Some people fantasize about moving out to the country and living off of the land. For Greg Nolan and Marcia Rapatz, this dream is a way of life. "Our property supplies all our needs," says Marcia of their 80 acres near Cushing, Minnesota. They have a solar-powered home that was built with wood from their land, a composting toilet that reduces their water consumption, an extensive fruit and vegetable garden, a pasture where they raise grass-fed cattle, and about 50 acres of diligently managed woodland.
Greg and Marcia also run a land-based business, Snowy Pines Reforestation, through which they sell their produce at farmer's markets, perform a variety of forestry services, and produce lumber for fine hardwood flooring. "Part of what we're trying to do is to sequester carbon," says Greg, noting that he's read about the need to care for the atmosphere through reducing greenhouse gas emissions ever since he was in high school. "The one and only rule is we want to leave this property better than when we got it," says Marcia, describing their primary goal for the land. "Taking care of this little piece of land that we're so lucky to live on creates benefits for us now, but also for generations to come."
As small business owners and passionate stewards of the land, the couple has found a variety of ways to get involved in their community through forestry such as supplying local schools and churches with free with free trees to plant. Greg has also been involved in multiple local planning efforts including the Todd County Comprehensive Plan and the Forest Landscape Plan created by the Minnesota Forest Resources Council's West Central Landscape Committee. "I am a long-range planner?I do trees," he says. Greg currently serves as vice chair of the West Central Landscape Committee, representing private landowners and local forestry businesses. The membership consists of private landowners, current or retired government agency employees, and people from the local soil and water conservation district. Occasional guest speakers include economic developers or employees from other natural resource agencies.
"I think the committee is a good vehicle for policy, because we can have a direct line to the governor."
Greg has been involved in other various projects with the committee such as organizing tree planting events and exploring local wood processing markets. He sees several benefits from involvement such as connecting with retired foresters and other landowner community leaders, and even local legislators who sometimes attend. He notes, "I think the committee is a good vehicle for policy, because we can have a direct line to the governor." He also appreciates how the committee helps connect him to the big picture while letting him share his ideas. "We could take care of large swaths of land if we would just change the way we think. That's why I keep trying. I like to have a voice."