Midwest Soil Health Summit Schedule Released

The schedule is set for this year’s expanded Midwest Soil Health Summit, and we’ve added additional programming on the conference’s first day to buttress a second day that’s chock-full of expert soil health programming.

Midwest Soil Health Summit keynote speaker Gabe Brown of Brown's Ranch spent much of the 2014 conference engaged in farmer-to-farmer networking with attendees.

Midwest Soil Health Summit keynote speaker Gabe Brown of Brown’s Ranch spent much of the 2014 conference engaged in farmer-to-farmer networking with attendees.

New learning and networking opportunities for the Summit’s first day include a session led by SFA Executive Director John Mesko on Soil Health Basics as well as an International Roundtable. Other programming the first day includes our popular social time with buffet and cash bar, the return of “Gab With Gabe,” a film screening, and more.

Our impromptu discussion tables were such a hit last year, they’re returning as well. Look for discussion tables throughout the day Feb. 19 featuring Summit experts, or suggest one you’d like to see – if you’re a dairy producer, maybe you want to network with other dairy producers; if you’re from North Dakota, maybe you would like to chat with others in your region. Discussion tables are the perfect format. Make a suggestion to gro.n1422664926m-afs1422664926@yrre1422664926j1422664926 or talk to an SFA staffer at the Summit and we’ll do our best to make it work.

Here’s the schedule, and don’t forget to register ASAP as we are expecting a sellout – SFA members save $50 on registration. Additionally, there are a couple of spots open for “Gab With Gabe,” our limited-ticket reception with Gabe Brown. Register for that here – note that this is separate from the general MSHS registration.

Wed., Feb. 18

  • 1 p.m. – Registration Opens
  • 1 p.m. – Soil Health Basics with John Mesko
  • 2:30 p.m. – International Round Table
  • 4 p.m. – Special “Gab With Gabe” networking event with Gabe Brown. To attend you must purchase the additional “Gab With Gabe” ticket.
  • 6 p.m. – Social Time begins with cash bar, heavy appetizer buffet, welcome, interview of Gabe Brown and Dr. Allen Williams by John Mesko, “Soil Carbon Cowboys” film screening, and more
Dr. Allen Williams

Dr. Allen Williams

Thurs., Feb. 19

  • 7 a.m. – Registration opens
  • 8 a.m. – Opening Plenary Session: Welcome and introduction by John Mesko, VIP Welcome, Housekeeping with Jerry Ford
  • 8:15 a.m. – Dr. Allen Williams
  • 9:35 a.m. – Jerry Doan
  • 10:30 a.m. – Discussion Tables: Allen Williams, Jerry Doan, Gabe Brown
  • 11 a.m. – Ian Cunningham
  • 11:45 a.m. – LUNCH: Buffet and discussion tables with Ian Cunningham and Gabe Brown
  • 1 p.m. – Dr. Wendy Taheri, “Understanding the Role of Diversity in Agricultural Ecosystems”
  • 1:45 p.m. – Dr. Michael Lehman
  • 2:30 p.m. – Discussion Tables: Wendy Taheri, Mike Lehman
  • 3 p.m. – Kent Solberg
  • 3:50 p.m. – Keynote: Gabe Brown
  • 5:15 p.m. – Conference ends

From the Executive Director: Success Can Hinge on Knowing the Challenges Ahead

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

Here are four ways SFA’s New Farm Reality Check Curriculum is like a Driver’s Education Course:

  1. Both offer a “Reality Check” for beginners who are getting ready to launch into a risky, difficult, but highly rewarding adventure.
  2. Both teach about potential dangers participants will face.
  3. Both seek to prepare participants to avoid those dangers.
  4. Both are eager to see participants engage in and succeed in their endeavors.

In beginning driver education classes, we’ve all seen the videos and heard the stories of terrible tragedies that can occur when drivers overlook unrealistic expectations, bad assumptions and improper training and preparation. Does that mean we don’t want people to actually drive? Absolutely not! We are realistic about the difficulties and challenges of driving, because poorly trained drivers impact everyone on the road.

SFA’s New Farm Reality Check Curriculum is no different. We want every farmer who launches to succeed.

