Green Living: Order Your Electric Car NOW! Steve Waller

PEV, plug-in electric vehicle, green living, sustainability, UP holistic wellness publication, UP holistic business

We finally got our all-wheel-drive plug-in electric vehicle (PEV)—no gasoline engine and no more CO2 emissions. We’ve been driving it hard for a couple of months and tallied over 6,000 miles, including a few 400-mile trips from the U.P. to Chicago and to Detroit.

Based on my experience, you should order yours now because it takes 6 months to more than a year for delivery. As you hesitate to order, the prices keep increasing. They can now cost as much as a new crew cab fossil truck, but cheaper models are available.

Fossil gas drivers have “range anxiety” (fear of running out of battery) but PEVs today have plenty of range, some over 300 miles on one charge. We rarely drive more than 100 miles a day and we recharge at home. It’s like having a gas station in your garage. Charge overnight with an ordinary 240V garage outlet and wake each morning to a fully charged vehicle ready for another long day of driving. For apartment dwellers, there are programs for owners to add parking lot chargers or just fill up at your local public charger, then drive home, just like you do with a gas guzzler. Either way, PEVs drive cheaper.

We drive electric for about $.04 per mile.

Our gasoline car averages a respectable 28 MPG but still cost $.16 per mile. Our PEV gets 131 MPGe in the city and 117 MPGe on the highway. It’s 75% cheaper to drive, saving about $300 per month in gasoline expense. Plus, there is almost no maintenance–no oil changes, muffler, catalytic converter, or tune-ups. PEVs have few moving parts, there is much less to fail so there are fewer repairs. We do occasionally add a windshield washer.

People worry that the batteries will die in a couple of years but federal law mandates that batteries be warrantied for a minimum of eight years or 100,000 miles. Old PEV batteries don’t die, they just have about 5%-10% less range. Experts suggest today’s batteries will last 10-20 years–300,000 miles or more.

On our 400-mile trips, after about 250 miles we needed to recharge as expected, but plenty of rechargers are available. We never experienced “range anxiety.” It takes 20-40 minutes, depending on the recharger’s power, to recharge to about 80% capacity, enough to finish the trip. Rechargers are usually in the parking lots of major grocery chains or near snack areas, and more are being added nationwide. Recharging takes just enough time to stretch your legs, tap a kidney, visit the stores, enjoy a snack, or just lay back and relax for a bit. After hours of continuous driving on a long trip, the break is welcome and healthy. We recharge while the car recharges.

The experience of PEV driving is different—tons of power, electric everything. It’s like driving a computer with wheels except that PEVs often do much of the driving for you. With multiple cameras and sensors, PEVs are very good at adjusting your cruising speed to traffic, keeping the car centered in the lane, and avoiding hazards. It sees and senses more than you can and reacts faster, making PEVs some of the safest cars on the road. People express fears of battery fires, but records show that you are ten times more likely to have a gas-guzzler car fire than a battery-car fire.

Michigan charges a $100 electric registration fee and a $40 electric tax to compensate for road maintenance gasoline taxes that PEVs don’t pay. One month’s gas savings easily exceeds Michigan’s fees, so drive safer, save money, and stop emitting CO2. Order your PEV today.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at

Excerpted from the Fall 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Co-op Corner: Prescription for Health Program Debuts at 10 Area Farmers Markets

Prescription for Health program, Marquette Food Co-op education & Outreach, UP holistic wellness publication, UP holistic business
Sarah Monte, MFC Outreach Coordinator & Amanda Latvala, MFC Education Coordinator at the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market

One in 7 people in the U.P. are food insecure. At 14%, the U.P. has a higher food insecurity rate than the national average of 10.5%. Members of the U.P. community whose work is focused on food and health were invited to meet regularly to help direct these efforts. From those meetings, the Food as Medicine Partnership, a collaborative that is bringing Prescription for Health programs to communities across the Upper Peninsula, emerged.

This group, which includes twenty-five organizations, businesses, and individuals, envisions a collaborative food system in the Upper Peninsula that provides nutrition education and equitable access to wholesome, local, and affordable food for all residents. The first project the group took on is a Prescription for Health program, generously funded by the Superior Health Foundation. This Prescription for Health program is unique in that it addresses food access from both the customer and supplier side.

The Prescription for Health program uses a medical referral process for enrollment.

Participants receive a referral from a participating healthcare provider with a prescription for adding fresh fruits and vegetables to their diets. To qualify for the program, individuals must be at risk for or diagnosed with a chronic health condition, face economic barriers to food access, and be 18 years of age or older.

Participants enrolled into the program will receive vouchers to purchase fruits and vegetables from participating local farms. Each participant will receive a total of $15 per week during the 20-week season. The referral process is administered by the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress (UPCAP).

