Education, Publishing, Three Rivers

2016 Local Food & Recycling Guide now available!

*culture is not optional is once again partnering with the St. Joseph County Conservation District to produce and distribute the River Country Local Food & Recycling Guide for 2016. A group of local citizens interested in local food issues started the guide in 2009 and passed it off to *cino and the Conservation District in 2014. The guide provides listings of the numerous farms and markets in southwest Michigan which offer fresh produce, meats, baked goods, maple syrup, honey, and other items. One of *cino’s passions is eating and sharing the food grown by our neighbors, and we love connecting people with local food sources! Also included is a guide to locations at which you can recycle a variety of items.

You’ll find free copies of the guide in businesses and institutions around Three Rivers, Centerville, Sturgis, 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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Organization, Publishing

Topology completes first two issues

When our editorial team for Topology Magazine selected margins and living with the seasons for our first two issue themes, we had a lot of hopes and theories about what to expect from our contributors. Now, two issues in, we must say that our writers are stunning us with the diversity of their creativity and wisdom! In case you missed them, here are links that will bring you directly to all of the content from the first issue on margins and the second on living with the seasons. Each issue features poetry, essays and images taking the themes in a variety of directions.

And if you like what you read, we have great news: there’s more! We’ve begun publishing daily content on our third theme of thriftiness. If you’re a writer, photographer or visual artist, please consider joining our contributor’s e-mail list to receive updates about upcoming themes and deadlines. We look forward to hearing from you!

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*cino Work, Publishing

Announcing…Topology Magazine!

Around 2001, an online discussion board grew up and we launched catapult magazine.  For 12 years, we published catapult every other week, with widely ranging issue themes and content stitched together with a single thread of a question: what does it look like to live out our deepest values in everyday life?

Over time, perhaps we’ve gravitated toward one kind of answer to that question, as we’ve become convicted that a good life must have something to do with living intentionally and deeply in the places where we find ourselves.  Thus, after a publishing hiatus and a bit of dreaming with a new editorial board, Topology Magazine was born durn near midnight on the very evening of a blood red harvest moon and a total eclipse.  It’s just a little fella at the moment, but we have no doubt it will grow quickly as we continue to explore diverse topics through the lens of place.

Check out our inaugural editorial here, and if you like what you read, consider liking our Facebook page or signing up for the weekly e-mail digest on the right side of the home page.  If you might be interested in contributing essays, poetry, artwork or photography, sign up for our contributor’s list.  We look forward to hearing from many corners of the world with this new publishing venture, even as the stories we collect inspire us to more deeply rooted lives where we are!

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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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Education, People, Publishing

A letter from a daily asterisk reader

Note: We recently received this message from Seth Regan, a friend and former *cino intern, and were so touched by the depth of his compassion and thoughtfulness that we wanted to share it with you all.  The John Dear selection appeared as a recent daily asterisk, which is a quote the *cino community sends out via e-mail each weekday.

Yesterday (Sunday) around 4:45 pm, there was a shooting — two separate shootings, in fact — outside my house, targeted at my next door neighbors. They moved in two weeks ago. No one was hurt. The children upstairs thought it was fireworks. The boy who was targeted while sitting in his car was not hurt, though his car is… I saw it happen from my upstairs window.

So today I shakily brought over a box of cookies, baked by my girlfriend especially for them, and knocked on their door. I met a young girl, probably in her late teens. Her name is Hope. There was a young boy, too — Josiah. I introduced myself. We talked. It was pleasant and neighborly.

And then, after walking into my home feeling slightly more empowered, but still very violated and traumatized (and I wasn’t even the target!), I saw this:

God as nonviolent

Imagine God as nonviolent, and worship takes on the fragrance of peace. We enter a deep mystery and bow our heads in awe and wonder and finally, ever so gradually, in imitation of the God of love, evolve into people of nonviolence and peace. The culture of war discounts all this. Its grumbling takes a form something like this: “Such talk is tantamount to heresy. Let go of the vengeful image of God, and what becomes of boundaries? What becomes of order? Worse, such talk amounts to flagrant defiance, stubborn nonconformity, perhaps an act of resistance punishable by law!” The culture of war always tries to instruct us on the nature of God, the definition of sin and morality, the way to be Christian, even human. It knows only “sacred” violence and a god of thunderbolts and fury. And mushroom clouds. Thus the task at hand: to envision the God of peace. For our souls and for the world. The more we envision and grasp the image of the God of peace, the more we’ll fathom Jesus’ teachings, comprehend how to be human, become a peacemaking church of all-inclusive love, and come upon a way or two to help disarm a world armed to the teeth.

John Dear
Put Down Your Sword

Thank you for your work and steadfast commitment to peace. I’m trying to do the same.

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*cino Work, People, Publishing

daily asterisk inspires Epiphany series

One of our catapult contributors, Tamara Hill Murphy, has conducted a wonderful experiment for the season of Epiphany.  Having collected a whole mess of *cino’s daily asterisk quotes over the years, she selected some quotes to use as prompts for guest writers on the theme of where we see the Light in our respective neighborhoods around the world.  Check out the series, called Walking Epiphany, on Tamara’s blog This Sacramental Life.

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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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Organization, Publishing

Reimagining catapult 2014!

Each August for the past few years, our annual publishing break has given us a bit of breathing room to begin dreaming about how to reimagine catapult magazine. For 12 years now, we’ve relied on one relatively consistent format while the world of technology has rapidly changed around us. We’ve known that a change is needed in order to serve our readers well and encourage sustainability for our very small volunteer staff, but one month has never been enough space to deeply consider what this change might look like, much less how to build a new and improved web site around it.

For that reason, we’re going to take some time this fall to listen to ourselves and to our readers as we figure out how to move forward. All of the statistical metrics in the world are no substitution for your thoughtful, human response. If you value catapult, please take a few minutes to fill out our short survey by September 22. We are looking for your feedback about what you appreciate and where you see room for improvement, as well as your inclination to contribute to this collaborative project moving forward.

We will keep you posted on our progress, and in the meantime, please enjoy the daily asterisk, which is a thought-provoking quote that comes out each weekday. Sign up here if you’d like to receive it in your e-mail inbox, or follow *culture is not optional on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you!

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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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