Minnesota ‘Upstream’ initiative celebrates ‘loving where we live’

Brad and Leanne Donnay and family, parishioners at Holy Cross in Pearl Lake/Marty, operate a 10-acre dairy farm in Kimball that uses sustainable farming practices and avoids products containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and chemicals. Their 160 goats eat locally-sourced feed when possible and also have access to pasture.
Brad Donnay (photo courtesy of Donnay Dairy)

The Donnays are supporters of “Upstream, Loving Where We Live,” an initiative that seeks to amplify Minnesotans’ shared connections to place with a spirit of optimism.

“Caring for the land is important to us, as is sharing our story with others,” Brad said. “I’m not trying to showcase Donnay Dairy like an advertisement, but we’re doing things that might inspire others to be good stewards for Minnesota’s land. Upstream is a new way to share our story — it brings people together from every aspect of life.”

Upstream is dedicated to celebrating the ways Minnesotans from all backgrounds care for the place where they live, while inspiring new actions to be even better stewards of the state.

“Upstream is a love letter to Minnesota’s natural places, ensuring that those spaces are healthy and here for generations to come,” said Andy Goldman-Gray, Upstream’s initiative director. “Upstream shines a light on people who put energy, time and effort into making Minnesota a special place to live. … Every single Minnesotan connects to our place — we all drink the same water, breathe the same air, appreciate the lakes, parks and open spaces.”

Upstream was formed by a diverse group of people — from both sides of the political aisle, rural and urban, people of color, a variety of ages, ethnic backgrounds and religious groups — who care deeply for natural places.

“At Upstream we wanted to develop better relationships between people who may look or think differently. And we wanted to reframe a new approach to get people engaged to change our culture,” Andy said.

A view of Lake Oasis in west-central Minnesota (photo by Dianne Towalski/The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“The old way — some unknown person or organization telling us what we should or shouldn’t do for the environment — hasn’t worked. It’s led to division and resentment. Instead, Upstream is focused on lifting up local stories of people making a difference in our natural world as a way to inspire all Minnesotans to come together to care for our natural places.

“People see themselves as stewards of this place. And stewardship is something faith leaders understand — taking care of the gifts of creation we’ve been given. It’s our job to leave this place better than it was when we began,” Andy added.

In fact, he noted, the Minnesota Catholic Conference was the initiative’s first organizing partner. MCC, the official public policy voice of the Church in the state, partnered with Upstream in its efforts “to help Minnesota Catholics become better stewards of God’s creation,” it said in a Facebook post about the initiative.

What actions might people or groups take?

Andy pointed to a church that installed a solar garden that uses renewable energy, reducing the financial burden. Another faith community sponsored a fair to provide information about electric vehicles. Individuals or families might plant pollinator gardens or buffer zones or reduce their chemical pesticides.

Upstream is eager for more individuals and churches to join as partners. Visit www.mnupstream.org and click on “Join Us.”

People seeing others loving Minnesota’s natural spaces can tag those activities on social media with #mnupstream when they see events or stories of artists, athletes, business leaders
and others caring for our unique places.

It’s free to subscribe to Upstream’s monthly digest for stories, practical tips about how to be better stewards and special offers and events. On the website, click on “Subscribe.”

“We know farmers who are doing an outstanding job in caring for the land,” Brad Donnay said. “Some plant cover crops, others use only organic feeds or fertilizers, or buy locally. Some might diversify their crop portfolio. Our children pick up garbage blown in the ditches. There are so many ways, and each action can encourage and inspire others. Others recycle or decide not to toss out their cigarette butts. If everybody does just their own little thing, all together we can do great things.”

In 2015, Pope Francis published the encyclical “Laudato Si,’ on Care for our Common Home.” Recently, the Vatican launched a seven-year action platform to widen the reach and address climate change. MCC also has a resource related to the encyclical titled “Minnesota, Our Common Home” (www.mncatholic.org/OurCommonHome).

“I like Upstream’s effort to showcase Minnesotans that go above and beyond taking care of God’s creation to make his world a better place. This initiative brings ‘Laudato Si’’ back in the forefront,” Brad said. “It inspires us to be better stewards in our own ways.”

Author: Nikki Rajala

Nikki Rajala is a writer/copy editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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