Author Bio

Who Am I? Why Am I Here?

A bit of background. I’m a Midwestern girl through and through, born in Nebraska and raised in Brookings, South Dakota. I’ve made brief sojourns to a few places—a college trip to Spain, a few months on Long Island, and a year of grad school in Vancouver, British Columbia, as well as trips to about half of the 50 U.S. states. I always keep coming back to the plains, though. Despite an intense affection for various mountainous areas, the prairie is definitely home.

While I grew up in the most agricultural state in the country, I had a limited connection to the land. It wasn’t until college at South Dakota State University that I began thinking more deeply about the environment and the biblical mandate to care for it. That all came about through a special topics class, “Philosophy of the Land,” taught by Dr. David Nelson, for which Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America was our primary text. I wrestled terribly with Berry (future posts may describe more) but, in the end, found most of what he said in that book to be right and, consequently, found myself with a new set of convictions about earth-keeping.

Almost a decade ago I took a brief break from South Dakota to spend a few months working temp jobs on Long Island, NY. I remember a particular moment one fall day when I was debating just what to do next in life and where to do it. Stay in New York? Go home? Go somewhere else? It dawned on me that I actually did care about South Dakota—its people and its landscape—and that no one else around me at that moment did. After all, it probably took someone growing up in South Dakota, knowing both its beauties and foibles, to truly care for it. I figured that South Dakota might actually need me (and maybe I needed South Dakota). So, I moved back.

I described that realization to my husband while we were on our honeymoon in 2002. We took a leisurely road trip out west and ended up in Taos, New Mexico, new territory for both of us. We immediately fell in love with Taos with its artsy culture and beautiful landscape. While we ate dinner one evening and contemplated living in a place like Taos or Boulder or Moab, I recounted my New York moment to Cory. We both instantly understood that we had to stay in South Dakota. We loved it, cared for it, and our work was there. Of course, that wasn’t much of a stretch for Cory, who grew up at Lake Herman and had almost every intention of staying there forever. After that conversation, though, we were both certain.

Together we took another short break from South Dakota while I groveled at the feet of some excellent theologians at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. We’ve been back home since April 2005. After having a baby and building a house, we’ve settled in on a couple acres just uphill from the shores of Lake Herman.

Lake Herman on a stormy November 2005 afternoon

Deciding to let our roots continue to grow here is both frightening and liberating. Living here is not easy on a number of levels. Madison has its share of problems. The job market isn’t spectacular, and there’s a fair bit of typical small town politics. But our decision is also incredibly liberating. We have dreams of an organic demonstration garden, some market gardening or a CSA, a straw bale greenhouse, a straw bale art studio, and maybe even a small intentional community. We’d love to open a café someday in Madison supplied with food produced as locally as possible (think the Farmer’s Diner), maybe even some from our own garden. Will we accomplish all this? Probably not. But staying here for the long haul means we have the freedom to think about plans like this. Acting on those plans means caring more and more about our place and our community each day.

When I expressed similar sentiments to my friend David W. last year, he responded with this:

In your e-mail you wrote: “we intend to be here for the rest of our lives.” Reading that reflexively made me sigh a sigh of rest and peace and home. I’m so glad that you are doing something and speaking something–being rooted–that is so important in our mobile, disconnected, fragmented, homeless world. The very fact that you say “we intend to be here for the rest of our lives” oozes hospitality.

Exactly.

(Originally blogged 13 March 2007)

7 Responses to Author Bio

  1. Rebecca says:

    Hey–I’m so glad I found your blog (through Madville Times, which I also found today). I am a small sustainable and non-certified organic grower in Vermillion–raising food and hopefully awareness in my local community.

    Rock on!

    Rebecca Terk
    Flying Tomato Farms
    Vermillion, SD

  2. littlegardenerontheplains says:

    Can you believe it? Rebecca’s new blog led me to yours. I have been working on an M.Div from Vancouver School of Theology on the UBC campus. Have often shopped at Regents bookstores. Sitting here in Pierre for the session, I really wish I was in Vancouver!

  3. Laremy says:

    Hi,
    I’m very interested in learning more about what you’re about, connecting, brainstorming etc. Right now I’m on a one year philosophy teaching stint in NW IA (Dordt, have you heard of it?), but am looking at the future. I’m thinking coffee shop, sustainable agriculture with some friends, straw bales, the whole nine yards. I’d love to pick your brain. Shoot me an email.

    Nice to come across your blog.

    Laremy De Vries

  4. Charlie johnson says:

    Erin,

    Please send me your e-mail adress. I have an organic “surplus is a blessing” program idea to share with you.

    Charlie

  5. Patti Hanson says:

    I currently am the SD Dietary Managers Association State President, working in Food service for 30 plus years, managing for 19. I struggle daily with the conflict of types of foods served to patients (full of chemicals, additives, preservatives, dyes) the restrictions placed by administrative budgets, the foods I choose to eat (locally grown, organic, healthy non modified, foods) all the hypocracies. I wish to pursue an opportunity to get into organics, sustainables..meet people, network. I do not have a farm, I’m city bound, but long for the life I’m destined to lead….with the desire to make a difference. I’d appreciate any input, comments, advice…where do I begin?

  6. djweste says:

    Erin,

    been a while, but a only blink in geologic time.

    hope you and yours are well.

    drop me a line at david@faceandfood.com

    david westerlund
    bellingham, washington

  7. Hi,

    Just saw that you are a kindred spirit — I moved back to my homeplace in rural Frederick, S.D., in 2008. I’m now editor of a project called Dakotafire — you can read more at http://www.dakotafire.net/about . The project will eventually get close to Madison — we hope to connect with the Miner County Pioneer. Our original plan doesn’t have us going into Lake County, but who knows — fire likes to spread, so maybe Dakotafire will, too!

    If you are ever looking for an outlet for your writing or photography, please let me know.

    Thank you,
    Heidi Marttila-Losure
    Editor, Dakotafire Media

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