Emily Zimmer's favorite 2013 stories
One of the things I enjoy most about this job is learning about new and inventive things. While goats aren’t new, the way in which a herd of them is being used to combat invasive plant species is.
In September, more than 120 goats were released along the bluffs on the Flint Hills Resources property. Keith Hill, owner of the Goat Peak Ranch, said the goats prefer weeds over grass, which makes them ideal for fire and weed control.
Upon release, the goats quickly spread through the bluffs, devouring buckthorn and other undesirable plants. As they wandered along eating, their hooves worked native seeds into the ground. By using the goats, Flint Hills avoided using machinery and chemicals on the sensitive bluff areas.
Flint Hills has worked with Friends of the Mississippi River and Great River Greening to remove invasive species and plants from the Pine Bend Bluffs since 2000. The goal of the partnership is to reclaim habitat along the Mississippi River flyway, which is a migration corridor for millions of songbirds and waterfowl.
I liked this story for several reasons. I enjoyed getting outside on a lovely September day. It was fun to see the goats released. And I loved learning about a new way to fight invasive species without using nasty chemicals.
Most of all, though, I liked seeing the other news media folks trekking through the bluffs not at all dressed for the terrain. You see, the bluffs are bluffs. The incline is steep and the ground is thick with foliage.
Most of the Twin Cities media outlets were represented at the releasing of the goats and most were not dressed for the occasion. The goats quickly dispersed throughout the hills and anyone with a camera had to follow along.
Most of the photographers on hand were wearing shorts and came out of the bluffs bleeding. While I hate to take joy in human suffering, the scene was amusing.
I encourage anyone to enjoy the natural areas near the Mississippi River bluffs. The views are stunning but friends please wear good shoes and jeans. You’ll keep your blood and your dignity.
One Rosemount Feeding Families was by far the coolest thing I have ever covered. The atmosphere at Rosemount High School and Rosemount Middle School during the one-day event was electric.
One Rosemount Feeding Families succeeded in packing 285,120 meals for Haitian refugees living in the Dominican Republic. Additionally, in March, the campaign collected 10,000 pounds of food for area food shelves. The group also had to raise $71,000 to send the food, which it recently did.
Planners of the event did a wonderful job setting up and the people of Rosemount showed up. In fact, more than 1,200 people, ranging in age from 5 to 90, took time out of their day to don a hairnet and pack food for those in need. Hairnets humble everyone.
With music blasting, residents filled little plastic bags with rice, soy powder and dehydrated veggies.
I really am having a hard time putting into words how awesome the event ended up being.
When reporting the news, you end up telling a lot of sad stories. It’s just part of the job and it can make even the most optimistic person cynical. After the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in December 2012, I had a hard time for a while finding much to be positive about.
One Rosemount Feeding Families brought back my faith in humanity. While One Rosemount Feeding Families helped a lot of people in practical ways, for me it renewed my belief that most people are good.
Rosemount Area Arts Council
The Rosemount Area Arts Council keeps me busy and I’m grateful for that. The group has done so much in the past few years worthy of writing about.
In 2013 RAAC hosted more than 30 events and programs in Rosemount. I can’t write about all of them here but the events and programs covered a wide spectrum of interests.
The group has done a good job of finding people with a certain skill or interest and sharing it with the public. Because of their efforts, Rosemount residents have had the opportunity to view artwork from area artists, watch classic films, take art classes, hear music and more.
In 2014, RAAC has a full schedule again. In January alone the group will hold a Star Wars literacy event, their annual Mystery Dinner Theater, Bluegrass at the Steeple Center, a swing dance and big band event and the beginnings of a Hitchcock Film series.
Volunteers with RAAC also run the Front Porch, a visitor’s center in the Steeple Center. RAAC mans the Front Porch in exchange for use of the Steeple Center for the group’s events.
RAAC has enriched the quality of life in Rosemount greatly. The small but determined group of volunteers contributes a great deal to the community.
Every time I get an email from a RAAC member I know I am probably going to have to do some work but it’s so worth it because the group does such wonderful things. That’s why they are one of my favorite things from 2013.
DCTC Sustainable Food program
I garden. It’s one of my favorite things about living in Minnesota. The thick black soil is good for fostering plants.
While I garden as a hobby, I have this fantasy of someday selling my produce in farmer’s markets. I love shopping at farmer’s markets and I have a romantic view of belonging to one someday.
That’s why I found the new Sustainable Food Systems program at Dakota County Technical College so fascinating. The program readies students to work in small-scale urban agriculture settings. Specifically, students learn to grow, harvest and market produce grown using sustainable practices.
The University of Minnesota offers a similar program but DCTC’s new program is on the cutting edge.
I find it terribly exciting that more people are taking an interest in how food is produced. I’m hopeful that programs like this will make sustainably grown food more available to everyone. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the program.
Little Free Library
In the past few months I’ve had several conversations with people who have proudly stated they don’t read books. To me that admission is appalling.
Books keep me informed, entertained and humbled. I don’t know where I’d be without them and I don’t understand how someone can completely dismiss them, especially when some people don’t have access to books at all.
Toward the end of November I did a story on Evonne Bue, a Rosemount resident who recently constructed a Little Free Library in her front yard. The idea behind the Little Free Library is anyone can take a book from the box and return a book. It’s that simple.
Bue works at the Robert Trail Library. Her goal in putting up the library was to promote literacy and the joy of reading.
Not everyone has access to books. When traveling in Uganda this summer with her daughter, Bue learned how few books are available in schools and even the public libraries. It’s hard to imagine not having access to books and reading material.
Bue said people everywhere should have the opportunity to read and that’s part of her reason for putting the box up.
While simple, Bue and her family are offering a gift to the community. I really appreciate their gesture and that’s why it’s one of my favorite stories of 2013.