SFP Farm Skills 101 Now Enrolling for Fall Semester

Group shot - 900p for websiteOur Sustainable Food Production program is a much-needed beginning-farmer curriculum that emphasizes all three tenets of sustainability, plus provides extensive skills training. A unique aspect of SFP is its commitment to community development and mentoring, a perfect fit with SFA’s Farmer-to-Farmer Network® organization.

The program is now accepting enrollment for the Fall 2014 semester of Farm Skills 101, which covers the hands-on essential skills necessary for a forage-based livestock producer. The class teaches students the ideal methods to elevate handiness while building community and competence. Scholarships are also available; apply on the enrollment form.

Farm Skills 101 consists of around 50 hours of on-farm education in three weekends of fun and fulfilling learning. These are days in the field, not field days.Participants will need pants, closed-toe shoes, gloves and safety glasses.

Topics include Fencing Strategies for Forage-based Livestock Systems, Compassionate Animal Husbandry and Handling, Pasture Management and Grazing Basics, and Farm Equipment and Tools. Instructors are all farmer-educators: Sue Wika, PhD; Tom Prieve, DVM; and Kent Solberg, MS. Each possesses both real-world experience and the educational background to provide comprehensive sustainable food production education.

2013 SFP graduate Nicole Moore said the program’s curriculum directly empowers the student.

“Physical involvement in a process makes a lasting impression, allowing the student the space and time to discover questions or thoughts related to the experience that would otherwise have never been conceived if she or he had only read or heard about the process,” she said. “With this approach, students walk away with tangible, demonstrable skills. What’s more effective a learning tool than, at the end of the session, being able to walk onto your own property and build yourself a reliable fence? Can’t beat that.”

Fall 2014 classes are Oct. 3-4, 10-11 and 17-18 at farms near Alexandria, Minn. Friday classes run from 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Pack sack lunches and breakfasts; a Friday local-foods supper is included. Housing is available at Faith Haven Camp on Eagle Lake for a modest fee. Free primitive camping is available at farm site.

Also, all students receive a free one-year SFA membership.

To enroll, visit this link and view payment information. To learn more or view a more detailed curriculum, visit the SFP Program homepage or contact Dr. Sue Wika at paradoxhomestead@gmail.com.

Becca Carlson of Northfield Joins Association Board

Carlson, Becca for Board pageBy Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

Our association Board of Directors welcomed a new face at our latest board meeting – Becca Carlson is the new representative from the Cannon River chapter.

Becca is farm manager at Seeds Farm, a diversified vegetable and animal farm near her native Northfield. Becca is a St. Olaf grad who is committed to learning how she can produce healthy food for the community while being a good steward of the land. Becca said she feels lucky to be a part of SFA’s bustling network.

“I wanted to be a SFA state representative to help share with the state what our Cannon River chapter is involved in and vice versa,” she said. “Plus, it’s a great opportunity to meet more farmers and soak up new information.”

Because of her love for the outdoors, Becca said she has found a way to spend most of her time outside year-round. Besides farming, Becca works winters as a dogsled guide in Northern Minnesota. But her love of food is pretty powerful, too.

“I love everything about food – thinking about it, growing it, harvesting it, cooking with it, eating it, and mostly, sharing it with my community,” she said.

To learn more about Becca and Seeds Farm, visit seedsfarmproject.com.

The SFA association Board of Directors meets each October, February and April; the April 2014 meeting is this Friday (April 25) at the College of Saint Benedict. If you have questions about the Board, contact your chapter’s board member or email me at jason@sfa-mn.org.

Market, Piloting New Chef-Driven Model, Seeks Vendors

LindenHillsFarmersMarketLogoThe Minneapolis’ Linden Hills Farmers Market (LHFM) season begins June 1 and continues every Sunday through October. The market is piloting a brand new chef-driven farmers’ market model, offering both wholesale and retail sales on the same day and in the same location. This is an innovative coming together and vendors are being sought for the 2014 season!

Local farmers growing unique varieties and local food entrepreneurs cooking up artisanal foods are encouraged to apply. LHFM is especially interested in those vendors able to price their products for both the wholesale and retail markets, and produce enough to sell to both types of buyers. There is flexibility built into this model. Vendors are able to rent a stall for a day or stay for the entire season. This is an excellent opportunity to meet new wholesale buyers and diversify customer bases.

Contact Libby Wyrum to learn more about this new type of market. She can be reached at 612 867 0854 or by emailing libertywyrum@gmail.com.

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!