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  • HDT Team

Get to Know the HDT Board – Molly Zins

Happy Dancing Turtle has been around since 2007 and we’ve had many board members. Some are locally famous while others prefer to work in the background. The goal of our board is to give our team a direction in which to point our efforts. With each board member coming from many different backgrounds, we are fortunate to have many different knowledge bases to draw from.

We were thrilled to learn that Molly Zins accepted our invitation to be a member of our board of directors. As the executive director of the Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (CRSDP), Zins has a direct connection with the University of Minnesota Extension program and a deep understanding of the breadth of sustainable practices throughout the region. We sat down with Zins to talk about where she sees HDT currently sitting on the sustainability field, and where she sees it heading into the future.

“All the work that goes on here is very closely aligned, if not spot on, with my personal priorities.”


Zins during an interview recorded on November ’16.

“The work with the board and my personal priorities align in a way that let me get the inside scoop on how do all these really terrific education programs take shape? These are some of the resources that my family or my kids could tap into, maybe I could grab a chance to talk with Quinn to see how these programs could be duplicated in a different community. I love seeing the nuts and bolts of it and how it all begins and where it goes from there.”

Zins added, “The priorities I’ve seen exemplified working with your staff…are early childhood and K-12 education as well as the sustainable agriculture. Another piece that permeates all that is how those two feed into community resilience as a whole. Fostering vital healthy community members.”

Molly ZinsBoard

Zins Board Photo ’14

Taking a look at what CRSDP has done to leverage and promote sustainable practices in the region, Zins knows that it takes diverse ideas from many different sources to create a region that is ready to handle all that the future has in store. Take for instance, the Cows for Clean Water initiative (CFCW), supported through a CRSDP grant. This initiative strives to leverage the proactive management of local ranches to support economic development in the region. Zins believes that through the work of HDT and other organizations, we can help maintain water quality throughout the area.

CFCW is the brainchild of HDT Food & Water Security Manager, Jim Chamberlin. The premise of CFCW is to support ranchers in the Pine River Watershed that are implementing practices that build soil health and preserve water quality by connecting them to consumers interested in purchasing high quality beef.

“All of Jim’s work with food & water security that are near and dear to his heart. . .are examples of best management practices on the land that increases soil health [and] are the very foundation of protecting our waters. Jim and I have had this conversation many times, but we’re preaching to the choir!”

It’s programs like this that Zins believes can be transplanted to other communities or even larger regions. Moreover, it’s not only the funded programs like CFCW that Zins thinks can be replicated. HDT’s Eco Camps, four weeklong day-camps, held in the summer and Tiny Turtles, an educational program for 4 and 5 year old children, have activities and a framework that can be shared and potentially implemented by organizations in other areas.

Zins explains, “Time and resources are limited, so you can’t clone your team. Until we can and put them in every community across the five county region, maybe there’s an opportunity to capture some of these case studies or a step by step guide [or] start some of these programs in Little Falls or Pierz.”

That’s high praise for someone who has such a large purview over conservation and environmental education programs in Minnesota.

Zins concluded, “Fostering healthy sustainable human and natural communities, the answers lie in that body of work, that research and demonstration, experimentation, and ultimately the education and awareness that stems from all of that…I think you’re onto something.”


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