Journey to rural sustainability

Annie and Jay Warmke, keynote speakers for the 10th Annual Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair Aug. 13-14 at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill. (Photo provided)

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

This year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair, Green Journeys, Aug. 13-14 at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill., will feature speakers who address their own journeys into sustainable living.

Keynoters will set the stage. Sunday’s major speakers will be Annie and Jay Warmke, founders of Blue Rock Station, a sustainable living homestead. Seventeen years ago, they left behind the “American Dream” to move to 40 rural acres in southern Ohio. They consider themselves pioneers in their journey from corporate America to natural living, and now offer many programs throughout the year to help people learn how to live in the post-fossil fuel economy.

Jay has received several awards including the 1998 “10 Most influential People” in telecommunications. Annie received the JC Penney Award, the Melitta Award for Business Woman of the Year and others. Both Annie and Jay received the Tampa Bay Business Journal-Price Waterhouse Up & Comers Award.

Their presentation, “Drinking Rain Water,” will share their philosophy as they journeyed into sustainability through building their house made of trash and the programs they offer. Their home, “Earthship,” which is “always under construction,” is built of tires, cans, old barn wood, bottles and mud. It is heated by the sun, the earth and wood. It incorporates techniques written about in their textbook, Green Technology.

They will also offer two other workshops. “Natural Care for Goats” will be based on Annie’s book, Naturally Healthy Goats, which describes pasture management, herbs and nutrition, which help them maintain health without vets or chemicals. The book will be for sale at the fair. “Natural Building” will offer a virtual tour of the buildings at Blue Rock including trash, straw bale and others. All of the Warmkes’ presentations will be Sunday, Aug. 14.

Another couple who made the journey from corporate America to rural sustainability, Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko, will return to the fair to present “Powering Your Homestead with Renewable Energy.” Kivirist and Ivanko will help those who want to go off grid or supply it with renewable energy and make energy a positive cash flow for their business or homestead explore the many options to power up with renewable energy including wind, solar electric, solar thermal, geothermal, wood heating and others. Their home in southern Wisconsin, Inn Serendipity, is a bed and breakfast that offers organic foods and other aspects of sustainable living.

Their publications include ECOpreneuring: Putting Purpose and the Planet Before Profits (New Society), Edible Earth: Savoring the Good Life with Vegetarian Recipes from Inn Serendipity (Paradigm Press Ltd.) and Rural Renaissance: Renewing the Quest for the Good Life (New Society). Books will be signed after their Saturday, Aug. 13, workshop.

Birgit and Roland Wolff also left the fast-paced life for the rhythm of country living. Retired from Colorado State University, they now live in a century-and-a-half-old home in northern Wisconsin near Lake Superior where they raise chickens and lambs. Having experienced several-day power failures without much stress, Birgit will speak about “The basics of being without electricity during a power outage.” She will offer tips about meeting the challenge of being prepared to live comfortably, safely and healthfully without electricity, including staying warm, preparing food and dealing with the special needs of infants, the handicapped and pets.

These pioneers should help others navigate their journey to sustainability.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail

From the July 6-12, 2011, issue

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