?

Visit the Iowa Department of Natural Resources before you go – – and consider picking up the great book and resource Iowa’s State Preserves by Ruth Herzberg and John Pearson. Purchase it at or at your local bookstore.

In the Driftless:

In Minnesota, they have Scientific and Natural Areas, and in Wisconsin, it’s called State Natural Areas. These programs also exist to protect outstanding examples of native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations and scientific or archeological sites. Looking for a preserve or natural area near you? Check out your state’s DNR website for locations and rules, and have fun learning and viewing all your state has to offer!

Mary Hyland purchased her home on the Volga River in Wadena, Iowa, in 2013 and enjoys gardening and spending time in her cabin along the river in the backyard. Other interests include geocaching, paddling Northeast Iowa Rivers, fishing, camping, canning, and puttering about. She also enjoys photography and reading Inspire(d).





Rent-to-own! Try an E-Bike for a day, week, or month, and apply the fees toward the purchase of a new bike within 30 days of rental.

W, Th, F: 10-6 . Sat: 9-5 . Sun: 12-4 . Closed Mon & Tues.


Summer/Fall 2020 /

101 College Dr. Decorah, Iowa . 563-382-8209


Megaphone! (mini)

You know what we we all need right now? Some cheering on! Make these (mini) megaphones at home to spread positivity to folks around you - you can do it! Go, team, go! YAY!

step-by-step instructions at


Paper Project!





Louis At this view on June 17, 1673, Pere Marquette and th of the Joliet entered the Mississippi River from the mou discover Wisconsin River. They were the first white men to Soil. the Upper Mississippi River and set foot on Iowa


t s National Monument • Marinas & Boa und Mo igy Eff • k Par te Sta k Pea es ging – Mississippi River • Pik rs • Yellow River State Forest • Lod Tou e Cav • ds oun pgr Cam • ry we Bre vie Theater Rentals • Winery • • Driftless Area Wetland Centre • Mo lks Wa & ms seu Mu ic tor His • els sic B&Bs, Cabins, Hot t Tours • Antiques • Art Galler y • Mu Boa • ts ran tau Res • ng ppi Sho • ino • Cas

We hope to see you soon! • 563-873-2186



alf the job is just showing up.” It’s something said around Inspire(d) HQ often. Showing up is what gets most anything done in this world. During tough times, though, it’s easy to want to throw in the towel: “Screw showing up, I’m outta here.” I know I’ve contemplated a variety of scenarios where we end up in a beach cottage in some far-off place, homeschooling between shifts at some part time job. But these things always sound more appealing than they are in reality. There’s a reason clichés like “the grass is always greener” exist. There are pros and cons to all things – jobs, living situations, relationships, etc. That’s what draws me most to Red Piglet’s design / message: Keep Showing Up (read more about Northeast Iowa-based Red Piglet and its

founder, Mike Nelson, in this issue’s Sum of Your Business on page 18). It’s such a great reminder of how simple (even when it feels hard) the first step really is: Keep. Showing. Up. We must do this for our community, our families, and, perhaps most importantly, ourselves. Put one foot in front of the other. Pull on your shirt. Eat food that makes you feel good, and get some exercise. Hug your loved ones (if/when you can). Do your work and try to find enjoyment in it. And keep showing up. This issue, we – Benji and I, along with our fabulous contributors, readers and advertisers – celebrate 13 years of showing up for Inspire(d) Magazine. I honestly can’t believe it’s been that long! For 13 years we’ve been sharing positive news with our region. I feel like just writing that number makes me want to keep showing up in the future. Thanks for that, awesome people! You’ve got this. XOX –––

Read on for more ways you can Keep Showing Up


Photography by Brittany Todd

563-382-3657 . 108 Fifth Avenue, Decorah, Iowa . \ Summer/Fall 2020




LOC rt A busi ness L


to su


office or board

Run for a local

Give blood

Be kind Be a good listener

Spend time - really work - on your important relationships

Wake up. Get out of bed. Shower. Put on clothes that make you feel good.


Call your loved ones – they miss you.

Have a phone conversation with a friend

l i a m Sendeer! ch

Wear a mask

Check in with an elderly neighbor


Learn how to be a better ally:

to a cause you support (or multiple causes)

when you see an injustice being done

Donate money

Speak up

Learn how to register at

Need anything?



For events & ticket information visit 207 N. Main, Elkader, IA


ACUPUNCTURE QIGONG HERBAL MEDICINE 563.382.9309 309 W. Broadway Decorah, Iowa




A community is defined as a unified body of individuals. You can build community in a neighborhood, city, region, state, nation... world, at any level. It doesn’t have to be big to have a big impact. Building community is the most important thing we can do on this planet. Connecting with others helps us connect with our humanity, and realize we’re all in this together. To celebrate Inspire(d) Magazine’s birthday, we feature Community Builders in the region each fall. Happy 13, Inspire(d)! Thanks, Community Builders, for inspiring us!

rdinaire, & Maren on a Noche, fetching dog extrao by Aryn Henning Nichols glamping tent deck. Photo


Summer/Fall 2020 /

If you’d like to nominate a Community Builder from your neck of the woods, let us know! Email

Maren Beard Decorah, Iowa BY ARYN HENNING NICHOLS


nowing your neighbors these days is kind of a revolutionary thing,” says Maren Beard, co-owner of Luna Valley Farm in rural Decorah, Iowa. Settled into an Adirondack chair on one of the farm’s two glamping tent decks – an Impact Coffee nitro brew in one hand and a stick for their dog, Noche, in the other – she looks out over the valley. “This community has been a big part of Tom’s life,” she says of fellow Luna Valley co-owner – and husband – Tom Beard. He grew up in the very “neighborhood” where Luna Valley Farm – all 133 acres of it (80 tillable, 10 woods, and the rest permanent pasture) – now sits. In fact, Tom’s parents live just up the hill; their farms share property lines. But even if they weren’t related, they would surely be friendly with any neighbor who happened to live next door. The connections folks make in this idyllic piece of Northeast Iowa are long-standing. Helping each other has always been a given… a way of life. “Farms used to be smaller. There was way more sharing of equipment, labor, skills,” Maren says. “Farming was more of a community endeavor. We still have some of that here.” Maren – who grew up in Ixonia, Wisconsin, a small town between Milwaukee and Madison – fits in perfectly with this mentality. “Community building has been part of my life forever,” she says. “My dad’s side of the family, especially, is huge into community building. Both my parents were Lutheran pastors and have always been advocates of social justice.” Maren moved to Decorah to study Environmental Studies and Spanish at Luther College (’08 alum), then spent a year working with Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Baltimore, Maryland, before she came back to Decorah once again – this time to work in the Center for Sustainable Communities at Luther. While work, she also studied online to get her Masters in Sustainable Food Systems – this provides a great background for the food that Maren and Tom endeavor to sustainably produce, as it makes its way from farm to fork. Giving people a direct view of that process was a passion Maren and Tom were excited to see come to fruition in 2017, when they opened Luna Valley Farm for pizza nights that year. “There are spaces communities naturally gather – it was often the church or local school when I grew up,” Maren says. This idea of bringing people together was the foundation of Luna Valley Farm pizza nights. “It’s exciting to provide a space where people of different backgrounds can come together – to get to know each other, find chance encounters, slow down a bit,” she says. Many people have enjoyed pizza nights since then – some have run into old classmates, started new friendships, connected with nature. “It’s amazing what connections are made,” Maren says. “It ends up being a pretty small world.” Customers have come from a variety of places across the Driftless and beyond, and they often make a point to tell Maren and Tom how much they appreciate getting a behind-the-scenes view of their operation. “A lot of people who grew up on farms are really excited to see younger farmers,” Maren says. “They’re excited to see our livestock and the way we farm. It reminds them of how their grandparents used to farm.”

Maybe you’ll see them here next fall!

