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.  Sustainability Matters events will take place each month.

Sustainability Matters was sponsored by the University of Minnesota Extension’s Northeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (Northeast RSDP). Northeast Regional 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 Northeast RSDP visit

2017 Events


January 31, 2017 - A Climate Solution We All Can Live With

For the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability’s first event of the New Year we partnered with Citizen’s Climate Lobby to give a presentation about on how carbon dividends could bring economic growth to the Iron Range and Northern Minnesota while also returning more money to households. The Citizens Climate Lobby formed in 2007 and has been working with Congress on their Carbon Fee and Dividend Policy. Which is looking to implement a revenue-neutral carbon tax were 100% of net revenue is returned directly to households, and over years of implementation would aid in pushing our economy away from carbon fuel source dependence.

At the Sustainability Matters event help last week 25 people gathered at Messiah Lutheran Church to hear from speakers Dr. Eric Enberg and Katya Gordon. The event had an informal feel where the audience was encouraged to ask questions throughout the presentation in an effort to create an ongoing dialogue. The most interesting take away from the presentation was the positive economic effects that this program could have to residents of the Iron Range, primarily an increase in jobs for providing raw material for wind turbines.

Grant Frashier was also in in attendance from Northern Community Radio (KAXE), and put together a short radio piece summarizing the event. Listen to it here.

March 13, 2017 - Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Efficiency

Turning up the thermostat and still chilly?  Save energy and money by making your home more energy efficient! Join IRPS and Community Energy Specialist Tristen Eberling of Ecolibrium3 to learn about the basics of Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Efficiency, including an overview of air sealing, insulation, lighting and appliances.  We'll also be discussing resources to help you get projects done, including information about rebates and financing options.  This event is free and open to the public.

March 23 & 25, 2017 - Gardening For Beginners Workshops

Want to grow your own food this summer?  Wondering what, when and how to plant a new garden?  Get answers to the questions you have about getting started with your own garden at these workshops hosted by Growing Together Coordinator Dawn Trexel and Master Gardener Jo Bjerke.  These events are free and open to the public.

June 1, 2017 - Virginia Farmers Market

The Virginia Market Square Farmers Market is opening its 2017 season off with a bang. One Thursday June 1st from 1-5pm come to City Center Park in Virginia to look at all the fresh produce being grow all within 50 miles of the city. Come with your EBT payments with a match from Essentia Health for double the buying power. There will be entertainment from the Now What Theatre Company and food samplings from local Chef Jenna Ballinger. Join us for the first event of the summer!

Virginia Market Square 2017 Hours

  • Thursdays 1 - 5 PM

Located in City Center Park in Virginia. 

See the full list of vendors from the Hometown Focus

Fruits and Vegetables in Season

Minnesota Grow Seasonal Foods 

Eat Local in Minnesota

Food Geeks Recipes


June 17, 2017 - Makerspace Grand Opening

Iron Range Makerspace  ribbon cutting was great event that attracted lots of support and was an exciting new business here on the range. The IRPS was proud to support IRM in their mission "To centralize resources into one collaborative environment designed for innovation."  You can't miss their giant yellow building in Hibbing. Stop by and take part in their vision to enable entrepreneurs to start local businesses here on the range. - Iron Range Makerspace

July 15, 2017 - Super Saturday at the Hibbing Farmers Market

Come celebrate the beginning of local produce season at the Hibbing Farmers Market Super Saturday event taking place on July 15 from 9AM - 2PM!  In addition to regular vendors, many guest vendors will also be at the market selling fresh local produce and goods. Bring the whole family to enjoy live music, kid's activities, the Power of Produce (PoP) club and a petting zoo from Mr. Ed's Farm.

Hibbing Farmers Market 2017 Days and Hours

  • Tuesdays: 2-5 PM
  • Fridays: 9-1 PM
  • Saturdays: 9 - 2 PM

Located on Hwy. 37 across from McDonalds.

August 9, 2017 - NE CERT Fond Du Lac Clean Energy & Solar Tour

NE CERT and  Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa co-hosted a clean energy tour of both Fond du Lac Band’s Resource Management Office as well as Black Bear Casino Resort, including a 1 Megawatt solar PV installation, LED lighting, and other energy efficiency upgrades. 

Learn more about the event on the CERTs' Blog:

September 8 & 9, 2017 - Iron Range Harvest Festival 2017

Check out for highlights of the events.

November 20, 2017 - Good and Cheap Holiday Cooking

Share some delicious new recipes with your family and friends with this holiday season without breaking the bank!  The Rutabaga Project partners hosted this FREE vegetarian-inspired cooking class featuring local foods from scratch with Chef Jenna Ballinger!  Participants also learned a little more about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from SNAP-Ed Educator Chris Strand.  Attendees enjoyed free samples and received a cook book (Good and Cheap). 

This event was co-hosted by the Rutabaga Project - AEOA, Essentia Health, IRPS, Messiah Lutheran Church, SNAP-Ed and the Virginia Market Square.

