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Lakeland Currents – Happy Dancing Turtle – Back to Basics Event

Lakeland Currents – Happy Dancing Turtle – Back to Basics Event


Lakeland Currents your public affairs
program for north-central Minnesota production funding for Lakeland
Currents is made possible by Bemidji Regional Airport serving the region with
daily flights to Minneapolis -St. Paul International Airport more information
available at bemidjiairport.org. Closed captioning for Lakeland Currents is
sponsored by Nisswa Tax Service, tax preparation for businesses and
individuals online at nisswatax.com. Jason: Hello again, my name is Jason Eden’s and I’m the host of Lakeland Currents here in our Brainerd studio, thanks for
joining us again and thanks for your support. It was about fifty years ago
when the term sustainability entered our lexicon in a British book called
‘Blueprint for Survival’. What does sustainability mean? Today it’s used
frequently in the design-build community in the environmental community and the
public sector what does it mean to you? What does sustainability mean? Well here
to help us answer that question and many others is Happy Dancing Turtle an
organization that each and every day advances conversations about a
sustainable future. And we have with us the executive director of Happy Dancing
Turtle Quinn Swanson and program coordinator Michelle Hoeffs, thank you so
much for joining us today I really appreciate it. [Thanks Jay, thanks for having us.] So I’m really excited to learn about Back to Basics the event that you’ve been
hosting now for about fourteen years but before we go there tell me a little bit
about Happy Dancing Turtle in general. So one day out of the year you have the
event Back to Basics what do you do for the other 364 days of the year? Quinn: Well it
would be lovely if Back to Basics only really took that one day. The one day
that you get to see it that the public gets to see it is a beautiful awesome
culmination of so much work in advance of that which is I think the nature of
many events and we hope ours as a stand apart event in that it’s so well
organized and beautifully put together that people hopefully don’t know all that
goes into it that’s that’s I think is something we dream of. But if we kind of
back step and say what is Happy Dancing Turtle like you asked Happy Dancing
Turtle is a non-profit that is home based in Pine River
on a resilient living campus and we have a satellite hub in the Driftless region
of Minnesota and Wisconsin. And we are dedicated to growing good stewards of
the planet. And we do that by providing education programs and experiences for
youth and adults that we hope inspire wonder and empower change. Jason: Growing good stewards of the environment. [Yep] Excellent and so how does
back-to-basics tie into that from 30,000 feet tell us just a little bit about the
event not necessarily the nuts and bolts about this year’s event but what is back
to basics and how does it help you achieve that mission? Quinn: Mm-hmm so back to basics like you mentioned we’re in our fourteenth year and Michelle and I have
been planning for six or so dedicated as part of a team that includes another
couple of staff people as well. But I’ve been along on this 14-year ride so far
and it is it’s a one-day event but it is a day that starts early and goes long it
includes an inspiring keynote engaging workshops a dynamic and fun vendor fair.
Gosh there’s lunch there’s a kids program it is something that we hope is
a family fun inclusive let’s spend the day you know being inspired and it’s…
Michelle: It’s a great time to gather with like-minded individuals like we were
discussing earlier we have a lot of people that plan it every year so
there’ll be a big group of gals that will come together and look forward to
it every year to to shop because as Quinn said our vendor area is amazing.
And to learn new things that they can take home and be inspired hopefully is
the ultimate goal. Jason: So you two are so busy coordinating the event when you’re there
of course that you probably don’t have a significant opportunity to attend many
of the workshops but if you could tell me give us a flavor of the types of
workshops that that people can attend and some of your personal favorites. Quinn: Oh we hate to play favorites. Michelle: It’s so hard to choose. This year especially we have I think a
lot of personal health and wellness workshops to choose from. From yoga to
Tai Chi to meditation and just you know the whole gamut there which is really
exciting. I do have to say I would choose there’s a class called Do your feet hurt?
