Several years ago, I stepped onto the Northland College campus to interview Dr. Alan Brew about Superior Connections for the Star Tribune. I paused in a scent of pine and the clarity of northern sun and tumbled back fifty years to my days at another college in the North Country, St. Lawrence University, not far from the St. Lawrence Seaway, in Canton, New York. In my work as a writer, teacher, and wilderness guide, I’ve drawn on all that I experienced there as I’ve made the decisions that shaped my life. Later that day, I met several Northland students at the Black Cat Coffeehouse who shared their journey around Lake Superior. I was captivated by their stories of adventure and inspired by their insight. I felt among kindred spirits. These confident, capable young adults were clearly committed to living Northland’s values as they moved from campus out into the world.
Over the past forty years, my husband, Kevin, our three sons, and I have spent summers on Madeline Island where Northland casts a wide net. I’ve met Northland alumni who work for the state park and attended lectures by Northland professors on the history and ecology of this place. Kevin, who serves on the Wilderness Preserve board, has worked with Northland students conducting a variety of wildlife studies. When guiding local food kayak trips for Wilderness Inquiry’s “Taste of the Apostles” tour, I worked with Northland students who managed the camp at Little Sand Bay, guided trips, interned at local farms, and helped me when I catered events.
Those of us who are drawn to the power and beauty of this magnificent lake feel called to protect it. Alongside Northland students, I’ve completed the Point to La Pointe swim, marched in Farms not Factory rallies, and protested the open pit iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills. We’ve harvested wild rice, fished for trout and whitefish, and cooked shore lunch over open campfires.
It’s the Hulings Rice Food Center that won my heart; its mission is so close to my work as a food writer, cookbook author, and food justice advocate. I’ve co-chaired the Food Policy Council for the City of Minneapolis, working to ensure the right of every citizen to fresh nutritious food; I serve on the board of The Good Acre, a food hub that connects and strengthens farmers, food makers, and communities through good food. Growing local food with best practices plays a critical role in the health of Lake Superior, our waterways, our soil, our fish, pollinators, wildlife, and finally, our climate. Food provides a window into the region’s environment, history, culture, and economy. Food tells our story—personal and collective—the story of migration, survival, conquest, and celebration. Northland’s Food Center is a bold and innovative educational initiative, a practical and powerful extension of Northland’s core values.
It is a true honor to serve on the Northland College Board of Trustees and to forge deeper personal and professional connections with the staff, professors, alumni, and especially the students. These days, as I approach my seventieth year, I am heartened and grateful for their commitment to a just, verdant, and healthy future for their generation and those to come.
Beth Dooley joined Northland’s Board of Trustees in October 2022. She is an author of twelve books, co-author of the James Beard- awarded The Sioux Chef ’s Indigenous Kitchen, a Star Tribune columnist, and radio personality who writes about and advocates for sustainable, regenerative farming.