Harvest Festival, Sept. 6 in Duluth, Has Something for Everyone

Harvest FestivalBy Abby DeVita • Lake Superior Chapter Coordinator

It’s food, it’s learning, it’s growing, it’s fun. It’s something for everyone, and it’s free. Why not make a day of it at Harvest Festival, set for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat., Sept. 6, at Bayfront Park in downtown Duluth.

For over two decades, the Lake Superior Chapter of SFA has put on this premier event, connecting producers and consumers. Harvest Festival features one of the best and largest farmers’ markets in the region, along with live music, craft village, nonprofit showcase, educational exhibits, family activities and more! The best part is that it’s all locally focused, locally grown, and locally sourced. Admission and parking is free to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by donation after that for the evening entertainment acts.

This year, the LSSFA is working in collaboration with the Twin Ports Bridge Festival to to put on one broader event connecting people and celebrating community. Honoring our greatest lake and the communities that it brings together, we are uniting to bring you the best event yet! Fly a kite, pet a goat, meet a piping plover. Listen to music and treat yourself to handmade craft items. Eat something fresh and healthy (or maybe just a little bit indulgent). Learn about backyard composting or backyard chicken-raising or beekeeping. Meet your neighbors and the people who grow your food.

If you’re local, walk on over. If you’re from out of town, make a day of it or stay for the weekend. The 21st Annual Harvest Festival welcomes you!

Executive Director’s Note

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

There isn’t much going on in the news these days that inspire confidence about the future. The news from the Middle East, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere leaves us staggered. Sometimes, there can be so much bad news that we just zone it out, push it away. It’s a normal response.

At the risk of sounding like Pollyanna, however, I have to admit I’m optimistic about sustainable agriculture. I really am. As I prepared to write this, I could hardly contain my excitement about the future of our preferred production model in agriculture.

Just take a look at this issue of SFA Connect. We’ve got examples of several SFA member farms being named as University of MN Farm Families of the Year. This is a real validation of the kind of food production espoused by SFA over the past many years. Thank you to all the farms represented in that list, and I can’t wait to see next year’s list.

Also, SFA has just come off another very successful Minnesota Garlic Festival, and we are rolling into what looks to be another great Harvest Festival up in Duluth on Sept. 6. The Farm Skills 101 class is booked to capacity, and over 4,000 votes have been cast in our poll for Annual Conference Topics.

There’s a lot going on! SFA’ers are involved, committed and making a difference for sustainable agriculture in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest.  I’m really looking forward to this winter’s meeting season. There’s never been a better time to be a sustainable farmer!

Here’s to a safe and prosperous fall 2014!

SFA Chapters: Comment on New Resource Portal

SFA has created a Chapter Resource Portal for chapter coordinators and leaders: Learn how to properly represent the Association in your communications, read our Chapter Resource Guide, download appropriate logos and templates, view your chapter charter and other official SFA documents, and more.

We hope you find this useful and would love to hear your feedback. Check it out, make suggestions and email them to Jerry Ford by Oct. 1 so we can take your suggestions and improve the Portal before your annual chapter meeting.

SFA Sustainability Conference Internships Available

SFA is accepting applications for Sustainability Conference Internships. These hands-on internships are for late fall and winter 2014/15 and require attendance at the SFA Annual Conference on Feb. 14 as well as the Midwest Soil Health Summit on Feb. 18-19. Those interested in an application should contact SFA Network Coordinator Jerry Ford at jerry@sfa-mn.org.

Click here to learn more at our internships homepage.

Voting Update: 2015 SFA Annual Conference Session Topics

We are thinking about topics for our next SFA Annual Conference, set for Feb. 14, 2015, again at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph.

Voting closes Oct. 30 for 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.

We’re up to 61 topic ideas and over 4,000 votes! The top ten vote-getters as of Aug. 24, 2014:

  • Salvaging, Repurposing, Upcycling, and Restoring farm equipment and buildings
  • Deep Winter Solar Greenhouses
  • How Can Sustainably Produced Fiber Contribute to the Success of Local Food Initiatives
  • Integrating Crops & Livestock
  • Multi-Species Grazing
  • Get a butcher there to discuss what cuts to produce, how to decide when to butcher, proper nutrition (grass based) for best results, etc.
  • Cover Crops & Soil Health
  • LLC, LC3 and 501c(3) which one is right for me? A conversation about limiting liability and your business.
  • Direct Marketing Meat
  • Value-Added Processing

Make your voice heard – submit your own ideas and vote early and often.

Organic Certification Cost Share is Back for 2014

Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson has signed an agreement with USDA to offer an organic certification cost share program again in 2014. This program offers important regulatory cost relief for organic farmers and handlers who are required by law to hire an accredited certifying agency to verify they are complying with National Organic Standards.

All certified organic operations in MN should receive application materials in the mail in a couple of weeks. The materials will also be available online after that time at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic.

The program refunds up to 75 percent of certification costs for operations that are certified (or have continuing certification) by Sept. 30, 2014. Funding for the Organic Certification Cost Share program was included in the Farm Bill passed by Congress earlier this year. Minnesota’s allocation for 2014 is $541,500.

In Minnesota, applications will be due Oct. 31. Information about organic practices, certification requirements, and other related topics is available right now at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic.

If you are in transition right now and will not be certified before Sept. 30, 2014, you may qualify for our Minnesota Organic Transition Cost Share program instead. More info here.

British White Cattle Association Conference in Waubun

Attention cattle folks: A conference featuring speakers Kit Pharo of Pharo Cattle Company as well as Will Winter, DVM, is slated for 8 a.m. Aug. 29 at Waubun High School in Waubun. Hosted by Rolling Hills Traeger Ranch in partnership with Britsh White Cattle Association of America, the conference will feature education and perspective for all types and sizes of beef producers.