A goal of Food as Medicine and Prescription for Health is to provide these services as widely as possible. The U.P. Food Exchange (UPFE), a collaborative local food network the Co-op helps administer, has members located across the U.P. and active in local food and farmers markets. Members were able to help identify and onboard farmers markets that could participate in the program.

This is more complicated than it sounds, as many markets in the Upper Peninsula are small and lack a market manager. For Prescription for Health to work, the market must have regular produce vendors and a market manager or fiduciary that can be a central contact for the Food as Medicine team to work with.

The current list of farmers markets includes:

Bay Mills/Brimley Farmers Market, Main St. Calumet Farmers Market, Depot Park Farmers & Artisans Market (Ironwood), Houghton Farmers Market, Hancock Tori & Farmers Market, Gladstone Farmers Market, Downtown Marquette Farmers Market, Munising Farmers Market, Newberry Farmers Market, and the Sault Ste. Marie Farmers Market. We hope that more markets can be added as the program continues.

A second focus of the Prescription for Health Program is to ensure that the farms receive support to help them increase the produce available at farmers markets. Farm debt is a huge problem across the country—even small-scale farming requires a high debt burden that is difficult to pay back, especially with an income that varies seasonally. UPFE and the Food as Medicine team want to help alleviate the debt barrier that keeps farms from starting or expanding.

The first ever UPFE mini grant program awarded nine farms $14,000 to increase their cold storage capacity. Funds can be used for the materials and labor to build new or additional facilities, as well as access to technical assistance for construction and HVAC. Grant recipients are also required to work with the U.P. Produce Safety Technician to ensure all the facilities and harvest systems are following best practices.

This funding will support the increase of local food production by ensuring that farms have a place to safely store produce until it can be sold.

Cold storage facilities are also essential for extending the agricultural sales season by providing space for keeping storage crops that can be sold well into the winter, directly supporting the growth of the U.P. farm economy and increasing access to local food for all residents.

This year’s grant recipients include Boersma Family Roots CSA and Farm, North Harvest CSA Farm, and Minnie Farms in the Western U.P.; Snowy Acres, U.P. Gourmet, and Full Plate Farm in the Central U.P., and Jere Farms, Gordon’s Produce, and Dutcher Farm in the Eastern U.P.

This grant program was developed in partnership with UPFE team members that include: The Marquette Food Co-op and the U.P. Food Exchange, Western Upper Peninsula Planning District Region (WUPPDR), Bay Mills College/Waishkey Bay Farm, Fresh Systems LLC, Renegade Sheep, the Marquette County Conservation District/Michigan On-Farm Produce Safety, Portage Health Foundation, and the North Farm/Upper Peninsula Research & Extension Center. Many partners were instrumental in spreading the word about the grant opportunity across the Upper Peninsula. And of course, the Superior Health Foundation funding made this possible.

A collaborative network is essential to make changes in our communities.

To grow our local food system and increase access to healthy food for all residents, we must work together. We offer our thanks to all the UPFE, Food as Medicine, and farm market partners for their work.

To learn more about the Food as Medicine Program, visit or email Sarah at To become an owner of the Co-op and support future initiatives like Prescription for Health, visit

*Article provided by the Marquette Food Co-op.

Excerpted from the Fall 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Positive Parenting: How You Can Help Young Women & the World through STEM, Chris Standerford

Positive Parenting, importance of STEM, UP Holistic Wellness Publication, UP holistic business

Did you know you can help young women increase their ability to create a prosperous, satisfying future for themselves and others through STEM?

As defined by Michigan, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics delivered in an integrated fashion using cross-disciplinary learning experiences that can include language arts, performing and fine arts, and career and technical education.

By this definition, STEM is an integrated and authentic range of subjects and skills that work together and help us understand the world and find solutions to the problems we see. Put another way, humans are a part of both the natural and social worlds. Our curiosities and passions rely on skills such as observing, noticing patterns, understanding cause and effect, experimenting, troubleshooting, and so many more. These skills can bring joy and success to the things we love. And these skills are STEM skills.

As parents, we can help our youth recognize the parts of their identity that are deeply connected to STEM.

In fact, our communities need our help to inspire youth, particularly our young female students, to see themselves as capable, passionate, and successful in STEM.

Whether you love gardening, painting, tinkering in the workshop, yoga, paddling, camping, cooking, playing video games, performing, or lounging on the beach, STEM is a part of these experiences, and often adds a depth and a beauty to them. For example, when you garden, through understanding the needs of the plants you’re raising, you’re constantly learning and appreciating your garden ecosystem’s complexity and how amazing those plants truly are, much more so than if you simply picked up the same vegetables from the grocery store. As community members, parents, and teachers we can help our children realize that the things they love to do are in fact how they are making sense of the world.