And yes mine….do sometimes so you know something like that would be really
exciting to attend. Quinn: Some of the so far participant favorites have been the
elderberry workshop, garden fertility, a sourdough bread making class. As Michelle and I were talking earlier it’s fun and kind of frustrating to see all these
awesome workshops come in which you know we love and often seek out but it means
that unfortunately we’re not going to be direct recipients of the of that
workshop though yeah enjoying the vicarious benefit through participants
and hearing from presenters and many of them are also vendors like Michelle
mentioned in the vendor area so you can pop in and you know maybe you didn’t get
the full workshop but perhaps you could get the two-minute snippet. Jason: So that’s quite the continuum from Tai Chi to sourdough, [Yes] is that correct? Well that
makes me wonder what’s the origin story of this event, how did it come about, why
has it lasted for 15 years? Tell me a little bit about its history. Quinn: Yeah so
historically when we look back Happy Dancing Turtle in it’s very in it’s
youth back in 2006 held what was called the Eco-squared Fair and it was at the
Cass County Fairgrounds and it was a building that we kind of claimed as our
own for that year a couple years and there were little breakout workshops and
there were vendors and there was food and when it came to the winter we
learned that a brainchild cabin-fever days of Pine River-Backus community ed
was not going to have it’s next life and we thought well wow this might be an
opportunity to bring sort of that Eco squared flavor indoor carry on
that momentum and really build on it. So you’re right it’s a vast variety
of topics that fall under this broad umbrella of sustainable living. So
it might be sourdough it could be gardening you know it might be about
your feet or meditating. There’s a lot of different workshops the I think
this year it’s 46? [45] 45 workshops this year so just that huge number leads to
of course there being depth within that. Yeah. Jason: So I’ve had the pleasure of
attending almost every year not quite every but almost every year and if I
remember correctly there are also some classes about clean energy? Is that right? Quinn: There are, yeah. Thank you for bringing that up this year we have a gal talking about well a
couple of gals talking about different aspects of making changes in your home
as well as the folks from the Real Renewable Energy Alliance talking about
solar. I’m thinking of one other one there’s energy related to your farm. Michelle: Yup, too for your home and business for your farm save money save the planet different
things different things that you can do within your home and your lifestyle to be
more energy efficient and save yourself some money in the long run as well. Quinn: And while not all of these all these forty workshops are coming directly to our
minds right now as we’re speaking all of them are listed on the website and our…
Jason: Which is? Quinn: Is happydancingturtle.org. [Okay] Yep and previous participants receive
every year brochure in the mail that details all of the workshops as well. Jason: So you kind of reconstituted an event that was called ‘Cabin Fever Days’? [Yeah] So this must happen in the middle of the winter? Quinn: It does, it is the doldrums of winter
when we are I think all kind of shut-ins to a degree I mean I can’t speak for
every Minnesotan but I fall more in the winter whiner category than I do
the winter lover. So yes it is this year it’s February 15th. But our day doesn’t always stay static year to year. So while it might not work for
you this year hopefully it could in a successive year? We find that folks you know there might be a something that’s competing occasionally. Jason: So you schedule
strategically? Quinn: Well, obviously yes but don’t if you can’t make it then no we don’t schedule strategically. Michelle: We work in conjunction with Pine River-Backus schools so we have to kind of work around
their schedule too with the athletic director for when it’s available. [Oh sure]
So is this is the school a co-host essentially of the event? [They are] Michelle: Yes. We absolutely could not put the event on without the help from the school
for the facility use and all of the staff that’s there backing us up and the
community ed coordinator that is there all day and leading up helping us out it
just it wouldn’t happen if we didn’t have the support from the school. Jason: All 14 years it’s been at the school? Quinn: Yes and food service and technology. Michelle’s
right the janitorial staff that come early stay late it’s we are very
fortunate that they’re willing to co-host with us because that’s it’s a
big part of making it real, yeah. Jason: Sure, so many of our viewers may like to attend this
year if they haven’t already give us the logistics where do I go? When
do I show up? How much does it cost? What do I get for that investment? Michelle: So I would highly recommend registering early because we already have workshops that
are very close to filling. We have one that only the sour dough one that Quinn
has mentioned only has one spot left. As of right now. [That’s a great problem.] It is. It’s a great problem to
have. But to do so you can go to the website,
happydancingturtle.org and there are links from our homepage that take you to
all the information. So you can go through and read all of the class
descriptions, choose what you want and then register and pay online. So the day
starts about eight o’clock the vendor area is open at eight o’clock. And then
our keynote is at nine o’clock. And then after the keynote is done the the
workshops start. And there are five different workshop times available as
well as lunch so you have to kind of choose during one of those workshops to
take lunch instead. Which is a hard choice for a lot of people but… [needs or
