Bluestem will be heading to the Women's March Minnesota on Saturday, January 21, courtesy of travel organized by Clean Up the River Environment (CURE). A number of us from Big Stone County will be carpooling to Willmar, where we'll board a chartered bus to St. Paul. Since our editor gets up about 15 minutes before the chickens, this early rising isn't out of the ordinary for us.
CURE writes of the Action Opportunity:
CURE members have been talking and meeting about how to respond to the challenges presented to us by the new social and political realities post election 2016. Concerns are many, tensions are mounting, and many of us are looking for ways to hold true to our values, build solidarity, and take action on issues that we care deeply about. . . .
CURE has long been concerned about protections and access to clean water, clean energy and protecting and restoring the natural world around us. And as a grassroots organization, CURE membership tells us that we will not win on our core issues without joining those others concerned about racism, inclusivity, social justice, equity, diversity, religious freedoms, personal safety, access to healthcare, pathways to citizenship, food systems and much more.
In today’s world, it’s all connected. We are part of an intersectional movement.
Building strength and solidarity is necessary. Growing new relationships is required. We are part of a movement to build a better world – to say NO to emerging threats. The March is a step towards unifying our communities, grounded in these new relationships, that will protect human rights and create socially just change from the grassroots level and up.
One of the women who be getting on the bus? Moonstone Farm owner, artist and legendary West Central Minnesota organizer Audrey Arner, who is something of a force of nature on the western prairies.
We find as good a portrait of her work and values as any in the description her family's work when she and husband Richard Handeen were named the Chippewa County2014 Farm Family of the Year by local University of Minnesota Extension committees based on their demonstrated commitment to enhancing and supporting agriculture--and honored by the University of Minnesota:
Richard Handeen and Audrey Arner’s farm, Moonstone, has been a Handeen Family Farm since 1872. Originally homeland of Dakota people, Richard’s Swedish great-grandparents first purchased farmland here in 1871. Since 1973, Richard and Audrey have transitioned conventional corn and soybeans to organic pastures and hay fields with their grass-fed cattle herd and shared machinery. Their beef is marketed to restaurants, a few retailers, and many families and friends. As co-owners and co-managers, Richard and Audrey raise perennials, including a vineyard with U of M cold climate wine grapes, and numerous other species grown for timber, fruits, nuts, ornamentals, and medicinals. They partner informally with their daughter Malena and her husband Mike Jacobs whose Easy Bean Community Supported Agriculture farm near Milan has 275 members. Their son Daniel contributes building and systems design for the farm using his skills as a professor and researcher at the U of M’s Center for Sustainable Building Research.
Richard serves on the board of the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota. Audrey has been staff and/or served on boards of the Land Stewardship Project, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, and Renewing the Countryside. Richard and Audrey are active in Slow Food Minnesota, the Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Grown, the Pride of the Prairie local foods initiative, the Arts Meander in the Upper MN River Valley, and host a variety of field days and farm visits.
Audrey's daughter and granddaughter will be marching in St. Paul as well. (Some spots remain on the CURE bus, so you're welcome too if you're a Western Minnesota reader--contact CURE ASAP).
Bluestem caught up with Audrey for an email interview in which she shared her thoughts and feelings about the event.
"The election stirred up public vigilance like I haven't experienced since Nixon in Vietnam,"she said, noting her "concern for the USA that we leave to the great grandchildren, to the less-advantaged, to the hungry, to the cast aside, to the drinkers of water."
Right now she's pumped for the event. Asked what she's feeling, Arner said, "Excitement!"
"I believe that the rallying of many can produce one loud Voice," she said. "All over the country (and beyond!) women (and supportive men) are coming together. This refreshing unity makes my heart sing with hope-- that we can counter the darkness that might otherwise drag our spirits down."
We asked what values, resources and opportunities she felt were at risk in the current political climate--but also wanted to know what values were being bolstered.
"Under threat: water quality, biological diversity, wildlife habitat, good food, opportunity for beginning farmers and farmworkers, control over our very own bodies," she wrote. "Strengthened: community engagement."
Audrey is hoping that word of the rallies across the country won't be regard as "fake news," but that people in rural Minnesota will organize listening sessions after the march.
"People will become empowered to show up at meetings," she hopes. "The press will be strengthened."
Audrey urged others to join her on Saturday.
"What a great event to have on your life resume!" she said.
For information about the CURE bus trip to St. Paul, click on the links above, visit the Facebook event page to sign up or call CURE at 1.877.269.2873. One change from the online information: one bus will be departing from Willmar, rather than two from other locations.
KSTP reported on Monday that Women's March Minnesota Could Bring Thousands to St. Paul Saturday.
Images: The Logo for the national march (top); Audrey Arner (right) and Richard Handeen, farmers, artists and great prairie people (bottom).
Please donate! If you enjoy Bluestem's take on the news--and our investigative blogging--please consider throwing some spare change into our paypal account during our January contribution drive. Bluestem relies on reader contributions to continue publishing.
If you appreciate our posts and original analysis, you can mail contributions (payable to Sally Jo Sorensen, 33166 770th Ave, Ortonville, MN 56278) or use the paypal button in the upper right hand corner of this post.
Or you can contribute via this link to paypal; use email email@example.com as recipient.