Continued on next page \ Summer/Fall 2020



b uy great



sel l great 102 W WATER ST DECORAH, IOWA

Buy & sell in-store & online. Details at SPORTS BAR & GRILL

Burgers. Sandwiches. Salads. Appetizers Great Wings. Weekend Bloody Mary Bar



2 amazing spaces. Small or large events. Delicious in-house catering.

206 W. Water St. Decorah 563-382-5970 • Open 11am-12am daily. Kitchen open 11am-10pm.


Tom and Maren Beard, often smiling whether at work or play! Below, Tom is delivering a Resilience Box (Bag!) to a customer in Decorah. Photos courtesy Luna Valley Farm

But once COVID-19 hit, plans of having visitors out to the farm shifted. Luna Valley Farm’s opening pizza night, usually the first weekend in May – didn’t happen. They, like many other businesses across the world – had to pivot. They were especially inspired by the generosity of neighbors and friends, offering help in any way possible. “We have seen some awesome initiatives bring our country neighborhood together more than ever,” Maren says. They have an email listserv – Canoe Creek Neighbors – that has about 150 households on it. Folks can offer up extra eggs or garden transplants for example, or a hand for an upcoming project or field day. Maren and Tom wanted to bring that feeling of camaraderie to the larger Northeast Iowa community, so they announced a new project in April: Resilience Boxes. “We thought, ‘How can we make this a positive thing to help other local businesses too?’” she says. They packed their own meats – they raise lamb, pork, and beef – into boxes (or bags!) alongside vegetables and local goods from other area producers. Every week, resilience box customers got the opportunity to order

Summer/Fall 2020 /

“additional provisions” (local honey, coffee, beer, cheese) that would be included in their box that week, and have it delivered to their doors. They sold out quickly, packing and delivering 40 boxes per week in April. So they added more for May: 60 each week. In June, the weekly number was 53. In total, they delivered nearly 700 boxes! They are currently taking a break on Resilience Boxes as they continue to assess the need in the area. “We loved doing these boxes and it’s likely we will pick it back up again in the future,” Maren says. “We really have gotten to know a lot of people through doing them, too. People leave us notes of thanks, or a bottle of wine or even a couple pieces of salmon shipped from their friends’ dad in Alaska,” she continues with a laugh. “We have the best customers.” One woman even emailed to let Maren know how excited she was to make her own salad mix – one that was even better than the store’s – and how proud she was of her entirely local meal. “The Resilience Boxes allowed us to support others and help people who didn’t want to leave home,” Maren says. “We also found we were connecting customers to small farmers and businesses they might not have purchased from before.” These connections might be what prove most fruitful through 2020. “There’s a lot of economic power through food purchases,” Maren says. “You are voting with your forks. And you’re paying for more than just fresh

Wednesday 3-6 pm Saturday 8-11 am May - October Located in the city parking lot behind the Oneota Co-op and across the street from the Post Office.

food and great flavor. You’re paying for soil and water conservation – you’re supporting another family’s livelihood. All these other things are present in what you’re buying… plus you get to appreciate the taste and flavor of really fresh food.” And, Maren thinks, when a number people can get together over really good, really fresh food, amazing things can happen. “I’ve always loved having dinner parties,” she says. “Around a table, over a meal, is when you can have the best conversations. You can have people with all sorts of diverse viewpoints, all together… and when bellies are full, things feel more open – we can change the world over the dinner table,” she pauses, thinking about how people are dining these days, and continues with a classic look-on-thebright-side-Maren smile… “or in the backyard at a picnic!” Aryn Henning Nichols is a big fan of Maren Beard’s. On occasion, at least a hundred years ago, Maren accompanied Aryn on Inspire(d) Magazine delivery days (back when Aryn helped more with distribution, haha). Aryn loves Luna Valley Farm’s pizza, the farm itself, and the wonderful people behind it.



On Friday nights in June, Luna Valley Farm started offering pizza for take-out only. They are still considering how they will handle pizza nights for the rest of the season, so head over to to see how you can grab one of their tasty pizzas in the future!

Online or Curbside ordering available! 101 West Water St. Decorah, IA. 563.419.3141 @impactcoffee \ Summer/Fall 2020




Each Thursday during the stay-athome-order in Minnesota, children’s librarian Amy Glomski would video herself reading aloud at home, then post a video to the Wabasha Public Library Facebook page. That way, families could still enjoy her weekly reading. Photo courtesy Amy Glomski

Amy Glomski Wabasha, Minnesota BY MAGGIE SONNEK


here are certain places that are true pillars of community. Churches, cafes, bookstores, parks, libraries. And in the small Mississippi River town of Wabasha, Minnesota, you’ll find an equally important community treasure inside said library: Ms. Amy, the children’s librarian. Ms. Amy – a.k.a. Amy Glomski – excels at creating a welcoming space. As visitors and community members walk through the Wabasha Public Library doors, Amy is often the first face they see, and her talent at the job is well known across the community. “Ms. Amy is one of the best storytellers that I have ever listened to. She engages the children to the point that they actually feel like they’re part of the adventures in the story,” says Susie Baab, prekindergarten teacher at St. Felix Catholic School in Wabasha. Pre-COVID-19, Susie walked her students to the library each Thursday to listen to Ms. Amy read. “Ms. Amy’s expressions are endless, and her voice changes are priceless.” Libraries go far beyond storytelling, though. They’re nonpartisan places, spots you don’t have to spend money, and where you’re always welcome.


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“Our library is so many things rolled into one. You would not believe how many people comment, many from out of town, and thank us weekly for this amazing asset to our community,” she says. “We’re here to provide not only services, but an ear too. When there is work we don’t get to because a patron wants to visit, then that’s okay.” She credits Library Director Bev Hall for her calm and friendly assurance, never rushing anyone. This feeling of community is something Amy has always sought out, and if she couldn’t find it, she created it. Her original home base was Minneapolis. But, growing up, Amy spent lots of time traveling with her parents, both teachers. While her fellow St. Olaf College classmates were student teaching in Northfield and other surrounding small towns, Amy did her student teaching in Tamil Nadu, South India. “My parents and aunt and uncle had always influenced and inspired me to teach abroad,” she says. That sparked a sense of adventure and exploration for Amy that eventually trickled to her husband and kids. Traveling taught Amy that people across the world might be different, but they all connect through community. She knew – someday – she would travel and teach abroad to share these lessons with her own family.

snorkel, dive, and swim as well as roam the desert. RT is a small But first, she taught in a district near Minneapolis for five years. community quite similar in size to Wabasha. Yet, it was incredibly When she married Greg, together they returned to his hometown of diverse as it was filled with people from over 50 different nations.” Wabasha, Minnesota. And, of course, they strengthened their bond as a family during “The city wasn’t for us,” she says. “We wanted open land, woods, this time as well. and fields. We have a deep love for nature, fishing, and kayaking. We While teaching language arts in RT, Amy earned her Master’s in wanted to raise our kids where they would have access to nature.” Elementary Literacy and Reading Instruction and soon became the They loved living in Wabasha. Greg was hired as principal of K-9 reading specialist at Wabasha-Kellogg Schools. Saudi Aramco School. Greg Amy stayed home with their became the principal. three young kids. They lived The school would close in a ranch house behind the for lunch breaks, and it local grocery store. Life was was one of the Glomski’s comfortable. favorite times of day. “We were so happy and “We loved the one-hour content in our beautiful daily lunch break that the life,” Amy says. “But one July family enjoyed together, at morning, we were chatting home each day,” Amy says. about teaching abroad. We Every summer they said, ‘We either need to go would return to Wabasha now, or not go at all.’ And we for at least a month. “We had pledged we would do didn’t want our kids to this.” feel unmoored, so we kept So, they did. Taking a cue our home in southeast from Amy’s aunt and uncle Minnesota as a home who lived and taught in Saudi base,” she says. for five years, they moved During this time, the to Ras Tanura (RT), a city in Glomskis would connect the Eastern Province of Saudi with friends, family, Arabia located on a peninsula The Glomskis lived in Saudi Arabia for 12 years, where Amy and Greg taught and and community, and extending into the Persian the kids attended school. Photo courtesy Amy Glomski repatriate (restore their Gulf. There, they went to U.S. citizenship). On their work for Saudi Aramco third summer home – they spent 12-years in Saudi Arabia total – School. At the time, Amy and Greg’s kids were eight, six, and four. they bought a new (old) house in Wabasha – one Amy had had her Their kids became third culture kids – meaning kids who have eye on for years. It is affectionately called the Old Kreye House. spent a significant part of their developmental years in a culture Built in 1896, the farmhouse sits on five acres that open to the other than their parents’, developing a sense of relationship backwaters of the Mississippi. Each summer back in Minnesota, they to multiple cultures while not having a full ownership in any. would jump into another remodeling project, giving the home new Community spaces, like libraries, parks and beaches, became a lifeline for the Glomskis. Continued on next page “We lived just steps away from the beach,” she says. “We could


