How are our communities, our economy and our environment interconnected? Sustainability Matters is a community conversation series aimed at investigating what sustainability really means in practice.  

2018 Events

February 9, 2018 - The Starfish Throwers

Join the Rutabaga Project Community Partners, including IRPS, and the Lyric Center for the Arts for this film exploring unique and inspiring approaches to solve hunger in Minnesota and the world. Associate Producer and Iron Range native Victor Rukavina will do a talk back after the screening.

What: The Starfish Throwers

When: Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 at 6:30 PM

Where: Lyric Center for the Arts Annex (516 Chestnut Street in Virginia)


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Sustainability Matters is sponsored by the University of Minnesota Extension’s Northeast Minnesota Sustainable Development Partnership (NMSDP). Northeast Minnesota Sustainable Development Partnership makes a difference by combining citizen leadership with the research and educational resources of the University of Minnesota to foster long-term sustainability in the northeast region of Minnesota.

For more information about NMSDP visit or contact Dr. Okey Ukaga at


February 16, 2016 – Dahl’s Sunrise Dairy

What does a local and sustainable business model look like?  Dahl’s Sunrise Dairy in Babbitt fills traditional glass bottles with all-natural milk and delivers their delicious product to over 25 communities across northern Minnesota.  And their business continues to grow!


March 13, 2016 – Let’s Start Talking: Initial Conversations about Local Clean Energy

IRPS and the Sierra Club North Star Chapter hosted this event to start the conversation about local clean energy.  The conversation addressed questions such as: What does our current system provide?  How could we incorporate more wind, solar and biomass into our current system?  What resources exist?  Where should we go from here?


May 19, 2016 – The Economics of Sustainability

How can the wise use of resources promote the economic vitality of our region?  The Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability hosted this conversation about the economic benefits of sustainability.  Tony Mancuso, Director of Property Management with St. Louis County, discussed how “going green” can yield “green”.


June 18, 2016 – Tune–Up & Ride

What: Tune–Up & Ride – Bike Tune–up staff and tools on hand – Info on rules of the road, maintenance & commuting – Food – Ice Cream – Cold Drinks – Mesabi Recreation Helmets & Mesabi Trail Tour Pass Giveaways – Live Music from local singer/songwriter Josh Palmi

Where: Natural Harvest Food Co-op (505 3rd St N, Virginia)

This event was co-sponsored by Natural Harvest Food Co-op, the Fiddlin’ 50 Gravel Grinder and the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability.


July 24, 2016 – Backyard Chickens

The July event featured a discussion by Mike Miller (Duluth backyard chicken farmer) and Sharla Gardner (former Duluth City Councilor and backyard chicken enthusiast) with how-to information both on keeping chickens in the city AND convincing your city council that it’s a good idea.  In addition to the discussion, the Backyard Chickens event featured the FIRST ever Iron Range EGG Cook-off, judged by Virginia Mayor Larry Cuffe (Three categories: originality/appearance, taste, and crowd favorite).

Check out some of the pictures from the event on the Virginia City Chickens Facebook Page


August 27, 2016 – Mixed Precipitation’s Picnic Operetta in Olcott Park

“An edible opera adventure for the whole family, A Picnic Operetta marks an eight-year tradition of celebrating the harvest with a unique blend of music, horticulture, food, and storytelling.”  IRPS is partnered with Friends of the Greenhouse and the Lyric Center for the Arts to host a performance of the Mixed Precipitation Performance Company’s Picnic Operetta in Olcott Park!


September 9, 10 & 11 – 3rd Annual Iron Range Harvest Festival

  • Friday, Sept. 9: Healthy Food for ALL Minnesotans – Minnesota Food Charter Network
  • Saturday, Sept. 10: Iron Range Area Farm Tours
  • Sunday, Sept. 11: Iron Range Farmer’s Market and 100 Mile Harvest Meal

Learn More


October 24, 2016 – Sustainability Education on Campus

The October event featured a conversation about engaging Iron Range area college students with curricular and co-curricular sustainability education experiences.  Students from Iron Range Engineering program described their recent Smart Solar Sustainable Campus Project.  The goal of this project is to look into the overall feasibility of installing solar panels and the importance of energy efficiency on campus.  Next, Mindy Granley (UMD Sustainability Coordinator) presented on the UMD SUN student delegation to promote solar energy and education.  Mindy also highlighted other ways UMD is making steps towards a more sustainable campus.  The event concluded with a short discussion and tour to the Mesabi Range College Permaculture Learning Garden with Kim Giermann, Biology and Chemistry Instructor.  Kim highlighted the support the garden has received from campus staff, students and community members, as well as some plans for the future of the garden.

This event was co-sponsored by Mesabi Range CollegeIron Range Engineering, and IRPS.


November 17, 2016 - Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Local chief Jenna Ballinger hosted the Vegetarian Thanksgiving at Messiah Lutheran Church in Mountain Iron on Thursday, Nov. 17.  With the help of audience members, Chef Jenna cooked an entire Thanksgiving meal from start to finish. Using fresh local ingredients from gardens and local grocery stores the main course was a vegetarian pot pie with potatoes, carrots, peas, and onions.  For the most important part of the Thanksgiving meal, the side dishes, Chef Jenna cooked up kale mashed potatoes and spiced up version of a green bean casserole, not just from a can. And lastly for dessert a delicious cranberry sauce and cheddar apple galette was prepared. Participants anxiously awaited the tasting portion of the event, when the twenty people in attendance got to try out an early Thanksgiving meal!