Agate is an online magazine focused on the environment and people of Minnesota and the surrounding Great Lakes region. A core group of established writers and journalists, together with invited guest contributors, offer stories that illuminate regional life in the context of the natural world. Agate brings the reader along as it unravels nature’s complexities, investigates environmental issues, and celebrates the deep affection of residents for this landscape and its wildlife.
With a blend of literary and journalistic writing, photography and visual arts, broadcast-quality audio stories, and a rich array of voices from around the region, Agate aims to provide a welcoming meeting place for people of all political stripes who share an interest in nature.
Agate is funded solely by grants and donations, and operates under the fiscal sponsorship of the nonprofit Springboard for the Arts. Support our work here.
You could say that Agate’s first office was a booth at the Day by Day Café in St. Paul, MN. It was there, beginning in 2013, that the magazine’s founding partners met regularly over a period of two years and endless cups of coffee, trying to give shape to a dream. The group included a policy director for a wilderness advocacy organization, an environmental reporter for public radio, a social media consultant and host/owner of a popular website focused on river stewardship, and a freelance writer specializing in themes related to natural history and science.
The partners—Betsy Daub, Stephanie Hemphill, Greg Seitz, Laurie Allmann—were all writers of one kind or another. Collectively, they represented over 100 years of work in the regional conservation community, and shared a passion for wild places and commitment to a healthy, diverse environment. With so much in common, it would have been easy to talk for hours on end.
So we did.
Often at the Day by Day, sometimes at the Bell Museum or in coffee shops around the metro: we planned. In time, what was initially Betsy’s idea did indeed take shape. It would be an on-line magazine. We would name it Agate, after the complex and beautiful Lake Superior agate that characterizes this region. It would feature stories defined by ecological boundaries rather than political boundaries. It would offer an independent voice without outside editorial constraints, with no agenda except to seek better understanding and to promote good stewardship of the land. It would put current issues into context with historical perspectives and insights from scientific research. It wouldn’t shy away from technical topics but would instead unwrap the jargon. It would reach out to student writers from area colleges and universities, with a mentoring program to encourage them in their work. Cynical? No. Exclusive? No. Inviting? Yes. It would offer creative works as well, bridging the space between science and the arts, reminding us all of the complexity, beauty, wonder and inspiration to be found in the world around us, and what Paul Gruchow referred to as “the necessity of open spaces.”
Before long, all that was left was to make it happen, so we did. We hope you enjoy Agate. Thanks for visiting, and please come back often.
Co-Directors and editors:
Stephanie Hemphill is a writer with deep roots in northern Minnesota. She covered the statewide environmental beat for Minnesota Public Radio, and now works as a freelancer. She has written about moose and wolves, bats and bacteria, wild rice and coaster brook trout. Her work has been recognized with numerous regional and national awards. In summer Stephanie and her husband tend their gardens, in fall they clear their trails, in winter they snowshoe, and in what is generously called spring in northern Minnesota, they try to breathe deeply.
Laurie Allmann looks for insights in science and human experience that illuminate our understanding of the natural world. Her writing has found expression in public television documentary (Minnesota: a History of the Land), radio commentary (MPR’s Voices from the Heartland), spoken-word poetry (Poem for the River Croix, Wings and a Prayer, In the Abstract), staged plays and monologues (River Café, Citizens of a Sweetwater Sea), and numerous multi-media projects for regional nonprofit organizations. She received a Minnesota Book Award for Far From Tame: Reflections from the Heart of a Continent (U of MN Press), a collection of essays on eco-regions of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Mostly, she aims to faithfully render the findings of researchers, tell a good story, and contribute to preservation of wild places. Home is the St. Croix Valley and wherever her family happens to be. Find more of her work at www.laurieallmann.com.
Web design and Hosting, Regular Contributing Writer:
Greg Seitz is trying to get to know his backyard really well, and share it with the world. (His backyard is the woods and wild rivers of Minnesota and Wisconsin.) He grew up along the St. Croix in Stillwater, studied writing at the University of Minnesota, and worked for the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness for five years. Greg launched the community news and river stewardship website St. Croix 360 in 2011 and operates it in partnership with the St. Croix River Association. He also operates a writing and consulting business, and serves on the board of directors of ArtReach St. Croix. Greg and his wife, Katie, have been paddling together for 16 years and a future canoeist named Annika joined their family in 2012.
With special thanks to Betsy Daub.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.