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energy. (Side note: the entire third floor is now a recreation room with a ping pong and pool table, retro-video games, and a king size bed!) When their youngest, Ben, was a junior in high school in Saudi, the Glomskis decided to return to Wabasha for more than just summers, and call their beloved brick farmhouse their home. They had been abroad for more than a decade, the older two Glomski children were going to begin college in the U.S., When Amy and her family moved back to and Ben loved baseball – the U.S. from Saudi Arabia, they moved into a his dream was to make it three-story, red brick farmhouse in Wabasha. to the State Tournament. Photo courtesy Amy Glomski “In Saudi, there is no school baseball team. Sports are very secondary to education,” explains Amy. “Ben played on a club team but had dreamed of playing on a high school team.” The time felt right to head home. That year, Ben and the Wabasha-Kellogg High School team made it to State, and Amy and Greg, both just 50 and recently retired from teaching, started looking for some new community outlets. “We wanted to find meaningful, part-time work. We wanted to give back.” Greg became the Wabasha County Youth Link Mentorship Coordinator, connecting adults with at-risk youth. Amy started substitute teaching at Wabasha-Kellogg Schools. It was through Greg’s work on a volunteer board that Amy learned about a part-time, children’s librarian position at the Wabasha Public Library. That was in 2015. She quickly became a beloved fixture. “Ms. Amy is just awesome,” says Chelsea Anderson. Chelsea and her husband, Trent, homeschool their four kids. “Amy always welcomes our family with a smile and truly is excited to talk with our kids. She is full of creative ideas to help engage children in reading.” When the stay-at-home order went into effect in Minnesota, due to COVID-19, Ms. Amy continued to find a way to read to kids. She filmed herself in her own home, surrounded by her husband, now grown (but then-home!) kids, and her golden doodle, Hallie. “I really feel like we provided a fun resource for people. It’s been so neat to hear people say how much they enjoy watching our story time each Thursday. Some have even shared the link with grandkids and family far away,” Amy says. “It’s nice to feel like you are doing something positive to make people smile.” Son Ben even took turns reading stories online, calling that segment Books with Ben. As the Wabasha Public Library reopens, Ms. Amy has returned to her favorite reading chair – the one by the fireplace in the cozy children’s area. This week she’s chosen a book about a dragon named Sheldon who can’t fly. Grab your mask…let’s go listen!

110 Washington Street. Decorah, Iowa . 319.270.4592 38

Summer/Fall 2020 /

Maggie’s favorite community spaces are both within biking distance of her house…the beach and the library. She and her kids visit both weekly. They often leave the library with bags of books. This week, she’s reading The Huntress by Kate Quinn.



Kim and Andy Bonnet with their sons, Isaiah, 10, and McCoy, 7. Photo by Sara Friedl-Putnam

Kim Bonnet Decorah, Iowa BY SARA FRIEDL-PUTNAM


hether it’s fund-raising for a local cause, offering a willing ear to someone who needs to talk, or making sure others have essentials – like toilet paper – Kim Bonnet and her husband, Andy, proprietors of Rubaiyat restaurant in downtown Decorah, look out for their community. “Do you or someone you know need toilet paper?” read the caption posted by Kim and Andy on Facebook March 24, in the midst of the global shortage of toilet paper sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We just dropped off 240 rolls at the Decorah Community Food Pantry!” The couple’s willingness to step up to fill a community need came as no surprise to many locals because, well, they have been doing exactly that since opening the doors of their popular restaurant on Water Street in 2007. “It is all part of planting a seed and increasing awareness,” says Kim of their shared living-giving mindset. “Others might realize they can help, too.”

Kim says it was her parents, John and Caron Carlson, who first instilled in her the importance of giving back. She cemented that philanthropic mindset while studying communications and psychology – and working in the Development Office – at Luther College, also in Decorah. There she met Keith Christensen and Vicki Donhowe, both Development Office staff members, while making call after call during the college’s annual Phonathon appeal. “Keith and Vicki taught me this ‘living and giving’ way of life that is all about giving back because it feels good and is a great example for others,” she says. “They always emphasized that giving does not have to be financial, and that sharing your time or talent is important as well.” Kim took those lessons with her upon graduation in 2002, when she headed back to her hometown of Dubuque, Iowa, to work in retirement planning and asset retention (first for CIGNA and then Prudential) even as she held on to her dream of returning to the quaint small town where she had so happily spent her college years. Continued on next page \ Summer/Fall 2020


“There was always a piece Yet even though of me that knew I wanted to tourism has increased be in Decorah again,” she says since the restaurant simply, noting that working opened, Kim and Andy at Amundson’s Clothing while have ensured that they at Luther had first shown her keep local causes front “what a great community and center. Both have Decorah really is.” given their time to host The opportunity to relocate school children eager to arose in the fall of 2006, learn how a successful when she and Andy, then restaurant operates, working as a chef in Galena, as well as speak to Illinois, heard about a couple high school students of properties in Decorah that interested in cooking just might accommodate and the restaurant the type of restaurant – “a industry. Rubaiyat also place with a seasonal menu regularly hosts events Kim presenting to a group of kids in Rubaiyat in Downtown Decorah. and great wine where people to raise funds for local could gather,” says Kim – they causes. (A wine and hoped to open. And, as it beer sampling and turned out, 117 West Water Street, a solid and spacious building erected in the 1890s, auction in 2017, for example, raised more than perfectly fit the bill. After months of renovation during which the original tin ceiling and $12,000 for the Decorah Rotary Club, of which brick walls were exposed and restored, Rubaiyat opened to overwhelmingly positive Kim is an active member, and a similar event in reviews in 2007. 2013 raised more than $16,000 to help extend Kim, who manages the front of the house, has never looked back: “I have always the Trout Run Trail to neighboring Freeport.) viewed this space as something positive to offer Northeast Iowa,” she says. And it has. And in 2017, Kim joined four other women Over the past 13 years, Rubaiyat has become an anchor of the town’s vibrant downtown, to launch 100+ Women Who Care – Oneota where a healthy mix of retail shops, restaurants, and other commercial spots draw both Valley, a group that brings together local locals and visitors from afar. women four times a year for an hour at a time to raise funds for local charitable organizations. (See sidebar.) For Kim – who is also mom to Isaiah, 10, and McCoy, 7 – it was a “no brainer” to help spearhead an organization that could have a great positive impact locally with a minimal amount of time expended by any one participant. Still, with so much on her proverbial plate, one might think Kim would tire of the long hours that helping to run a successful restaurant demands. But she says it is the community that gives her the energy and inspiration to keep Rubaiyat a fixture of the Driftless, despite the many challenges now presented by COVID-19. (The restaurant has offered carryout since the pandemic forced the closure of dining spaces in the middle of March.) “I get my energy from the enthusiasm and positivity of the people who have supported and continue to support our restaurant,” she says. “They keep me inspired to provide innovative food and a variety of wine at a place where, hopefully, everyone will be able to gather safely again soon.”

