Posts Tagged: sara walters

Summer 2021 Inspire(d)!

Summer 2021 Inspire(d) Cover

The Summer 2021 Inspire(d) is all about finding ways to make do with what you’ve got on hand – in your fridge and for your summer. Inside, you’ll find fun activities, inspiring people and organizations, and tips for self-care and working with what you’ve got. 

Work With What You’ve Got! Community Hunger Solutions • Little Free Libraries • This American House • Blue Fruit Farm • Mental Health + Self-Care • Hammered Flower Postcards • Community Builders: Lara & Neil Martinsen-Burrell • Driftless Tiny Towns Day Tripper • Sum of Your Biz: Big Driftless & More!

Read the whole thing online here!

A note from Aryn:

After a year that felt stocked to the brim with lemons, it’s time for some lemonade, don’t you think?

Many have been “working with what we’ve got” – i.e. making lemonade out of lemons – for a while, perhaps forever if you’re particularly skilled at that character strength. Others might still be honing those talents.

But either way, we’ve definitely all had some practice. We’ve become better at recognizing our ever-shifting comfort levels in this ever-shifting world, and have found new tools to better Work With What We’ve Got.

So we here at Inspire(d) say it’s time to squeeze the best out this summer! Let’s make some dang lemonade, friends!

This issue is filled with inspiration for just that: Stories of innovative folks who know how to make the most of, well, whatever.

In Sara Walter’s piece about Community Hunger Solutions (pg 16) in Viroqua, Wisconsin, find out how this organization takes seconds and surplus food and produce from farmers, factories, and more – food that would normally be heading for the bin – and gets it on local tables that need it.

Meet Jason Loper and Michael Schrieber – and their house, the Meier House in Monona, Iowa – in my story about their path from Chicago to the Driftless, and their new book about the history of their house, the only Frank Lloyd Wright American System-Built Home in Iowa (pg 22).

Read about the ever-enterprising farmers at Blue Fruit Farm (pg 48) in Winona, Minnesota, using MPR and lasers to keep pests away, plus how they helped to establish organics and a farmers market in their region in a story from new Inspire(d) contributor, Renee Brincks.

For our summer Sum of Your Business, Benji Nichols chats with Cody Whittle of Big Driftless about the ups and downs of running his hand-crafted (and amazing!) gear, pack, and apparel company (pg 54), and Kristine Jepsen features the Martinsen-Burrells – or the MB’s as they’re know around Decorah – in a Community Builder piece that highlights the family’s work with the local OWL program (pg 44).

As for your summer: are you planning some, ahem, smaller travel plans? Erin Dorbin takes readers on a Southeast Minnesota Tiny Town Day Tripper Adventure that’s full of fun, winding you through tiny towns and Driftless backroads (pg 60).

As you travel, keep an eye out for little house-like structures, filled with books and installed around towns across the U.S. These are Little Free Libraries, and they were founded in Hudson, Wisconsin. There are quite a few around the Driftless, and we learn about the history, and some of Decorah’s LFL, in Sara Friedl-Putnam’s story (pg 28).

Finally, make sure you take a stop mid-way through this magazine for the summer Mental Health piece by local mental health counselor Olivia Lynn Schnur. She walks us through tips that will help us Work With What We’ve Got – starting with self care (pg 37) – with an infographic introduction by me (pg 33).

Plus, there are a ton of fun summer things to add to your to-do list: live outdoor music (pg 14), flower pounding postcards (pg 43), and lots of super cool things around the region (pg 9). We hope you make the most of this fleeting season – it’s your summer, after all…and you’ve gotta work with that!

Looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

Spring 2021 Inspire(d)!

Read the Spring 2021 Inspire(d) online!

The Spring 2021 Inspire(d) is all about getting out of ruts and finding ways to move forward. Life is full of ups and downs, and we are here to help you navigate those directions. Inside, you’ll find great inspiration that will help you decide where we go from here, and how you might get there!

Moving Forward: Strategies + Goals, Driftless Goat Company, greenpenny & Winneshiek Energy District, Community Builders – Brandon LaRue & Jeanene Thicke, the Artists Behind the Murals, Hummingbirds • Outdoor Adventures & More!

Read the whole thing online here!

A note from Aryn:

I’m turning 40 this spring! (May 20, woot!) When I turned 20, I started writing decade lists: 30 Before 30, 40 Before 40…you get the pattern. These lists have helped me accomplish goals – from learning to play chess to perfecting all the moves to the Thriller dance to swimming with manatees. The next list I’ll write is 50 Before 50. Wah?! How can this be?

