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Celebrating leaders in climate adaptation

By Britta Greene, University of Minnesota Extension

Climatologist Mark Seeley, at a podium.
Mark Seeley at the 2024 Climate Adaptation Awards

The University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership (MCAP) recently honored six leaders in climate adaptation from across the state, recognizing exceptional achievements in agriculture, community organizing, social justice and the arts.

MCAP’s Minnesota Climate Adaptation Awards have been held annually since 2014, championing regional achievements in climate resilience and inspiring future change.

Mark Seeley, Extension emeritus climatologist and meteorologist, presented the 2024 Climate Adaptation Awards at the American Swedish Institute on May 13.

Community Action Center of Northfield

The Community Action Center (CAC) of Northfield was honored for Climate Justice Leadership. This award recognizes individuals, organizations or community groups working to reduce the disproportionate impacts of climate change on vulnerable people and frontline communities.

The CAC is a community-based nonprofit in southeastern Minnesota focused on providing food access, housing, basic needs, and substance abuse recovery. Last year, the organization celebrated the opening of Hillcrest Village, a new housing development to bring sustainable, carbon-neutral, affordable housing to the community. The development has 17 units of affordable, supportive, and emergency housing and will produce all its own energy through onsite solar, making it one of the first on-site net-zero energy supportive and emergency housing developments in the nation.

Low-income and BIPOC Northfield community members helped lead the planning and design process, and remain deeply engaged with residents. CAC has also committed to sharing project results with researchers and communities across the state, including the City of Rochester, which is looking to develop a similar project.

Truterra and Climate Smart Farms

Truterra and The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program’s Climate Smart Farms Project have an established public-private relationship dating to 2016 and together have been working toward the shared goal of empowering farmers to implement conservation practices that build climate resilience. They were awarded the Collaborative Adaptation Award, which recognizes individuals, organizations or businesses that have worked together to achieve significant progress in climate adaptation

Truterra is an agricultural sustainability business that offers consultation, tools and solutions for the ag and food value chain. Backed by Land O’Lakes, Inc. and its over 100-year-old cooperative system, everything Truterra does is with the farmer at the center. Truterra creates new market opportunities for farmers by adopting agronomic, economic and environmentally sound practices. These programs are delivered through Truterra’s network of local ag retail advisors who work directly with farmers on their sustainability journey. Truterra is also bridging the gap between farmers and companies with sustainability goals who choose to make agriculture part of their toolkit of solutions. Truterra recently received a USDA Climate Smart Commodities Grant to help scale its work nationwide.

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program’s Climate Smart Farms Project creates an entry point into the adaptation conversation with farmers. It provides growers with an unbiased and friendly climate audit of their farm, identifying existing beneficial management practices and opportunities to improve. Farms that go through this audit can earn the “Climate Smart Farm” endorsement and become eligible for a $1,000 payment. To further support producers, the program partnered with The McKnight Foundation, Minnesota Farmers Union, and Farmers’ Legal Action Group to produce a “Farmers’ Guide to Carbon Market Contracts in Minnesota,” which provides clear and concise information on carbon markets, making these markets more accessible.

Syd Bauer

Syd Bauer received the award for Individual Adaptation, recognizing individuals who have offered significant leadership in the field of climate adaptation in Minnesota.

Syd Bauer co-organized the 2019 Global Student Climate Strike in Morris and co-founded the West Central Minnesota Climate Network. She spends most of her time driving for Morris Transit and has a remarkable ability to build bridges across her community. She fosters relationships between the civic community and elected officials, as well as with the business community, government employees, and institutions.

Syd was a lynchpin in establishing the Organic Waste Recycling Program in Stevens County, bringing together elected officials, contractors, county staff and the general public in conversation to envision a more sustainable future. In its first two years of operation, the program has removed nearly 400,000 tons of organics from the traditional waste stream.

Frogtown Green

Frogtown Green is a resident-led environmental initiative in Saint Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood, one of the most racially and ethnically diverse communities in the Twin Cities with historically high poverty rates. They received the Organizational Adaptation Award, recognizing organizations that have achieved significant progress or implemented practices that advance climate adaptation in Minnesota.

Patricia Ohmans founded the organization in 2009 to grow a healthier, greener, and more sustainable community. Frogtown Green has since planted more than 1,000 trees and installed 10,000 square feet of pollinator-friendly habitat. The organization conducts dozens of events and programs around environmental and sustainability topics, including “Climate Carnival,” a lively event aimed at helping Frogtown residents learn ways to combat the impacts of climate change.

Ben Weaver

Strong Buffalo plays a flat drum in the forground as Ben Weaver sings into a microphone.
Ben Weaver performs with Dakota Elder Strong Buffalo at the Adaptation Awards ceremony.

Ben Weaver received the Creative Climate Communications Award, recognizing individuals or organizations with a track record of successful climate change- and adaptation-related communication and engagement.

Ben works to spark meaningful conversations that cultivate dialogue and action on climate change. He invites audiences into relationship with one another and the natural world, using music and art as an entry for challenging conversations.

He hosts monthly concerts in urban wilderness across the Twin Cities with Dakota Elder Strong Buffalo, and regular Climate Grief Circles in collaboration with Buffalo Weavers and Change Narrative. These circles, held in outdoor settings, allow participants the space and community to release and process intense emotions on climate change. Ben’s Edgelands film series also explores the stories, histories and relationships of people who live in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Author: Britta Greene

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