Posts Tagged: inspired

What’s Leadership Iowa?!

Inspire(d)’s Benji Nichols participates in 2019-20 Leadership Iowa Class.

It’s not very often that we get to do interviews with each other, so I (Aryn) jumped at the chance to put Benji Nichols in the hot seat! Honestly, even though we work in the same office, it’s kind of tough to catch up with him – that guy is busy! When he’s not out bringing the world the latest Inspire(d) Magazine, or doing his many varied tasks for our business, he’s been on the road to far-flung Iowa locales, learning about different aspects of our great state.

Why, you may ask?

You might have seen some of Benji’s posts on social media talking about a program he’s doing through 2020, Leadership Iowa! We are super proud he was selected to participate, and wanted to share a little more about its purpose.

Leadership Iowa is “Iowa’s premier statewide issues-awareness program for current and emerging Iowa leaders.” Basically, it’s a like a grad program for civic leadership on a state wide level. The program brings together 40 diverse adult professionals for eight monthly sessions across the state, and provides an in-depth look at different topics –economic development, education, government, agriculture, and more. Leadership Iowa exists to educate, inspire, and grow a network of informed leaders and to encourage their ongoing local and statewide involvement to create a better future for Iowans. The program is a part of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Foundation, now in it’s 38th year, with over 1,000 alumni across the state and beyond.

Check it out, and make sure to follow along here and on social media for more of Benji’s adventures – you know he’s going to have them!  Inspire(d) Facebook  –  Inspire(d) Instagram

To kick off the series, here’s a quick Q&A between Aryn and Benji!

Aryn: Why Leadership Iowa?

Benji: In March of 2019, I had the opportunity to attend the Iowa Rural Economic Development Summit in Grinnell. While there, I connected with a couple of other Leadership Iowa (LI) Alum, including Jenae Jennison, director of external engagement at Central College in Pella. Through conversations it seemed like the LI experience could be a great fit, and I was nominated to apply for the 2019-20 Class. The program accepts only 40 participants from across the state each year, with a full application process and tuition. It truly focuses on giving participants valuable, professional insights into the issues and opportunities that Iowa faces as a state, and that follows through the entire eight-month course.

In terms of why I really wanted to be a part of the program – I feel like now, more than ever, we all need to keep reaching to find the common ground that makes rural America work. The Midwest is a highly misunderstood, and often overlooked place from a national viewpoint. Decorah, and Northeast Iowa hold those same exact traits on a state level (misunderstood and overlooked). We (Aryn and I) have spent the last 12 years building a company that focuses on the positive in the world, and we believe we can make real influences within that, and would like to be a part of the larger picture in our state and the Midwest. It’s an exciting time to be in the midwest – and opportunity abounds!

Aryn: (YES! Love it!!!) … Is Leadership Iowa a political program?

Benji: No, not as such. The program does bring together statewide leaders from a professional, often grassroots level though, and several notable Iowa politicians are alumni. Being sponsored by the Iowa ABI Foundation, obviously the hope is to help continue strengthening the Association of Business and Industry’s ties across the state, but those cross almost every imaginable sector and part of our State’s economy. The program does tend to find access to several state leaders, which provide amazing small group opportunities to engage.

Aryn: How often do you meet? Are you finding it hard to make the time?

Benji: LI meets for 2-3 days each month for eight months, with essentially an optional month thrown in the mix (January… in Iowa!). We meet all over the state, so yes, it is a pretty big commitment, but also a fantastic way to see locations in the state that one might otherwise not. Our first meeting was in Perry. Talk about a town that is working hard to reinvent themselves not only for visitors, for for future generations, and current business owners. Last month’s meetings were in Iowa Falls, focusing on agriculture in Iowa. Central Iowa is definitely home to big ag, but also to some really innovative ag education programs, as well as the heart of Iowa’s booming wind energy sector – which leads directly into agriculture as most windfarms are located on ag land.
Living in the northeast corner of the state, the sessions can be quite a drive – but our class has members from Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids. We work to do some carpooling, and luckily I enjoy driving! Being self-employed adds a real challenge to the equation as well. Many full-time employers often encourage participation by employees, and help fund tuition costs, travel, and time off from work. Luckily Inspire(d) is helping me take on the expense, travel, and time to be a part of the program (thanks Aryn!). In just our first two meetings I feel that the program has been completely worth it. The level of connection with other participants, and our access to explore issues across the state is unparalleled.

Aryn: What’s next?

