Tucked on the west side of Lake Irene near Alexandria is Polly Perkins and Dave Christianson’s L’Etoile du Nord Vineyard. Grapes are grown, picked, and processed at the 40-acre farm into a variety of red and white wines, from Petite Pearl and Prairie Star to Sabrevois and Frontenac Blanc.
L’Etoile du Nord Vineyard is part of the Alexandria Lakes Area, a place rich with clean lakes and streams that, if protected, will provide residents with good water quality for generations to come.
That’s why Perkins and Christianson became certified in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, taking actions to make their farm as sustainable and water-friendly as they can.
“Because we are located between Highway 29 and the shore of Lake Irene, we feel we have a special responsibility to maintain and improve the water quality of Lake Irene and our wetlands,” Perkins and Christianson say.
Perkins and Christianson maintain cover crops as erosion control between vineyard rows. Instead of using herbicide, they mechanically remove unwanted plants, and do dry farming with no irrigation for the grapes to conserve well water. They have also planted a pollinator area on their land, which they have found increases the quality of their grapes.
“Here at L’Etoile du Nord Vineyard, we view water as a precious resource that has been gathered over generations,” Perkins and Christianson explain. “That water is not just for us; it flows out of the lake and into aquifers for others to use as well.”
Perkins and Christianson value the abundant wildlife that shares their land and water — loons, foxes, otters, eagles — and participate in their community by providing part-time jobs, wine, and a place for people to gather and learn about sustainable farming on the weekends in the summer.
“If we use our water wisely, there will be enough for all who need it,” they say.
We Are Water MN celebrates the Alexandria Lakes Area and highlights ways to protect the lakes
Perkins and Christianson’s story is featured as a part of We Are Water MN, a traveling exhibit and community engagement program that explores Minnesotans’ relationships with water. In Alexandria, the exhibit and related programming are hosted by the Legacy of the Lakes Museum, in partnership with Douglas County Lakes Association, Douglas County Public Library, and Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District.
You can read L’Etoile du Nord Vineyard’s story — and many other local stories — in the exhibit. The exhibit also explores Alexandria’s challenges and the many ways we can protect water, from restoring shoreline vegetation to using conservation practices on Minnesota farmland.
Visit the exhibit now through August 15 at the Legacy of the Lakes Museum and Gardens (205 3rd Avenue West, Alexandria, MN 56308). The museum is open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Together with community partners, Legacy of the Lakes Museum is excited to provide a variety of programming related to the exhibit, including:
- Water-themed story time with the Douglas County Library, July 7 and 21, August 4 and 18, 1 p.m.
- Children’s make-n-take: Recycled boat building, June 21, 10-11:30 a.m.
- Water talks: Cover crops and water quality, July 11, 7-8 p.m.
- Children’s make-n-take: Just add water, July 19, 10 a.m.-noon
- Well water nitrate testing clinic, July 19, 4-7 p.m.
- Presentation: What is a raingarden? July 25, 1-2 p.m.
- Water talks: The value of water, Aug. 8, 7-8 p.m.
Find event details and more information on the Legacy of the Lakes Museum website.
About We Are Water MN
We are Water MN is led by the Minnesota Humanities Center in partnership with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; the Minnesota Historical Society; the Minnesota Departments of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources; and University of Minnesota Extension.
The program is funded in part with money from the Clean Water, Land & Legacy Fund — which was created with the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008 — and by the National Endowment for the Humanities.