Sustainable Agriculture as we know it defined has been the work of the Sustainable Farming Association for 25 years. SFA and other organizations have been working diligently to advance this brand of agriculture. We’ve succeeded in many ways, but there’s more to be done. In this report, I review the past, assess the present, and lay out a few objectives for the future. Funding for this report was supplied by the Otto Bremer Foundation.
Over 30 people attended our most recent soil health webinar, “Improve Soil Health and Yields by Integrating Cover Crops and Livestock Grazing” with Dr. Allen Williams. Dr. Williams’ presentation described why the most profitable systems are a combination of integrated livestock and crops that include perennials in the rotation.
Also, on Sept. 17, 2015, SFA Executive Director John Mesko gave a presentation to the Brainerd Area Environmental Learning Network titled, “The Impacts of Extreme Weather Events on Food Systems.”
Registration is now open for the spring 2016 semester of our Deep Roots Farmer Development Program’s Farm Skills 101, which consists of around 50 hours of on-farm education in three weekends of fun and fulfilling learning. This hands-on training consists of days in the field, not field days – participants will need pants, closed-toe shoes, gloves and safety glasses.
Spring 2016 classes will be held on April 15-16, 22-23 and 29-30 at farms near Alexandria, Minn. Friday classes run from 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Pack sack lunches and breakfasts; Friday local-foods suppers are included. Tuition also includes housing at nearby Viking Valley Hunt Club.
Deep Roots programs include small class sizes and individualized attention. Every student engages in the activities. This is real-world, real-time education.
Fall 2015 student Holly Pearson said of her experience, “I knew this was gonna be cool but have been blown away by the amount and caliber of material we’ve learned, the patience and awesomeness of the people involved and the simple elegance of sustainable farming methods. I think this class has made me a better human.”
Another student said FS 101 was a “jawdroppingly fabulous program in Minnesota where we learned all sorts of things that we didn’t know we didn’t know.”
Regarding the world of agriculture in Minnesota, the Sustainable Farming Association considers its community to be those farmers, aspiring farmers, agriculture supporters and consumers throughout Minnesota who contribute in diverse ways to agriculture of all types, local food, and rural revitalization. Since 2009, SFA has been expanding our community, broadening our network and serving our region by empowering farmers and farm supporters to work together to address issues in our community and to advance a healthy sustainable food system for everyone. As SFA grows, and we seek to continue to strengthen the organization to best serve our community, there is a need to re-assess our structure and best practices.
The agriculture community, including farms, farmers and support businesses continues to consolidate as it has for the past 50 years. A new problem is on the horizon, however. As Baby Boomer farmers exit agriculture, many do not have a successor in mind either from within the family or outside of the family. This means that when a farmer retires, the farm assets, including land, buildings, equipment and breeding stock, are generally sold to the highest bidder and the production is absorbed by a neighboring farm. When this happens, rural communities lose significant economic, social and civic infrastructure. The economic well-being of a community is threatened.
My belief is that farmers should be the ones leading on this important issue. The consolidation of agriculture has been in response to external factors imposed upon farmers. Solutions to this issue should be developed from within the farming community. Let’s work together to sustain a diverse, robust agriculture and local economy where individual farms and families matter, and where the quality of food produced and the quality of the environment left behind take precedent over merely the quantity and the relative low cost of the food produced.
SFA has organized its community around the need for educational information sharing and networking among farmers, and the ability for farmer-innovators to lead in their communities in problem solving. You can be a part of this community in several ways. By reading and learning about sustainable agriculture, through SFA Connect for example, you are at the first level of involvement. Next, if you haven’t already, become a sustaining member of SFA. Third, attend the SFA Annual Conference and the Midwest Soil Health Summit, where you’ll really become a part of the community. You’ll meet other like-minded people, learn more about important issues facing agriculture today, and offer your solutions for agriculture through our networking activities.
Thanks for your continued interest in SFA, and more importantly for desiring to make the world’s food better.
At SFA, we are starting to see both an increased interest in our programming as well as positive results from the education and farmer networking efforts we’ve undertaken in the past few years. SFA is an inclusive organization open to all, and we believe that our brand of agriculture is the most positive way forward.
We are proud to announce that we have built a matching fund for the upcoming Give to the Max Day, the popular annual fundraiser promoted by GiveMN.org. As of today, we have raised $10,000 for our matching fund from our board members and supporters like Lakewinds Co-op and Restaurant Alma. This means that every dollar you donate will be matched by the fund at least up to $10,000 – your $100 donation results in $200 to SFA.
Our goal is to raise $20,000 on Give to the Max Day, and we can’t do it without your support.
This year’s fundraising holiday is officially Nov. 12, but GiveMN has stretched the event – it began Nov. 1, and any donation you make through SFA’s page on GiveMN will qualify for the matching fund. Schedule your donation early and avoid the high-traffic GTM Day fray.