learn?] Right. I know. My stomach usually wins on that one but… So the vendor area then is open from
8:00 until 5:00 so there are breaks in between all the workshops with plenty of
time to go in and shop. The kids program runs from 8:00 to 5:00 as well. So if you
have young kids that you can’t leave at home and probably aren’t really gonna
want to sit through workshops with you they can go down to the kid’s room where
there are activities planned all day so [such as] I don’t have my schedule quite set yet. But
they always take time to go outside. We do a lot of we bring out some stem bins
so they can do some free play and building and [stem?] Oh, science, technology,
engineering and math. [got it] Gotta get that in there so yeah. Kind of that that
free play and learning all at the same time for those kids. Jason: So do the kids have to pay as well or do
kids get in free? There is a good charge for the kids. The kids are $20 for the
whole day and that includes lunch. The cost for participants for workshops if
you register for the whole day it’s $30 and that does include lunch. We also have
an ala carte option so if you only want to go to one or two workshops it’s $6
per workshop or $12 for a double workshop and then $9 if you’d
like to add lunch on there as well so. [Fantastic] [yeah] Quinn: Yeah I think it’s
something that’s sort of unique to our event when it comes to comparing it to
other conferences is that we ask you to register for classes in particular. And
that’s it’s for a number of reasons but some of our presenters want a very
engaging and small group. So they may choose to have a lower maximum. We also
in this in the school have a maximum that’s kind of built in by the size of
the room. And we don’t want folks to be uncomfortable for an hour standing along
the wall or sitting on the floor so it is intentional to choose ahead and that
does mean that sometimes you won’t have the full gamut of choices if you didn’t
get there right off the bat. Or if you’re hearing me say sourdough now and it’s already full. Jason: So if
you’ve never been who is in the vendor room? Tell me a little bit about this
space and what it looks like and who’s there from A to Z? Michelle: Yeah so in the we set
up the vendor area in the performance gym at Pine River-Backus School and we’ve
Oh I want to say we can fit like 53 loose in there. [We debate] Yeah it depends
on the shufflin. But you will see anything from homemade soaps to
hand-knit items that you know from people’s sheep that they have sheared
themselves, salsas, jams. We’ve had chicken, flour. [chicken?] Yep we’ve had we’ve had
people selling their chicken that they’ve that they’ve raised. And metal
goods it’s my gosh. Quinn: A lot of information [yeah] to live more sustainably whether
that is that you would like to integrate something like renewable energy or
perhaps change your heating mechanism at home to a different stove. We’ve had
folks talk about insulation in the vendor area. Some of those personal care
folks that are leading workshops are also going to be vending so they may
talk to you about massage or different yoga classes that you could take. It like
the workshops is a wide variety and so I think that’s one of the neat benefits of
this kind of broad event is that from space to space to space you could be
experiencing you know kind of a vast difference instead of perhaps those just selling the same item with maybe different packaging. Jason: So where do
these vendors come from? Who’s the which vendor comes the furthest or which
attendee comes from the furthest? I’m kind of curious what’s your service shed if you will?
In other words how far away are people come into this event? Michelle: That’s a great question. Obviously a lot of our participants are
fairly local to you know Pine River in the Brainerd Lakes area but we have
participants, vendors and presenters that come from from the Twin Cities. We have
some that come from Wisconsin. We’ve had people from Duluth as well so it’s it’s
a pretty wide range that we that we serve that that draw that we draw people
in from. Jason: And those are both vendors and attendees? Michelle: And yeah vendors, presenters and
and attendees that come from all those different locations. Jason: Well in the years
that I’ve attended you’ve had some incredible keynote speakers
I’m really excited to hear this years keynote speaker as well. Before we learn
about him tell me just a little bit about how you guys select your keynote.
Because obviously that kind of presents the general tack of the of the event for
the year maybe. So how do you how do you choose that person? What do you look for
and then tell us about this year’s keynote? Quinn: Sure, so it’s it’s really a
collaborative thing. Like much of the planning of the day we ask participants
every year for their ideas and then as a staff and a board we come together and
pitch out ideas. And like Michelle was reminding me this morning we have a
running list of possibilities as well because we’ve been asking for so many
years. And it it I think is kind of it’s it’s a blend of things what seems like
the most timely topic. Perhaps it’s related to something like say we did
food last year. Well this year we might not do you know a food topic or it it
varies year to year and we’ve had some really lovely, captivating folks sharing
kind of their passion. And and like I said it has covered food. We’ve covered
education and community building [community building, yup] really a wide variety there too. Jason: Can you give us
some specifics? So not year 14 but up until now who have been some of your
keynote speakers? Quinn: Sure. So we’ve had [we had Tom Hanson] Tom Hanson [from Duluth Grill up in Duluth] [One of my favorites] Michelle : I was going to say I have to get back up there. Quinn: Tom Fischer from the University of Minnesota before that. Quinn: We had Jay Drake Hamilton. We have [scientists] Yes exactly.