Benji: We’ve had our first two meetings – orientation in September (Perry, IA), and our session on agriculture in Iowa in October (Iowa Falls, IA). I’m headed to Ft. Dodge next week for our session on education, and look forward to breaking down some of the topics in posts here on the Inspire(d) blog! The program runs through June of 2020 for our class, with opportunities to stay engaged through the alumni network – it’s an amazing group of Iowans, and I’m truly grateful for the chance to be a part of the organization.

Look for another post soon with updates on Benji’s experiences with Leadership Iowa!

Seed Savers Benefit Concert: Q&A w/ David Huckfelt

Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) near Decorah, IA will once again host an incredible lineup of mid-western musicians for an on-the-farm benefit concert, Saturday, August 3, 2019. Seed Savers has been providing a home and outlet for heirloom and open pollinated varieties of seeds since 1975, encouraging gardeners and farmers worldwide to grow, harvest, and share heirloom seeds, as well as recount the inspirational stories behind them. SSE aims to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

The benefit concert is hosted in the natural grass bowl of Lillian Goldman Visitors Center on the SSE Heritage Farm, offering a magical setting for some of the mid-west’s best roots musicians, including; Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles, Lissie, David Huckfelt of The Pines, Pieta Brown, Michael Rossetto, and Special Guest Mr. Greg Brown. Tickets are available at this link for $25 in advance, $30 day of at the gate.

David Huckfelt, photo by Graham Tolbert

Dave Huckfelt, of The Pines, was kind enough to take a few minutes to speak with Inspire(d) about why Seed Savers Exchange holds a special place for him. Huckfelt, a native Iowan, has been touring, writing, and performing beautiful, haunting tunes across the country for years – including a recent stint on Isle Royale, America’s most remote and least visited national park in mighty Lake Superior. Six hours by boat off the Michigan coast, Isle Royale is the largest island in the world’s largest freshwater lake, an isolated stretch of wilderness seemingly forgotten by the 20th century (to say nothing of the 21st). There, as an Artist In Residence selected by the National Park Service, Huckfelt spent ten hours a day for two straight weeks writing in solitude, channeling the mysterious and lonesome island’s spirits into his stunning debut solo album, ‘Stranger Angels.’

Huckfelt’s music is authentic, honest, and filled with a passion that makes him a natural fit to be a part of the SSE Benefit Concert. Inspire(d) would graciously like to thank David Huckfelt for his work, art, and time in answering the following questions:

Inspire(d): What’s the most fun or rewarding thing you’ve ever grown?

DH: In Clay County, Iowa, near Spencer where I grew up, I watched many of the small-scale family farms in the region swallowed up by giant ag corporations, crop diversity plummet, and hard working families have to get in line and accept GMO corn and soybean fields just to stay afloat. Wal-Mart & Home Depot moved in, and our main street was devastated; no more movie theater, no more hotel, no more shoe stores and little grocers. My best friend lived on a third generation family farm, their lane was a half a mile long because there weren’t even sections yet when their great grandfather homesteaded. Every year when they planted their massive fields of hybrid GMO corn, they’d always save a little parcel of land near the house for their heirloom sweet corn seeds.  I’d help plant & will always remember the first day when it was ready to pick & eat, by far the best tasting corn I’ve ever had.

Inspire(d): Why does the work of Seed Savers Exchange spark you?

DH: America has terrible amnesia. We forget, we throw away, we trample under-foot. Many friends of mine made a decision somewhere along the path that the best way to resist the trends of environmental collapse and the best place to make a stand was by starting an organic farm, a CSA, a farmer’s market. And it feels like you’re going up against the giants of the whole world. Then you turn around and realize Seed Savers has been there the whole time, they have seeds for you, and they’ll get’em to your door so you can get them in the ground. It’s the feeling of being supported by the generations, and it addresses the red alert of climate change head on.

Inspire(d): Seed Savers now has over 20,000 plant seeds in their collection – hundreds which have gone to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. Any favorites you hope are in that stash, or specifics you can’t imagine the world without?

DH: The heirloom tomato varieties are my favorite; cherokee purple, cherry roma, Italian. I love the names, but it’s sad we have to designate them as “organic” or “heirloom”. I wish we could just call them tomatoes and then have names for the GMO frankensteins, like “science tomato” or “flavorless lab rat romas”.

Inspire(d): You might know that Seed Savers has an amazing orchard with over 1,200 varieties of Apple Trees. It’s quite a place, encompassing many varieties that have all but disappeared – with a long view plan for revitalization. Are you more of an apple pie or apple crisp type person?

