SFA Greater Mille Lacs Chapter Now Official

SFA is excited to announce the formation of a brand-new chapter centered around the Aitkin area – the Greater Mille Lacs chapter.

Erik Heimark, SFA Greater Mille Lacs Chapter President.

Erik Heimark, SFA Greater Mille Lacs Chapter President.

According to Erik Heimark, chapter president, Greater Mille Lacs arose because of the large number of sustainably minded farmers around the Aitkin area.

“The idea to form a SFA chapter came about at a meeting last January where local farmers got together to discuss ways to support each other in the coming season,” he said. “The main goals of the Greater Mille Lacs Chapter are to help farmers market and process their products, provide support to their operations, and to educate themselves and their neighbors about the best practices in sustainable agriculture.”

SFA Network Coordinator Jerry Ford shepherded the new chapter through the formation process, and reminds SFA members that anyone interested in chapter-related issues should visit our Chapter Resource Portal.

Anyone interested in learning more about the new Greater Mille Lacs Chapter can contact Erik at ude.n1429926531mu@2214299265310amie1429926531h1429926531 or membership coordinator Jodi Olson at moc.l1429926531iamg@142992653113ett1429926531eduaj1429926531 or 218.927.1435.

SFA Nears Completion in Meeting High-level Nonprofit Standards

SFA Network Coordinator Jerry Ford has been working with the Charities Review Council in a program that certifies nonprofit organizations that meet a high set of standards. Jerry is shown here with Kris Kewitsch, Executive Director, Charities Review Council.

SFA Network Coordinator Jerry Ford has been working with the Charities Review Council in a program that certifies nonprofit organizations that meet a high set of standards. Jerry is shown here with Kris Kewitsch, Executive Director, Charities Review Council.

The Charities Review Council oversees a program to certify nonprofit organizations that meet a high set of standards. The process for attaining the certification is rigorous and demanding, but SFA is nearing the finish line. Organizations that achieve these standards are listed on the website, smartgivers.org, a resource for donors, foundations and philanthropists who seek assurance that a particular charity is structurally sound and effectively pursuing its stated mission.

SFA’s Network Coordinator, Jerry Ford, and Executive Director, John Mesko, have completed a series of required Nonprofit Strengthening Workshops over the past several months as part of this program. Using what they have learned, they have been fine-tuning various area of SFA’s organizational documentation and structure to bring us into greater alignment with legal requirements and accepted best practices.

The final step is a thorough analysis of our procedures, policies and mission, and we are well into that process. Our intention is to be certified by the Charities Review Council before the fall fundraising season, which will open up even greater sources of donation revenue for SFA.

Lake Agassiz Seed Swap April 26 in Bagley

SFA_LakeAgassiz_RGBSFA Lake Agassiz Chapter is hosting a Seed Swap and potluck from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 26, at the American Legion, 112 Main Ave N, Bagley. This event is free and no registration is required.

Attendees can bring extra seeds saved from crops or leftover purchased seeds, all in containers that are not spill-prone and clearly labeled, along with small envelopes to carry home your exchanges. Do not bring treated or GMO seeds. Cuttings, scion wood, etc. are welcome.

No seeds? No sweat! Come anyway and pick up some things that interest you. Discussion welcome on the history of heirloom seeds and ancient grains.

For more information, contact Jim Ingvaldson at 218-694-3071.

Young Farmers Receive Crow River SFA Scholarships

SFA’s Crow River Chapter recently recognized two area youth as recipients of the Outstanding Youth in Sustainable Agriculture award.

Two aspiring farmers received $100 awards at the Crow River SFA annual meeting Jan. 31. Pictured (from left) are scholarship winners Emily Hackbarth and Charlie Otto with Crow River Chapter President Nick Neaton.

Two aspiring farmers received $100 awards at the Crow River SFA annual meeting Jan. 31. Pictured (from left) are scholarship winners Emily Hackbarth and Charlie Otto with Crow River Chapter President Nick Neaton.