Time just keeps on slipping (slipping, slipping) into the future… but at the same time, it can feel like we’re stuck in a rut. Especially after the year we’ve had. Where do we go from here? What’s the next step? Sometimes choosing a path or motivating ourselves forward can feel like the most difficult task in the world. And it CAN be really hard. But there’s never a better time than now. That’s the best time for anything, really. When should I shower? Now! When should I prune that tree? When the pruners are in your hand! When should I apply for that job? How about now? If you try to wait for the perfect moment, all the moments pass you by.

Moving forward starts with the next right decision. Get some tips on how to make that choice from our awesome mental health writer (and area counselor) Olivia Lynn Schnur (pg 22), and ideas for getting out of ruts in my infographic on page 20.

Something else that helps? Literally getting out of the house. We put together some fun, safe options. Outdoor adventures? Read Mary Hyland’s story on page 60. Up for a road trip? Check out some of the awesome murals popping up around the Driftless, and before you go, read the backstory behind a few of them in Sara Friedl-Putnam’s story on page 34.

I get huge smiles every time I read Craig Thompson’s pieces – the man just has a way with words, especially words about birds! Learn about the late spring return of hummingbirds – or hummers, as he called them – and enjoy his wife, Mary’s, accompanying artwork on page 56. What a pair!

Spring = tax time as well, and thinking about finances…but have you thought of making your finances green (beyond the color of money, that is)? Learn more about the locally run greenpenny and its relationship with the Winneshiek Energy District on page 28, and mark your calendar (and our checklist) for Earth Day April 22.

One thing I really love about publishing Inspire(d) is getting notes and story suggestions from readers. It always seems to result in the most inspiring tales – which was totally the case when a reader suggested we feature Driftless Goat Company. I so enjoyed hearing about the journey of Peter and Cynthia Ruen and their family as they made their way from New York to Lanesboro in this issue’s Sum of Your Business (pg. 14), and also the paths of our Community Builders Brandon LaRue of La Crescent, Minnesota (pg. 48), and Jeanene Thicke of Bangor, Wisconsin (pg. 52).

We thank you for reading, and hope this issue brings you inspiration – to get outside, to enjoy the earth, or explore the region – encourages you to get creative (learn to weave a paper basket from a grocery sack!), and helps you find a way to move forward.

We’ve got this.

Looking(and moving) forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

 

Adrian Lipscombe

By Sara Walters • Originally published in the Holiday + Winter 2020-21 Inspire(d)

Adrian Lipscombe of 40 Acres and a Mule

Photo courtesy Adrian Lipscombe

Farming in the Midwest is a deep-rooted tradition. Grounded in a history of agriculture, cultivating the foods that end up on our tables has long been the legacy of the region, particularly in the Driftless. But for the black community, the same isn’t true.

This striking reality presented itself loud-and-clear to Adrian Lipscombe, owner of Uptown Cafe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, earlier this year, and it eventually led her to launch a black farming initiative, 40 Acres and a Mule. But as passionate as she’s been about supporting the black farmer, it’s surprising to learn that she became involved in the cause almost serendipitously.

After the events surrounding George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis the summer of 2020, Adrian received a check in the mail. Confused, she thought maybe she had forgotten to collect from a catering job. But then came the requests for Venmo payments. Adrian, a black woman and small business owner, couldn’t figure out what it was for, so she finally asked. Turns out, people just wanted to support her during this moment of racial inequality and unrest.

Adrian went to bed puzzled. Should she take the money? What would she do with it?

A good night’s rest was all the inspiration she needed. Adrian woke and immediately knew, “I’m going to buy black land and I’m going to concentrate on black farmers,” she says, thinking back to that pivotal moment. As an entrepreneur and former city planner, Adrian immediately kicked it into high gear, reaching out to contacts on the East Coast – this epiphany happened early in the morning and she needed resources that were awake. “I was asking them, does this exist? And I learned that this is a real need. So I launched 40 Acres and a Mule within 24 hours,” she says.

40 Acres and a Mule strives to provide resources and connections for black farmers. The name comes from a term derived from Union General William T. Sherman in his 1865 Special Field Order No. 15. This reparations movement promised to pay restitution to African Americans for their enslavement.

