Cities like Minneapolis, along with their residents, may need to do a “reality check” on sustainability as the population moves deeper into a new century and further from  its agrarian roots, according to Minneapolis  mayor R.T. Rybak.

“We have moved much too far from the roots of what made us a strong nation. Our population in Minneapolis is two and three generations removed from the agrarian roots that made our country strong. It’s our challenge of the foreseeable future,” he told a crowd estimated at around 300 for the Clean Up the River Environment annual meeting in Montevideo Saturday night.




Cities like Minneapolis, along with their residents, may need to do a “reality check” on sustainability as the population moves deeper into a new century and further from  its agrarian roots, according to Minneapolis  mayor R.T. Rybak.
“We have moved much too far from the roots of what made us a strong nation. Our population in Minneapolis is two and three generations removed from the agrarian roots that made our country strong. It’s our challenge of the foreseeable future,” he told a crowd estimated at around 300 for the Clean Up the River Environment annual meeting in Montevideo Saturday night.
Rybak, a special guest, seemed taken by the river valley, the prairie and the people, and noted he came to the area during the October Meander and enjoyed it immensely.
He was seated at the “mayor’s table” with the mayors of Montevideo, Granite Falls, Watson and Belle Plain, along with his wife, Megan, the Minneapolis mayor told a guest, “If we were back in Minneapolis at an event like this people would have been gone after two hours. This is just so comfortable.”
Notables receiving recognition at the banquet were:
•Del Wehrspann, Montevideo, the 2011 Riverkeeper Award winner;
•Nicole Zempel, Granite Falls, volunteer of the year;
•The Pomme de Terre Food Co-op of Morris, as the town-based business of the year;
•Pastures A Plenty was the farm-based business of the year. Jim and Leann VanDerPol, along with son Josh and daughter-in-law Cindy VanDerPol and their children, were there to accept the award;
The good government award was presented to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for the implementation of their Green Corps program;
•and Larkin McPhee, the filmmaker of the documentary “Troubled Waters” was the winner of the Good Media Award.    
Keynoting the event were John Hickman and Jon Carlson, who are collaborating on  a documentary of “Working Together for the Minnesota River.” The two spoke of their challenges and successes in putting together the film and interviews that is scheduled to run as a series on Ron Schara’s Minnesota Bound in March and April.
In his address, Rybak recalled a decidedly more agrarian economy of when his grandparents first settled in New Prague as immigrants, and said the closeness between the rural economy with that of Main Street has moved further and further apart with time.
That divide, plus a seemingly endless sprawl of urban areas, threaten the sustainability of cities even more, he said. “It was a relief this afternoon on our drive to Montevideo once we reached the prairie. It seems we were drawn closer to the land the further we drove from the cities.”
The sustainability comes not just in the protection of open spaces, farms and an agrarian culture, but especially in the developing local foods networks. Rybak said a closer tie between the growth and consumption of locally grown, healthy food, is a goal toward a healthier population and economy.
Rybak said cities, as well as farms, were to be held responsible for the problems facing the nation’s rivers, and in particular the area of the Mississippi River known as Lake Pepin. Controlling runoff is just as vital in urban areas as it is in the countryside.
“It’s something we must all work together on,” he said, noting efforts in urban areas to develop rain gardens and otherwise reduce the quick flush of storm waters into the rivers.
That sustainability also involves community based renewable energy, and Rybak suggested that communities should strive to become energy independent by utilizing local resources, including wind and solar.
Rybak told the group he was impressed when he and his wife attended the Meander Art Crawl last October. He not only witnessed grassroots creativity in action, but also realized his vision of sustainability was at least partially alive and well in Western Minnesota.