We’ve been saying all along that our upcoming Annual Conference, “Back to Our Roots,” is all about the Minnesota sustainable farming community – and we mean it. We got lots of response to our survey on what sessions you all wanted, and we’ve designed the content of the conference primarily around that very thing. Then we took recommendations from association board directors and chapter leaders on what they thought was needed. And, finally, we are including sessions driven by our ongoing projects. This has resulted in an intense schedule of 20 sessions, most of which will be “discussion format” – led by a couple of experts, but focusing on the wisdom and needs of the community.
Here’s a roster of the sessions as they stand now. First are the topics resulting from the survey in their ranked order, then the Culinary Track, followed by the leadership ideas, and finally the project-driven topics. For a complete detailed schedule, visit our Annual Conference homepage.
#1 – Root Cellars: John Fisher-Merritt, master of sustainable root cellaring, will be joined by Greg Reynolds, Riverbend Farm, and Jerry Ford, Living Song Farm. John has been running Food Farm’s winter storage for many years, while Greg and Jerry have recently installed two very different cellars. Come with your experiences and questions to share.
#2 – Integrating Perennial Cropping Systems: With a focus on farm-scale permaculture and agroforestry, Jim Chamberlin, SFA board president, and Tyler Carlson of Early Roots Farm ask, “Can we design and manage agricultural systems with the resilience, stability, and diversity of nature and still have production agriculture?” Join them for this captivating discussion.
#3 – Weed Control Strategies: Gary Brever, Ploughshare Farm, is co-hosting this topic with Al Sterner and Jean Peterson, Goodness Grows, and Paul Schmidt, Sunfresh Foods – three very diverse farms. Bring your techniques and ideas to share.
#4 – Innovative Cover Cropping/#5 – Integrating Crop & Livestock Production: Obviously, these related topics are all the buzz, and will be covered in sessions hosted by SFA’s own Kent Solberg and a host of soil health and livestock specialists.
#6 – Seed Saving: Greg Reynolds, who is also heading up the annual Seed Swap, will bring us the latest in the cultivation of your own seed stock in this lecture-format presentation.
#7 – “Don’t Fence Me In” Fencing Showdown: Kent Solberg, SFA’s Grazing and Livestock Specialist, hosts graziers and livestock pros who will lead a discussion on all those techniques for keeping the animals where you want them. Bring your ideas and examples.
#8 – Season Extension: Join Sue Wika and Tom Prieve, Paradox Farm, for an open discussion of season extension techniques.
#9 – New Crops: Quinoa, Nettles, Amaranth, etc.: This one ties in with our New Crops Project, so we’re glad it scored in the top 10 on the survey. It will feature field reports and an open forum on these emerging specialty crops.
#10 Soil Health – Row Crop Production: How can we increase the vitality of soil in our row crop fields with such techniques as intensive rotation, cover crops, mycorrhizal fungi and more?
Mary Jane Miller, Chef, Recipe Consultant and Chef Wrangler for MN Garlic Festival, once again leads this popular feature of the conference. Here are a few of the things she has in mind:
- Cheese, Wine and Beer Pairing Smackdown: Chefs, artisan cheesemakers, brewers, and vintners will show off their favorite pairing, and YOU get to vote on the winners (and taste the results!)
- Minnesota Fish: With “The Fish Guys”
- Cooking Grassfed Beef: With Thousand Hills Cattle Company
And more to be announced soon.
Association Board, Staff and Chapter Leadership Recommendations
Artisan Cheese: Anne Borgendale, cheese buyer for Linden Hills Food Co-op, presents a delicious – yes, there will be samples! – discussion on the state of fine cheese in Minnesota. This will tie directly in to a “Cheese, Wine & Beer Pairing Smackdown” in the Culinary Sessions.
Planting & Harvesting Calendars: Eric Ament hosts a confabulation on how to streamline “this year’s plan” going into the growing season so that it saves time, with techniques to also save your back.
Farm Transitions Portfolio Session: As part of our collaboration with Renewing the Countryside on the “Planning for Your Farm’s Future” project, this workshop will help farmers put together a binder with information that can help you pass on the farm. You’ll explore how to tell the story of your land, and you’ll actually start to write pieces for your portfolio.
Keep Cattle In Minnesota: A joint project with Natural Resource Conservation Service, this session is part of a series of events with the goal to sustain the beef and dairy industries in Minnesota while protecting our vast environmental resources. Wayne Monsen of Minnesota Dept. of Ag teams up with Kent Solberg to present information on resources for farmers who have or want cattle as part of their operations, and they’ll be looking for your feedback.
Adjust 2015 – When the Reality Doesn’t Match the Business Plan: A follow-up to last year’s popular open forum on making adjustments when things aren’t quite working out on the farm, this session will bring us together to increase our knowledge and awareness, as we continue to build a beginning farmer education program with an emphasis on realistic and flexible business plans.
Chapter Resources: SFA’s Network Coordinator, Jerry Ford, rolls out the Chapter Resources Program, which will help each of our chapters to become even more active and vibrant. Intended for chapter leaders and interested members, the session will introduce you to this new program, and Jerry will be looking for your input. Plus the Friday night social events, kids programming and all those vendors and exhibitors.