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Sara Friedl-Putnam has enjoyed meals at Rubaiyat for well over a decade and is grateful for the many ways that Kim Bonnet and her husband, Andy, have supported the Decorah community.

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On April 4, 2017, more than 80 women enthusiastically gathered at Rubaiyat restaurant in Decorah for the inaugural meeting of 100+ Women Who Care – Oneota Valley. There, in little more than an hour, the group raised an impressive $9,455 to support the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum’s Fourth-Grade Immersion Program. Since that time, 100+ WWC – steered by board members Kim Bonnet, Alecia Bucksa, Chauncey Egglund, Jennifer Gipp, and Heidi Rockweiler – has raised more than $135,000 for myriad local nonprofits. (Some of those funds were raised in conjunction with the local 100+ Men Who Care – Driftless Chapter.) 100 + Women Who Care was started in November of 2006 by Karen Dunigan of Jackson, Michigan, as a “brilliantly simple” way to raise money efficiently and quickly for local charities. Since then, chapters have been formed across the United States, and whether in Decorah or Jackson, the guiding principles are the same. Namely, each woman (or group of women) who attends makes a $100 contribution at each of the quarterly gatherings. Those in attendance nominate a local nonprofit organization to receive those funds. Three nominees are selected and present their organizations’ cause or fundraising goal. Each $100 contribution is allowed a vote on one of three presented causes, with the total amount given to the organization that receives the most votes. For more information, visit on Facebook: 100+ Women Who Care – Oneota Valley 100+ Men Who Care: Driftless Chapter Or Based in the La Crosse area? A similar organization was formed there in 2019: League of the Ridiculous. Find more information on Facebook – League of the Ridiculous.

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Alycann Taylor Viroqua, Wisconsin BY SARA WALTERS


t was a bit of a call of the wild – or, perhaps more accurately, the outdoors – that brought Alycann Taylor and her husband, Pete, back to Wisconsin in 2005. They had just had their first daughter, and decided it was time for an – even bigger – change. They packed up their lives in Boise, Idaho and moved to Viroqua, Wisconsin. “The original draw was being close to our parents,” says Alycann, whose family lives in the Milwaukee area; Pete’s in La Crosse. “But also, Viroqua had a lot of potential… lots of untapped topography.” This was of great interest to the two avid bikers, “The outdoors are so powerful,” Alycann says. “Everywhere we look we are focusing on our differences. When you go outside and play – however you play – we’re not that different. It creates joy. It’s an equalizer. All of those things are so needed right now. It’s a way to unify us and unite us.” Though Viroqua’s landscape was well-suited, it didn’t have a single mile of single-track bike trail, nor a bike shop. So they went for it. They jumped in with both feet and opened Bluedog Cycles shortly after their move. The opportunity to build their family in this close-knit town, while also having the chance to build recreational resources for their future, has been fully supported by Viroqua, for which Alycann is grateful. “People take a chance on you here. If you invest in the community, people invest in you.” Still, the path (pun intended) was full of ups and downs. “Starting over anywhere is hard, but it was especially hard with an infant,” says Alycann. Plus, working with your spouse poses its own challenges. “We can’t just punch out and go home. Lines of personal and business can get blurred pretty quickly.” Not long after their launch of Bluedog Cycles, another opportunity presented itself: reinstating the outdoor recreation advocacy group, Vernon Trails. Converting the organization to a 501(c)3, Alycann, Pete, and many others – Vernon Trails is 100 percent volunteerdriven – went to work to make the idea of shared-use bike trails a reality. Collaborating with public and private landowners, Vernon 42

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Alycann Taylor wears many Community Builder hats in Viroqua, WI. Above, group rides are a favorite for folks at Bluedog Cycles & Vernon Trails. Photos courtesy Alycann Taylor

Trails has since created over 50 miles of trails for Viroqua and surrounding communities, as well as other outdoor recreation resources such as local disc golf courses. Providing these recreational outlets for the community is something that is near to Alycann’s heart both as a community member and as a mother. She sees so much importance in teaching kids the value of land stewardship and awareness of the outdoors. “I’m hoping the next generation can pick up where we leave off,” says Alycann, emphasizing the need for “instilling in our children a love for outdoors and being physically active.” She explains further, “We are becoming a more screen-based society. We have to find a balance. Part of it is making sure that our communities and our kids have those opportunities. We have to help create them.” In her fifteen years as a Viroqua resident, she’s also seen that when there are opportunities for children, families often come along for the ride. “When you create things for youth, that can build excitement for adults who may have forgotten what it’s like to get out there and play,” Alycann says. She tries to keep this alive within her own family, spending time walking the woods with Pete, their two daughters, Lucy, 11 and Wilma,15, and the family dogs. She enjoys hiking, and as a family, biking is an obvious choice, though the household is split on their preference for road or mountain biking. Really, it doesn’t matter the activity though. Alycann just hopes her children, and the other children in the community, can experience nature in a positive way. “If kids can have an attention to something greater than themselves and they can translate that into their adult lives, we’ve been successful,” she says.

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Pete and Alycann Taylor, and their two daughters, Lucy and Wilma. Photo courtesy Alycann Taylor

Over the years, Alycann has continued to take on new roles. Her various “hats” change regularly, describing her schedule as often “silly busy.” Though Pete is the retail face of Bluedog, she still assists with events. She also works as the full-time Human Resource Manager at Viroqua Food Co-op, and for many years ran Driftless Gymnastics. On top of that, Alycann has served on various boards and assisted many organizations, including County Board Supervisor, Treasurer for Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School, Chair of the Tourism Commission, and most recently, an appointed member of Governor Evers’ Business Regulatory Review Board. “Living in a small town I think it’s really important to be involved,” she says. “It’s a way to be informed and be part of the community.” The theme of promoting resources, recreation, and community building hold true for each committee she serves. She has learned, however, that there are important strategies for these groups to be successful. “When you’re coming together on a board in a small community, you have to come to the table with the understanding that some people have lived here for generations and those voices and that history needs to be heard and respected, but also, sometimes the newer people need to be heard and respected too,” she explains. Her roles have shown her that flexibility and “the best for the whole good” are important mindsets for creating change. “It’s about coming to the table with an open mind, staying true to your convictions, but also being willing to hear what others have experienced,” she says. But most importantly, you have to come to the table. It’s something folks in Viroqua are especially good at: They show up – and look out – for each other. “You get to know your neighbor here,” she says. “This is a smalltown community that helps raise your family. There’s something about raising children in this community that’s reassuring in the world we live in now.” Sara Walters is a writer and mom living in La Crescent, MN. She is thankful for trailblazers like Alycann who create recreational opportunities for her three daughters.

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Summer/Fall 2020 /

A Botanical Buffet Plan and plant a Driftless pollinator garden this fall



ust how long has it been? Time is a tricky thing, especially lately, some days drawing on forever, and then weeks zooming by like the click of a button. Each day over the spring months, a gaze out the window will have shown your lawn’s slow, silent transformation from dun to green. Perhaps this resulted in unfulfilled yearning. So much grass, so little pizzazz. Maybe you even caught yourself thinking there must be more to the growing season than the lawn’s mowed monotony. Well guess what? There is! It’s called a pollinator garden. What’s a pollinator garden you ask? It’s a garden planted with carefully selected plants that offer sweet nectar and nutritious pollen to bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, and even the occasional hummingbird. Why should we care? Here’s the scoop: Insects – the “little things that run the world” according to renowned conservation E.O. Wilson – need our help. Pollinators, including our fuzzy bumblebees, have declined significantly across the country. That’s true for butterflies and moths, too. The winged jewels of our meadows and woodlands aren’t as abundant as they used to be. Even the formerly common and much beloved Monarch butterfly has declined by 80 percent. Because pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food – think apples, watermelons, strawberries, and blueberries to name just a few – we need them to ensure a sustainable future. While there are numerous reasons for the decline of pollinators, the good news is we can all lend a hand. Better yet, it can be a fun, rewarding project for the entire family this fall. Here’s how to make it happen: Find a sunny spot in your yard. Most pollinators like full sun, as do many of their preferred plants. The size and shape of your pollinator garden are entirely up to you. As a rule, bigger gardens attract a parade of showy visitors throughout the growing season. Summer is generally too hot a time to plant, but fall planting works well. Before your favorite football team takes on its conference rival, rally family and friends for a sod removal party. You can be a pied piper with a dirt shovel by luring them with promise of neighborhood fame.

