by Stefan Meyer
There is something brewing in NW Wisconsin, and for once it's not another snowstorm! Rather it's a vision hatched by Resilient Northern Habitats, located in the old milling town of Little Falls, Wisconsin.
In 2009, Peter Henry and Kari Wenger together created Resilient Northern Habitats, “a permaculture-based, for benefit organization that is exploring innovative ideas, strategies and applications for producing organic food, restoring habitat and revitalizing rural community.” In 2011, they called together a design team to explore and apply this mission of creating a resilient local economy right along the waters of the Apple River.
Peter first found this little corner of heaven (aptly named Wagon's Landing Farm) about 21 years ago, and it is a beautiful story to behold. I encourage you to read his personal telling of the story on the website for Resilient Northern Habitats, entitled “How The Farm Found Me”. It is fascinating to follow that hidden hand of fate at work in one's life, a unique perspective only visible through time's hourglass.
On the 7-acre Wagon Landing Farm, they are integrating both permaculture and season extension technology as a 21st century model of a sustainable log-cabin home. In recent years, they have acquired three other plots of land, the largest located directly south of Wagon's Landing Farm. It is approximately 63 acres, partly laying along the Apple River, and bordered to the SE and S by DNR-owned prairie restoration land. Another parcel is a wooded lot filled with enigmatic old maple trees, which so freely offer their sap in the early spring.
Upon explaining the vision underlying Resilient Northern Habitats, Kari suggests, “that humans can be a positive influence on the land, with Permaculture as a model of how we can do just that. These design strategies can also be applied to finance, community and economics.” Peter adds to this, “that creating a resilient and adaptive landscape is the best way to prepare for the future, whatever it might hold.”
As this vision has coalesced, Peter and Kari have been brewing and fomenting many an idea in their minds. However, they have come to a point where they realize they need more brains to bring this vision to life, and so the design team was born.
Peter and Kari are spearheading the design team, which consists of 5 members who are working in conjunction as a well-oiled team. (Using non-petroleum based oil of course!) The design team encapsulates four team leaders and one project manager, covering four topic areas: exploring organic food production using permaculture strategies; protecting, enhancing and researching wild lands adjacent to human settlement; revitalizing rural community and economic life around a village core; and designing high quality education programs for the public.
So what is the vision? In Kari's words, “To create a brain gain, rather than a brain drain.”
Peter goes on to explain, “We want to attract other people interested in experiencing the natural rhythms of the land, people who want more connection to land, community and creativity...” The vision is one where new skills and trades are nurtured locally or brought in with a new generation of farmers, teachers and a variety of local producers. They see Resilient Northern Habitats becoming an educational center around permaculture design, small business development, and new farmer training and incubation. With the intent of infusing the local economy with a wealth of energy, local resources and goods, while above all else, producing tried and true methods of re-creating a resilient local economy.
Simply put, they are re-creating the village.
Check them out online: http://www.resilientnorthernhabitats.com
Stefan Meyer is an urban farming entrepreneur. He owns and operates Growing Lots Urban Farm in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis.