From the Executive Director: Slow Money Coming to Minnesota

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

The modern sustainable agriculture movement has established successful production models. We’ve developed and advocated for successful small and mid-sized marketing models. One of the next areas on which we are working is overcoming financing issues and developing a sustainable financing model for our brand of agriculture.

This is not an easy task, but our friends at Renewing the Countryside have been working on this for many years and have made progress. A number of years ago, at the SFA Annual Conference, we hosted Woody Tasch, founder of Slow Money, as he discussed alternatives to funding and financing the kind of agriculture which accounts for all costs, including environmental costs. Slow Money has continued to develop, and now Renewing the Countryside is taking the next big step in bringing Slow Money to Minnesota in a big way!

If you are a farmer, or someone interested in the long-term viability of sustainable agriculture, I would invite you to attend RTC’s Slow Money Event, Wed., June 17, in St. Paul. We need to advance solutions in all facets of agriculture, and this event is the gateway to exploring and moving forward those financial solutions.

You won’t be disappointed. Here are five reasons you’ll want to be there:

  1. If you are passionate about local foods and farmers, this event will lay the groundwork for opening up new channels for supporting these businesses.
  2. This will not be boring. Those who come will learn things, and will have fun doing it.
  3. This will be a who’s who of local foods. See old friends and make new.
  4. The venue, Como Dockside has been remodeled and their chef is Ella Wesenberg, formerly of the Modern Cafe, so the food will be great!
  5. After the event, you can head downstairs where there is a free concert by the Big Band Zuhrah Flames.

Click here to learn more and register!

SFA Returns to Mill City Farmers Market on June 6

Mary Jane Miller

Mary Jane Miller

SFA is making our yearly trip to the beautiful and bountiful Mill City Farmers Market, and this year we’re bringing ketchup.

2015.6.2 Crow River KetchupOn June 6 – this Saturday – SFA will be the featured guest at Mill City and along with Mary Jane Miller’s cooking expertise  and our usual booth of goodies and conversation we’ll be making the Minneapolis debut of Crow River Ketchup (right with spokesmodel Dan Zetah). Bottles will be available for purchase, Crow River farmers will be on hand, and Mary Jane will be cooking creative recipes that include the ketchup or go well with it.

We’ll have SFA t-shirts for sale as well – including the return of our “Back End of a Cow” shirts that sold out during our winter conferences.

The vibrant Mill City Farmers Market is held from 8 a.m.1 p.m. Saturdays in the courtyard of the Mill City Museum overlooking the Mississippi River and Stone Arch Bridge, and is next door to the architectural marvel that is Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater. The Market was founded by chef and restaurateur Brenda Langton and is next door to her popular farm-to-table restaurant, Spoonriver. SFA has been a regular at Mill City for many years, and we’re thankful to the Market for all its support.

If you can’t make the market but are hankering for Crow River Ketchup, it will soon be available for sale at all three Lakewinds Co-op locations. 

From the Executive Director: Thankful for Everyday Greatness

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

Our family recently returned from an all-too-rare family vacation, where we took in both Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. With the exception of running (yes, we all made it) up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, à la Rocky Balboa circa 1976, we spent the majority of our time steeped in U.S. history.

One cannot travel the path we did and not be struck with the amazing stories of the men and women who founded our country. Diverse, brilliant, flawed, aristocratic, humble, proud. The personalities are as far-ranging as their accomplishments. At monument after memorial after museum, we were confronted by a nation’s gratefulness, tribute and honor to its leaders, risk-takers, hard-workers and outspoken citizens. There are so many examples of people who set forth a country and a citizenship that has, despite many ups and downs, done much good in the world.

A walk through a museum is one thing, a week of history 24/7 is quite another. I have many takeaways from the trip, but one theme that has been solidly on my mind is the notion of the individual, everyday person in our land. Taken as a steady stream, the memorials to famous founders and leaders in our country is overwhelming. However, the number of great people who are recognized by the National Parks Service or the Smithsonian Institution is just a tiny fraction of the great people who have contributed to our nation and will contribute to it in the future.

I enjoy very much learning about greatness. After being surrounded by so much, I was left with the sense that each of us has a chance in our lives, and in fact every day, to do great things and live great lives. We cannot all get recognized for greatness. And some people might be “over-recognized.” However, our potential, dare I say our duty, to be great is no less.

So for those of you who are toiling daily to make a difference, to grow healthy food, to teach someone else to grow healthy food, to teach someone how to eat better, to make food available from your farm, your co-op, your buyers club, thank you. For everyone who contributes time, energy, brain power, money, prayers, blood, sweat, tears and their whole heart to the cause of making people better, healthier, kinder, smarter, more peaceful, thank you.

You might not be memorialized by a statue or in a museum. But you are engaged in a great work, and I’m proud to be numbered among you.

Next SFA Deep Winter Greenhouse Class Announced

Deep RootsRegistration is now open for our next Deep Roots Farmer Development Program short course on “Deep Winter Production of Greens and Livestock Fodder Utilizing Passive Solar Energy,” set for Nov. 7, 2015, at Paradox Farm north of Ashby, Minn.

During the class, Paradox Farm owners Sue Wika and Tom Prieve will provide a detailed overview of the construction and operation of their deep-winter greenhouse, which utilizes passive solar energy with underground heat storage. The greenhouse provides greens for local consumers. In addition, the structure is utilized to produce fodder for the farm livestock.

Students will be in the greenhouse to see how greens and fodder are planted and harvested. This is a hands-on workshop. Students should be prepared to get their hands in the soil.

Registrants: Don’t forget to bring a sack lunch. Cost is $100. Farm Skills 101 graduates may register for $30.

Click here to register.

Paradox Farm is at 11643 State Hwy 78, Ashby, MN 56309 (Directions: 7 miles north of Ashby; 10 miles south of Battle Lake). For more information, contact gro.n1435713896m-afs1435713896@eus1435713896.

Crow River Chapter Again Plants Governor’s Garden

2015.6.2 Crow River at Gov's Garden

Connie Carlson (from left), Mike Lilja, Cathy Rose and Mary Jane Miller work at the Governor’s garden in St. Paul. Photo by Mary Sue Stevens. 

For the fourth year in a row, the Crow River Chapter has planted a vegetable and herb garden at the Governor’s residence in St. Paul. Led by Mary Jane Miller and supported by the Crow River SFA board and volunteers, this year’s garden features many plants and seeds from Minnesota farms, including a new variety of non-GMO organic sweet corn called “Who Gets Kissed?”

Miller and her crew assembled on an unusually chilly May morning and filled two plots and several larger planters that now contain everything from tomatoes, eggplants and peppers to basil, zucchini, onions and Governor Dayton’s favorite, green beans, all of which will be used in meals at the residence.

Tours of the vegetable garden spaces take place from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on select Tuesdays all summer and will be led by Mary Jane Miller and her crew. Make plans to stop in this summer!

Tour Dates: June 9, 23; July 14, 28; Aug. 4, 18. Governor’s Residence is at 1006 Summit Hill, St. Paul.