Rooted and Grounded—Immersion Experiences

October 1–3, 2015

On Friday afternoon, conference attendees will visit one of these local (within one hour drive) sites. Transportation will be provided. On the registration form, please list your first and second choices.

  • Camp Friedenswald This Mennonite camp near Union, Michigan, is home to a variety of landforms, including two prairie fens (unique, glacier-formed wetlands). One of the fens, with a boardwalk through it, is habitat for the endangered Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly. Over 30 of these butterflies were found this summer on site! The camp is working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to introducing a new population in one of the fens.  A burn demonstration will be conducted, weather permitting.  Canoeing and kayaking will be available to explore the lake and the fen modified by a beaver dam.  Led by Simeon Paulson, environmental educator.
  • Elkhart County Landfill and Soil Solutions Visit the county landfill near Elkhart to learn the ways they are working to protect soil and groundwater, as well as how they use methane as a power source. Participants will also visit Soil Solutions, which makes mulch and compost out of industrial, tree, and yard waste, diverting huge amounts of organic material from the landfill. Led by Gene Bontrager of the Elkhart County Landfill and Mike Baum of Soil Solutions.
  • Family Homestead Tour and Prayer Walk (FULL) In November 2010, the Mezsick family  purchased 55 acres of land in Southwest Michigan, 17 of which were an industrially farmed corn and soybean field. Come and see how they are seeking to restore, nurture, and celebrate abundant life in this place. Part tour and part retreat, the afternoon will include conversation and personal reflection about ways in which our homes and farms can reflect and witness to God’s glory. Led by Alyssa Mezsick, AMBS student and farmer.
  • Goshen Wastewater Treatment Plant and CSO Holding Facility Do you know what happens to your water when it leaves your home? This tour will educate you about the process cities use to treat wastewater and return it (even cleaner) to the water system. Also, you will get to see the new facility which holds stormwater from combined sewer overflows (a major problem for many older Midwestern cities), so that it does not pollute the Elkhart River. Led by Jim Kerezman, Wastewater Superintendent for the city of Goshen.
  • Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center (FULL) Merry Lea, a co-sponsor of the Rooted and Grounded conference, is a nature sanctuary and learning center owned by Goshen College, with almost 1200 acres of wetland, prairie, savanna, and sustainable agriculture. This tour will include a visit to Rieth Village, a small-scale sustainable farm (a teaching and producing farm) and ecological restoration projects. Reith Village buildings achieved a Platinum rating in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System. Led by Luke Gascho and other staff members of Merry Lea.
  • Potawatomi Trail of Death (FULL) In 1838, over 850 Potawatomi were forced from their homes in northern Indiana and moved over 660 miles to eastern Kansas. Over 40 of them died on the two-month-long journey, which was documented by a government agent and a beloved Catholic priest. Visit the site of Chief Menominee’s chapel, where the Potawatomi were rounded up for the journey, and a nearby statue of Menominee, who refused to sell his tribe’s land to the state. Visit the Fulton County Museum and its display about the Trail of Death. If there is time, we will also visit one or two of the markers where the Potawatomi camped on their journey. Led by Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian, coordinator of the Trail of Death markers, and co-editor of Potawatomi Trail of Death.
  • Rise Up Farms and Red Oak Community House
    Rise Up Farms is a small farm in Elkhart based on permaculture principles. They run a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and also have a work share option to make the CSA more accessible to the broader community. Immersion participants will get a short tour from farmer Alex Smith, and then will get their hands dirty and volunteer on the farm for about 2 hours. On the trip back, the group will stop for a 30 min. tour at Red Oak, an urban permaculture household and community space. The tour will include an outdoor kitchen building project, renovations to the house, and a conversation about their various simple living experiments, like using candles and a wood-burning stove instead of electric light and heat. Red Oak is part of the Prairie Wolf Collective, a housing co-operative that is creatively responding to affordable housing needs in South Central Elkhart.
  • Waterford Wetland On the south edge of Goshen, Waterford Mennonite Church’s property includes a 55-acre wetland area. This group will follow a developed trail, viewing a marsh, pond, and floodplain forest. You will see a diverse assemblage of shrubs, trees, herbaceous plants, and wildflowers, including a rare native orchid (the only recorded location in Elkhart County). Led by John J. Smith, native plant enthusiast and Professor Emeritus of Teacher Education at Goshen College.
  • Blue Heron Farms and Goshen College Composting  A small family farm based near Millersburg, Blue Heron Farms specializes in raising healthy, happy animals in a pasture-based system, for a meat CSA. The tour will visit the pig operation in Goshen, which uses rotational grazing. The group will also visit the Goshen College campus to see how all food waste from the cafeteria is composted on campus. Led by Adam Derstine of Blue Heron Farms and Glen Gilbert, Sustainability Coordinator for Goshen College.