Presentations and Demonstrations

Earth Fest 2017 featured nine fascinating presentations, twelve interactive demonstrations, and a screening of "Seed: The Untold Story" Earth Fest Kick-Off event. 

Earth Fest Presentation Schedule
Friday Kick-Off

Click here to download the Earth Fest 2017 Presentation Schedule.

2017 Presentations Descriptions 

Messiah Lutheran Church sanctuary 

Earth Fest 2017 Key Note: The Future of Iron Range Food and Farming - Growing Local Food, Creating Local Jobs

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Presented by David Abazs (Round River Farm - Finland, MN)

Farmer David Abazs’ research shows that we could grow all of our own food regionally, generating jobs and keeping our food dollars local. Come and learn how this might work and what it might mean for the Iron Range.

David Abazs has been farming the last 30 years in Finland MN. His family farm, Round River Farm, provides organic vegetables through a CSA marketing system. As researcher (Defining the Agricultural Landscape of the Western Lake Superior Region) he quantified the potential for a regional food system and its social and economic impacts. Awarded with the Farm Family of the Year award, Abazs has also been a Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture Senior Fellow. In addition, Abazs manages the Wolf Ridge Organic Farm, designed to provide all of the vegetables for over 140,000 meals served. He also directs the OCA AgroEcology Center/Farm developing a 10 acre permaculture operation and community organic farming operation.

This event is made possible with support from the University of Minnesota Extension’s Health and Nutrition team, which aims to build the capacity of Minnesota food networks to contribute to the implementation of Minnesota Food Charter strategies.

Messiah Lutheran Church Library Presentations

Growing Together Virginia Community Gardens – 9:30 AM

Growing Together was launched in 2016 with a generous grant from Essentia Health.  Already, 60 plots are available for rent in 5 locations around Virginia.  Come find out how you can be involved as a gardener,  garden mentor, volunteer or supporter!

Presenter: Dawn Trexel, Growing Together Coordinator 

Community Sustainability Initiative - 2016 Winners Presentation – 11:30 AM

The winners for the 2016 Community Sustainability Initiative will be presenting their sustainable projects from around the Iron Range. Learn about some of the success and struggles they have faced in the last year implementing their project. 

Presenters: Deb Kaivola (MLC Crossway Community Kitchen), Deb Funk (Ely Area Bee Club), Kristen Busch (MI-B School Forest Committee), Bret Alexander (Messabi Unitarian Universality Church

Youth Energy Summit - Local Student Projects – 12:30 AM

YES! teams from local area schools will be presenting their teams sustainable projects that they are implementing at their school 

Presenters: Virginia High School, Cherry High School, Northern Lights Community School

Roundtable Discussion with Food Producers "Can We Feed Ourselves? What Will We Grow?" – 1:30 PM

If you’re a food producer of any kind, this is for you.  Bring your questions and ideas!

Presenter: David Abazs (Round River Farm)

Mountain Iron Community Center

Solar PV for your Home or Business– 9:30 AM

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance has been offering solar design-build services to the commercial and residential market since 2000. Starting in 2014, the design-build program began operating as its own self-standing for-profit corporation, REAL Solar. Proceeds from REAL Solar support solar assistance for low-income families through RREAL.  Get the scoop on solar PV for your home or business.oceeds

Presenter: Ericka Bjelland, Real Solar

How Carbon Pricing Revitalizes the Iron Range – 11:30 AM

A national, revenue-neutral carbon fee-and-dividend system (CF&D) would place a predictable, steadily rising price on carbon, with all fees collected minus administrative costs returned to households as a monthly energy dividend.

In just 20 years, studies show, such a system could reduce carbon emissions to 50% of 1990 levels while adding 2.8 million jobs to the American economy.

Presenters: Dr. Eric Enberg, Citizens' Climate Lobby

Health and Low Carb Eating – 12:30 AM

Innovative and sustainable non-surgical weigh loss through low-carb eating.

