Publishing, Three Rivers

New 2015 River Country Local Food & Recycling Guide

Eating with the fullest pleasure — pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance — is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world.  In this pleasure, we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.

 

Wendell Berry in “The Pleasures of Eating” from Food & Faith

The new 2015 River Country Local Food & Recycling Guide in now available across the county! The Guide is co-published by *culture is not optional and the St. Joseph County Conservation District; it highlights local growers in our region who sell a wide variety of food directly to customers. Our hope is that the Guide can help facilitate a better relationship between eaters and the neighbors who grow our food.

You can find print copies in libraries, city halls, and local businesses in Three Rivers, Vicksburg, Mendon, White Pigeon, and Constantine. You can also find listings and leave reviews for your favorite farms at our Food Guide web site!

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*cino Work, Education, Organization, People

Summer intern application deadline extended to April 30

Are you looking for an amazing summer experience alongside wonderful people in a great rural city? Well look no further! We’d love to have you join us this summer in Three Rivers to help us with our community development work. We grow a market garden, work on renovating an old elementary school to help build a community center, hold a summer festival, run a fair trade store, sell at the local farmers market, make art with neighborhood kids, publish an online magazine, listen and tell stories to know our community better, and more … so there are a lot of great ways to plug in!

We’re extending our application deadline for our summer internship program to April 30, so there’s still time to apply. We’re specifically looking for folks to fill roles in agriculture, business support, promotions/communication, and event coordination, but anyone who is interested in our work should feel free to apply —  we often find creative ways to employ the unique talents of our interns.

Apply online now!

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*cino Work, Building, Education, Event, Hospitality, Organization, People, Publishing, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

2014: Year in review

With hearts full of gratitude, we say goodbye to another year and anticipate 2015 with hope and discernment. Please enjoy this review, written by the members of our core community here in Three Rivers.  Thank you for the many ways you’ve supported *culture is not optional in the past year!  Our work is sustained by generous donations of all kinds and we thankfully receive your gifts of time, money, prayer and encouragement.  Please be in touch about how you’d like to be involved in the coming year, and if you’d like to make a financial contribution, you can do so here.  Peace be with you in the coming year!


COMMUNITY: Volunteer partners come and go, while friendships remain

by Jay Howard

The Rectory, *cino’s community house, was full of good food and laughter in 2014. Jay, Liesje and Deborah endured an exceptionally snowy, cold winter, looking forward to summer when four amazing interns joined the household: Seth, Alexandra, Kate and Nate. They were a wonderful addition to our group, bringing many gifts to the work of a prosperous community garden, exciting and creative Community Fun Nights, a glowing Future Festival and lovely Friday night potlucks. In addition, we hosted visitors from Project Neighborhood, a Calvin College spring break group and a service group from Palmerston, Ontario, who all helped out at the Huss Project and explored the Three Rivers community.  Now as we make our way toward the end of the year, the Rectory will be losing one its inhabitants as Jay is heads to Grand Rapids to pursue new adventures.  Deborah and Liesje, along with Rob, Kirstin, Julie and David, continue to gather regularly as a core group, sharing and discerning the focus of our work for the coming year.

 

SHARING: Telling tales and tasting treats

by David Stewart

Preparing and eating food and telling stories has become central to what *cino does. This year we hosted Underground Supper Clubs on monastery grounds at St. Gregory’s Abbey and in the heart of downtown Three Rivers in one of the beautiful storefronts along Main Street. We told stories about our origins, local haunts, our favorite books, and about our love of food during storytelling events at the Huss Project. We want everyone to experience these sacred acts as fully as we do, something that has become clearer to us over the past year. There are stories in food, and stories in turn are food for the soul. It is our hope in 2015 to make more stories and to find more amazing ways to serve excellent food to the people who love it.

 

PLAY: Growing friendships with our neighbors at Huss

by Liesje Brouwer

Once again in 2014, Huss served as a site for a summer lunch program in partnership with Three Rivers Community Schools. School-aged kids in our neighborhood enjoyed over 700 lunches throughout the summer, gathered around the new picnic tables we built in June. In addition, the Huss Project hosted weekly Community Fun Nights where friends of *cino gathered for baked goods, garden goodies, games and crafts. 40-60 kids, parents and other neighbors attended each week—more than ever before! *cino invested in flag football gear, which was put to good use every week as we worked together with our young neighbors on building respectful relationships. We cranked up our jammin’ play list and ran around with kids and had conversations with adults and basked in the sun and learned a little bit more about one another. On the final fun night, all the kids gathered around and held a string attached to a homemade piñata, then collectively pulled their strings to break it open. The most popular piñata find: bouncy balls! Community Fun Night and summer lunches help us to stay connected to the neighborhood, and our neighbors. A big thank you to everyone who participated!

