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Opinion

Community organizers celebrate inaugural Green Skills Sampler

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October 3, 2013

River Falls is abundant in self-resiliency. As a community, we are amongst countless people who have diverse skills that add up to leading a sustainable lifestyle. More importantly, our resident teachers (aka our neighbors) who have tested the waters successfully are willing to share their local knowledge at the Green Skills Sampler.

When I first moved out of my parent’s home, some paths to sustainable living seemed intimidating or inaccessible. I rented an apartment where I could not imagine keeping bees or raising chickens. I had never canned or composted. I had no idea where to start or if it would be hard and expensive to dive in.

Later, as an AmeriCorps volunteer, I had the opportunity to be a part of an intentional farming community, living and working with people with developmental disabilities.

Maureen Ash, local baker, will be sharing her whole-grain baking skills at the Green Skills Sampler, Saturday, Oct. 5.
Maureen Ash, local baker, will be sharing her whole-grain baking skills at the Green
Skills Sampler, Saturday, Oct. 5. (Photo used with permission from Anna Zalusky)

The lost arts of self-sufficiency were a major daily focus on the farm, so my exposure came quickly and easily all of a sudden. I was incredibly lucky to have the luxury of experiencing sustainable living in a community expressly dedicated to that goal. Some people learn the skills from their grandparents and elders, some fall into it because of a passion for quality or simply searching for a noble hobby and some of us will get our first taste of the satisfaction of earth-wise ingenuity at the Green Skills Sampler.

The Sampler is a full day dedicated to local resourcefulness, particularly with hands-on instruction. Topics include: home beer brewing, backyard edible and medicinal plants, maple syrup production, adult yoga, seed saving, top-bar beekeeping, small-scale berry production, fruit tree pruning, bicycle maintenance, small engine maintenance, food preservation, raising chickens, edible landscaping and square foot gardening, healthy and efficient homes, raising rabbits, environmental landscaping, solar power, whole grain baking, kitchen worm composting, scythe mowing for field and yard and natural building methods.

Anna Zalusky, a local advocate for ecological living and a coordinator for the Sampler, explained to me how this event was cultivated. Last year, a large contingent of River Falls folks, that included Zalusky and her friends and family, attended a similar event in Prairie Farm, Wis. Zalusky described it as fantastic.

“We learned a ton and brought home some really great skills that we were able to put to use right away. I tapped the maple trees in my yard,” Zalusky said.

River Falls was so well represented at the event that the organizers suggested that our community organize one as well. Monique Squire, the community education coordinator for the River Falls school district was sought out and was very supportive of the idea said Zalusky.

The organizers recruited community members to be instructors, one having learned their skill (worm composting) at the event that originally inspired them all. Their grassroots efforts are a great example of success distinctive to River Falls.

“I have been so impressed with our community and the several organizations helping to make this event possible,” Zalusky said.

Along with Zalusky’s organization, the Local Food Partnership, the project partners include the UWRF St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development, River Falls Community Education and What We Need Is Here. Allina Health also granted funds to purchase food preservation and whole grain baking equipment.

It will be a well-rounded affair. The event will be hosting booths for local organizations such as Grow To Share, UWRF’s Student Alliance for Local and Sustainable Agriculture, Habitat for Humanity and the River Falls Municipal Utilities program, POWERful Choices.

A book swap will also be held for people interested in leaving a book and taking a new one to bring home. The Dish and the Spoon Café will provide an optional catering service. When checking in on Saturday attendees can order a lunch to be delivered for $8. Additionally, a continental breakfast and childcare are complimentary with the $10 registration.

The Green Skills Sampler promises fun, good food for thought and the chance to meet or catch up with neighbors interested in sustainable living. The classes have been designed to take away the intimidation associated with new activities through using concrete applications and active participation. I hope to see you there.

The Green Skills Sampler costs $10 and will take place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., on Saturday, Oct. 5, at the River Falls High School.

For the times of the class sessions, please go to: http://www.localfoodpartnership.org/. If you have additional questions or need complimentary childcare please email: rflocalfood@gmail.com.

Molly Breitmün is a non-traditional student majoring in conservation with a minor in GIS. Her interest in campus sustainability was fostered by becoming an undergraduate fellow for the St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development as well as by her peers in the Student Alliance for Local and Sustainable Agriculture.