Presenter: Dr. Stephen Park, Essentia

Home and Business Energy Effciency– 1:30 PM

Come learn about energy conservation options for your home or business, along with some of the related health issues and how energy efficiency upgrades may help  with those issues, too. 

Presenter: Joel Haskard, CERTS


2016 Presentations

Presentations will be held in Messiah Lutheran Church and the Mt. Iron Community Center.  Sessions will begin at 9:30 and continue every hour, with the last sessions starting at 2:30.  The Phenology Hikes (10:30 AM and 12:30 PM) will meet in the Merritt Elementary School Entrance.

Presentations will be held in Messiah Lutheran Church and the Mt. Iron Community Center.  Sessions will begin at 9:30 and continue every hour, with the last sessions starting at 2:30.  The Phenology Hikes (10:30 AM and 12:30 PM) will meet in the Merritt Elementary School Entrance.


Walking the Talk: Stories from Our Neighbors

6:30 PM on Friday, April 22 at Messiah Lutheran Church

Congregations Caring for the Earth is hosting an Earth Fest 2016 Welcome Event titled “Walking the Talk: Stories from our Neighbors” on Friday night, April 22.  Join CCE at Messiah Lutheran Church refreshments at 6:30 PM followed by a Panel Conversation at 7:00 PM. 


Orr Recreation and Resource Center. Inc. (ORR Center) – 9:30 AM

The ORR Center is fostering sustainability in our region, in all aspects of life, through projects, events and programs that emphasize education, awareness and action. Please join us to find out our plans for  the old Orr High School and how you can be a part of this exciting journey!

Presenter: Wendy Purdy (ORR Center President)

Small Business Development – 10:30 AM

Learn how to clarify your business goals, identify what makes your business unique, develop a strategic start-up plan, expand your networks and skills, and access the resources you need to build a successful business.

Presenters: Beth Peterson (Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency)

Community Sustainability Initiative 2015 Contest Winners – 11:30 AM

Community Sustainability Initiative 2015 winners will present on lessons learned, successes and next steps!

  1. Green Gate Gardens – Sustainable Watering System for Local Organic Garden
  2. Cardinal Alliance Towards Sustainability (CATS) – Hibbing Community College and Community Garden
  3. The North Woods Grizzly Foresters – Sustainability through Construction and Implication of the North Woods School Forest Trails and Bridge Project
  4. Northern Lights Community School – School Garden and Community Supported Agriculture (People’s Choice Award Winner)

The Threat of Aquatic Invasive Species Upon Our Waters – 12:30 PM

The Sportsmen’s Club of Lake Vermilion is committed to preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).  This presentation will focus on recognizing AIS, monitoring water quality, promoting sound shoreline and watershed practices, and improving our fishery.

Presenters: Sportsmen’s Club of Lake Vermilion

Local Entrepreneurship Panel and Conversation – 1:30 PM

This presentation will be divided into two parts.  During the first part of the conversation, panel participants will provide a short overview highlighting their organizational mission and available resources.  The second part of the conversation will feature time for the panel participants and attendees to make connections, identify barriers, and develop opportunities for local entrepreneurial and economic development possibilities.

Facilitator: Elizabeth Pluskwik (Iron Range Engineering)

Panel Participants and Organizations:

  • Jean Cole – Hometown Focus
  • Joe Guertin – Laurentian Chamber of Commerce
  • Andrew Hanegmon – Iron Range Makerspace
  • Jenny Herman –  NE MN Small Business Development Center
  • Beth Peterson – Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency
  • Jessalyn Sabin – ReGen

Messiah Lutheran Church

Countering Climate Change in Northern MN and Around the World – 9:30 AM

With our lakes and oceans acidifying due to increases in carbon dioxide, and demand for electricity increasing every year, conservation is important, but we also need to carefully decide how we should create that electricity. With a Power Point presentation that has been viewed by thousands, best-selling author, bush pilot and Virginia native George Erickson evaluates which means of power production is the safest, the most efficient, and the most ecologically benign.