 

CELEBRATION: Creative connectivity at Huss Future Festival

by Julie Keefer

The fifth annual Huss Future Fest on July 19 was a day full of activities that brought in over 600 visitors, community partners and volunteers — that’s nearly double the attendance in 2013 and it’s encouraging to see the festival grow as a fun, creative and safe place for neighbors to gather.  Future Fest is the pinnacle of our summer for *cino staff, interns and volunteers who put in countless hours full of blood, sweat and, yes, even sometimes tears to clean, plan, paint, fold, mow, imagine, and clean some more. A highlight this year was partnering with TRAFC (Three Rivers Area Faith Community) to host their annual Back-to-School Celebration.  We saw lots of families coming to the festival to join in the fun and get backpacks full of school supplies. In addition, volunteers from the Huss Project’s community garden sold quinoa salad and grilled veggies and brats, while the locally-famous Weenie King added his hotdog stand to our food options.  This year we hosted our second Coin Carnival partnering with local organizations: Three Rivers Public Library, Red Cross, Save the Frogs, River Country Resilience Circle, Congo Cloth Connection/Florence Church, St. Joseph County Department of Human Services, Pregnancy Helpline, St. Joseph County ISD/Great Start, Animal Rescue Fund and Flowerfield Enterprises.  Many local farmers also donated generous amounts of produce for our mini farmers market: Triple Ripple Community Garden, White Yarrow Farm, Bair Lane Farm, Corey Lake Orchard and Butternut Sustainable Farm.  Dozens of volunteers also helped coordinate many activities for kids, a rummage sale, art vendors, workshops, art installations, a bake sale and live music.  It was a joy to witness such incredible collaboration, which is a primary value we hope to cultivate at the Huss property.  At the end of the festival, our *cino community, friends and festival attendees took the opportunity to celebrate in gratitude for the Huss Project’s fifth anniversary with a five-song dance party!

 

FLAVOR: Sharing fresh, local food with our community

by Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma

Working alongside our neighbors, we continued to produce food at the Huss Project this year in our wild and wooly community garden. In June, we hosted a compost tea workshop where several of us learned how to create organic, nutrient-rich fertilizer for our gardens. Even as we struggled with a streak of vandalism, we distributed the garden produce to individuals and families in need through several agencies in our county. Beyond just our own garden, *cino helped publish a local food and recycling guide for our region.  We also partnered with several local farms this summer to sell their produce alongside our own at the Three Rivers Farmers Market. After the market closed for the season, we gathered additional farm partners and opened the Downtown Harvest Market in a downtown storefront on Saturdays in September and October. Through these efforts, we shared and sold fresh, local food to a wide variety of people in our community, raising over $3,300 for continued food production at the Huss Project in the future.

 

REFLECTION: Pausing to consider with catapult and the daily asterisk

by Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

The question has come up with increasing frequency: what happened to catapult?  With many changes in the lives of *cino community members over the past year, 2014 seemed like a good time to pause for a little while and re-imagine the function, look and structure of this longstanding online publication.  We initiated a survey that gleaned rich feedback from both new and veteran readers and contributors and we look forward to digging into those ideas in 2015 to see what seeds show promise of germination in the spring.  In the meantime, the daily asterisk has continued to be a provocative resource, drawing from many voices past and present, who speak insightfully to the pressing issues of our time with celebration and lament, encouragement and repentance, joy and critique.  If you’re not receiving the daily asterisk already, you can sign up for the e-mail list here and dig into the archives here.

 

CONVERSATION: Discussing our core values, our community, and our future

by Deborah Haak

For all of the hustle and bustle of the year, the *cino staff also made concerted efforts to sit, read, discuss, and dream. We gathered each week over the summer with interns to explore *cino’s core values, and that conversation has continued this fall and winter with a discussion of Peter Block’s book Community: The Structure of Belonging. At the staff retreat this fall, we reflected on 2014, discussing *cino’s successes and shortcomings, evaluating roles and duties in light of staffing changes, and brainstorming where to focus our energy in 2015 and beyond — all while sharing delicious food and enjoying each others’ company!

