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We have had a momentous couple of weeks at the Warner household. Strangely, the momentousness has come because of obesity. First Daughter was named a finalist in the Federal Reserve’s essay contest on the economics of obesity. Then, Hubby’s idea was chosen as one of 21 semi-finalists in the Minnesota Idea Open. The Minnesota Idea Open is a new project of the Minnesota Community Foundation that seeks to get regular Minnesota citizens involved in tackling societal issues. The first topic chosen for the Idea Open was obesity. Over 400 ideas were received, so getting word that Hubby’s idea was one of the semi-finalists was reason for celebration.

Before I go any further, there are a couple of things I need to do. First, I need to reveal Hubby’s name because it’s all over the news and it doesn’t take a particle physicist to conduct the research necessary to figure it out. I haven’t mentioned it on my blog before because Hubby is a humble guy who doesn’t like a lot of attention, but in light of recent circumstances, now is the time. Drum roll, please! My husband is Erik Warner. (Erik with a “k,” please, not a “c.” The spelling is purposely Swedish.)

The second thing I need to do is explain the idea Hubby (old habits die hard) submitted to the Minnesota Idea Open. Last year, while Erik was close to finishing up his college degree, he received an assignment to create a community project. Due to past jobs in restaurants and greenhouses, Erik has long been attracted to feeding people. (He invented his first spaghetti sauce when he was eight, I believe.) While driving past the Morrison County Food Shelf, he took note of the large lawn and thought it would make a good place for a garden. Here was the seed of his idea for a community project. What if he could create a community garden that was used to supply the Food Shelf with fresh produce for its clients?

After getting the idea started within one college class last spring, he continued on, making his idea a reality throughout the summer as his final independent study. The garden, which we named The Soul Patch Community Garden, produced 2,009 pounds of food for the Morrison County Food Shelf with lots of help from all sorts of people. (There’s more info at The Soul Patch blog, including a list of contributors.)

Erik was gearing up to plant the garden again this year when I found a tweet about the Minnesota Idea Open on Twitter and urged him to enter his idea, but to ramp it up a bit. If a college student can muster enough resources from a small community to produce over 2,000 pounds of food for the local food shelf, surely this is an idea that can be replicated statewide. So that’s how it was pitched: Take The Soul Patch Statewide.

In our craziest dreams we did not expect The Soul Patch to become a semi-finalist, but we hadn’t counted on the next fantastical dream and the events that followed. On May 4, it was revealed that Erik’s idea was selected as one of three finalists. Holy guacamole!

Since then, he has talked to a number of people in the media, including making an appearance on Twin Cities Public Television’s Almanac. He was also given four tickets to a Minnesota Twins baseball game, which we attended this past Thursday. (Now you know why I haven’t been able to blog for a few days.)

We’ve been swirling in a whirlwind of activities, but we’re not done quite yet. You see, the winner for the Minnesota Idea Open will be chosen by public vote, so we’re getting the word out among our various social networks in order to drum up support for The Soul Patch. (Thanks to our family and Facebook peeps for spreading the news!) Whoever wins the MN Idea Open will get $15,000 to realize their idea.

If you haven’t already voted, I’m urging you to do so now. Go to the Minnesota Idea Open home page, where you can watch a short video presenting all of the finalists’ ideas, and follow the links to vote. You have to register with the site, click on a link in the email you are sent, and then change/set a password in order to have your vote count. (Filling out all the other account info you’re asked for is optional.)

Voting is only open until May 14 (this coming Friday), so if you want to vote, you’ve got to act fast. Help us Take The Soul Patch Statewide!

I’m so proud of Hubby that I could burst into a million pieces. (Way to go, Honey!)

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