Presenter: George Erickson (Conservationist and Thorium Energy Alliance member)

Golden-winged Warbler Habitat Project – 10:30 AM

This project is a three year Regional Conservation Partnership project with the American Bird Conservancy to improve habitat for Gold-winged warblers and other species that utilize early successional habitat.  Habitat management plans are written for landowners with suitable lands and financial assistance is available for implementation of those plans.

Presenters: Marjorie Sella (USDA-NRCS) and Kevin Sheppard (American Bird Conservancy)

Hybrid Renewable Power Systems: Analysis of Feasibility and Design – 11:30 AM

Analysis of feasibility and designing a pump-storage hydroelectric power (PSH) system as a natural battery in the context of hybrid renewable power system design. Presenter Katherine Rasley will share her passion for renewable energy and highlight her findings as an Undergraduate Researcher.

Presenter: Katherine Rasley (Iron Range Engineering and Undergraduate Researcher)

Envision: A Rating Tool for Sustainable Infrastructure – 12:30 PM

Envision® is a sustainability rating tool for all types and sizes of infrastructure – similar to LEED, but for infrastructure. It serves as a guide for making more informed decisions about the sustainability of projects by providing a framework of criteria and performance objectives to help identify sustainable approaches during planning, design, construction, and operation. Envision® can be used by infrastructure owners, design teams, community groups, environmental organizations, constructors, regulators, and policy makers to improve the performance and resiliency of our physical infrastructure across the full spectrum of sustainability.

Heather Wright Wendel (Barr Engineering)

Sew-Green Makeovers – 1:30 PM

Repurpose, restyle, and reuse the garments from the back of your closet or the thrift shop.  Turn clothing and household linens into clever, useful items for daily use. Feeling guilty about storing and not using Grandma’s doilies or hankies? Learn how to turn them into contemporary table decor. Hear tips about felting (aka “shrinking”) wool sweaters for easy mittens, hats, and coffee cup coverups. Collect ideas for memory gifts to make from the clothing or textiles of family members. Be there for Mary’s presentation to see the creative challenge and fun of making over the clothing  and fabrics you already have at home.

Presenter: Mary Mulari (Aurora author, teacher, and frequent guest on PBS TV’s Sewing With Nancy)

Community Solar Gardens in the Northland – 2:30 PM

What is Community Solar?  Will this work for me?  During this presentation we will go over the basics of Community Solar Gardens and some of the options for communities when designing their system.  We will also discuss the values and opportunities presented by this new way of getting our electricity.  Whether you are already a clean energy advocate or just want to learn a little more shared solar, join us for our presentation and interactive discussion.

Presenters: Sierra Club North Star Chapter and Itasca Clean Energy Team


Phenology Hikes with John Latimer – 10:30 AM and 12:30 PM

Learn about the natural cycles of NE MN with KAXE/KBXE Phenology Show host and Minnesota Phenology Network member John Latimer.  Meet in the Merritt Elementary School Entrance.  Dress for the weather.  Limit of 20 people per hike.

Presenter: John Latimer (KAXE Phenology Host)


Messiah Greenhouse – 1:30 (Follow signs from Messiah Narthex leading to Greenhouse)

Come learn about Messiah’s Community Greenhouse!  This presentation will focus on how to use the greenhouse and the best methods for starting seeds and keeping plants in a greenhouse.

Presenters: Gail Coon (Swanson Greenhouse) and Messiah Lutheran Church Gardeners


The Messiah Lutheran Kitchen was recently certified as a “Community Kitchen” space.  Stop by the Messiah Lutheran Church Gardeners booth (near the Messiah Kitchen) to learn what it means to be a community kitchen.  The Kitchen will be open for tours, and theMessiah Lutheran Church Gardeners will also be taking applications for those who wish to use the community kitchen.