Pharo is know for his “Herd Quitter” approach to beef production to produce beef and breeding stock more profitably under all types of conditions. Winter will discuss how ranchers can achieve optimal utilization of any forage as well as maximum rumen efficiency.

Also planned is a tour of a British White Cattle herd, an auction, trade show, and more. Cost is $125 at the door. For more information, contact Christina at 320.293.2995 or britishwhitebeef@gmail.com, or visit the conference homepage.

To learn more about Christina Traeger, read this recent Star Tribune profile.

Farm Skills 101 a Sellout, but Spring Semester Added

By Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

SFA’s Farm Skills 101 is a popular, intensive skills-training course geared for the forage-based livestock farmer.

woman with tractor horiz - 500p for websiteHow do we know it’s popular? The Fall 2014 semester is now completely full, two months before it begins.

But if you were still hoping to enroll in Farm Skills 101, or know somebody who was thinking about enrolling, fear not. Dates for the Spring 2015 semester of Farm Skills 101 have been set: April 17-18 and 24-25 as well as May 1-2. Registration is not yet open but should be soon once lodging options are nailed down.

Given the sold-out fall semester, Dr. Sue Wika, Sustainable Food Production Program educator, said she was happy that demand for the practical education contained in Farm Skills 101 continued to be so high. Other farmer-educators in the program include Tom Prieve, DVM; and Kent Solberg, SFA Livestock & Grazing Coordinator.

“We provide the intensive skills training and holistic philosophy that can help beginning farmers have a realistic and well-planned entry into the farming world, and that’s exciting,” Wika said. “Plus, our low student-teacher ratio ensures all students have ample opportunity to engage in discussion and hands-on activity.”

With its emphasis on practical farm knowledge and skills training, the overall SFP program fits well into SFA’s niche as a Farmer-to-Farmer Network® organization. John Mesko, SFA Executive Director, said the curriculum was emblematic of where SFA can best contribute to sustainable ag in the Upper Midwest.

“It includes both the philosophy of sustainability and the practical hands-on skills, plus it’s taught by real farmers,” Mesko said. I have no doubt several of the next generation of SFA leaders will come through the SFP Program.”

For more information about SFA’s Sustainable Food Production Program, as well as Farm Skills 101, visit our SFP homepage or email Dr. Sue Wika at sue@sfa-mn.org.

Minnesota Elderberry Fest Upcoming at Natura Farms

The Minnesota Elderberry Festival, an event for serious growers who want to learn about the field selection, harvest, storage and sale of elderberries, is set for 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 22-23 at Natura Farms, 19060 Manning Trail N, Marine on St. Croix.

The festival will include education on elderberry cultivation and berry handling during harvest season, and field tours will be given both days. Hands-on participation, including harvesting and processing, will take place on Saturday.

Presentations planned include Natura Farm’s Paul Otten on soils, Chris Patton on marketing and health benefits, Dan Halsey on permaculture planting with elderberry, SFA member Michelle Menken on organic certification, SFA member David Birky on irrigation, and more.

For more information or registration, email naturalkickfarms@gmail.com or call Paul Otten at 651.308.3801.

Best Stinking Festival in Minnesota, MN Garlic Festival, is Aug. 9

Garlic Festival WITH SFABy Jerry Ford

The ninth annual Minnesota Garlic Festival will be Sat., Aug. 9, at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson. Festivities begin at 9:50 a.m. with an Opening Ceremony, “Throwing Out the First Bulb,” and things just get more pungent from there.

Presented by the SFA Crow River Chapter, this is the premier event for lovers of garlic, great local foods and good times! Family friendly, fun-filled and fragrant, this festival features fantastic foods, celebrity chefs, marvelous music, a fashion show, area artisans, goofy games … and lots of GARLIC – all in support of a healthy environment, sustainable farms and vital rural communities in Minnesota.

If you’re a garlic grower, you can enter your bulbs in the Garlic Growing Contest and win fabulous prizes. See more here.

If you’re looking for seed garlic to plant this fall, this is the best place to get it. Fourteen of the finest growers in the state will have their premium garlic from their 2014 crops, and all of them are tested for Garlic Bloat Nematode, a disease that is devastating garlic crops elsewhere. Plus you’ll know that these bulbs are already acclimated to our northern growing conditions. See the list of growers here.

The festival runs its own cafe, The Great Scape, known as “the best ephemeral restaurant in Minnesota,” where you’ll find celebrity chefs preparing and serving dishes planned just for the day.

On the Lakewinds Co-op Local Foods Stage, Mary Jane Miller hosts a full day of cooking demonstrations with the finest chefs around, including the Emmy Award-winning author, Raghavan Iyer.

Alt Garlic Fest Slider for homepageThere are ongoing activities planned for the kids, from being in the Peculiar Pragmatic Promenade – the grand parade in the middle of the day – to building and flying their own kites. See more about the entertainment lineup here. 

For the adults, we have local craft beer, cider and Minnesota wines, served in a souvenir wine glass or beer mug. More on this here.

And so much more! Visit the homepage to get the very latest on all the attractions. Hint: there’s a downloadable 2-for-1 ticket coupon on the website, too.

Come to Hutchinson on Aug. 9 and taste the bounty! We promise you’ll go home smelling very different.

It’s not too late to volunteer to help out with the festival, and it’s a great deal: free admission, a meal and a t-shirt. Contact Volunteer Coordinator, Brigid Borka, beeborka2@gmail.com.