Executive Director’s Note

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

Do you support sustainable agriculture?  If you’ve been taking the time to read this newsletter for any length of time, then I’d say you do.  Getting informed is the first level of involvement in any cause.  We are very happy you’ve decided to have SFA be a source of informaiton for your benefit and edification.

Would you like to be further involved? Step 2 would be membership.  Have you renewed your SFA membership?  I want to thank the many folks who have done just that in the past few days.  I know it’s hard to keep track of all the groups and organizations vying for your time, and your membership. If you were a member of SFA at one time, maybe you’ve forgotten to keep it going.  Here’s one way to make sure you won’t forget your SFA membership: become a sustaining member!  Its easy, and you’ll never have to worry about us reminding you again.  Many folks have opted for sustaining memberships this season.  To do so, just click here.  

Of course, your membership can also be easily renewed online by credit card or by check.  To pay by check, see the membership form here.

And finally, thanks again for your continued support of SFA.  Your membership in our organization strengthens our movement, and is helping to make sustainable agriculture the preferred brand of agriculture now and in the future!

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Follow me on Twitter: @johnmesko.

Voting Now Open for 2015 SFA Annual Conference Topics

Ten of the session topics at this year’s Annual Conference were chosen by you, SFA’s members and supporters, using an online application that allowed you to vote for your favorite topics as well as submit your own. The top vote-getting topic, Root Cellaring, was a standing-room-only session led by root cellar builders Jerry Ford and Greg Reynolds as well as the esteemed John Fisher-Merrit, who dazzled the attendees with the details of his affordable yet highly customized root cellar that has significantly enhanced his farm’s revenue stream.

With this year’s SFA Annual Conference fresh in your minds, it’s time to start thinking to our next annual gathering, set for Feb. 14, 2015, again at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph.

We have opened voting for the 2015 Annual Conference session topics – click this link to begin voting. The more votes we tabulate, the more accurately we can tailor the session schedule around your wishes. One thing we hear a lot during an after the Conference is, “there were so many good sessions I had a hard time choosing.” If there was a session you missed in 2014 but still are interested in, be sure to input that topic into the website. Some of the topics already submitted include:

  • SFA_AC_Cover crops and soil health
  • Fencing
  • Integrating crops and livestock
  • Hogs on pasture
  • Root cellaring
  • Agroforestry
  • New crops
  • Season extension
  • Seed saving
  • Grazing for beginners

Make your voice heard – submit your own ideas and vote early and often.

Also, photo galleries from both the 2014 Annual Conference and inaugural Midwest Soil Health Summit are available on each conference’s homepage. Check them out!

SFP Course: Introduction to Small Ruminant Husbandry is April 26

Dan, Tom and sheep 500p for websiteAnyone considering adding goats or sheep to their sustainable food production system or those who want to manage their small ruminants more holistically should attend a SFA Sustainable Food Production workshop, Introduction to Small Ruminant Husbandry, from 1 to 5 p.m. Sat., April 26, at Paradox Farm, 11643 State Highway 78, Ashby, Minn. (ten miles south of Battle Lake; seven miles north of Ashby).

Click here to download a flyer.

This course provides students opportunity for hands-on work with sheep and goats. In a working-farm setting, students can learn how small ruminants can fit into a natural systems farm. Course topics include: holistic management, ruminant nutrition, animal handling, fencing, grazing strategies, holistic veterinary care, shelters, weight and age estimation. Wear clothing appropriate for working with animals: closed-toe shoes, gloves, long pants.

Paradox Farm owners Sue Wika and Tom Prieve will share their perspectives on how small ruminants can fit in holistically managed food production systems. Small ruminants have been an integral element of Paradox Farm for ten years. In addition to enjoying and appreciating small ruminants, Wika and Prieve are experienced sustainable farming educators and lead SFA’s Sustainable Food Production Program, which is also gearing up for its Fall 2014 semester.

To learn more and to register, click here.

Gabe Brown Returning for 2015 Midwest Soil Health Summit

Gabe chats with two farmersBy Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

Soil health really is the key to sustainability and is becoming top of mind for SFA.

Midwest Soil Health Summit presenter and soil health pioneer Rick Bieber chats with attendees at the MSHS Discussion Tables.

Midwest Soil Health Summit presenter and soil health pioneer Rick Bieber chats with attendees at the MSHS Discussion Tables.

Shifting the focus of agriculture from maximum yields to maximum soil health quality is critical to the sustainability of agriculture in Minnesota, the Upper Midwest, the United States and globally. SFA is committed to continued soil health programming, including programs addressing the integration of cover crops, row crops and livestock grazing, and will continue the pursuit of funding and programs that foster the development of soil health building practices for the long term.

To that end, SFA is proud to announce the return of the Midwest Soil Health Summit, set for Feb. 18-19, 2015, again at Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria.

We are also especially proud to announce that Gabe Brown of Brown’s Ranch will be returning to the MSHS in 2015 as the keynote speaker. Next year, however, Gabe and the other presenters will have a dual focus: there will be specific workshops for soil health beginners as well as advanced farmers.

Plus, we will be planning even more farmer-to-farmer networking time. The popularity of the “Gab With Gabe” session, the discussion tables with each presenter (right, with Rick Bieber), and the Q and A sessions in 2014 means even more opportunities to network will be on the slate in 2015.

So, if you attended this year’s Summit, don’t think 2015 will be a repeat. Some of the presenters may be the same, but the programming will be varied and tailored to farmers of all stripes and expertise levels.

It’s never too soon to start planning your conference season calendar. Just ask anybody who attended the sold-out 2014 Midwest Soil Health Summit, and they’ll tell you it’s a conference you can’t afford to miss.

Pencil in Feb. 18-19, 2015, and we’ll keep you updated on Summit speakers, registration, and everything you need to know.

Executive Director’s Note

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko

As I’ve said before, one of the keys to changing our food culture in the US is consumers. In fact, the link between consumers and farms is so critical, it may be the key to making sustainable agriculture the default brand of agriculture. This was echoed by Gabe Brown at the Midwest Soil Health Summit in February, and we are taking it seriously.

To this end, SFA is sponsoring the Midwest Premiere of the new documentary movie, “Resistance,” to be held Tues., April 8, at 7 p.m. at Grandview Theater, 1830 Grand Ave, St. Paul.

I have seen the director’s cut of this movie, which tells the story of the importance of antibiotics to every person in the US, and how the effectiveness of antibiotics in humans is threatened by the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animals. There is a great message supporting natural, organic and grass-based farming which we all want to get into the hands of consumers.

Stay tuned for your opportunity to register to attend this premier showing of “Resistance.” You really won’t want to miss this.

Follow me on Twitter @johnmesko