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Education, People, Three Rivers

The value of ridiculous joy

We scheduled our Garden of Your Mind conversation on our ridiculous joy core value (“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts”) for the week of Future Festival intentionally. At the time we were planning the summer, it seemed like a great idea to experience this value by taking a break for ice cream in the middle of our busiest week of the summer. But during Future Festival week, when it came time to head out to Sand Lake Party Store to indulge in their insanely sized ice cream cones, it didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. We were incredibly busy with last minute details and we were stressed out in various ways about all that needed to be completed by week’s end. Taking time off for ice cream seemed like the last thing we ought to be doing.

And then … we did go out for ice cream and we had a great time and it was exactly what we all needed. In the grand scheme of things, this is a terribly flippant example of what Wendell Berry speaks of in his “Mad Farmer Liberation Front” poem; however, if we don’t practice ridiculous joy in small things, we’ll never be prepared to do so when we desperately need joy in the middle of far more difficult experiences.

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Leadership, Publishing

On resting this summer

A few weeks ago, Comment Magazine editor Jamie Smith asked Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma, *cino co-director and catapult editor, to contribute to a symposium answering this question: What does rest look like for you this summer? Since embarking on the Huss Project adventure five years ago, summer has become our busy season as our schedule becomes packed with programming. Kirstin also recently accepted a full-time position as Head Caretaker for GilChrist Retreat Center in Three Rivers, a transition of time commitments that is still ongoing. So rest seems a bit like a light at the end of a dark tunnel of responsibilities, a light we can’t always make out very clearly.

Here’s how Kirstin’s reflection begins:

It is 7:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning in July. While families on vacation sleep in at nearby lake cottages, resting up for a day of rest, I am placing an order for fair trade coffee so that it will arrive in time to caffeinate the 400-plus people who will be attending our huge summer festival next week.

It is 9:00 p.m. on a Tuesday evening. While eleven teachers from around the country settle into their week of quite solitude at the rural retreat centre where I work, I am clearing dishes from our opening dinner, snapping photos for our Facebook page, and making a mental list of the tasks I simply cannot bring myself to do before I drive home and fall into bed.

You can read the rest of Kirstin’s piece at the Comment web site, alongside other reflections by Norman Wirzba, Jacqueline Melissen and Marilyn McEntyre.

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Education, Publishing, Three Rivers

*cino co-publishes River Country Local Food & Recycling Guide

In 2008, a group of local folks — including *culture is not optional Co-directors Rob and Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma — interested in eating food grown locally started publishing a local food guide with listings of local food producers. The Food Group, as they were colloquially known, published the guide for five years before disbanding.

But we didn’t want to see the guide fall by the wayside; it was a great tool to connect eaters with local farmers.

So this year, *culture is not optional partnered with the St. Joseph County Conservation District to publish the 2014 River Country Local Food & Recycling Guide. We’ve printed 7,000 copies and are working to distribute the guides throughout St. Joseph County, east Cass County and south Kalamazoo County. They are currently available in several businesses and other establishments — including the Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce (please contact us if you’d like guides to distribute at your business).

We also built a handy web site with all the listings, complete with Google maps and reviews. We’re still developing the site, but there’s a lot of information online already!

Thank you to Carol Higgins, the Chair of the St. Joseph County Conservation District, for all of her hard work in gathering listings for this year’s guide.

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*cino Work, Organization, People

Internship application deadline

We are quickly approaching our 2014 summer internship application deadline:  April 15.  If you are still interested in joining the *cino intentional community for this summer, please get your application in as soon as possible. We’re getting excited for all of the new energy to join us as we prepare for summer programming!

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Education, People, Three Rivers

Project Neighborhood visits *cino

Part of what we do at *culture is not optional is to show people why culture is not optional and one of the ways we do that is by introducing various visitors to our rural city of Three Rivers.

This past Saturday, 45 students, mentors, and even a few children from Calvin College’s Project Neighborhood program piled in vans and drove down to Three Rivers for a day of learning and community. Project Neighborhood is a collection of living-learning communities of Calvin students who live in an intentional community for an academic year.  In many ways, the *cino intentional community in Three Rivers is another model for intentional community post-college, providing a basis for interesting conversation throughout the day.

Our day was divided up into segments. We began with an introduction to Three Rivers, to *culture is not optional and to the Huss Project. After lunch, we split into three groups. One group visited a Bluebird Farm, a small local, very organic farm replete with chickens, cows, sheep, maple trees, bees and even a few ducks. One group ventured to St. Gregory’s Abbey, to get a small taste of what it’s like to live a monastic life in rural Michigan. One group toured Downtown Three Rivers, learning about historic architecture and small, local businesses in the the heart of the town. All three groups also toured the Huss Project and were introduced to our current programming as well as our vision for the future.

