Gilbert Scene with Gustavus students.jpg

Jim Gilbert is pictured with Gustavus students. (Submitted photo)

“Use your five senses. Slow down and listen to the wind. Look at the wildflowers. Breath the fresh air. Love the water.” Jim Gilbert

It is with great pleasure the Waconia Carver West Rotary announces the 2021 Service Above Self winner is naturalist Jim Gilbert. For many, Jim is known for his part in the Minnesota Weather Guide calendars, his column in the Star Tribune, or his reports on WCCO radio. To Waconians, Jim is a neighbor, a friend and an ongoing presence at his church and the public schools. But always, in his gentle manner he teaches about his passion, nature, and the gift it gives back to those who take the time to use their five senses.

Jim grew up on Lake Minnewashta near Excelsior and moved to Waconia in 1970. But I am getting ahead of myself. His mother grew up on a farm where he would on occasion visit. As any farmer or farming kid knows, a farm is the place to nurture a respect and love of the outdoors. In the summer the family would go to a cabin up north, like many other people from Minnesota. It was at this resort that he got to know the owners who were birders. That lead to an interest in wildflowers and an appreciation for the wonderful peace that nature provides.

After graduating from high school, he received a Science Education degree at Gustavus Adolphus College. He taught a year in St. Charles and two in Winona before getting his master’s degree in Earth Science at University of Oklahoma. It was here he met his wife Sandy in Winona where they were both teachers. He met a fellow student who would change his career direction. This person was a naturalist and Jim decided then, that is what he wanted to do. Jim’s career seems to have been directed by meeting the right person at the right time. Be it over a water fountain or just a chance meeting at the Loury Nature Center.

As blessed as Jim has been in his career, the gentleness Jim brings when talking to people about the peace found in nature cannot be understated. This gentleness is found in walks taken with persons at the St. Peter State Hospital and in the canoe tours he has led with church groups to northern Minnesota. In all cases, he understands the importance of getting people outside and feeling nature.

Among the numerous volunteer projects, he has helped with, include the Lake Waconia, Lake Minnetonka and 16 other Carver County Lakes ice on and ice off dates. This he reports to the Minnesota State Climatology Office which is part of the DNR. He has been part of the Carver County Soil and Water Conservation District precipitation daily reporting for close to 50 years and served on the Carver County SWCD board for several years.

Starting in 1985, Sandy and he were active in Waconia High School Band Boosters for 17 years serving as VP or President for about 5 years. Sandy and he are active in Faith Lutheran Church were they both taught Sunday School and worked with Families Moving Forward. He led served BWCA canoe trips for a dozen of High School students.

He started writing for the Waconia Patriot in April of 1995 and after 25 years, his last Nature Notes appeared on May 26, 2020. After 42, years, he produced his last Nature Notes broadcast on WCCO radio on May 5, 2019. During this time, he wrote 5 books about nature in Minnesota. He continues to write a weekly column as freelance writer for the Mpls Star Tribune outdoor weekend section which started on June 28, 2013. In June 2021, he finished the phenology writing and corrections for the 2022 editions of the MN weather guides, his 46th year.

On Saturday, Jan. 29, the Waconia, Carver West Rotary is hosting a Gourmet Wine dinner to be held at Bavaria Downs in Chaska. Jim will be available for a meet and greet prior to the event. He will have a limited number of books and calendars available for sale. The Rotary will provide tours of Bavaria Downs prior to the dinner.

Tickets are still available. Cost is $150 per ticket which includes a five-course meal catered by D’Amico Catering and includes wine parings and a wonderful dessert from Main Street Bakery in Waconia. Reservations can be made by calling Cuck Dueber: 952-300-5638 or emailing

This event promises to be a lot of fun, have some exciting surprises and wonderful silent auction items. Join the Waconia Carver West Rotary and Jim Gilbert as we honor those who are too humble to see they are the ones who deserve it the most.

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