This seemed fitting to Adrian as she began digging into the history of black farming. Reaching out to different organizations, she started to see that her community was a perfect example of where black farming could thrive, but hasn’t. “Wisconsin is a homogeneous farming community. But where is the black farmer today?” she found herself asking.

The fact that she asks these questions, launches initiatives within 24 hours, and is the first person people think of when they have extra money to support a business, is why Adrian is the epitome of a community builder. With roots in the South, she’s not a La Crosse native, but the city has welcomed her, and her leadership, with open arms. “La Crosse is such a great community. It’s the smallest city I’ve ever lived in,” she says. “People here are really sincere in wanting to help make it a better place, a diverse place, an equitable place.” Though she was surprised by the monetary outreach this summer, she wasn’t surprised that her community wanted to help. “They come out when there is a need – they get behind that and they support that. It’s difficult to do in a large city with a large population,” she says, joking that she wishes she could keep her beloved community the well-kept secret it is. “They all care and they’re all so genuine. It’s magical.”

What better place for Adrian to kick off 40 Acres and a Mule than a place “surrounded by organic farmers and great people”? Though her cause has garnered a wide following, media attention, and donations from across the country, it’s the day-to-day in La Crosse that Adrian credits with providing the support to press on, and to continue to be a black business owner in America. “Our restaurant’s relationship to the community has gotten stronger. Especially during a time like this. For people to come by and check on us. Just to wave at us in the window to make sure we’re okay. Here in La Crosse you have those opportunities to take deeper breaths, to understand what is happening in your community and the world around you,” she says.

When she’s not out researching, speaking with farmers, meeting with the media, raising awareness, and just generally spearheading the project, Adrian still has responsibilities at her restaurant. Like many small businesses during the pandemic, there has been so much pivoting that “my hips hurt” she laughs. Uptown Cafe has added outdoor dining and has made space to accommodate more bakery items. “We have to adapt,” she says.  “It’s an unprecedented time, we are able to chart the way. There’s going to be some mistakes but we’re going to find the good, too.”

That’s how she’s approaching 40 Acres and Mule, too. She admits, “What I thought was a gap is really like a canyon.” Black farming, black foodways, agricultural disparities, lack of education, lack of profitability, and lack of black mentorship in the industry are just the tip of the iceberg and Adrian knows it. Though she wishes she could do it all, “we’re focusing on what we can realistically do,” she says, adding, “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, we want the wheel to go faster.”

There are lots of avenues Adrian sees for increasing the speed of the wheel. At first, she thought it needed to be specifically just land for black farmers. But land is expensive, and though she still has her sights set on this, she has pivoted again (sore, sore hips) to address other issues for black farmers. She’s learned that many are over the age of 55 and have no one to whom they can pass down their legacy. Others are young and interested, but have no place to turn to for education and mentorship. She also acknowledges that historically, black farming has been tumultuous and violent. She wants to help control and shape this narrative going forward – to give it some positivity, to point black communities in the right direction, to make lifelong connections between black business and farmers. Adrian sees the Driftless as a great case study for change. She’s currently working to understand community needs, working directly with both black and white farmers to learn more about their work and the economics of farming.

Her short-term goal is to serve as a conduit between black farmers and available resources. She knows there are trustworthy organizations and systems that can help them, but the connection isn’t there. “It’s difficult for black farmers to find the aid that they need. It’s really huge that that is missing,” she explains. And ultimately, her long-term goal is to produce more black farmers in America. To help provide that education and open up that pathway to “give black people the chance to be farmers if they want to,” Adrian says.

As a chef, Adrian knows full-well the importance of supporting farmers of all ethnicities, so restaurants like hers can continue to bring quality dishes to the tables of patrons. “Understanding agriculture and understanding how food is produced is important to my job and my restaurant. I’m getting the chance to understand from the ground to the plate. Being involved in that process, to me that’s so joyful to know where my food comes from,” she says. “It’s like putting my hands in the soil.”

Adrian continues to build this community with the support of donors far and wide. 40 Acres and a Mule’s GoFundMe page has already raised over $131,000 as of printing. And locally, in the Driftless, people continue to do what they do best – provide support. “Farmers are mentoring me, both black and white. To have the opportunity to talk to them about where their food goes is an honor. It’s a rare opportunity.”


Sara Walters is a freelance writer and mom living in La Crescent, Minnesota. She is the daughter and granddaughter of lifelong farmers.