Good and Cheap Recipes:

Vegetarian Pot Pie

Scalloped Potatoes

Cranberry Sauce

Cinnamon Apples

December 1, 2017 - The Future of Food, Health & the Economy: What can we bring to the table?

You’re invited! Join us for the Minnesota Food Charter in Action series, coordinated by University of Minnesota Extension, to connect with community members, elected officials, and food access leaders to envision a food system we all deserve.  The goals of the series are to:

  • Build and strengthen relationships.
  • Recognize and share local efforts around healthy food access.
  • Identify challenges, community-driven solutions, and policy priorities.
  • Build momentum for collaboration and next steps for action.

Join the Northeast Regional event on Friday, December 1 in Mountain Iron to engage in critical community conversations focused on solutions and action steps to improve healthy food access!

  • What: "The Future of Food, Health, and the Economy: What can we bring to the table?" - NE MN Food Charter in Action Event
  • When: Friday, Dec. 1 2017 from 9:30 am - 3:30 pm
  • Where: Messiah Lutheran Church (8590 Enterprise Dr S, Mountain Iron)

Please RSVP by Monday, Nov. 27 (

Thank you to the Minnesota Food Charter Network, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota for sponsoring these events.

2016 Events


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.

Cooking Demo.jpg

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!


  • Vegetarian Pot Pie
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Kale Mashed Potatoes
  • Cheddar Apple Galette
  • Cranberry Sauce

2015 Events


March 12, 2015  – Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic

What can Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic” tell us about sustainability?  Jim DeVries (Laurentian Environmental Learning Center and the IRPS Board of Directors) lead a discussion about Leopold’s pivotal book A Sand County Almanac.  This event was sponsored by IRPS and Friends of the Greenhouse.


June 16, 2015 – Trash Talking Tour

Ever wonder what happens to the stuff you put in the garbage or recycling bin?  IRPS and Congregations Caring for the Earth hosted a tour of the St. Louis County Recycling Facility and Regional Landfill, a discussion on composting, and a tour of East Range Development Achievement Center in Eveleth in order to learn how our waste is managed and how we can treasure more and trash less.


July 25, 2015 – Let’s Talk Lakes!

We love our lakes. Could understanding these water resources better guide our stewardship of them? IRPS, McCarthy Beach State Park, the Minnesota DNR and the 1854 Treaty Authority guided the conversation about the ecology of northern MN lakes.


August 23, 2015 – Virginia Farmer’s Markets Get Together!

We’re fans of farmers’ markets and local produce!  This event featured a dedication of the “Virginia Market Square” space at City Center Park by Virginia Mayor Larry Cuffe and a discussion about establishing a farmers’ market with Jesse Davis of the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association.  Interested in learning more about the upcoming Virginia Farmers’ Market at Market Square?  Send an e-mail to to get on the list of contacts.


September 11 – 13 – 2nd Annual Iron Range Harvest Festival

Friday, Sept. 11. – Participants enjoyed a lively conversation about transitioning to a healthy and local food system following a community screening of the film “FRESH.”

Saturday, Sept. 12. – Visitors explored four area farms and chatted with the folks who actually grow our food.

Sunday, Sept. 13  – The community came together for a local farmers’ market, with several local vendors and the music of singer/songwriter Josh Palmi.  Events concluded with the 100 Mile Harvest Meal, hosted by Congregations Caring for the Earth.  This community potluck featured locally-sourced food from within 100 miles of the Quad Cities area.  One attendee to the 100 Mile Harvest Meal described it as “the way Thanksgiving should be.”

Learn More

October 20, 2015 – Take Action on Clean Energy!

This event featured conversations about taking active roles in the transition to clean energy world.

Natalie Cook and James Hietala from the Sierra Club Northstar Chapter discussed how our energy landscape has changed in the last decade.  They described where our current energy mix for electrical usage comes from, and they highlighted opportunities to make an impact on bringing more clean renewable energy onto the grid.  More information is available at

Bill Mittlefehldt from the Northeast Region of the MN Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) spoke about creative responses to our current economic and ecological situation.  His presentation included opportunities to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with the support of CERTs.

November 17, 2015 – Sustainable Deer Hunting

Hunting for white tailed deer is a long tradition here in MN and every November the woods are dotted with orange clad humans seeking to fill their freezers with locally grown, organic and sustainable meat.  With resurgence in the Locavore movement, wild venison is becoming more sought after.  Guest speaker Kristian Jankofsky, hunter, educator and advocate for local foods lead a discussion on the topic of “Sustainable Deer Hunting.”  The group explored how the economics of the hunting culture and how it impacts our local economy.

Saturday Dec. 12 through Thursday Dec. 24 – 12 Days of Sustainable Actions – Holiday Challenge

Sustainability is about building resiliency in the local environment, economy and communities. This contest challenged participants to make more sustainable decisions during the holiday season.  The top three photos voted by IRPS Facebook followers received a gift certificate from a local business!