To get started, let’s break down our actions into three simple things that might help us inspire our youth, particularly our young females, to consider STEM in their futures: Things we need to know, things we need to say, and things we need to do.

Things We Need to Know

As parents, mentors, and role models, we need to believe everyone can find joy, and yes, even a career in STEM so that the many complex issues facing the world today (i.e. social justice, medicine/health, energy, food shortages, climate change, etc.) can be better addressed. We need to first recognize that our own hobbies and interests are deeply connected to STEM in ways we perhaps haven’t fully acknowledged yet.

We also need to recognize and be aware of current trends and opportunities in STEM. Despite gains in the number of women pursuing some STEM careers, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, women are proportionately half as likely as men to major in math, computer science, science, engineering, and technology. These fields are fast-growing, often more lucrative than those that were considered “women’s fields,” and in need of diverse ways of thinking. From data science to cybersecurity to advanced manufacturing, the need for talent and innovation is unprecedented.

Things We Need to Say

How we communicate is important; our choice of words matter. As parents, mentors, and role models, we must be diligent in how we talk about STEM with our children. First, we can communicate that it’s not about being ‘good at math or science,’ or finding the ‘correct answer.’ Rather, it’s about learning through our experiences and using our senses to notice things in the world, using our curiosity to ask questions about what we see, and leveraging multiple sources of information (i.e. text, conversations, pictures, experiences, models, etc.) to develop our ideas.

Second, it is hugely important to caution ourselves against sharing our own bias with students and unconsciously portraying STEM as difficult, overly technical, being largely for boys, or some of us not being good at it.

Have you ever heard an adult colleague, friend, or perhaps yourself say, “I was never very good at math”? This comment is easily spoken, but can leave a lasting impression on young minds. Much research has been done about the influence of our beliefs as a factor in feeling confident in our abilities in a subject.

We need to do better to foster a strength-based mindset when we talk about STEM with students. Start with what children enjoy and accomplish well, highlighting those skills and building toward new learning and new skills over time.

Things We Need to Do

As parents, mentors, and role models, we need to seek out opportunities for children to have supplemental STEM experiences outside of school. These experiences can be organized camps offered through local libraries, churches, science or nature centers, non-profits, museums, schools and universities, or simple, impromptu nature walks with family.

By encouraging students to make observations, look for patterns, and talk about what they are thinking, we open up their STEM mindset. We don’t need to have all the answers to their questions. We simply need to be willing to ask our youth to say more about their thinking, and to encourage them to develop their ideas and understanding.

If you are looking for more formal experiences, there are many resources in the Upper Peninsula and across the state to explore. The list below offers potential first steps, and connecting with your regional MiSTEM director may also help.

• Northern Michigan University Camps, Student Programs, and STEM degrees
• Michigan Technological University Camps, Student Programs, and STEM degrees
• Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT) – K-12 Initiative
• Michigan Women Forward (MWF) – Empower Girls & HERstory
• STEMinista Project
• Photo Essay: Women in STEM from The Michigan Daily
• Michigan Learning Channel STEM for girls content: Future of Me – Explore STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers; Career Girls – Career guidance videos

Chris Standerford serves as one of sixteen Regional Directors for the Michigan STEM (MiSTEM) Network. He works to connect, convene, and collaborate with stakeholders from business, community, and education. Mr. Standerford also serves as the director of the Seaborg Math & Science Center at NMU.

Excerpted from the Fall 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Green Living: Are You a Biophiliac?Steve Waller

biophilia, love of nature, humans as part of nature, UP holistic wellness publication, UP holistic business

Do you crave a quiet weekend at the cabin with a view of the lake or the ocean?

Are you inspired by a mountainous panorama or a garden bursting with colorful flowers and butterflies?

Does a buck deer running through the woods rivet your attention?

Can a short walk outdoors make you feel a lot better?

Is your dog or cat part of your family?

Are you happy that the house plant you’ve tended for years is doing so well?

Then yes, you are a biophiliac.

Erich Fromm (1900-1980), a German social psychologist, originally said biophilia is the “passionate love of life and of all that is alive…whether in a person, a plant, an idea, or a social group.” E. O. Wilson (1929-1921), Pellegrino University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University, claimed that “our natural affinity for life―biophilia―is the very essence of our humanity and binds us to all other living species.”

Biophilia is the recognition that you are part of the natural world.

Your ancestors, for hundreds of generations, lived in and depended on the fields and forests. In exchange, they were imprinted with an appreciation of the hazards, bounty, and beauty in wild, spontaneous nature. Sure, they had to struggle through some of nature’s challenges, but afterwards they were rejuvenated by a warm breeze on a summer’s night, a conversation at the campfire, or a cool dip in the lake.