Continued on next page \ Summer/Fall 2020


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After the sod is removed, ask neighbors and friends if they’re splitting native perennials that would work for your pollinator garden, or explore local garden centers to see what native plants they have in stock. Why native plants? They are hardier than non-natives and once established, typically require less maintenance. They are also perfectly suited to provide maximum benefits to Driftless pollinators If possible, plant before a rainy day to help your fall plantings establish roots so they can vigorously emerge next spring. Allow plenty of space between plants (marking their locations is a good idea, so you know where to plant additional seeds in the spring), then put your bed to bed for the winter by spreading a thin layer of mulch or raked leaves over exposed soil and around the new plants. Leave in place until late April of next year, watering your new plantings occasionally until first frost. This winter, between bouts of hot chocolate, you can idle away the frigid hours while browsing native plant catalogues for spring additions to your pollinator garden. By May, after the probability of a late frost diminishes, commence planting seeds or additional plants. Dense grouping of plants, instead of scattered individuals, will be showier and highly attractive to native bees and butterflies. Groupings will also help suppress weeds and provide six-legged visitors cover from inclement weather and predators. Select a variety of plants for continuous blooming. Virginia bluebells bloom in May, butterfly milkweed in June, bergamot in July. Late summer is the high season for goldenrods and asters. Both produce beautiful flowers irresistible to pollinators. Their foliage serves as food for caterpillars. A must for any pollinator garden, they’re a full-service botanical buffet. With thoughtful plant selection, your new garden will be a continuous riot of color and a highly functional ecosystem, albeit in miniature. If you mulch, it’s best to use natural, undyed organic matter like shredded bark. Let autumn’s sprinkling of leaves rest on the bed throughout the winter and early spring. Beneficial insects, including pollinators, will take advantage of the insulation provided by a leafy quilt. And last but certainly not least, eliminate or reduce use of pesticides, one the primary drivers of pollinator decline. A growing body of evidence demonstrates the link between exposure to nature and human health. By creating a pollinator garden, you’re not only lending nature a helping hand, you’re also promoting your own well-being. How can that be(e) anything but good?

Craig Thompson began working for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources when gas was 86 cents a gallon. He lives in the bluffs on Wisconsin’s west coast with his wife, Mary, two mischievous dogs and a yard full of native plants, buzzing bees and beautiful butterflies.

Here’s a great selection of native plants for a Driftless pollinator garden! Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) Bergamot - also called Bee Balm! (Monarda fistulosa) New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) 46

Summer/Fall 2020 /

Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pynchnostachya) Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta) Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)


SENIORS (and Mail Cheer for all!) BY KRISTINE JEPSEN


or many during this pandemic, our Internet connections have turned into our social connections, giving us a view into a world we can’t visit in person. At times, it’s helped keep sanity. We moved our buying habits online, dialed up friends, family, and co-workers on Zoom or Facetime, or scrolled the Insta posts of our friends who got pandemic puppies. But for some seniors, shut-in residents, and individuals with disabilities in the Driftless – because they’re not connected to the Internet – COVID-19 meant an end to social interaction altogether. “As it became clear that older people were most vulnerable, hundreds of people disappeared from daily life, because they were likely safer at home,” says Kristie Wiltgen, regional coordinator of Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (or NEI3A). Funded both by the state and the federal government, Agency of Aging serves Iowans age 60 and older – and younger folks with disabilities – from four centers statewide, with Decorah’s office reaching 18 counties. “The hardest blow, I think, was that we had to close our congregate meal centers – the highlight of many clients’ days,” Kristie explains. “It’s where people get the news of the day and check up on each other – it’s a camaraderie you can’t get over the phone.” To compound the issue, in-home support services for seniors in the Driftless run on a steady stream of retiree volunteer support, Kristie says, including members of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), who are naturally more cautious of personal health and safety. “Many of this generation have life lines to the influenza epidemic of 1918. They take the risks very seriously.” 48

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But at times, digital solutions just don’t cut it. There are certain things you have to have in hand to appreciate…or, obviously, on the table to consume. Agency on Aging pivoted their meals program, for example, to delivery of a week’s worth of frozen entrees, instead of hot meals multiple days per week. “You feel a little like a trick-ortreater,” Kristie explains with a chuckle, herself communicating via Zoom conference call. “Ring the bell with a bag. Talk awkwardly through a mask.” This brief contact still plays a vital role, she says, so mealbringers can ask in person how residents are doing. “You get as much from what people don’t say as from what they do, and it’s sometimes the help that’s offered even when it’s not requested that is really needed.” When local senior centers closed to observe COVID safety recommendations in Lansing, Iowa, along the Mississippi in rural Allamakee County, Shep’s Riverside Bar & Grill partnered with local grocers to serve free takeout meals. With Agency on Aging support, their daily output grew to more than 300 meals a day, serving more than 150 clients. “It’s the same with grocery stores, boxing up multi-meal kits and instructions for preparing meals at home – and avoiding unnecessary public exposure,” Kristie says. “And I just have to shout out to the EARL Public Transit drivers,” she continues. EARL serves Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties. “They do it all – they load meals and supplies and deliver door-to-door and report back on individuals they visit.” Another low-tech solution arrived in the form of old-fashioned letter-writing. Mail Cheer, an anonymous delivery service for handwritten notes, was launched in June through the Decorah

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EARL drivers load meals & supplies, deliver door-to-door, & report back on individuals they visit. At left, a note of thanks sent to the Agency on Aging. Photos courtesy NE Iowa Area Agency on Aging

& Winneshiek Mutual Aid Network, a collaboration between DecorahNow community listserv and Winneshiek County Development. Residents can register online (see sidebar) or by calling (563) 293-5075 to receive Mail Cheer notes, or get instructions for writing them. “There is something important about having something physical you can hold in your hand and know that someone was thinking of you as they wrote it, that you’re not alone,” says Mail Cheer coordinator Jessica Hegdahl, a 2019-20 AmeriCorps volunteer based in Decorah. When she set up the program, incorporating art supplies donated by Decorah’s Cardboard Robot and stored in the Little Free Craft Closet at ArtHaus, she had her own school-age kids in mind, too. “We made cards for seniors doing Mail Cheer,” she explains, “but it’s no shocker that kids who’ve been isolated from school and summer activities might love to get Mail Cheer, too!” The favor pays itself forward, says Kristie, adding that Agency on Aging receives notes and phone messages from residents and caregivers about how important a single act of compassion might be. The real-time social needs created by COVID-19 have also inspired folks to learn something new, online, for the first time.

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“I’m excited to see how fast communities that didn’t use a lot of computer-based communication are adapting technology,” Kristie says. Online classes such as ‘How to Make Nutritious Meals from Things Already in Your Pantry,’ and weekly tai chi, have a strong following. In summer and fall 2020, NEI3A will partner with GrandPad, makers of a super simple digital tablet with built-in cellular data, to give tech-challenged residents a new way to contact family and friends. Whether it’s a delivered bag of groceries, a kind note, or tech assistance, Kristie concludes, such strong partnerships are flourishing because our communities are seeded with care and compassion. Neighbors are showing up for neighbors. “Even when we can’t ‘see’ each other, we have a chance to be ‘helpers,’ to rise up to take care of our own.”