This year’s SFA Annual Conference will feature a brief introduction to the New Farm Reality Check Curriculum. If you are thinking about launching your farm plan, you might want to check it out!

SFA Deep Roots Program Hosting Nuts and Bolts Workshop

Nuts and Bolts, a workshop designed for those with a desire to farm but with little or no experience with common farm tools and equipment, is set for 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sat., March 21 at Paradox Farm, 11643 State Hwy 78, Ashby, Minn. In this workshop, students will gain practical experience with farm tools and materials.20A

Get prepared for the upcoming season of food production by participating in this Deep Roots Farmer Development Program workshop. You will increase your handiness while developing competence with farm tools and materials. Get the edge for summer farm internships by listing this course on your resume! This is also an appropriate preparatory course for Farm Skills 101.

Small class size guarantees that all students receive ample individual attention. Course instructors are seasoned farmers. Students should have gloves and safety glasses and wear closed-toe shoes and long pants.


  • Common hand tool identification and use on the farm
  • Hands-on operation of common tools
  • Ergonomics and body mechanics
  • Common hardware identification & use: nails, nuts, bolts, staples, screws
  • Building materials, such as lumber
  • Small carpentry project completed during class

Directions: 7 miles north of Ashby; 10 miles south of Battle Lake. Bring a sack lunch. Cost: $99 early bird registration by Feb. 14; $129 thereafter. No walk-in registration.

Click here to register.

Questions? Email gro.n1422664926m-afs1422664926@eus1422664926 or call 218.747.2202.

Small-Scale Sheep Event in Lake Agassiz

SFA_LakeAgassiz_RGBSFA Lake Agassiz Chapter is co-sponsoring a Small Scale Sustainable Sheep Farming Event from 10:45 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at Northern Woolen Mills, 803 11th St. NW, Fosston, Minn. Learn about raising sheep as part of a holistically managed farm, for meat, milk and fiber as well as connect with established shepherds and those wanting to keep sheep, local markets and people interested in sheep products.

Informational booths providing education, information on programs through NRCS and services for shepherds are planned, as well as a tour of Northern Woolen Mills, and lunch will be catered by Quinn Olson, Manager Fosston Farmers Market

Cost is $15 for the public and $10 for SFA members. Under 16 free. For more information or to register by Feb. 14, contact Alethea Kenney at 218.657.2502 or moc.d1422664926ribde1422664926er@ei1422664926lla1422664926, or visit www.reedbird.com.

As 2014 Ends, Help SFA Make Sustainability Happen

By Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

What do Albert Lea Seed, the Wallace Center at Winrock International, Organic Valley Co-op, and the Bremer Foundation have in common?

Organic Valley's Joe Borgerding (left) and Ken Larson (center) chat with Chris Barnier at the 2014 SFA Midwest Soil Health Summit.

Organic Valley’s Joe Borgerding (left) and Ken Larson (center) chat with Chris Barnier at the 2014 SFA Midwest Soil Health Summit.

They all support SFA financially, as do dozens of individuals, just like you.

When you donate to SFA, your dollars go directly into farmer education and networking that promotes sustainable farming and environmental stewardship. With low overhead, SFA delivers terrific bang for your buck if you are seeking a charitable organization for improving our agricultural and food systems.

For instance, SFA is working hard to revitalize our Lake Agassiz Chapter in northwest Minnesota. We’re doing it by hosting events like “Good Food From Good Farms” in Thief River Falls – events that help spread awareness of local food while building a farmer network in an underserved area.

Donate to SFA today here and feel good about where your money goes. All donations to SFA are fully tax-deductible. And next time you read about or attend any SFA event where people are networking and learning, you can say with confidence, “I helped make this happen.”

Then, reward yourself for your donation with a conference registration. Sign up now for both the SFA Annual Conference or Midwest Soil Health Summit – SFA members get discounted registration at both conferences.

Plus, SFA Annual Conference Early Bird registration ends Dec. 31. Sign up now and save!

Finally, thank you for your ongoing support of SFA and our programs. We accomplished a lot in 2014 and are ready to continue promoting sustainable agriculture in Minnesota and beyond.

Here’s to more local food, improved soil health, farmer networking, and fellowship in 2015!