Bike and Bite Celebrates the International Year of the Cooperative in Minneapolis

Minnesota is topping charts of places to eat and bike, but many may not know that we also live in the land of 1,000 co-ops. To celebrate Minnesota’s top ranking of business cooperatives, the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy (IATP) decided to host their second Bike and Bite community bike event, sending 210 bike enthusiasts on a co-op and local food treasure hunt through Minneapolis on August 18.Erik Ostrom, a Bike and Bite participant, enjoyed the day because of the people and the chance to be active.  “I wanted to go last year, but it was sold out and signed up this year because I like biking and love food,” he said.According to Andrew Ranallo, IATP’s Communications Associate, the original Bike and Bite event celebrated the Institute’s 25th year anniversary. They decided to bring the event back this year to celebrate the 2012 International Year of the Cooperatives and connect with their local community.“We [IATP] do a lot of international work and but are proud to be based in Minneapolis and the work we do with local foods.” Ranallo continued, “ We thought a Bike and Bite this year would be a good chance to highlight the fact that Minnesota has more co-ops than any other state.”Each of the nine stops of the ride spread out through Minneapolis were co-ops or maintain strong relationships with co-ops and exemplify the IATP’swork of supporting a fair, healthy and sustainable food system. Chris Dignan and Rachel Gaulke plan their route to try to hit all the nine stops within the alloted time.The Prairie Fire Lady Choir performs as bikers plan for the day and drink Peace coffee.Everyone loves maps.After making sure their bikes were checked, their helmets were secured and their route was solidified the bikers embarked on their two and a half hour ride through Minneapolis.One of the closest stops on the route was the Wedge Co-op where bikers sampled different types of watermelon.At Growing Lots Urban Farm riders got to walk through the garden and sample some of the fresh produce.Peace Coffee teamed up with The Hub and Cookie Cart to make this a stop of coffee, bike information and cookies.After event participants did their best to make it to all nine stops they made their way back to the IATP for the after-party with food, beverages and live music. [Photo submitted by the IATP] Continue Reading

Human rights prosecutions change world politics, says Kathryn Sikkink, 2012 Robert Kennedy Book Award winner

Kathryn Sikkink, University of Minnesota Regents Professor and Human Rights Program Advisory Board Chair was awarded the 2012 Robert Kennedy Book Award by Ethel Kennedy on May 24 at the United States Institute for Peace in Washington, DC for her work, The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Changed World Politics.This award, given by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights,  honors books that most reflect Robert Kennedy’s priorities of concern for the powerless, even-handed justice, giving youth fair opportunities, and providing a free democratic society to close the gaps of power and opportunity.Sikkink’s book largely focuses on how international states have evolved  to systematically violate human rights which has led to the “justice cascade” where  activists  are working to shift norms and ideas of holding political leaders criminally accountable for the violations.John Seigenthaler, Selection Panel Chair remarked on why Sikkink received the award over 90 other nominees. “Sikkink…has provided readers with compelling evidence that the cause of human rights finally is taking hold in the international community. She documents a trend clearly demonstrating that tyrannical dictators who, in the past, murdered, brutalized, and imprisoned citizen-dissidents and political opponents with impunity, now more frequently face criminal prosecutions and punishment. The result: Justice, once routinely vagrant and still often delayed now finds both traction and viability.”   In receiving this award, Sikkink joins previous distinguished Robert Kennedy Book Award winners including Vice President Al Gore, Congressmember John Lewis, Taylor Branch, Toni Morrison, Jonathan Kozol, and Michael Lewis. What first motivated/prompted you to write The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Changed World Politics?“I had been conducting research on human rights trials around the world for many years, yet I realized that many readers in the United States, both academics and the general public, were not aware of the sweeping changes appearing in the world with regard to accountability for past human rights violations. Continue Reading

MN VOICES | Tenzin Pelkyi: From refugee family to U of M law student

In a coffee shop full of University of Minnesota students behind glowing screens in the peak of finals weekend study hours, there is nothing outwardly remarkable about Tenzin Pelkyi. Her quiet demeanor and small stature are in stark contrast to this college senior’s accomplishments, life story and dedication to advocating for human rights of the Tibetan people and of the diaspora.As a former Tibetan refugee born in New Delhi, India who can still envision India’s yogis, monkeys and beautiful natural environment, she considers herself much like her native Minnesotan U of M classmates.“The great thing about this state is that there are a number different refugee populations here,” Pelkyi said. “With this exposure, many Minnesotans take civic engagement seriously, are aware of the larger world, and are able to think more broadly about society, racism, and education.” Pelkyi’s mother and father escaped Tibet in the 1959 Tibetan Uprising and lived in exile in India till the 1990s. In 1992, Pelkyi’s father obtained one of only 1,000 visas given to Tibetans to resettle in the United States.Minnesota has the second-largest Tibetan refugee population in the United States. Some may wonder why refugees from India, Tibet, or anywhere would come to such a cold and landlocked state as Minnesota. The Twin Cities became the largest of the settlement sites as volunteers successfully organized host families and jobs for the immigrants. Because of restrictions of the U.S. Tibetan Resettlement Project, Pelkyi and the rest of her family were not able to join her father in the United States until four years later. Human Rights ScholarshipTenzin Pelkyi won the Sullivan Ballou award this year from the University of Minnesota. Here’s what she had to say:First of all, it was really amazing and overwhelming to have the Tibetan peoples’ struggle recognized and have all my efforts toward this end read aloud to a room full of people who were as passionate as I am about human rights. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Hmong Farmers Stepping Up to Help Build a Local Food System

ST. PAUL [December, 2011]- All farmers juggle risk – weather extremes, rising production costs and the uncertainty of market prices all affect the bottom line.  Hmong farmers have additional hurdles to enter the marketplace; instability from renting rather than owning land, and lack of capital and credit to secure financial resources for farm improvements or expansion.Free Speech ZoneThe Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases.As Staff Attorney and Hmong Outreach Coordinator for the Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG), a non-profit law center that provides legal services and support to farm families, Hli Xyooj has advocated for Hmong farmers since 2006. The transition from traditional farming practices to operating the farm as a commercial business is a difficult one for many of the farmers, says  Xyooj.  “The farmers came from subsistence farming which was their way of life – not a commercial business. Every day they knew what they had to do and went to the fields.” Hmong farmers have a familiar presence in farmers’ markets throughout Minnesota, but public markets are often flooded with the same products, thus reducing sales for any one farmer.  Sales are further impacted by fluctuating demand and attendance at the market.  So many farmers are produce rich, but cash poor – and without storage facilities, profits perish with the produce. When FLAG learned about the farmers’ barriers to success, they partnered with The Minnesota Project in 2011 to offer farmers assistance through training and connections to new markets.  liHH FarFfFarmers that sought assistance varied widely in their communication and business skills.  English as a second language, complex agriculture regulations, and selling their produce pose on-going challenges.  But some Hmong farmers like Robert and Nancy Lee persisted and pioneered their way to new markets.The Lees live in Albertville, MN and rent farmland in neighboring St. Continue Reading