DH: Crisp me up.  The world is a mess, and so should my desert be.

Inspire(d): Hopes, wishes, or dreams for the 2019 Seed Savers Exchange Benefit Concert?

DH: I hope the prairie-glow pink and orange lights up the hill-side all around the barn, and hundreds of people come out to take in the songs & sounds, born of the Midwest, and put their shoulders to the wheel of supporting this beautiful organization. I hope spontaneous collaborations arise, and that Greg Brown plays ’til the sun comes up. And I hope we all eat heirloom tomatoes until next years concert.

(To read an interview with mid west musician Lissie about her connections to Seed Savers Exchange, please click here.)

Seed Saver Exchange Benefit Concert
Saturday, August 3, 2019
Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles
Lissie
David Huckfelt of The Pines
Pieta Brown
Michael Rossetto
Special Guest Mr. Greg Brown

3094 North Winn Road, Decorah, IA
5pm gates, 7pm show
Tickets available seedsavers.org/concert
$25 advance / $30 at the gate
(563) 382-5990
https://www.seedsavers.org/

Read Inspire(d) Winter 2018-19 Online!

Inspire(d) Winter 2018-19

The Winter 2018-19 Inspire(d) is all about walking your talk! Here’s what you’ll find:

Female Mayors in the Driftless Region • Mentoring in Northeast Iowa, Burning Bright • Getting in the Spirit – RockFilter Distillery, La Crosse Distilling Co., Harmony Spirits • Sum of Your Biz: David Wadsworth • Snowbird on the Cheap • & More!

A note from Aryn:

Those feet on the cover? They’re mine and Roxie’s, and looking at that picture gives me a sense of pride, excitement, and – I’m finding as I get older – a sense of urgency. I know, I know: I’m only 37! But time keeps on ticking away, and I want to be sure we’ve a.) lived this life well and b.) taken care of this world so our daughter can live her life well, too.

I think about it every day – are we doing enough? What will things be like for Roxie in 10, 20, 30 years? The urgency of it all starts to seep in. But I take a deep breath, and do what I can do. I try to walk our talk within our community by emulating the ideas we write about in this magazine.

Others walk their talks in their own, awesome ways, like Driftless women who have recently pulled a seat up to the political table as mayors. Maggie Sonnek interviewed four such women – some are the first female mayors in the history of their towns. This comes as we celebrate a record number of women elected to congress in November 2018. It’s (beyond) time, and it’s exciting. I applaud and support these women, and I’m happy they’re providing these great examples of female leaders for Roxie.

In a different  – but equally important – role, there are mentors in Northeast Iowa who are directly supporting young people through Helping Services Youth Mentoring. 2018 marked the program’s 20-year anniversary of fostering positive friendships and experiences in the area, and January is National Mentoring Month. I interviewed Mentoring Coordinator Kathy Schwartzhoff, as well as local mentor Paul Bauhs and his mentee, Jake, about the ripple of good impacts that has come from the program (and how you can join in too).

Decorah’s popular winter solstice concert, Burning Bright, has been bringing light in the darkness and giving back to the community… also for two decades! Choir member Kristine Jepsen chats with founding members and directors as they reflect on years past and prepare for this season’s performance.

Along with the work (and joy) of walking our talk, there also has to be time for fun. This day – and every day – is one to be lived well. Winter can be a tough time for remembering that, so we put together some ideas to help you get out – of the doldrums, and out the door, too. Winter challenges, ideas for “Snowbirding on the Cheap,” and more. Plus, don’t miss Sara Walter’s feature on the rise in craft distilling in the Driftless – read about RockFilter Distillery, La Crosse Distilling Co., and Harmony Spirits, then grab your designated driver and head out to explore this new and rising industry in our region. Special shout-out to my good friend and photographer, Jen Opheim, for road tripping with me to Spring Grove – see her beautiful photographs of RockFilter starting on page 44.

Other days, you might want to stay in. We’ve got you covered! Maybe as you make your house extra koselig (remember? If you don’t, check page 32) you can read about David Wadsworth and Wadsworth Construction in this issue’s Sum of Your Business. Making houses cozy and well put together is what he’s all about.

All of us here at Inspire(d) hope you have a great end of 2018, and that you look to 2019 as a year filled with possibilities. You can do anything! Let’s do this!

Happy New Year! Thank you for reading – and being – Inspire(d)!

Looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

Read the Winter 2018-19 Inspire(d) online here!