These hard-working young people each received a $100 cash award towards their farming projects. It is the CRSFA’s hope that this financial assistance will inspire new generations to start farming!

Emily Hackbarth raises goats, llamas, and gardens at her family’s farm near Silver Lake. Emily is especially interested in pasture management and holistic health for her herd of dairy goats. She is active in 4-H, which has helped cultivate her lifelong passion for agriculture.

Charlie Otto of Delano is also a longtime 4-H member. Charlie raises sheep, cattle, and chickens on his family’s farm, as well as helping with the vegetable gardens. Charlie hopes to use the $100 award to create a better fencing system for his pastured chickens.

For more information, visit the SFA Crow River Chapter homepage.

Lake Agassiz Seed Swap April 26 in Bagley

SFA_LakeAgassiz_RGBSFA Lake Agassiz Chapter is hosting a Seed Swap and potluck from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 26, at the American Legion, 112 Main Ave N, Bagley. This event is free and no registration is required.

Attendees can bring extra seeds saved from crops or leftover purchased seeds, all in containers that are not spill-prone and clearly labeled, along with small envelopes to carry home your exchanges. Do not bring treated or GMO seeds. Cuttings, scion wood, etc. are welcome.

No seeds? No sweat! Come anyway and pick up some things that interest you. Discussion welcome on the history of heirloom seeds and ancient grains.

For more information, contact Jim Ingvaldson at 218-694-3071.

KCIM Soil Health Webinar with Dr. Shannon Osbourne Now Archived

KCIM Keep Cattle in MinnesotaOur most recent Keep Cattle in Minnesota webinar was April 3 and featured Dr. Shannon Osbourne of ARS in Brookings, S.D. Dr. Osborne is a Research Agronomist with the US Dept of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service whose research focuses on understanding how soil and crop management options influence the soil environment and how these practices can be developed into production systems that maintain or improve our soil resource conservation and environmental quality, while providing production efficiency.

Dr. Osborne’s presentation focused on the impact of crop diversity, no-till, cover crops and residue removal on soil health properties, including soil physical properties and their interaction with soil biological properties. Specific information will included how crop diversity and cover crops impact soil aggregation, carbon and components of soil organic matter.

Click here to view this and past webinars on our new Webinar Homepage.

From the Executive Director: Volunteering for SFA is Win-Win

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

SFA’s website is loaded with helpful information. A key part of the SFA website is our volunteer page. If you are a volunteer, you will need to be familiar with the volunteer handbook, which can be found there. If you haven’t already been through the handbook, please read it, and then sign and submit a volunteer release form. This is required of all volunteers.

Also on the volunteer page, you can track your volunteer hours. This is a great way to make a formal donation to SFA. By recording your hours here, you are actually making an “in-kind” donation to SFA. This is very useful to us when we write a grant that requires matching funds. But we can only take advantage of this if you record your hours.

If you have a volunteer opportunity in your chapter, listing it here may help you find the right person for the job. We get frequent requests from people who want to volunteer, and since we don’t always know everything going on in each region, this is a great tool for communicating your need for volunteer assistance.

Association Board Elects New Officer Slate

Executive CouncilAt its meeting on Feb. 13, 2015, the SFA Board of Directors elected a new slate of officers.

At-large member Libby Wyrum was elected Vice-President, Lake Agassiz Chapter representative Marie Petry was elected board Secretary, and at-large member Chris Kudrna was elected as Treasurer.

Jim Chamberlin will remain in his role as Board President.

Wyrum has been on the Association Board since 2012. She is the founder of Frank & Ernest Foods, a local marketing consultancy, and is the director of the Linden Hills Farmers Market. She lives in St. Paul with her husband Dan and their two dogs, Frank and Ernest.

Petry has worked tirelessly for the past few years to revitalize SFA’s Lake Agassiz Chapter. Most recently, she has organized three popular “Good Food From Good Farms” events and is planning a yearly Lake Agassiz Chicken Festival. She and her husband, Bob, operate GrassStain Farm near Wolverton.

