Category: News

John Arnold featured on Lake Superior Podcast

John Arnold, PhD, Alumni of our Industrial Heritage and Archeology program ’17 is the new historical architect at the Keweenaw Historical National Park and was recently featured on Lake Superior Podcast. Learn more about John and his job preserving the buildings and industrial sites of the Keweenaw and promoting a better understanding of the area’s industrial heritage.

Growing From the Heart

Growing From The Heart Logo
PhotoCreation: Kat Dvorak

Introduction
My name is Savannah Obert-Pfeiffer and I am finishing up my second year at Michigan Tech as a Sustainability Science and Society major. I was interested in working with the Growing From The Heart project because I have seen first hand wasted garden goods. It is always heartbreaking to have to throw away, compost or toss to the animals all the produce that you’ve spent time to help grow. I also wanted to know more about the community of people in Houghton, finding people who are excited for the growing months and be able to grow a garden of my own this summer. It will be my first time in Houghton all year round and I am very excited for the growth to start.

Mission Statement and Last Year’s Report
Growing from the Heart is a grassroots initiative increasing access to fresh, local, and nourishing food grown by and for our friends and neighbors throughout the Western UP region. As we grow and redistribute food, we work together toward food sovereignty throughout our region. In 2020, the program reported sharing over 90.3 lbs of fresh produce. This included 21 different submitted reports of food sharing, 10 unique individuals have reported food sharing (20 people have signed up to be food sharers) and 3 unique pantries and to families/individuals. So far this year we have had feedback from 14 people in a pre-season interest form and 16 participants at two planning meetings.

Research Questions
For this second season of the program, I asked the following questions: How could Growing From the Heart work better in the future? How to structure drop-offs to be inclusive for community members? In what ways can community members work together to collectively supply more people with fresh food?

Findings/Recommendations
Most things were well received however more of the uncommon goods like swiss chard or squash, collard greens. Produce that a lot of people do not have experience with will turn them away; however, if little cards for ideas of how to cook or recipes went along with the produce more people would likely use it.

The pantries overall enjoyed the donations and considered having boxes or bins to store all of the donated produce. Some thought about people saving their extra boxes and using these when they drop-off fresh produce donations so that people coming to receive the pantry food could take home produce in a box. This way it could recycle the boxes, but also the idea of bins would work just as well to designate the drop-off spots.

There have also been a few meetings this spring to discuss the plans for the growing season of 2021. At these meetings there have been around 16 people each time, ranging all over the general area. Ironwood, Calumet, Lake Linden, Copper Harbor, Baraga, are a few examples; these are people that are students at Tech, graduates, faculty, and many community members not associated with Tech and crossing generations. The meetings are a diverse group of people that have a dedicated interest in growing food, which is all one can ask for.

What’s Next
As of April 2021, we are planning on having in-person meetings (wearing masks and socially distanced) over the growing season, to interact and exchange information or goods. There is a plan for a meeting in May to give compost out, make garden signs, and possibly swap plant starts. The goal is to incorporate everyone’s interests at some point. The details for the first meet-up in May are listed below:

  • Saturday, May 15th from 1-3 pm at Chutes and Ladders Park. The group invites everyone to learn more about the program and to make “Growing from the Heart” garden signs. Supplies will be provided, though people are welcome to bring their own tools/scrap wood if they wish. A limited amount of compost will be available from the Sustainability Demonstration House for people to take home (please bring own containers).

Potential future meet-up ideas are listed below and dates will be scheduled soon:

  • June Meet-up: Host a free school (people show up and share / teach each other about a subject) in the community 1x or 2x a month to engage with the community, for example seed stories, transplants, and connecting to trade things other than produce, fish, meat, dairy, grains.
  • July Meet-up: Free workshops and getting together to preserve the food.
  • August Meet-up: Seed saving tips and tricks, this way people can donate back into the Portage Lake Seed Library.

Savannah Obert-Pfeiffer will start her 3rd year as a Sustainability Science and Society major in Fall 2021. She completed work with the Growing from the Heart program as part of a Spring 2021 SS Undergraduate Program for Exploration and Research in Social Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Angie Carter (MTU Social Sciences).

Seed Saving within Portage District Library

by Maya Klanderman

The Portage Lake Seed Library is a new addition within the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton, MI this growing season. Seed libraries are grassroot initiatives focused on enriching the gardening community by encouraging seed saving and swapping. Novice or expert gardeners are provided with a low-risk way to try something new by using seed libraries. Using native, non GMO seeds, seed libraries provide free seeds to the public for gardening purposes.