We then convened everyone for a panel discussion with our intentional community members, specifically the ones living together in *cino’s community house — the Rectory at Trinity Episcopal Church. We finished up the day with an early dinner of soups, breads, conversation, and the feeling of having shared a good day with good people.

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Event, Organization, People

Retreating: Volunteer staff gathers to reflect

As the days in October wound down, the folks at *cino made a decision. We’d been through some transitory times this past summer, and we were feeling a pressing need to regroup. In sports terminology, we needed a rousing halftime speech after a first half full of ups and downs. This need manifested itself in a 24-hour retreat to St. Gregory’s Abbey on the outskirts of Three Rivers. The Abbey has long been a fixture in spring break trips and intern tours, and it’s a place where we all seem to feel a sense of peace. With all that has happened over the past year in our minds, and ideas for the future spilling from our mouths, we packed our sleeping bags and trouped off to the monastery.

So the simple question is: did we find our halftime speech? The easy answer is yes. We came away from the retreat with a clear vision of some things that need to be done, even if other things are perhaps still up in the air. We spent time together thinking about *cino’s vision, our roles within the organization, and what we need to communicate to the many people who aren’t directly involved in the week-to-week business.

In the 24-hour period that we spent at the Abbey, we were able to talk about some of the things that have occurred within *cino over the past few years. We’ve lost and gained people. We’ve raised a heck of a lot of money. We’ve brought ownership to the Huss Project, a building that serves as a foundation for *cino. We’ve brought members of the community into our fold, and made connections with people that are proving strong and enduring.

And so this retreat became more than just a getaway or a (very) short vacation. It was a much-needed break from the business of every day life, a chance for us to sit down and focus on one aspect of that life and try to see it for what it is. We hope in the coming year to continue to invite our many supporters and hopefuls into that vision. So stick with us, and see the best things that are yet to come!

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Building, Event, Hospitality, Organization, People, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

The end of another *cino summer

Summers are a busy time for *cino folks. We tend to cram as much as we can into the good weather, and this summer was no exception (or perhaps it was as we crammed in more than usual!).This is a short list of what we did during the hottest months of the year:

  • Paid off the mortgage on Huss, making it official *cino property!
  • Planned and executed Future Fest, our biggest summer event, designed to demonstrate what’s possible at Huss and build community through creativity and food.
  • Hosted Family Fun Nights every Tuesday from 6:00-8:00 p.m. to enjoy snacks, games and crafts with our neighbors.
  • Continued our series of Underground Supper Clubs, a brand new fundraising effort in Three Rivers that is definitely making waves.
  • Hosted storytelling nights for potential storytellers to come out to Huss and share their tales.
  • Added to our Huss Stories series, with pieces on Gail Walters, Carol Boulette and Luther Channey.
  • Worked on the school every Friday during the afternoon because there’s always something to be done.
  • Hosted school lunches four days a week in partnership with the local schools because kids need food!
  • Attempted to raise more money for the Huss Project through various grants and activities.
  • Hosted the Calvin College Service-Learning Center staff for a day of training.
  • And, of course, we continued to publish catapult magazine and the daily asterisk this summer before taking our traditional August publishing break.

With the end of summer upon us, we enter into a different phase of *cino’s work, one that is perhaps less stressful, but every bit as important. However, this particular year it is a bittersweet respite we face, as the end of this summer of 2013 has brought with it a host of goodbyes. The farewells began in the early summer with our first interns, Jonathan and Ginna, a pair from Costa Rica who came into the *cino community and infected us all with their enthusiasm and creativity. We then saw the arrival and departure of the other interns, Ainsley, Chelsea, and Jonathan (affectionately dubbed Jonathan #2), who brought with them new ideas and a willingness to explore the values and work of *cino. Interns coming and going is something we’ve grown used to at *cino, though we never relish the idea of their departure (and will often persuade them to stick around, if only for just a little while).

We also said goodbye to two longstanding *cino members in Stephanie and Chad, friends who have been integral to *cino’s development both as individuals and then as newlyweds. We know they will do great things in their new location, and their presence will positively impact all those they come across. Our final goodbye came recently, and it was with heavy hearts that the *cino moving crew packed up the belongings of one Emily “Battleship” Ulmer and docked her in her new home, where she will seek the degree she so richly deserves.

These are bittersweet farewells, certainly, but they are also hopeful ones because the connections we find and cultivate at *cino are the kind that last lifetimes, and we know that these goodbyes are temporary things. So we say ‘so long,’ though it may be with heavy hearts, and we take heart from a great human who once wrote, “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

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