‘Fun night’ is Minnesota community’s hands-on counter to climate change

October 10, 2019
‘Fun night’ is Minnesota community’s hands-on counter to climate change

Anxiety about climate change can leave people feeling powerless. The Baha’is of Rochester, Minnesota, decided to do something about that by hosting “Family Fun Night: Caring for Our Earth” in August on a Baha’i’s farm.

“For us personally, as farm owners, our goal was simply to have people out in nature, enjoying the beautiful land that we are blessed to call our home, as well as starting the conversation about small things we can all do to make the world a better place,” relates Tonya Sanner.

“There is so much negative media about climate change and all that is happening right now,” says Sanner, who operates Firefly Berries with her husband, Dean, and four children. “We wanted to be a positive voice for those who were concerned and ready to make some changes. 

“I told one of the guests the world does not need one person acting perfectly all the time. The world needs millions of people making small changes one at a time.”

The idea for Family Fun Night was conceived at an April gathering held to reflect on the community-building activities of Baha’is in the area. 

“Local community members helped me brainstorm topics we wanted to cover, and then for each topic we set up a station to talk with guests and, in some instances, do a hands-on activity,” says Sanner.

So when Baha’is and guests arrived for the Fun Night, they moved from station to station at their leisure. Stations included:

  • Cover crops, crop rotation and companion planting. Dean Sanner spoke with guests about using cover crops and crop rotation in their gardens rather than chemicals to keep the soil healthy. Companion planting springs from the idea that almost every vegetable has a companion plant that can increase soil nutrients, chase away pests, or provide some other benefit.
  • Growing your own garden and shopping local farmers’ markets. The Sanners’ sons Ian, 14, and Lincoln, 7, talked with guests about what a “carbon footprint” is and how we can lessen our impact on the earth by growing even a small portion of our food ourselves and purchasing produce locally.
  • Pollinator power. Tonya Sanner talked about native plants and the importance of providing food and habitat for bees and other creatures that help pollinate garden crops, and the related principle of sustaining the circle and balance of life when it comes to food for other creatures.
  • Slow fashion. Nancy Davis and Tonya Sanner emphasized becoming aware of where our clothing comes from, and looking for clothes that are durable and sustainable — from the standpoint of the environment, human rights, and safe working conditions for people worldwide.  
  • Reducing plastic waste. Becky Meyer and Jim Dunlap spoke of the impact plastic is having on the world and how we can reduce it. They demonstrated various alternatives to plastic and handed out reusable shopping bags, which had been sewn together in an earlier service project.  
  • Eating seasonally. Guests learned about the importance of buying produce in season and about resources that can help with that goal.
  • Music/storytime. This relaxing station featured music by the Sanners’ son Lucas, 16, and Marty Klann. They also brought instruments for younger children to play, and Klann read aloud children’s storybooks about nature and caring for the environment.

“I received a lot of positive response from the evening,” says Sanner. “People had a good time, and even those who thought they were pretty up to date on a lot of the content mentioned to me that they learned new things while they visited at each station.” 


A bucolic setting added to the charm and impact of "Family Fun Night" in Rochester, Minnesota. Photo by Kay Marie Johnson
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A young "Family Fun Night" participant in Rochester, Minnesota, gets a lesson in knitting from host Tonya Sanner. Photo by Kay Marie Johnson
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Host Tonya Sanner (left) points out the qualities of a plant at the "Family Fun Night" in Rochester, Minnesota. Photo by Kay Marie Johnson
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