Seed library

The seed library is situated near the new books section, towards the front of Portage Lake District Library. It is easily accessible and open to anyone who wants to check out seeds for the 2021 growing season.

The seed library hosts multiple varieties of seeds, including flowers. These seeds are from local growers and donations to the seed library. All of these seeds are suitable for growing in the Keweenaw.

Seed packets

There is a binder situated on top of the seed library which holds documents needed to check out seeds as well as additional information about seed saving. Patrons can then take the seeds, plant them, harvest, and collect a portion of the seeds to donate back to the seed library in the fall. You do not need to be a member of the library to donate or check out seeds.

Seed binder

If you have any questions feel free to contact us at our email address PortageSeedLibrary@gmail.com.There will be more information available as the fall and winter season nears as to how seed donations will be accepted back to the seed library. Additional information and resources can be found on the Portage Lake District Library website. Happy seed saving!

Maya Klanderman will start her 2nd year as a Sustainability Science and Society major in Fall 2021. She completed work with the Portage Lake Seed Library as part of a Spring 2021 SS Undergraduate Program for Exploration and Research in Social Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Angie Carter and Rachael Pressley (Portage Lake Seed Library).

New Social Sciences Chair Appreciates Multi-Disciplinary Approach

Dean Hemmer, Dean of The College of Sciences and Arts, said he was pleased to announce that Don Lafreniere has accepted the position of chair of Social Sciences.

“Leading a department housing so many different disciplines is a challenge and I am confident that Don is more than prepared for the task,” Hemmer said. “His extensive leadership experience, both inside and out of academia, together with his distinguished scholarly record, made him a clear choice for the position.”

Don Lafreniere
Don Lafreniere

Lafreniere (la-fren-YAY), an associate professor of geography and GIS, also directs the Geospatial Research Facility and the Historical Environments Spatial Analytics Lab. He holds BS degrees in geography and history from Eastern Michigan University. He earned his Ph.D. in geography from the University of Western Ontario.

He took a unique route to Michigan Tech — his first career was working for Marriott and Princess Cruises managing hotels, lodges, and portfolios. Lafreniere, who has been at Tech since 2014, answered a few questions about himself and his plans for the department.

Why Michigan Tech? What brought you here?
Growing up in the Sun Parlour of Canada, in Windsor, Ontario, I also longed to live in the north. I had a chance to live in Alaska for a few years and wished to return to a northern climate when I was seeking out a faculty position.

But the size of the institution played a large part. Tech is large enough to be a genuine research institution but small enough to be a community. Communication is easy here. “If I need to reach someone in another department, or say, the provost, It’s not hard.”

The other major factor was that we really have a robust heritage community. When I first flew into CMX, the landing path took us over the dredge (Quincy Dredge No. 2 in Torch Lake). Seeing the dredge and the stamp mill behind it I thought: This is a living, robust landscape that I want to live and work in.

The department is unique. What Social Sciences is to us at MTU, would be eight different disciplines somewhere else. That creates truly interdisciplinary scholarship because of how freely we interact across disciplines. What we do here is special.

Because geography is the scientific study of space, and everything is somewhere, geographers can study anything. In my research, I help my colleagues and students think about the impacts of spatial relationships in a different way. My expertise is in GIS (geographic information science) and using historical information to learn how populations and places change through time and impact society today.

I love it when a student realizes, through mapping some data, that the societal issues they have heard about in the news or in another class can be visualized.

What do you like about teaching?
We have hardworking students who are innately curious. And as someone who is not teaching to majors (as we do not have a geography program at Tech), I can take the best of my discipline and apply it to situations in our students’ everyday lives in ways students can understand.

I love it when a student realizes, through mapping some data, that the societal issues they have heard about in the news or in another class can be visualized. An example would be a student exclaiming, “I had no idea that racial segregation is so bad in my hometown” It connects the theoretical ideas to their actual lives. And generally what follows is a flood of questions.

You mentioned that you want to work on the department’s branding message to potential students and parents. What will your goals be?
We do need to get across the unique nature of our programs. A big focus of our department is how we work with communities in our research and teaching. This creates a unique, applied social scientific, signature experience for our students that we need to market more to potential students.

You have four children and live in Boston Location. But we need to know: What’s with the giant antenna?
I do have a 100-foot radio tower in the yard. I’ve been an amateur radio operator since I was a teenager. I met my wife of 23 years, Erin, on the radio. [Editor’s note: Immediately before this interview, Lafreniere was talking about the pandemic over his radio with someone in Micronesia.]