Kristine Jepsen learned the art of letter writing from her grandmother, whose address book for weekly correspondence numbered in the hundreds of friends and family. Today, Kristine is also a business mentor for America’s Small Business Development Centers and Winneshiek County, as well as a freelance writer/editor (kristinejepsen. com). Checking the mail is still by far one of her favorite things.

Learn more: Know a senior who could benefit from Agency on Aging support? Get connected at (800) 779-8707 or Support public transit! Visit or call toll-free (866) 382-4259 for a ride or delivery services. Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Seniors 55+ perform engaging and meaningful service throughout Northeast Iowa. More at

2019-2020 AmeriCorps volunteer Jessica Hegdahl shows Mail Cheer examples. Photo courtesy Jessica Hegdahl

Decorah & Winneshiek Co. Mutual Aid Network Check out this unique network that coordinates the giving and receiving of aid in the community: Winneshiek County Development & Tourism Businesses and residents alike will find resources to navigate COVID-safe commerce at

Sign up for Mail Cheer! Visit Decorah Mutual Aid Network at for info on sending or receiving handwritten happygrams. Let’s get the ball rolling: Send some Mail Cheer today – either through the Mail Cheer program, or simply send a note in the mail to friends and family! We can almost guarantee it will brighten their day! Here’s a fill-in-the-blank letter template to get you started! You can use this one here in the magazine, or download the template at


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Hello! I hope this letter finds you feeling _______________ and doing something ______________ with your day.

My favorite thing to do right now is _______________________. I’m looking forward to ____________________. To stay positive, I like to _______________________, and I make sure to __________________________ every day.

I am grateful for _____________________________. I think __________________ is so inspiring right now!

Please stay ______________ and __________________. We can’t wait to see you out _____________ again soon!

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Photos courtesy Rachel Jepson Wolf / The Unplugged Family Activity Book


Summer/Fall 2020 /

PAUSE & Unplug Viroqua’s Rachel Jepson Wolf talks about her newlypublished, THE unplugged Family Activity Book, and finding magic with her family

Q&A \ Summer/Fall 2020




here are, without a doubt, times in your life where you have to make your own magic. This is nothing new for Viroqua, Wisconsin’s Rachel Jepson Wolf. As the founder of LüSa Organics, she pretty much legit makes magic all the time with her soaps, balms, and other amazing skin and body products. But she also helps lead the magicmaking in her family, and she’s sharing what’s she’s learned with others through The Unplugged Family Activity Book, published late June 2020. It is perfect timing, because most summer camps are canceled and the fate of next year’s school schedule is unknown. Whatever the outcome, it is likely screens will be a part of your and/or your child’s life in the coming months. It’s great to have a reminder to take a break. Unplug. Do something outside, no matter the season. It’s important for our physical and mental health – for kids and adults alike. But where to get the ideas? How to find the motivation? Rachel is here to help with that. “Within these pages,” Rachel writes on her blog,, “I invite you and your loved ones to connect, create, and play all year long. There’s no right or wrong way to unplug – all we have to do is begin. And with simple projects, delicious recipes, and joyful celebrations, you’ll find that more fun awaits than you ever imagined – all through the year.” Rachel and her husband, Pete, have homeschooled their two kids, Lupine and Sage – now 13 and nearly 18 – in rural southwestern Wisconsin their entire lives. It’s safe to say they’ve had a fair amount of experience creating engaging activities. In The Unplugged Family Activity Book, you’ll find more than 60 projects, crafts, recipes, and more. How about a springtime tea party, with shortbread cookies and a mossy fairy garden in a teacup? Or blowing giant bubbles, racing leaf-and-bark boats, and camping out in your own backyard? There are many adventures to be had, right outside your door.

We caught up with Rachel to ask her a few questions about what it’s like to homeschool for that many years, and how she finds new inspiration for activities to engage her kids (hint, the activities engage the WHOLE family). Ready, set… unplug.


Summer/Fall 2020 /

1. Early on during the COVID-19 pandemic, you posted on social media that even your family – who are all used to working-from-home and homeschooling – was falling behind on the schedule. What advice do you have for folks who are home with their kids – a lot more than they’re used to – during these stressful times? I think the most helpful thing I can share is that children learn through life. And activities that might not look “school-y” or academic are rich with learning. Reading books (alone or as a family), exploring nature, make-believe play, cooking, baking, making, playing games – all of these activities are valid channels to learning. Indeed, it’s most of what we have done as a family for the past 18 years (homeschooling very rarely resembles school in our experience). Also, I’m a big proponent for honoring the season your family is in. And right now (for many of us) this is a season of simply learning how to navigate uncertain times. Big emotions might need processing and children work through their confusion or anxiety about current events, health, and the world. And I think that exploring and growing to understand our own emotional landscapes is one of the finest educations we could wish for our kids to receive. 2. Where do you get your ideas for unplugged activities? Many of the activities in The Unplugged Family Activity Book are things that I’ve done with my kids when they were younger (or even things we enjoy now).

Pete and Lupine connect over a campfire. At left, Rachel with The Unplugged Family Activity Book. Photos courtesy Rachel Jepson Wolf / The Unplugged Family Activity Book

Continued on next page

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We’ve always been a fairly low-tech, high-creativity family, and my kids were born to create and engage the world with both hands. Other activities are ones that I drew from my background as an environmental educator – the sorts of activities that kids enjoy at summer camp or a nature center. 3. Do your kids get excited about every one of your ideas for fun? Do they ever complain or roll their eyes? And if so, how do you get them on board? Both when my kids were younger and now as teens, they have different styles and different interests (both from one another and from me). Yet there is common ground where we all can meet (hello, homemade ice cream!). Sometimes, when my kids weren’t excited about something I wanted to share with them, I would simply gather my supplies, then sit down and set to work on my own. Soon, I’d be surrounded by cautious observers who quickly transformed into enthusiastic makers. I also employed the homeschooling technique of “strewing”, where I would quietly place books and supplies where my children would find them, allowing them to be at the helm of exploration and discovery rather than joining me in something I wanted them to do. 4. What has been the most unexpected benefit you have found from unplugging with your family? Connection, connection, connection. I don’t take for granted the fact that my family knows and understands one another more deeply than we ever dreamed, largely because we’ve made the time to connect. Last winter, as I drove to my family’s cabin in Northern Wisconsin with my kids for our annual cross country skiing weekend,

I was struck by the fact that I had two teenagers who were as excited as I was to spent a week together, offgrid in the winter woods. I’m deeply grateful for that. 5. What was your favorite activity from The Unplugged Family Activity Book (or top five if you can’t narrow it down)? How about one for each season? In spring, I love Neighborhood Bouquet Surprises. My daughter and I have delivered these each May Day to our rural neighbors for as long as I can remember. For summer, I can’t get enough of the bark and leaf boats (pictured on the cover at left). When I shared this idea with my kids (who were teenagers, mind you!) they couldn’t get enough, and stayed out until dark, launching boats into the lake. In autumn I’d have to say the decorative lanterns and fall lantern walk are at the top of the list. And for winter, I’m going to go with the Winter Celebration of Light. I look forward to our quiet Winter Solstice celebration all year long.

Check out some of the projects you’ll find in the Unplugged Family Activity Book Candied violets Herbal first aid balm Rose petal tea Teacup fairy gardens Infused honey Homemade ice cream Summer flower buntings Giant bubbles Homemade dragonfly wings Mulled cider Felted acorn necklaces Autumn gratitude tree Decorative lanterns Baked apples Winter stargazing Maple lollipops A giant snow fort Dried citrus garland Plus dozens more crafts, projects, and recipes!

