SFA Annual Conference Registration Now Open

A scene from the 2014 SFA Annual Conference. Registration is now open for the 2015 version, again to be held at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.

A scene from the 2014 SFA Annual Conference. Registration is now open for the 2015 version, again to be held at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.

By Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

Get your winter planning off to a sustainable start: Registration is NOW OPEN for the SFA Annual Conference, Minnesota’s farmer networking showcase set for Feb. 14, 2015, at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph.

A founding concept of SFA is that there is wisdom in our farming community. So, just like last year, YOU will help to determine and lead the sessions, which will include casual but focused networking conversations on topics that you choose. Using an online voting system, SFA members chose session topics; we will analyze the data and create the schedule around your wishes. Vote on our AC homepage and view the leading session topics.

Again on Saturday morning will be our yearly Leaders Breakfast and SFA Awards ceremony at7:30 a.m. This event costs just $15 and includes breakfast, a special “State of SFA” address, and the awards ceremony. This is a separately ticketed event from the Annual Conference.

New this year is a special day-before workshop on Deep Winter Greenhouses, from 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 13, 2015, at Paradox Farm, 11643 State Highway 78, Ashby, MN 56309. Space is capped at 10 registrants for this innovative workshop at Sue Wika and Tom Prieve’s farm; the Annual Conference will also include a follow-up session on Deep Winter Greenhouses on Saturday at St. Ben’s. There is no discounted registration available for this workshop, which may only be purchased in a special combination pack with the SFA Annual Conference. This workshop will definitely sell out, so sign up ASAP.

Family programming will return at the 2015 Annual Conference, led this year by Budding Farmers.

Family programming will return at the 2015 Annual Conference, led this year by Budding Farmers.

Also, family programming is returning – admission for children ages 3-12 is just $10 and includes separate programming from Budding Farmers. Children 2 and under are free but will be the responsibility of their parents.

Of course, everything you expect from the SFA Annual Conference will return as well – culinary demonstrations from Mary Jane Miller; a trade show; the end-of-day local food, wine and beer reception; plus plenty of networking, fun and fellowship.

The venue at St. Ben’s is a familiar, centrally located one that’s easily accessible. Lunch is not included with registration; instead, you’ll enjoy a lengthy break, during which, you may eat at St. Ben’s, walk to one of the local-foods restaurants in St. Joe, or bring a sack lunch. The idea is to give you the freedom to network at your own pace, and to take advantage of the quaint surroundings.

Register through Sept. 30 at the Early Bird rate of $35/members and $45/nonmembers. SFA members will receive a separate email with discount registration instructions. Only SFA members will receive this separate email.

Vendor/Exhibitor Registration is open as well. Visit our Annual Conference homepage to download the proper form.

See you there!

Executive Director’s Note

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately on the current state of affairs in Sustainable Agriculture.  By some measures, the modern movement is about 25-30 years old.  Adulthood by all respects.  We’ve come a long way to get to this point.  Of course there has always been those farmers who practice sustainability and have been organic since organic was the only way to farm.  However, the term “sustainable” and along with it, “sustainable agriculture” have become a part of most people’s every day language.  To many, those terms are only slightly more specific in meaning than they were at the outset of our movement.

However, I think most of us can say we “know it when we see it.”  Sustainable agriculture is a mindset, its an approach.  Admittedly, true sustainability is a near-impossibility to achieve.   We all want to see the environment, farm businesses, farm families and our rural communities become more resilient, more productive, and in general, improve over time.  By focusing on the principles of sustainability, we can move all of these forward.

SFA, through its members, chapters and collective work has been able to make such an impact in agriculture and in rural communities over the years.  We’ve all seen the rapid expansion of farmer’s markets over the last 10 – 15 years.  Do more farmer’s markets mean we’ve achieved sustainability?  No, not really, but they are an exciting piece to the picture of the future.  25 years ago, no-till corn and soybean production models were in their infancy.  In part, through SFA’s Farmer to Farmer Network® organization of educational events, no-till agriculture has become commonplace; and improvements to the environment can be evaluated.

Now, we are in the midst of another mass migration “back to the land.”  The jury is still out  on the relative merits of this latest move.  However, with more new and beginning farmers starting sustainably-minded farms, the future bodes well for sustainable agriculture.

In the coming weeks, I hope to explore more aspects of the state of sustainable agriculture.  If you have any thoughts, let me know.  I’d like to hear lots of perspectives.  You can reach me at john@sfa-mn.org.

Thanks

Organic Potato Farm Tour Set Near Sebeka

Join Larry Heitkamp, Kent Solberg, and the Toxic Taters Coalition for a free organic potato farm tour from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 13, at Heitkamp’s Yellow Rose Organic Farm.

There are 50,000 acres of potatoes planted in Minnesota every year. And while conventional, chemical-intensive production is the norm on many of these acres, it’s not the only way that potatoes can be produced. Organic and sustainable potato production is possible; in fact, Minnesota farmers are already doing it.

Please join the Toxic Taters Coalition to learn more about organic potato production. Heitkamp and Solberg, SFA Livestock & Grazing Specialist, will give a tour of an organic potato farm and share information about cover cropping, soil health, insect and disease management, and their efforts to move toward no-till practices. Over lunch, members of the Toxic Taters Coalition will share information about their campaign to protect local communities from pesticide drift from RD Offutt’s potato fields.

Directions: From Sebeka, MN, take Hwy 12 East for 7 miles. Turn right (south) on 201st Ave (a dirt road). Go 1/4 mile and take a left into the potato field. We’ll have signs up on the road to help you find the right place.

The event is free and lunch is included. Please RSVP to Lex Horan at lex@panna.org or 651.245.1733.

Chapter Update: Lake Agassiz

Lake Agassiz for Web Use JPG

By Marie Petry • Chapter Coordinator

We are moving ahead. On June 18, a couple of Lake Agassiz chapter members met with Jerry Ford, SFA Network Coordinator, to establish our Chapter Organizing Committee. This is the first formal step towards an Annual Meeting next year and voting in a new Board of Directors.

Plans are in the works for a Fall Event in the northern part of Lake Agassiz territory. More information will be coming on this as details are finalized. This will be a great time to connect with fellow sustainable farming neighbors and to lend your voice to our growing chapter.

Students: SFA Internships, Scholarships Available

Thanks to our new SFA Connect subscribers who signed up Aug. 29 at the Sustainability Action! Open House at the University of Minnesota. We had a great time meeting scores of students who were interested in sustainability and SFA as well as our Sustainable Food Production Program.

Good luck to all of you in your classes this semester and beyond, and we hope to see you at the SFA Annual Conference in February! Scholarships to attend the conference are available for current students and require a volunteer commitment; for more information,email Jerry Ford atjerry@sfa-mn.org.

Also, SFA is accepting applications for Sustainability Conference Internships. These hands-on internships are for late fall and winter 2014/15 and require attendance at the SFA Annual Conference on Feb. 14 as well as the Midwest Soil Health Summit on Feb. 18-19. Those interested in an application should contact SFA Network Coordinator Jerry Ford at jerry@sfa-mn.org.

Click here to learn more at our internships homepage.