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My “Alternative” Spring Break Trip

Lexi shares her alternative spring break experience volunteering in Finland, Minnesota.

Lexi shares her alternative spring break experience volunteering in Finland, Minnesota.

Hi! I’m Lexi Wallace, and I am a brand-new Admissions Blogger. I love Carleton College *almost* as much as I love ice cream, and I am so excited to share some of my experiences here with you!

Carleton’s Alternative Spring Break Program allows students to serve the community while learning about the greater social justice implications of their service. Run by the Center for Community and Civic Engagement (or CCCE, pronounced “trip-see-ee” for short), alternative spring breaks are a great way to spend more time in Minnesota and learn about new perspectives.

During a week’s stay at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minnesota, a small-but-mighty group of six Carls worked on the organic farm, learned about environmental education, and had loads of fun on the Superior Lakefront!

The Trip North

We began our journey to Northern Minnesota early morning on the first Sunday of our spring break. Armed with sleeping bags, winter coats, and a metric ton of snacks, we drove as far north as any of us have ever dared.

6 Carls In A Van
If you look really closely, you can see Oliver Tullio’s ’24 skis situated between us.

Our goal was to help out on an organic farm at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. Wolf Ridge is a non-profit organization intending “to develop a citizenry that has the knowledge, skills, motivation, and commitment to work together for a quality environment.”

Wolf Ridge accomplishes its vision by offering classes like “Birds” and “Beginning Orienteering”, renovating its housing to be more sustainable, and supplementing the food served there with produce grown on its very own farm, among so much more.

Every group that comes to Wolf Ridge is assigned a naturalist liaison to be their primary contact throughout the trip. Our liaison happened to be a Carleton alumna named Rachel Clark ‘15. She was even involved with the CCCE during her time! What can we say besides “Once a Carl, always a Carl”?

Squash, Potatoes, and More!

Our service began in the organic farm kitchen with Sarah Mayer, a long-time farmer who previously worked in conservation and medicinal farming. Sarah talked to us about organic farming and life in Northern Minnesota.

Sarah shows us how to get the beans out of the pod
Sarah Mayer showed Juan Garcia Reyes ’26 and me how to get to the beans. I’m leaning on a crate of corn that was harvested in the fall

In the summer, Wolf Ridge’s organic farm produces thousands of pounds of vegetables. We’re talking about corn, carrots, beans, lettuce, and so much more. As spring rolls around, many of those veggies have been eaten, but the few that were left needed to be sorted and processed. We rolled up our sleeves, washed our hands, and began to cut into large squashes. 

A bucket of squash is surrounded by students' hands and cutting boards
Look at all that squash! We ended up with about fifty pounds of squash in two large buckets.


Lexi holding up several potatoes with sprouts growing from them.
Look at my spuds! We got to eat these potatoes in the form of mashed potatoes and french fries.
Bryan scoops French fries onto the table to be dried and oiled.
Bryan Yang ’25 was in charge of the cold water station where the boiled French fries would go.

The next day, we processed potatoes. Our minivan came in handy when it was time to take those taters up to the dining hall.

It is incredible how much food such a small space can create. I thought my veggies came from the grocery store, but really, it comes from the earth.

In true Carleton fashion, we talked while we worked. We reflected on sustainability both at Wolf Ridge and on campus. We explored options for how Wolf Ridge could compost more of its food waste. We pondered our role in environmental education as college students.

Sarah and Liwei stand in the compost bin
Sarah Mayer and Liwei Weng ’25 dump food scraps onto the compost pile. Come spring, those compost piles will be the best place to grow delicious, healthy, organic food.

Snowshoes and Sustainability

When we weren’t working on the farm, we got the chance to snowshoe around another sustainable organic farm in the area. Round River Farm sits in the lap of the Sawtooth Mountains. As owner David Abazs says, “It’s a place you can feel protected while still having a view.” Blue skies and sunshine made our snowshoeing adventure all the better.

Students and David stand over Lake Kangas
In the heart of Round River Farm is Lake Kangas. David was proud to tell us that the first snowperson was erected there this winter.

One of the sustainability efforts David spoke to us about is called the Forest Assisted Migration Project (FAMP). We saw seedlings that were being grown for migration. We also witnessed many ways David and his family are working to reverse negative human effects on the environment, like crop rotation within their greenhouses and solar panels.

Round River Farm
Round River Farm is a sustainable winter wonderland. That’s about five feet of snow there on the ground!

Wolf Ridge also has its sustainability bearings about it. The Margaret A. Cargill Lodge (MAC for short) was the first renovated building to achieve full Living Building Challenge Certification. It’s a huge step in the right direction towards a more healthy environment for all. Wolf Ridge has plans to outfit more of its buildings with sustainable and regenerative features in the future.

Current Carls and an alumna stand in front of MAC Lodge
MAC Lodge was home base for our week at Wolf Ridge. Rachel Clark ’15 went above and beyond to make sure our stay there was comfortable.


During our stay at Wolf Ridge, trip leaders Adele Fredericks ’25 and Liwei Weng ’25 hosted reflections. They asked us to think critically about the service we were performing. Why was there a need for our service? How is our experience at Wolf Ridge similar or different to our experiences at other places? What can we do to make our community at Carleton and at home more sustainable?

Sometimes we journaled and sometimes we spoke in small groups. No matter what, we ended up reflecting later than we expected to because we had so much to explore. Rachel and Sarah added their unique perspectives to our discussions often, making them more informative and engaging.

4 Carls sit in a square at Chickadee Landing
Did you know that chickadees sleep about 30 minutes before sunset? I certainly didn’t. While we waited to feed the chickadees who never came, we had plenty of time to ponder the meaning of life.

Final Impressions

Overall, this was a fantastic way to spend a beautiful week in March. The six strangers in the van quickly became six friends on campus. We made the world a better place to be, while still having fun in the process.

Carls stand in front of a welcome Carleton sign.
While we are definitely older than the typical students who pass through Wolf Ridge, we got a lot of the same VIP treatment.


If you’re as excited as I am about attending an alternative spring break trip next year, check out the CCCE’s webpage on alternative breaks. There’s a couple to choose from!

Student smiles with a cat
Adele Fredericks ’25 loved Sarah’s cat, Mogley. It looks like Mogley loves her back.
Student smiles with cat
Oliver Tullio ’24 made a purr-fect friend in Grillo. Sarah really knew how to win our hearts with her cats.



Lexi (she/her) traded her flip-flops for snow boots when she moved from sunny Orange, California to Carleton College. She is a first-year student who is interested in majoring in Sociology and Anthropology and minoring in Russian. When she is not working in the Rec Center or color-coding her daily agenda, you can find her baking absurd amounts of banana bread with her friends.