Interested in getting a copy of The Unplugged Family Activity Book, or Rachel’s first book, Herbal Adventures, a wildcrafting book for kids and their families? Check your local bookshop or order online at

Learn more:

LüSa Organics website : : LüSa Organics blog : : Rachel Wolf blog : :


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Perennial garden plans at Sweet 16 Farm. Photo courtesy Sweet 16 Farm.

Attendees of the “Young & the Driftless� potluck and brainstorming session in January 2019 included local farmers, business owners, economic development specialists, arts professionals, parents, and their young children. Photo courtesy of Driftless Grown


Summer/Fall 2020 /

We Are Driftless Grown BY ERIN DORBIN


ike many good Midwestern groups before it, Driftless Grown began with a potluck.

Organized by Sarah Wexler-Mann, an entrepreneur and the owner of Sweet 16 Farm in Houston County, Minnesota, the goal was to connect area farmers to one another. It was January – the farming “off-season” – in 2019, and the potluck even had a clever name: “The Young and the Driftless.” “The idea for this gathering was long in the making,” Sarah says. “It took eight years of living in Minnesota’s Driftless region, and one year of farming solo while single parenting to recognize the need for it.” The event invite included the following passionate declaration: “We are Driftless Grown: A New Generation of Agriculture. We are makers, producers, farmers, skilled-tradespeople and we all share a vision for our future: to create something sustainable and meaningful through our work and our stewardship of the land.” The statement resonated with entrepreneurs in the region. More than 30 people showed up, all eager to connect. After the initial Young and the Driftless event, an advisory committee was assembled and the Driftless Grown initiative was born. The committee collected valuable input from neighbors, farmers, entrepreneurs, and professionals in and around Houston County. “Cultivating long-term resilience for rural communities in the Driftless Region” soon became their collective, regional mission. Important local partners and funders emerged across industries to support that mission, including Houston County Economic Development Authority, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), People’s Food Co-op of La Crosse, University of Minnesota Extension, MiEnergy, Merchant’s Bank, Sustainable Farming Association, Harvest Entrepreneur Network (HEN), and Community Economic Development Associates (CEDA). Continued on next page \ Summer/Fall 2020


Organic vegetables from Owl Bluff Farm in Houston, Minnestoa. Photo courtesy Owl Bluff Farm.

Sheep graze in a pasture at Humble Hands Harvest in Decorah, Iowa. Photo courtesy Humble Hands Harvest. Learn more about these Driftless Grown members at

Irene Fishburn, Tiffany Ask, Sarah Mann, & Rebecca Sammis at Sweet 16 Farm in Houston, Minnesota. Photo courtesy Sweet 16 Farm


With financial and in-kind support from these partners, the advisory committee began surveying local farmers and producers with the simple question: “What do you need help with?” A skillssharing workshop series emerged in response. In August 2019, Driftless Grown also organized a member vendor fair during the annual Hop Harvest Music Fest at Sweet 16 Farm to connect regional producers with local consumers (Hop Harvest is canceled this year due to COVID-19, but check back for 2021). In January 2020, Driftless Grown held their first hands-on workshop: A chainsaw safety and operation course, Felling and Bucking with Emily Ford. It was well attended, and roughly 75 percent of the attendees were women or new farmers in the Driftless. Sarah, who coordinated the event, was grateful and enthused at the turnout, “I thought, ‘Look at all the people who needed this skill!’”



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Participants at Felling and Bucking with Emily Ford spent a full day learning chainsaw basics, from how to sharpen and clean your chainsaw to how to properly gear up and make your first cut. Photo courtesy of Driftless Grown

Driftless Farmers Flex Their Creativity in 2020 Small cities and economic development specialist Allison Wagner has been an outstanding ally to local farmers in Houston County and the Driftless Grown Initiative. She currently develops programming to support vulnerable farmers at the county level in her position with the Houston County Economic Development Authority. Allison grew up on a small dairy farm in Houston County, and after obtaining her B.S. in advertising, worked briefly in the marketing and fashion industry. She brought her skills and aesthetic back home to Houston County, and asserts that moving from fashion to farming wasn’t as big of a leap as others might imagine. She’s borrowed lessons from her previous career to organize financial management, marketing, succession planning, business plan development, and grant writing assistance for local ag workers. (Author note: It’s worth noting that she’s always the best dressed in the room, or on the farm, too.) Minnesota farmer employment in 2018 dropped 40 percent compared to 1988, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The latest 2017 USDA census also reports that Houston County farmers saw more than a 50 percent decline in net income between 2012 and 2017. However, Allison reminds us, “Farming has always been hard because there’s always so much unpredictability. Your success depends on the weather, it depends on the market, always.” Continued on next page

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In response, Houston County farmers have been looking to try new things, branch out to secure incomes and health insurance off the farm. “Workforce Development, Inc. has been an excellent partner in this transition,” Allison says. “They’ve been able to help us put farmers into jobs that they are good at, that they enjoy. We have so many businesses in Houston County that say, ‘We need workers!’ Because of this, we’ve had businesses willing to adapt to a farmer’s schedule.” Allison looks at the current farming crisis through the lens of her personal experience growing up in the 1980s on her family’s small dairy farm. She witnessed many of the neighboring farms at the time going out Houston native, Allison Wagner, made of business and the career shift from fashion marketing and purchasing to small-town economic farmers selling development and agricultural business their land. coaching. Photo courtesy of Allison “What we Wagner, photographed on her parents’ found was that people sometimes farm in Reno, Minn., Houston County bought these farms, but didn’t live on them. They bought them for recreational use. We lost families,” she says. “When you lose families, you have less people shopping at the stores, using our services, and so the whole economy suffers.” Mental Health Resources for Farmers in the Driftless The uncertainty, loneliness, and stress of farming can get to folks. Allison not only provides financial and business planning support to farmers, she connects them with much-needed mental health resources, too. “The isolation is real for farmers,” she says. “I hear over and over again, ‘Sometimes I feel isolated; sometimes I

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feel alone.’ It’s not like a business on Main Street, you know? They don’t have customers they can talk to. I’ve heard from some dairy farmers, they love when the milk hauler comes to pick up their milk so they have somebody to chat with!” The State of Minnesota currently employs only two rural mental health specialists for farmers throughout the entire state. (They have just recently added their second.) Even so, “No one knew the service existed,” Allison laments. “One thing we’ve tried to do is bring farmers together with other farmers. I think it’s been working. It’s been a positive thing to see people meeting that are in similar situations, feeling similar things, that they otherwise probably wouldn’t have met,” she says. Indeed, in-person workshops and potlucks are an excellent way to relieve farmers’ sense of isolation on small family farms. However, COVID-19 and stayat-home orders have caused most of these types of gatherings to cancel, or go virtual. The scheduled 2020 in-person workshops Allison and team have been planning – ones in electric fencing, direct marking, and more – have been substituted with virtual webinars, where possible. While this limits the opportunities for hands-on learning and in-person networking, it speaks to the resiliency and creativity of local leaders and ag workers in the face of the global pandemic. The new summer webinars, beginning July 1, 2020, will focus on direct marketing, legal support, and “Farming in Tough Times.” They will be archived online so that farmers can access them at any time during their notoriously busy summer schedules (see sidebar for details).

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Farming Driftless During COVID-19 During the pandemic, the seeds of the ubiquitous “Buy Local” campaigns have grown from a commonly used marketing mantra to a healthy and flourishing backyard marketplace option. Since the state- and region-wide shutdown that began in mid-March, Allison reports that more people have been working from home and as a result, they’ve been shopping more locally, too. Previously, Houston County workers in large part commuted daily to neighboring Winona and La Crosse counties. They’d typically do all of their shopping in these communities before returning home. That’s now drastically changing. “Everyone is realizing what we have right here,” Allison says. “I have a lot of farmers telling me ‘I have a lot of new customers who just discovered me!’” In her own weekly shopping, Allison notes that she’s seeing new locally produced items popping up in the grocery aisles. “People are discovering products they never realized existed!”