We had Winona LaDuke. Gosh those are the standouts. Michelle: We had Katie Smith. She was an early childhood educator that came and talked about pretty much like how to build up
that young community and what we can do for them and what they will in turn do
for us. Quinn: Ellen Sanbeck was our first talking about organic housekeeping. [oh
wow] Yeah gosh I know we’re missing a handful in the middle there. [I know yeah]
Jason: Well let’s talk about this year’s keynote. [yeah, absolutely] Who is it and what are they talking
about and what are you excited to learn from this individual? Quinn: Mm-hmm this year’s
keynote is Reginaldo Haslett- Marroquin. And Rayhe is a native of Guatemala where
his family farmed and he farmed as well. He studied agronomy in Guatemala before
coming to the United States with his Minnesota native wife. Yes and that’s a
part of what pulled him to this state which made him you know much more likely
to be a keynote. And Rayhe is passionately engaged and has been since
his time in Guatemala working with farmers trying to make sure that they
have fair pay. That you know they’re growing in a manner that’s supportive of
the planet and themselves and at the same time working both within food
systems and sort of pushing the envelope as it relates to food systems. Like what
can we do more and different in order to really make a regenerative agriculture
look like something mainstream. Jason: And that’s the key note is regenerative
agriculture. Quinn: Essentially yeah that is part of Rayhe’s message. Jason: Okay, fantastic. So you explained that this is one of your flagship events and you’ve explained
your mission but I’m still curious about what you do at other times of the year. So
come July if I were to visit the Brazilian living campus in Pine River,
Minnesota and I walked up to Happy Dancing Turtle what are you guys doing? Michelle: I will probably be running around with kids.[laughing] [okay] One of our other main programs that we have is our Eco camp so it’s a it’s a day camp for preschool through sixth
grade students. And we hold it on our main campus as well as in Winona
at our Driftless office. And so at our camp we really get into nature and
gardening and recycling and you know different energy efficiency things at
that level for those kids. We spend time out in the garden. They would last year
our theme was I was all about gardening so all of our different camps helped
plant harvest weed. There’s a lot of weeding. And then got to help prepare
then the the vegetables that we had for snack during camp as well. So so we spend the summer is pretty much focused on on Eco camp for me on my end with all the
education. If you were to come [laughing] during the school year you might find us in the
schools. This morning I was with first graders doing lesson on birds.[fantastic] My bird shirt. [laughing] [nice] So we do a lot of supplemental science lessons in the
schools. We have programs here and in the Driftless, called Nature Club where we
meet with students after school and get out. Here in Pine River we
get out to the school forest and spend a lot of time out there so a lot of the
work that I do is its focus with youth. Jason: So it sounds like there’s a really
close partnership between Happy Dancing Turtle and the local school district.
Michelle: Absolutely. Jason: Oh that’s fantastic. So I’m sorry please. [There’s plenty more yeah] Quinn: I was just going to say Michelle
mentioned the garden a few times and that’s another flagship program of Happy
Dancing Turtle. On our main campus in Pine River we have a trial and
demonstration garden where we’d like to demonstrate for folks how they can be
growing in such a manner that there’s healthy soil, healthy plants and the
byproduct being healthy people. Jason: Nice, so can the public come and visit the
gardens or how does that work if someone from the public is interested in
learning more about Happy Dancing Turtle or the event of course can they visit
you in Pine River? Is it open to the public? Quinn: It is preferred that they give us a heads up. [okay] We’re not always like Michelle kind of noted a few times we might be out of office. [you’re busy] Yeah so we love when folks
give us a call and can arrange for a tour and a lot of our information is
also on the website. But the kind of like Back to Basics is that beautiful YouTube
live like engaging experience. Viewing what we do on a website is far different
than coming and seeing it, yeah. Jason: But assuming people reach out they’re welcome to come visit and see the gardens for example, the demonstration [absolutely] stuff you guys have there? [yeah] Jason: Okay, so this is the 14th year. It’s been ongoing
now in the Pine River community for quite some time. How will you know that
this years event is a success? What’s your measure
of success? Quinn: Yeah we have I think a number of different measures and the one that’s
like the the day of kind of frame are we doing good? Is it’s more a vibe or you
know it’s it’s the energy. Are people smiling? Is there kind of positivity? Are we
hearing good feedback as we walk around? And then it gets into you know we do as
much as we can to evaluate and survey folks that have participated in the day.