That imprint, passed down from the ancestors, has not diminished. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize in the bustle of modern times, but given an opportunity, the feelings are still there.

Artists, photographers, musicians, all strive to capture the “essence” of nature because it is so appealing. Architects incorporate living plants and bright skylit rooms to make their urban structures feel warm, spacious, airy, and inviting, more like the outdoors. Subconsciously, they acknowledge that most of us are biophiliacs, even if we don’t realize it. When the right nature button is pushed, we get warm and relaxed.

For many, biophilia is the reason we live in the UP.

We want to be closer to nature than to Detroit or Traverse City. We want to meander along a river that runs clear and cold, home to wily brook trout. We don’t want to see human trash or fences. If we lived down south, we couldn’t talk about how we are so tired of winter but love how the trees look after a snowstorm. Biophilia makes us endure the cold so that we can see those lacy white trees once again.

Birds come in a dazzling array of colors, yet none of the colors ever clash. All birds’ colors go together. Is it because the birds are just snappy fashion-smart feather-dressers? Or is it because our sense of color and what goes with it is based on what humans have experienced in nature for thousands of years? Biophilia likely shapes our sense of color, beauty, and art.

That sense of beauty even extends to our preferences in partners. When we say someone is beautiful or handsome, is it because we are drawn to a certain brand of makeup or shirt, or are we drawn to the person beneath all that dressing? Our ancestors evolved this crazy habit of choosing partners that they found attractive and passed that imprint on to us. Biophilia shapes our preferences.

You might discount this ancient influence and think your modern choices are beyond primal inheritance. You might think it is all just a nostalgic excuse for common and conventional thought. But it’s not. It’s art. It’s beauty. It’s natural. You’re a biophiliac.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at

Excerpted from the Summer 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Bodies in Motion: Moving Your Body & Perceptions to a New State of Wellness, Mohey Mowafy

weight bias, movement for health, healthy perspective on weight, physical fitness, UP holistic wellness publication, UP holistic business

We may or may not admit it, but we tend to judge people based on their appearance, particularly their body weight/size. Well, there is nothing in any appearance that should be used singularly to determine one’s health.

Back in 1975, I began developing a short, two-credit class about obesity. It was held on summer weekends at a camp that Northern Michigan University owned at the time. The paradigm I developed and taught turned out to be embarrassingly erroneous. Admittedly, I had fallen into the misperception that “if one is fat, everything is wrong about that one.”

A common bias that exists is to judge the entire personality of another human by their body weight, pretending we are simply worried about their health. Worse is the agonizing psychological pain that the overweight person must endure, believing it is all their fault. Admittedly, this is practiced far more fiercely against females than it is against males.

Fast forward to 1978, when I was attending a conference on the subject of obesity and eating disorders. One day, I wandered inside a room where the presenter’s talk convinced me that I had been wrong for so long. Her presentation stopped me dead in my tracks. I felt like I was perceiving the world through a new pair of soul lenses.

She was introducing a brand-new concept—that of “Health at Every Size,” a term later trademarked by the Association for Size Diversity and Health in 2003. Health at Every Size (HAES) opposes the idea that a person’s body weight and size is an accurate, full-picture representation of their health status. Naturally, I formed the NMU student organization “Good Health for All Sizes.” Yup, got the T-shirt to prove it! The concept rests on an enlightened assumption: A person’s health is much more nuanced than one single calculation.

Because we all have an internalized weight bias (applying negative stereotypes to ourselves and/or others),….

….ask yourself what “kind” of images of people you see in ads, on billboards, and in most of our films and series. Large folks are never portrayed as desirable. Yes, we have been doing better more recently. But how many people do you know who dismiss generous-size folks as far less than “okay”? Most of us believe that those who do not fit the “ideal” image have only themselves to blame because they must be lazy and gluttonous. Well, this might be true of some, but I assure you, not all. No wonder those with large sizes also adopt such a devastating belief! I was an obese child; I know.

Think of someone you know who has struggled with her/his weight all of their life, then ask yourself this question: Why is it that every time they starve themselves on a diet, they gain all the weight back plus a little more? Heaven knows, I tried to convince my sisters not to follow the unenlightened crowds, to no avail.

In my classes, or in any presentation to any group about this subject, I use a moment from the movie Gone with the Wind. When Scarlett went back to Tara, hungry and with no food in the mansion, she had to dig a potato from the ground. She swore “As God is my witness, I shall never be hungry again.” That is what our body tells us when we starve it. My stock answer when anyone asks me about a diet they want to follow to lose weight is this—“if you can live on it the rest of your life, go for it.”