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The Driftless Grown website (above) showcases individual membership profiles for nearly 40 local farmers, producers, and makers. (Membership to Driftless Grown is free.) Its extensive interactive map shows consumers which producers are offering home delivery and curbside pickup options, as well as which farmers will be active at upcoming farmers markets. A new website feature also allows you to search by product type. Whether you’re looking for flowers, coffee, handmade clothing and gear, cheese, or pastureraised pork and beef – chances are, you can find it here in the Driftless. Continued on next page

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Learn more:

Driftless Grown: Houston County Economic Development Authority Ag: Minnesota Farm and Rural Helpline: 833-600-2670

Babydoll sheep from Wholesome Harvest / Prairie Plum Farm in Mabel, Minnesota. Photo courtesy Wholesome Harvest

Since COVID-19, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation has provided additional funding for Driftless Grown to offer continued direct support to local farmers. Pam Bishop, vice president of economic development at SMIF says, “Organizations which can respond and react quickly to farmer’s needs are essential. The more we can organize work regionally and provide resources locally, the greater chance we have of growing a sustainable economy and creating more business opportunities.” The world is seeing online purchasing skyrocket during the pandemic, so Driftless Grown is now offering members discounted professional website development services to market their goods directly to the public. 64

Summer/Fall 2020 /

Bailey Lutz snaps a selfie with one of their goats at Listenmore Farm. Photo courtesy Bailey Lutz

Driftless Grown Member Farmers Support Their Urban Neighbors in South Minneapolis In late May and early June 2020, after the world witnessed the profoundly disturbing murder of Black Minnesotan, George Floyd, the community responded in powerful protest. In the upheaval, residents of the South Minneapolis neighborhood near the site of the incident at 38th and Chicago also experienced the loss of some of its staple grocers, pharmacies, and corner stores. Bailey Lutz, of Listenmore Farm in Black Hammer Township, quickly organized regional farmers in a show of solidarity with their neighbors to the north. They began collecting financial donations online to twice weekly source and deliver high-quality, farmfresh foods from the Driftless region to folks affected in Minneapolis. Listenmore Farm raises forage and rotationally grazed Kiko goats and heritage breed ducks for eggs and meat. They can be found in the Driftless Grown member directory at

Moving Forward If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we must embrace uncertainty. As the stress and isolation felt by our farmers has rippled through all occupations during the global pandemic, the beauty of local food, products, and services has shown. With each act of economic and social solidarity we make, Driftless communities will emerge on the other side, stronger. So the next time you’re making a purchase, see if you can make it Driftless Grown. Erin Dorbin is a native of rural southwest Michigan who fell head over heels for Houston County, Minnesota in the gorgeous Driftless region. Here, she’s pioneered a new youth media and local history program, Stories: YES, in partnership with the Smithsonian. Erin also lovingly curates the Crystal Creek CitizenArtist Residency program. She wants you healthy and says, “Wear a mask!”


The “Growing Stronger Together” FREE webinar series is a new initiative in partnership with Houston County EDA and CEDA’s Harvest Entrepreneur Network program. The series aims to provide practical information for farmers throughout the state of Minnesota and beyond.

Farmers Get Creative During Pandemic

Join in for a conversation about the current state of agriculture during a global health crisis, learn about resources to offset any negative impact, and dream about creative solutions for the future.

Farming in Tough Times

With low commodity prices, high debt loads, and challenging weather in recent years, farmers are experiencing a high amount of stress. This session will review the nature of farm stress, discuss how to identify stress, provide strategies for communicating with stressed individuals, and review available resources.

Direct Marketing for Farmers

This workshop will feature several farmers who have successfully marketed their products direct to consumers, as well as other channels such as restaurants, groceries/co-ops, and other wholesalers. Panelists will share what has worked and what hasn’t, and how their marketing strategies have changed over time.

Photo courtesy Fiddlehead Knob – a farm in LeRoy, Minnesota, that specializes in growing gourmet and medicinal mushrooms.

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Grant Money for Farmers: How to Maximize Funding to Grow Your Business

COVID-19 has focused attention on our country’s food supply and renewed demand for farm business innovation. Learn about grant programs available to farms and how to identify products and projects within your business that may be eligible for funding.

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Gerald Bakken Interviewed by granddaughter Britney Bakken

Upon meeting Gerald, you’ll first notice his sparkly blue eyes. He loves visitors, playing cards, and is a great storyteller! Gerald was born to Ole and Pauline in 1932 and grew up west of Decorah with two siblings, Howard and Phyllis. He met his wife-to-be, Darla Anderson, in primary school. They dated in high school and married in 1955. “She liked horses and I had horses, so that helped.” Darla and Gerald farmed together and had two children, Lynn and Gary. In their free time they went dancing, traveled with friends, played many games of cards, and Gerald spent over 30 years on the REC Board of Directors. Gerald is a dedicated and unwavering husband. He took care of Darla after she suffered a stroke in 1996. Later in life, he became her full-time caregiver before she recently moved into a nursing home. In 2019, Gerald finally decided to fully retire from farming at the age of 87! I was fortunate to be one of his grandchildren. My cousins, sister, and I lived nearby and spent most of our childhood running around their farm. Grandpa has always been and continues to be a joyful and steady part of our lives. He’s been there for his family through everything and he means more to me than I can put into words. Doing this interview has been an honor. Love you, Gramps! What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you? Don’t give up easy. If you start off to do something, keep at it. What did you want to be when you grew up? All I ever thought about was farming. I was about six years old when I first started raking hay. I had an old team [of horses] and dad put me out there. I’d cultivate corn. I had a spotted pony I used to ride named Deana and we’d go get the cows every night over around the pond. Some nights those cows would give me a hard time. They’d hide in the woods and I’d have to find them. They’d run into the pond. Sometimes it’d take me a while to get them all home. What do/did you do? Farming. I got married and we moved to the farm. I’ve been here ever since. There wasn’t running water in the house, so we put in water and radiators for the furnace that year. Grandma used to cook a big dinner for all those guys [the farm crew, family, grandkids]. She could do anything she put her mind to. She made all sorts of things in the woodshed. She used to butcher rabbits and sell them at the Family Grocery Store in Decorah. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you? Water, something to eat, and a blanket to sleep on. Try to describe yourself in one sentence. Gerald: You can probably do that better than I can. Britney: You are hard working, kind-hearted, and a bit of a jokester. G: (Laughter) That doesn’t sound so bad. We had a pretty good time didn’t we? B: Yes we did. We were so lucky to have Grandma and you in our lives.

Do you know someone you’d love to interview for this page? Let us know!

If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be? I like just about everything I eat. One thing I eat every morning is blueberries, Cheerios and Grapenuts with banana sliced up on top. Name one thing you could not live without. I couldn’t live very long without water. I’d get thirsty pretty quickly. Tell us about your wedding day: Our wedding was on the 2nd of January at Madison Church. It was a pretty cold night and there was a lot of snow. The flower girl, Alice Jane, got sick a couple days before the wedding, so Cindy Faldet (Steines) was to be our flower girl. My aunt Emma sewed all day to make Cindy’s dress. It worked. The reason we had the wedding that time of year was because Grandma’s friends were home from college and some of them were in the wedding. At that time a lot of people had weddings at night. Ours was at 7 pm and we had a full church. People in those days had pretty big families and everyone came. The women’s aide served supper after the ceremony. Nobody got drunk like they do nowadays. We left on a trip the night of our wedding and were gone for about a week. When I went to the jewelry store and bought Grandma’s diamond, I pulled out my wallet and paid the full amount in cash. The guy about flipped. I didn’t have any expenses back then, so I had saved everything I made. I was able to buy a car that way, too.

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