2018 Farm Fest: celebrating sustainability

Props at the stage for Magic Smelt’s Puppet show. Photo by Morgan Pint

Props at the stage for Magic Smelt’s Puppet show. Photo by Morgan Pint

Early Sunday morning on Sept. 16, vendors, volunteers and musicians began descending on the 30-acre farm at 3568 Riley Road. Farm Fest included a farm fresh buffet, farmer’s market vendors and interactive lessons on organic farming and sustainability.

The festival is hosted by community members and UMD faculty. The UMD Land Lab or Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP) serves the Duluth community in many ways including being an agricultural classroom to an event venue.

Land Lab, which is funded primarily through the production and selling of produce as well as grants, brought the town together Sunday afternoon for its annual Farm Fest.

Dr. Randel Hanson, Co-Director, Program in Environment and Sustainability, says that a few of his goals for the farm would be helping promote sustainability as well as community food systems before it is too late.

“We have maybe one or two decades to get a handle on this [climate change],” Hanson said.

He and many of the other people tabling this event believe food is the fighting ground to help slow and resolve many of our current problems in our ecosystem.

“We have all of these problems facing us: inequity, health disparities and biodiversity collapse. Agriculture can fix all of them simultaneously,” Hanson said.

The passion of those involved comes to fruition during the festival.

Farm Fest is an opportunity to have a conversation without the overbearing science that surrounds sustainability as well as have a celebration of the UMD staff and students who’ve been working the farm.

Fresh produce for sale. Photo by Morgan Pint

Fresh produce for sale. Photo by Morgan Pint

Many of the vendors and people who table during the festival are from the local area.

One of the few people from out of state this year was Lucas Humblet, an apprentice with Hempstead Project Heart a nonprofit from Wisconsin.

From discussing hempcrete to the societal impact of growing hemp and its long textile history in the United States, he was able to answer almost any question surrounding the crop.

Lucas discussed how the individuals who attend Farm Fest are the perfect mix of the community.

“Like minded people who value sustainability and aren’t afraid to call their senator,” Humblet said.

The Wisconsin native explained to a few individuals how the crop is suited to grow in this region of the country and how its uses could help deter logging and the effects of the logging industry.

Another group that could be found of the farm grounds was Solar Commons. Their mission is to look at the sun as a common energy source and help build communities through trust and green energy.

Adam Reinhardt, intern for the Commons project, explains that their mission is to help communities who usually have to bear the burden of housing energy plants or other forms of energy production and not see the benefit of it.

The “commons” ideology is one of medieval times, serfs who tended the land of their lord or knight in which they receive a piece of the production which is shared by anyone everyone living on the land.

Solar Commons has taken that idea and applied it to the sun and impoverished and underserved communities while still promoting clean energy.

Solar Commons implements solar farms or even a few panels and use the surplus of the money that is made from selling power back to the grid and create projects that benefit low-income communities.

“Trying find a way for better use of energy which is better for the people,” Reinhardt said  

Along with the vendors and researchers, Farm Fest is a venue to experience culture.

Boys Back Home Brass Band performing. Photo by Morgan Pint

Boys Back Home Brass Band performing. Photo by Morgan Pint

Magic Smelt Puppet Troupe led by Jim Ouray put on a show centered around the “collective desire to put fossil fuels back into the ground” using song, dance and, of course puppets. They put on a kid friendly show.

Using theater, they helped discuss reasons why we need to be proactive with energy.

“It can be discouraging to read the news,” Ouray said, “But to have a day where you invest in social well being can show where the work is needed.”

Along with the theme of the show they celebrated this year’s vegetable, kohlrabi.

The kohlrabi is a variant of the cabbage and is in the same family as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale. A multiple use crop, like the kohlrabi Farm Fest serves multiple purposes.

From education to growing sustainable food, the Land Lab is on full display during Farm Fest. You can read more about the Farm Fest here and and more on the Land Lab can be found on The Bark.

CultureBen Mandebvu