So, if going on a diet is something we always do but it always fails us, or we fail it (96% of those who attempt to lose weight by “going on a diet” regain it, plus a few more pounds), consider a new possibility. The answer will not sound “conventional” to you, I am afraid. Try this to liberate your mind by considering a far more realistic paradigm to be healthy and yes, spunky. I have always asked my students to add to the list of health measurements one that I call “spunk.” Well, academically, it is called “activity.” It simply requires muscle movement, which the muscles were born to love. Seriously, when we are reasonably active, our muscles not only work, they work better, and they just love it! Science has shown that our muscles do not just move us around; they are also potent metabolic regulators on a cellular and sub-cellular level.

Moving our muscles need not be called exercise.

It’s okay if the word doesn’t frighten you. But if it does, just don’t call it anything. Moving need not be a chore and certainly oes not dictate a gym membership. My personal favorite now (or perhaps I should add, at my age), is walking. Yes, just walking. Ask those who walk. They not only feel alive, they have a special relationship with themselves (including their emotional/psychological/spiritual selves).

How about just dancing, even when no one is watching? It is much more fun when we act silly on purpose. And, how about finding some simple movements that you can do at home even while you are sitting if you need to? The idea of “use it or lose it” may apply very well here.

Finally, I would like to clarify that I am not advocating obesity if it is not a person’s normal state. Yes, it can be helpful to calculate Body Mass Index and waist size as a measurement of general health. But how we go about “fixing” it needs to become more enlightened than what has been typical so far.

Mohey Mowafy is a retired Northern Michigan University Professor. He graduated from the University Wisconsin (Graduate work at the Muscle Biology Institute and the Biochemistry Departments). He is married to Kristen Mowafy, and is the father of Adam Mowafy.

Excerpted from the Summer 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Healthy Cooking: The Art of Blueberry Pie, Val Wilson

There is nothing as sweet as wild blueberries picked fresh in the UP! The challenging part is not eating all of them as you pick so you still have enough to make a pie. The beautiful flakey crust and rich blue color can make that pie look like a work of art!

There are many health benefits in these little sweet berries. Blueberries are full of antioxidants, which are important for getting rid of free radicals in our bodies that can cause disease. What gives those beautiful blueberries their blue color is the antioxidant anthocyanins which studies have shown can help prevent neuronal diseases, cardiovascular illness, cancers, diabetes, and other inflammatory diseases. 

Containing vitamin K, iron, calcium, and zinc, blueberries are good for your bones. They also contain vitamins C, A, E, magnesium, folate, manganese, and beta carotene, and are high in fiber and protein. Plus research has shown consuming blueberries can help increase the rate of muscle strength recovery and muscle repair if you suffer from exercise induced muscle damage (EMID). And the wild berries are reported to have more of the healthy antioxidants and, in my opinion, more sweetness. 

In the following recipe I use whole grain flour. I prefer spelt or kamut flour. If you want to create a gluten-free crust, I would suggest using oat flour. Any flour will work to create the crust for this recipe. 

Blueberry Pie*

3 cups whole grain flour 
1/2 cup olive oil 
1/2 cup water 
Pinch of sea salt 

5 cups blueberries 
1/2 cup brown rice syrup 
2 T. lemon juice 
5 T. arrowroot 
1 tsp. cinnamon 

To make the crust, mix together all the ingredients until you get a firm dough that will hold together. Divide into two equal parts, form into round discs, and cover in plastic wrap. Put in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, then roll out the crust between two pieces of plastic wrap and put in an oiled pie pan.

For the filling, put all of the ingredients in a sauce pan, then cover and heat on low. Once the filling starts to heat up, the blueberries will release their natural juices. Once this occurs, mix everything together. As it heats, the arrowroot will thicken the filling.

Pour filling into bottom crust. Roll out the top crust in the same way as the bottom crust. Place the top crust over the pie and pinch the edges to create a decorative edge. Bake at 350 degrees or one hour. Let cool before cutting.

*Recipe from Chef Val’s new cookbook Simply Healthy Scrumptious Desserts

Chef Valerie Wilson has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. She offers weekly, virtual cooking classes that all can attend. Visit for schedule, cookbook purchases, phone consultations, or radio show, and follow her on Facebook at Macro Val Food.

Excerpted from the Summer 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Positive Parenting: Planning a Family-Friendly Food Forest, Aster Michelsen

family-friendly activities, positive parenting, planning a food forest with your kids, UP holistic business, UP holistic wellness publication

Think back to the last time you relaxed or played in nature. The calming presence of trees… the rich aroma of earth…the invigorating tickle of sand or grass on your feet.

As with the arts, nature immersion provides a healing experience for mind, body, and spirit. You may even agree that it’s an essential element in the art of life!