Kudrna is a longtime SFA Board member and past President who is a stalwart of Crow River Chapter and vendor at Minnesota Garlic Festival. He and his wife, Joanne, own Plum Creek Garlic near St. Cloud.

Chamberlin and his wife, Audra, own Island Lake Farm south of Deerwood, a 107-acre diversified farm where they raise food and fiber for their nine children, seven grandchildren, extended family and friends.

New SFA East Central Chapter Hosting First Meeting

A new SFA chapter is forming in the East Central part of the state, and all are invited to the first official chapter meeting, set for 6 p.m. March 29 at Kimberly-Glen Town Hall in Aitkin.

Admission to this event is free and no registration is required.

The purpose of this meeting is to elect a Chapter Board of Directors and discuss the direction and goals of this new Chapter. Here are the particulars about the event:

  • Date:  March 29, 2015
  • Time: 6 pm
  • Location: Kimberly-Glen Town Hall, 32631 Dam Lake St, Aitkin, MN 56431
  • Cost: Free

For more information, contact Jerry Ford at gro.n1429926531m-afs1429926531@yrre1429926531j1429926531.

From the Executive Director: How You Can Build a Network

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

What makes SFA’s farmer network unique? When you look over the landscape of sustainable agriculture today, there are many “farmer networks” in existence. What makes a network, and why is SFA’s network unique?

A network, as we are using the term here is defined as: “a group or system of interconnected people or things.”

Twenty-five years ago, at the founding of SFA, the idea of farmers networking together to solve the issues of sustainability was a relatively new concept. There were networks, of course, but many of these were bonded with the glue of political partisanship. Such networks are very effective navigating the politics of any issue, but really struggle to provide solutions for issues that cross political lines, and food and farming is one of those issues.

Today, SFA is a Farmer-to-Farmer-Network® organization and is really a network of farmers who work independently and interconnectedly to solve their own issues around sustainability as well as the broader issues of local foods, healthy communities and the sustainable agriculture movement in general. In other words, our network is designed to help individual farmers become more successful, as well as elevate the conversations around food and farming, bringing about a sustainable future across the board.

Building a professional network of clients and contacts for your business involves how you relate to people. Developing a professional network includes awareness of people who interact with your business, having a positive attitude about people, communicating effectively with people, and doing the things that build strong relationships.

The strength of any network is really found in the interactions of individuals to help build it. And you may be asking, “OK, how can I help build this network?” Here a list of things you can do within SFA that will help both you and the bigger sustainable agriculture picture:

  • Be Aware. Opportunities are all around you, and yet if you are not aware of them, they may as well not exist. Reading SFA Connect is a great way to be aware.
  • Have a helpful attitude. Being an effective networker isn’t just about what you do; it’s also about your attitude toward what you’re doing. Your attitude influences everything in your life — the goals you set, the risks you’re willing to take, the way you approach people, your willingness to approach people, the way you respond to people, and much more. Volunteering at your chapter and recording your volunteer hours is a great way to demonstrate helpfulness. It’s fun too! Your attitude not only affects what you do; it also affects the way people respond to you. Your attitude can create a barrier and turn people off, or it can communicate with people that you want people to interact with you.
  • Hone your communication skills. Networking happens through conversation. After mastering the art of small talk, you will feel more comfortable meeting new people and developing rapport. By developing rapport with people, you will be able to turn small talk into opportunities to make requests and be a networking resource. Attend a chapter meeting, workshop or conference connected to SFA. You’ll have a chance to communicate with other like-minded farmers.
  • Develop relationship-building habits. A network exists as a series of relationships and connections between people. People must relate with and respect one another in order for a valuable networking exchange to happen. Building relationships is your first priority when networking.

Editor’s Note: Adapted from “How to Build a Professional Network.” John Wiley & Sons, publishers. Accessed: March 23, 2015