SFA is growing the next generation of farmers who are going to farm in ways that feed our communities good food while improving water and soil quality. We hope to hear from you.
Click here to view our Give to the Max homepage and donate today. And many thanks to those of you who have already scheduled your donations!
We are entering the giving season, and with holiday celebrations, office parties, year-end fundraising drives, and Give to the Max Day, it’s easy to feel pulled in several directions at once. If you are being asked to give, donate, or share, it’s an indication you are valued as a partner, friend, associate or supporter.
That’s certainly how we feel about our partners at SFA. We value everyone who contributes to building the kind of food and farming system we all want to see:
- A system which actually has the potential to mitigate climate change rather than contribute to it
- One where the environment, animals and people are made better, not run down
- A diverse system of farms and farmers who can truly feed the world AND improve the environment
The purpose of SFA’s fundraising efforts is not to keep SFA running, it’s to address these important issues. If you are concerned about clean soil and water, our Midwest Soil Health Summit is preparing current farmers to farm clean. If you are concerned about the growing need for new farmers, our Deep Roots Program is preparing the next generation of farmers to farm clean.
Finally, with SFA’s matching fund in place this year, your donation is going to be worth double!
Click here to join me and many others who already have donated to SFA during Give to the Max 2015. Thank you.
Every year, Lakewinds Food Co-op awards grant funding to local farmers as part of its Lakewinds Organic Field Fund program. The grant recipients include several SFA members, and the video below also features Lakewinds General Manager and SFA Board of Directors member Dale Woodbeck.
SFA is proud to have Lakewinds as such a staunch supporter, both of our organization and the local farm and food community. Watch this gorgeous video to learn about this year’s funded farms and see how many SFA members you can spot! To see all the grant recipients, click here.
SFA and the Pasture Project are hosting a two-day event series, “Grazing Cover Crops: Innovations in the Field,” on Nov. 12 and 13 in Redwood Falls, Mankato and Blue Earth, Minn. Learn how to use grazing cover crops as a conservation strategy by hearing from experts and touring two local farms.
The Nov. 12 event begins at 1 p.m. with a presentation at Pizza Ranch, 1360 E Bridge St, Redwood Falls, followed by a field review of cover crops and grazing management at Dan Tiffany’s farm.
On Nov. 13, a discussion surrounding the expansion of grazing cover crops and opportunities to build soil health will be held from 8:30 to 11 a.m. in Mankato at Mankato City Center Hotel, 101 E Main St.
Then at 1 p.m. the presentation moves to the Scott Haase farm, 7301 377th Ave, Blue Earth, to see grazing cover crops in action and learn about benefits, impact and strategy. Directions to Haase farm (watch for SFA signs): From the north, follow U.S. 169 through Blue Earth, go under the railroad track, and turn west onto 14th St. Then turn left on 377th Ave and follow south approximately 2.5 miles to the farm.
These events are free but space is limited. RSVP by Nov. 5 to firstname.lastname@example.orgR1448475429.
A group rate of $79/night is available at the Mankato City Center hotel by calling 1.877.345.5577. Mention Winrock International to book at the group rate. The deadline to book rooms at this rate is Nov. 5.
Dr. Allen Williams will join the Sustainable Farming Association for the next installment in its ongoing soil health webinar series. The free webinar, “Improve Soil Health and Yields by Integrating Cover Crops and Livestock Grazing,” will be 1-2:30 p.m. Nov. 6.
Bridging to his presentation at SFA’s 2016 Midwest Soil Health Summit, Dr. Williams will discuss using cover crops to integrate livestock into cropping systems and the value of grazing management to soil health.
He will also address how integrating livestock and grazing management benefits to soil health rank high among NRCS field staff as areas they are seeking more information and training. Finally, the webinar will address his recent Conservation Innovation Grant project as well as grazing cover crops.
For more information about this and other virtual SFA education, visit our webinar archive.
By Alethea Kenney • SFA Sustainable Sheep
Sheep have been an integral part of Minnesota’s heritage and continue to be a growing part of diverse farms across Minnesota, and SFA’s Sustainable Sheep networking group focuses on connecting sheep farmers, youth, fiber artists and consumers that want to promote, use and sell sustainably raised sheep, meat and fiber products locally.
This group also has a unique opportunity to promote sustainable ways to raise sheep and to educate the public in the importance of choosing local, sustainable fiber for their garments, projects and art.
Seeing northern Minnesota sheep producers moving toward grass-based sustainable sheep production and more sheep products available and being purchased locally is the ultimate goal of the SFA Sustainable Sheep networking group. Please join us in seeing these goals become reality.
For more information, visit our Sustainable Sheep homepage or email gro.n1448475429m-afs1448475429@peeh1448475429selba1448475429niats1448475429us1448475429.