While time outdoors is good for everyone, the benefits for children are especially compelling. Hundreds of studies show that spending time in nature is essential for their development, including helping them develop:

  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved cognitive development
  • Better memory and attentiveness
  • Lower risk of myopia
  • Lower stress hormones
  • And many more benefits

Sadly, children are spending less time outdoors in nature than ever before. And it’s taking its toll in skyrocketing levels of childhood obesity, attention difficulties, depression, and other physical and mental disorders.

A Natural Solution

Most parents don’t intentionally separate kids from nature. It’s a byproduct of the world we live in. Gone are the days when parents could safely let their kids roam the neighborhood unsupervised. And with most parents now working full time, it can be tricky to find time for a daily nature walk between juggling work, school, after-school activities, and life in general. Fortunately, there’s a very simple (and delightful) solution: plant a food forest in your backyard!

What Is a Food Forest?

Permaculture food forests, or forest gardens, are becoming the next big trend in landscape design. The concept is simple: an attractive woodsy garden that provides an abundance of food right in your backyard. Food forest design aims to mimic the beauty and feel of a natural woodland area—with the added benefit of providing fresh, healthy, delicious food for your family. For kids, this can be life changing.

Why Plant a Food Forest for Your Family?

Food forests provide nourishment for mind, body, and spirit. The three main benefits of a backyard forest garden are:

Clean, healthy food: Perennial plants such as berry bushes, hazelnut shrubs, and fruit trees produce a yield of uber-fresh produce year after year without toxic sprays or intensive labor.

Low-maintenance beauty: Just as traditional landscaping beautifies a space, so do forest gardens. Food forests often include flowering plants, shrubs, and trees that attract essential pollinators such as butterflies. It’s food for the eyes!

Sanctuary space: Forest gardens provide a safe environment for the whole family to play, relax, and gather. Plus, unlike a hike in the woods, you don’t have to worry about getting lost!

Kid-Friendly Food Forest Design Tips

Mindful planning helps ensure that your food forest meets the needs of both plants and people! Planning a food forest with children in mind can be a lot of fun. But there are a few things to think about that adults might overlook.


We can’t talk about family friendly food forests without touching on safety. This can become a bit of a gray area because each child has different needs. For example, incorporating a pond may work well for older children, but can pose a drowning risk to babies and toddlers.

One safety element that stands out for all ages is a fence. Adding a fence around your forest garden gives children a clear boundary and helps them feel confident that they are safe within the garden space. It’s also a great support for climbing vines such as arctic kiwis, pole beans, or grapes!

Another important consideration is plant toxicity. Some food plants, such as rhubarb, may have toxic parts. Use your discretion and either avoid these plants or take care to teach your children respect for them.

Incorporate the Senses

Kids are meant to interact with the world around them. A food forest gives them every opportunity!

When planning your forest garden:

  • Think about fall and spring color as well as different visual textures.
  • Incorporate the wonderful aromas of many herbs and flowers. Kids love them!
  • Add wind chimes or bird-attracting plants to create a musical garden.

Because all the plants in a food forest are edible, children can also explore taste in a safe way. A food forest garden is also the perfect place for sensory play. Consider adding sensory materials for children to play with, such as sand and potting soil. You may be surprised at all the creative things kids will do with earth, flowers, twigs, and seeds as inspiration!

Sanctuary Space for Kids

Sanctuary space for adults may look like a space for mindful meditation or hanging out with friends, but children’s sanctuary needs can look quite different.

Incorporating structures for hiding and/or climbing can make children feel more at home. This could be a temporary structure like a sunflower house, or a more permanent space such as a treehouse or a clearing inside a circle of shrubs. Or, help them create a fairy garden or a little playhouse for their dolls or trucks tucked under the leaves.

As Children Grow

As kids grow up, their needs change. A five-year-old may love making mud pies, but a teenager? Probably not. When planning a backyard food forest, consider not just your family’s needs in the moment, but also five or ten years down the road.

One of the best ways to do this is to involve the whole family in the planning process. And if you have a family friend who is a few years older than your own children, consider consulting them too!

Planning Your Family Friendly Food Forest

A well-thought-out food forest plan, or blueprint, can make the essential difference between a bunch of plants thrown in the ground and a beautiful, practical forest garden that will provide maximum enjoyment and yield for your family for years to come.

Consulting with a certified permaculture designer can be a valuable investment in ensuring your food forest benefits your family in the best ways possible. But whether you purchase a blueprint design or dig in and do it yourself, don’t forget to include your kids in the planning. Kids are natural artists. You may be amazed at the creativity they bring to your backyard food forest garden!

