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!

*********************

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!

SFP Course: Introduction to Small Ruminant Husbandry is April 26

Dan, Tom and sheep 500p for websiteAnyone considering adding goats or sheep to their sustainable food production system or those who want to manage their small ruminants more holistically should attend a SFA Sustainable Food Production workshop, Introduction to Small Ruminant Husbandry, from 1 to 5 p.m. Sat., April 26, at Paradox Farm, 11643 State Highway 78, Ashby, Minn. (ten miles south of Battle Lake; seven miles north of Ashby).

Click here to download a flyer.

This course provides students opportunity for hands-on work with sheep and goats. In a working-farm setting, students can learn how small ruminants can fit into a natural systems farm. Course topics include: holistic management, ruminant nutrition, animal handling, fencing, grazing strategies, holistic veterinary care, shelters, weight and age estimation. Wear clothing appropriate for working with animals: closed-toe shoes, gloves, long pants.

Paradox Farm owners Sue Wika and Tom Prieve will share their perspectives on how small ruminants can fit in holistically managed food production systems. Small ruminants have been an integral element of Paradox Farm for ten years. In addition to enjoying and appreciating small ruminants, Wika and Prieve are experienced sustainable farming educators and lead SFA’s Sustainable Food Production Program, which is also gearing up for its Fall 2014 semester.

To learn more and to register, click here.

Gabe Brown Returning for 2015 Midwest Soil Health Summit

Gabe chats with two farmersBy Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

Soil health really is the key to sustainability and is becoming top of mind for SFA.

Midwest Soil Health Summit presenter and soil health pioneer Rick Bieber chats with attendees at the MSHS Discussion Tables.

Midwest Soil Health Summit presenter and soil health pioneer Rick Bieber chats with attendees at the MSHS Discussion Tables.

Shifting the focus of agriculture from maximum yields to maximum soil health quality is critical to the sustainability of agriculture in Minnesota, the Upper Midwest, the United States and globally. SFA is committed to continued soil health programming, including programs addressing the integration of cover crops, row crops and livestock grazing, and will continue the pursuit of funding and programs that foster the development of soil health building practices for the long term.

To that end, SFA is proud to announce the return of the Midwest Soil Health Summit, set for Feb. 18-19, 2015, again at Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria.

We are also especially proud to announce that Gabe Brown of Brown’s Ranch will be returning to the MSHS in 2015 as the keynote speaker. Next year, however, Gabe and the other presenters will have a dual focus: there will be specific workshops for soil health beginners as well as advanced farmers.

Plus, we will be planning even more farmer-to-farmer networking time. The popularity of the “Gab With Gabe” session, the discussion tables with each presenter (right, with Rick Bieber), and the Q and A sessions in 2014 means even more opportunities to network will be on the slate in 2015.

So, if you attended this year’s Summit, don’t think 2015 will be a repeat. Some of the presenters may be the same, but the programming will be varied and tailored to farmers of all stripes and expertise levels.

It’s never too soon to start planning your conference season calendar. Just ask anybody who attended the sold-out 2014 Midwest Soil Health Summit, and they’ll tell you it’s a conference you can’t afford to miss.

Pencil in Feb. 18-19, 2015, and we’ll keep you updated on Summit speakers, registration, and everything you need to know.

Executive Director’s Note

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko

As I’ve said before, one of the keys to changing our food culture in the US is consumers. In fact, the link between consumers and farms is so critical, it may be the key to making sustainable agriculture the default brand of agriculture. This was echoed by Gabe Brown at the Midwest Soil Health Summit in February, and we are taking it seriously.

To this end, SFA is sponsoring the Midwest Premiere of the new documentary movie, “Resistance,” to be held Tues., April 8, at 7 p.m. at Grandview Theater, 1830 Grand Ave, St. Paul.

I have seen the director’s cut of this movie, which tells the story of the importance of antibiotics to every person in the US, and how the effectiveness of antibiotics in humans is threatened by the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animals. There is a great message supporting natural, organic and grass-based farming which we all want to get into the hands of consumers.

Stay tuned for your opportunity to register to attend this premier showing of “Resistance.” You really won’t want to miss this.

Follow me on Twitter @johnmesko

RTC, MOSES Hosting New Farmer Summit April 4-5

Renewing the CountrysideRenewing the Countryside and MOSES (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service) are hosting the New Farmer Summit where beginning and aspiring farmers, or anyone interested in high quality sustainable farming workshops, can learn about both the field and financial sides of farming while making valuable connections. A number of full scholarships earmarked for Minnesotans remain thanks to Minnesota NCR-SARE! Click here to fill out our brief scholarship application.

The New Farmer Summit is April 4-5, held at Primrose Valley Farm outside of New Glarus, WI. Registration includes two full days of practical workshops, large group sessions hosted by National Young Farmers Coalition and Agrarian Trust, a farmerpanel, organic meals, a seed swap, and an evening barn dance with live music and a caller. Cost is $75. Discounts apply to farm partners.
Register today here.

SFA Member Writes Post on Paradox Farm

Emmy and Sue for ConnectSFA member Emmy Tolbert (at right with Sue Wika) recently wrote an article for the Stand for Food blog after attending an SFP Workshop on Deep Winter Greens at Sue and Tom Prieve’s Paradox Farm. Here’s an excerpt:

Have you ever dreamed of owning  a “deep winter” greenhouse–one of those polycarbonate covered structures, with interiors that feel like spring and summer, surrounded by black gold(soil) and lettuce seeds that grow into many shades of glorious green? That once found, built, or structured, is a true treasure during our cold Minnesota winters?

Just imagine my joy when I received the last reserved spot in the “Deep Winter Production of Greens and Livestock Fodder Utilizing Passive Solar Energy” class held at Paradox Farms in Ashby, MN.  Now sponsored by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota, Sustainable Food Production instructors Tom Prieve and Sue Wika taught this class in a warm and cozy corner of their barn to thirteen energetic and excited students of various ages on a cold, blustery January day.

Prieve kicked off the morning with a tour of their deep winter greenhouse, where the students observed the unique practicality  and benefit of this polycarbonate-covered structure. The pair of educators (a pair of docs)  were inspired to build this greenhouse to fit their personal farm needs,  to nurture their goals of  being more self-reliant, and to foster the ethic of neighborhood supported agriculture.

To read the entire post, click here.