What went well? What would you recommend we do differently? And as we look forward and
this is the beauty of running an event for kind of a long term is those
folks that are registering in a subsequent year will be asked, “since this
isn’t your first year have you implemented anything that you you that
you learned at a previous Back to Basics?” And we we pulled up the stat this
morning and it’s better than 90% of our returning participants [no kidding] that say yes absolutely.[That’s remarkable] It is. You know whether it’s that now they bee keep or they compost. Or… Michelle: They make their own soap. Or
They compost or what their own so yeah we’ve had people that have now got
chickens and you know just a variety of things that they’ve taken from the event.
Jason: Well that kind of answers another question I have. I was really curious
because this event has been so long running in a relatively small community
I think you can argue that there aren’t a lot of small communities that have
events of this nature. [right] So what do you see in your community that’s
different today than it was 15 years ago before you started this journey? Quinn: Yeah. I think unfortunately some of it is well not maybe unfortunately it’s it’s that
we’re not going to necessarily see it from the outside. But the ways that we
can tell and maybe feel are that the registration is going like gangbusters
right now. It’s and we then on those feedback loop kind of options get to
hear oh i compost, oh I this, so those you know that individual household level we
might not see kind of on that community scale. But we know what’s happening from
what they’re telling us and whether that’s in those surveys or feedback you
know year to year to year. Michelle: And I think another way
to kind of see that impact and also to measure success is that word-of-mouth is
our biggest advertisers. It doesn’t matter what other advertising we do
word-of-mouth is is what draws people in to the event. So people they’re they’re
learning, they’re enjoying, they’re they’re sharing and bringing more people in so I
think that is another impact [yeah] for the [inaudible]. Jason: Will Back to Basics be relevant in 15 years? [ooh yes]
Will you have a 30 year celebration? Quinn: Wow that would be lovely. Yeah you know I think that’s every year we bring in new
participants, new presenters, new vendors as well as those returning favorites so
I’d like to say absolutely. Jason: That’s fantastic. Well we started the conversation with a reference to sustainability as a term
kind of in our shared lexicon. I’m really curious from Happy Dancing Turtles
perspective what does that mean? I think that some people use the term relatively
loosely and you also mention that you’re on the resilient living campus of the
Hunt Utilities Group what’s the difference between sustainability and
resilience? Quinn: Yeah you’re spot-on. Everyone has kind of their own definition and
depending on the field in which they work they might have a different
definition than we do. Sustainability for us is that we want to live and encourage
others to live in such a manner that what we have today is available for
future generations. Michelle: When I, don’t mean to interrupt, [yeah] but when I with our Eco campers when we first start talking about sustainability I always tell the
kids I want [mm-hmm] I get emotional when I talk about kids on the planet. But I
always saw the kids I want your great grandkids to have the same opportunities
excuse me that you have now. And in order for that to happen you have to be
sustainable. You have to live a sustainable life and you have to take
care of the planet that we have as it is. Quinn: And I to answer kind of you’re resilient
piece to the resilience as we look at it is is a mindset, starts as an individual,
moves through a family, into a community and that is that you can bounce back.
You’ve got the skills, the ability, the network to take whatever life throws
at you and hopefully not just survive but thrive.
Quinn: And I think there’s an additional element here that I mentioned with
regenerative too. Those kind of three terms are out in out there and even in
specific as related to our event. And that being that we have lived in a very
extractive way and we need to start repairing and regrowing, rebuilding in
order to long-term live on this lovely planet. Jason: Incredible. I really appreciate your commitment to the work that you do. it’s obvious and I want to congratulate
you on your 14th year. [thank you] I’m personally looking forward to being there once
again. [excellent] And I just want to thank all of our viewers for joining us today and
encourage all of you to attend the Back to Basics event this year in Pine
River, Minnesota. Put on by Happy Dancing Turtle. Thank you both for joining us
today. [Thank you. Thanks to you.]

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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