Aster Michelsen is co-owner of Great Lakes Food Forest Abundance, an Upper Peninsula edible landscaping company. For more information about UP food forests, edible landscape, and building resilient human and natural communities through gardening, visit us at

Excerpted from the Summer 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Spotlight On…. Tyler Tichelaar of Marquette Fiction

Interview with author Tyler Tichelaar, Marquette Fiction,  Superior Book Productions, UP holistic business, UP holistic wellness publication

What do you write about and why?
I write lots of books about Upper Michigan, mostly Marquette, lots of historical fiction, and some non-fiction books. My most recent was a biography of Chief Kawbawgam.

As for why, I think because the advice given writers is to write what you know, and I knew the UP. There weren’t a lot of novels for adults about the UP, and I thought the UP deserved to have its own literature, especially its own fiction. I also write historical fantasy about King Arthur, and literary criticism.

How did you get into writing?
I was always a lover of books. When I was in about third grade, I had a friend who told me her aunt was an author who had written a few mystery novels and that put the idea into my head that “Hey that’s a job, and that’s the job I want!” Ever since then, I’ve written.

When I was in eighth grade, I took a creative writing class at NMU for middle school students in which I wrote a story called “The Ghost of Stonegate Woods,” named for where I grew up in the neighborhood Stonegate Heights near the Crossroads. That story had a mystery about a ghost, and some UP history. It was chosen out of the others in the class to be made into a video on the Upper Michigan Today Show. That was probably my first real story that brought in an interest in the UP and UP history. Of course I had the history all wrong. But the fact that my story was chosen was a big boost to my ego and made me feel like I could become an author.

How many books have you published now?
Twenty-one, and there are more in the works, including a couple of historical novels set in the UP.

What keeps you inspired to write?
I think my desire to share knowledge and also to make sense of out things. I also think in many ways writing is therapy for authors. In some way, it’s my way to make sense of the world, and control the world a little bit, especially when writing fiction. As for non-fiction, it’s more an interest in making sure history is preserved, or certain ideas are preserved.

I had an English professor in college who said that English professors are the keepers of the culture, and I think writers are also keepers of the culture, at least writers of history.

What do you hope to convey to others through your books?
It varies from book to book. Sometimes, with fiction especially, you want to give people a sense of hope, of purpose, to be able to go on in difficult times. With history, it’s more wanting people to draw strength from the past, and understand the past, and not necessarily have romanticized ideas about the past.

What is your writing process like?
I typically write every day for an hour in the evening. On the weekend, it may be two or three hours in the afternoon. The process varies from book to book.

With non-fiction, I do a lot of research and outlines, and try to figure out how the parts of the book will go together. If it’s a novel, the process is a lot less structured. I usually try to write chronologically, but sometimes I’ll have an idea for the middle or the end, and I’ll write that. Then it becomes a matter of just sewing together the different chapters and scenes until you have a whole. And I do many, many revisions. Most of my books go through about a dozen drafts before I finally publish them.

How has your family influenced your writing?
My interest in UP history largely came from my grandpa who was always telling me stories about when he was a kid in the UP, and I had his brothers and sisters, eight great-aunts and uncles, who were always telling me stories about their past and stories about their parents and grandparents, so I became interested in genealogy. So my Marquette Trilogy, the first series of books I published, was largely inspired by my family history. One branch of my family came here in 1849, so I’m a seventh-generation Marquette resident. I had all of those stories to draw upon so a lot of the characters in my books in some ways resemble some of my ancestors. None are intended to be exact portraits but there are elements of them that are very similar to my ancestors.

What kind of feedback have you received about your books?
Initially, I was very surprised at the feedback from my early historical novels. People told me how much they learned from them. I just kind of assumed, growing up here, that everyone else here knew what I knew and that I was just creating fictionalized versions of it, but I apparently taught people a lot of local history through my novels. And I also wanted to entertain people, so I chose to write novels rather than history books in the beginning.

People have told me as they walk or drive around Marquette, they look at the city in a different way now because they know the history of the different buildings and the stories of what happened here based on my books, so I really have helped people understand history better that way. And the same is true with the non-fiction books.

I’ve also received several awards–my book on Chief Kawbawgam was named a UP Notable Book last year, my novel Narrow Lives was named Best Historical Fiction in the 2009 Reader Views Literary Awards. I also received the Barb H. Kelly Award for Historical Preservation in the Marquette Beautification and Restoration Awards, and was named Outstanding Author in the Marquette County Arts in 2011. Twice I’ve also had a short story nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

What was the process of becoming a professional writer like for you?
It’s very difficult to survive on being an author alone. Very few people can do that. Consequently, I got a PhD thinking I’d be an English professor and write on the side. There were hardly any teaching jobs available, so I was not an English professor for long. I came back to the UP and found a day job and wrote in the evenings.

