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West End News: February 23

OCA Deep Winter Greenhouse in Finland
OCA Deep Winter Greenhouse in Finland

As is often stated, the West End communities are like a big family. Mostly happy, occasionally dysfunctional, but we certainly have love for our neighbors and are quick to raise a helpful hand when needed. There is perhaps no better example of this than our volunteer fire departments and EMS squads. There is an outstanding amount of training, time, attention to detail, and work that goes into these departments that are here to help us in our times of crisis.

This week, we are celebrating the completion of a vehicle sell and swap of sorts that occurred between the Lutsen, Tofte and Grand Marais EMS squads. Just like a family, the EMS departments negotiated a couple of vehicle sales to each other to help everyone get what they needed. The Lutsen squad is the proud new owner of a new rescue unit. In turn, they sold their Ford Excursion to Tofte. Tofte then turned around and sold their Chevy suburban to the EMS department in Grand Marais. The result is that all three squads now have vehicles that are large enough to carry the appropriate rescue gear when they respond to calls.

Tofte’s purchase of the Ford from Lutsen was funded in part by a grant from the North Shore Health Care Foundation. The Foundation awarded $7,500 to the Tofte EMS, despite not typically funding this type of equipment. They made an exception though, thanks to the high level of cooperation and the mutual benefit to all the EMS groups. North Shore Health Care Foundation Executive Director Karl Hansen says they were thrilled to contribute to such a good cause.

I’ve always known that Finland, Minnesota, is home to the Organic Consumers Association or OCA. What I didn’t always realize was just how big a deal the OCA really is. According to their website, the OCA is a non-profit organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. They represent over two million online and on the ground network members, including several thousand businesses. And their home base is right next door in Finland!

This past weekend the OCA and the Northeast Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership hosted an open house at the OCA in Finland highlighting their new deep winter greenhouse. What is that? I’m so glad you asked! A deep winter greenhouse is a passive solar greenhouse, built to be used to grow produce throughout the winter. The greenhouse has a large south-facing wall designed to capture the maximum amount of solar energy. The base of the structure has a 4-foot deep rock heat sink, and fans are used to circulate the warm air. The result is an environment well suited to growing crops that thrive in low-light and low-heat conditions.

The partnership is working with producers and community groups across Minnesota to test a prototype design of these greenhouses. The OCA will be tracking the results of their work in this greenhouse, providing information to help develop local food economies. Support for the project comes from the University of Minnesota Extension, MnDRIVE Global Food Ventures, University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment and a consortium of agriculture lending banks.

Access to local, high quality, produce is an important part of a healthy community. Obviously, that can be a challenge for communities like ours, where the growing season is so short. We are so very fortunate to have organizations like the OCA right here among us, working diligently to develop and implement creative and sustainable solutions to these long-time problems.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

(Photo by Trevor Huggins)

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