The University of Minnesota - Morris is incorporating all available guidance to host a COVID-conscious version of We Are Water MN at the Morrison Gallery, starting this week. The exhibit will run through October 19, 2020.
This popular statewide community engagement project invites visitors to reflect on the experiences of members of the host community and come to a deeper understanding of what taking care of water means to people. Science and history are also included via a 1,000-square foot, hands-on exhibit created by the Minnesota Humanities Center, MPCA, Minnesota Historical Society, and Minnesota Departments of Health, Agriculture, and Natural Resources.
Morris will be the first stop on a tour that is visiting six Minnesota communities between August 2020 and September 2021: Morris, Mankato, St. Paul, Rochester, Chisholm, and Pipestone.
Farming a prairie ecosystem for better water quality
We Are Water MN also highlights community members and how they intersect with water. For this stop, Bryan Simon, who runs Lakeside Prairie Farm in west central Minnesota, is featured.
Simon wants the “best of both worlds” for Minnesota, meaning a system that doesn’t compromise our water quality or supply when we grow food. His solution was to design a prairie ecosystem for his farm. Planting a hundred different native plant species, Simon’s cattle graze while providing a valuable ecosystem function. Grazing systems cycle nutrients and water through the soil, which makes the soil healthier. Actions that increase soil health also help the land absorb more water during heavy rains.
Bryan believes that regenerative farming systems like his will eventually become common. But right now, he knows many farmers that feel stuck. Bryan’s perspective is that “they’re so heavily invested in their systems — socially, financially and with infrastructure — and, unfortunately, the burden rests heavily on the farmers themselves to divest from conventional farming practices.”
As a parent, Bryan feels even more determined to “pass along a place that’s worth living in” for generations to come. By practicing regenerative farming, and advocating for the support other farmers need to do the same, Bryan is helping bring that future into being.
You can listen to more local stories in the exhibit, or at mnhum.org/water. Click on “hear stories.”
Remaining flexible during uncertain times
Last spring, the We Are Water MN traveling exhibit was expected to kick-off their third tour on Minnesota’s Iron Range, with school kids pouring through the exhibit and community gatherings around water. Like so many of our 2020 plans, these plans had to change.
As museums and campuses safely re-open, We Are Water MN is able to be a part of these facilities’ re-opening plans, with capacity limits, cleaning protocols, and virtual events.
The west central Minnesota partnership team is planning events that build community and teach about water in new and physically distanced ways. Events include:
- A series of webinars for conversations with west central Minnesota farmers.
- A limited-capacity Nibi Walk (water walk) along the Pomme de Terre River.
- An online regional creativity contest for youth.
- A virtual visiting scholar, Dr. Michelle Montgomery.
Learn more about the events and exhibit at: https://www.wearewaterwcmn.com/.