Eventually, once I published my books they sold well, but not enough to live on, so I got involved with the UP Publishers & Authors Association and started connecting with other authors who needed help, and I ended up becoming an editor and founding Superior Book Productions. So the bulk of my income actually comes from editing.books, not writing books. But, of course, writing books is my passion. Being a writer has made me a better editor and being an editor has made me a better author.

How can someone purchase your books?
Locally they’re available in various stores, including Snowbound Books, the Marquette Regional History Center, the Marquette Maritime Museum, Michigan Fair, and Touch of Finland. They’re also available to order from my website, All of them are also available as e-books at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
I would encourage readers to read local books, learn the history of the area and support local authors. Most authors these days are not traditionally published. They’re not New York Times bestsellers. They’re people in your own backyard who have a story to tell and they are independently publishing their books. Just like we support independent films and independent bookstores, we should also support independent authors.

Excerpted from the Summer 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Senior Viewpoint: Creativity – Food for the Mind & Heart, Moire Embley

senior art experience in Marquette MI, UP holistic business, UP holistic wellness publication

I am the program director for the Senior Theatre Experience, an educational theatre program provided by the City of Marquette Arts and Culture and Senior Center. A couple of years ago, I was able to receive training in Art Therapy and bring new methods to integrate into my programming. This training really opened my eyes to understand how much impact creativity can have on one’s overall health and well-being.

Creativity can come in all kinds of forms, and can even occur when we are inspired by another’s self-expression. For some, creativity comes more naturally, and for others, like me… it can take more work. But what I do know is that creativity exists within us all, and it is just like any other muscle in our body—there are ways we can tone that muscle just by simply using it.

As we grow older, we begin to feel the effects of aging and with that, we become more mindful of how we can care for our body, from the food we eat to the exercise we offer it. But caring for our minds is just as important as caring for our physical bodies. Creativity is food for the mind, just as exercise is food for the body.

According to the National Institute on Aging, “participating in the arts may improve the health, well-being, and independence of older adults, and help with memory and self-esteem.” (Aging Fearlessly: Art, Creativity, and Aging, 2021)

There have been many studies linking the positive impact art and tapping into one’s creativity have on the brain.

According to Barbara Bagan, Ph.D., ATR-BC in her article, Aging: What’s Art Got to Do With It? “Neurological research shows that making art can improve cognitive functions by producing both new neural pathways and thicker, stronger dendrites. Thus, art enhances cognitive reserve, helping the brain actively compensate for pathology by using more efficient brain networks or alternative brain strategies. Making art or even viewing art causes the brain to continue to reshape, adapt, and restructure, thus expanding the potential to increase brain reserve capacity.”

One of the students in my program, Lois Stanley, told me her personal experience with this. “If you want to know that value that this program, the Senior Theatre Experience has had for me personally, (other than credibility with my grandchildren), it has opened up all kinds of synapses and new pathways for me… just trying to memorize some of my lines was an enjoyable exercise for my mind.”

Not only does participating in a creative activity improve cognitive function, but it also promotes feelings of purpose, meaning, well-being, contentment, and joy, while helping to alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, and isolation. It strengthens our connection to our own identity and to the world around us.

Lina Belmore, another participant in my program, shares her thoughts: “I would consider myself an introvert, and sometimes it is difficult for me to interact with people. However, by participating in this program, I’m discovering that theater is the human experience on stage, and because of that, I am finding so many wonderful opportunities that expand my own human experience, and I’m able to create deeper connections with those around me. I’m so thankful that the City of Marquette recognizes how important the arts are, and how it brings people together, and brings warmth to me and to our community.”

If you are an older adult in Marquette County and are looking to explore new ways of bringing more creativity into your life, I encourage you to check out the wide variety of free programs the City of Marquette Arts and Culture and Senior Center offers, from fitness programs to painting, dance, and theatre. My intention with the Senior Theatre Experience is to provide programming, in partnership with Songbird Creative, Northern Michigan University, and local theatre non-profits, that nurtures your creativity and self-expression. I invite you to come have fun while exploring the different aspects of the world of theatre, and partake in unique experiences that illuminate the creativity, collaboration, and innovation behind the curtain. You’ll have the opportunity to attend rehearsals, lectures, backstage tours, learn about lighting, stage, and set design, and get free tickets to upcoming productions.

Moiré Embley has over eight years of experience in arts programming as well as training in Art Therapy. She is the program director of the Senior Theatre Experience, and founder of Songbird Creative, a little company encouraging creativity, self-expression, and mental fitness in older adults.

‌Aging Fearlessly: Art, Creativity, and Aging. (2021, October 21). Maine.

Aging: What’s Art Got To Do With It? (2022).,networks%20or%20alternative%20brain%20strategies.

Excerpted from the Summer 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.