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.

Executive Director’s Note: Gearld Fry Events Cancelled Due to Illness

John Mesko

John Mesko

Many of you know and love Gearld Fry, he’s been an important part of the grazing movement internationally, and has brought his expertise to Minnesota many times. In fact, he was scheduled to appear for SFA as part of our GrazeFest series of events and Keep Cattle in Minnesota project at both Wadena and Morris on August 14-15. Unfortunately, these events have been cancelled. Gearld has informed us that due to health reasons, he is unable to attend these workshops. For those who may not know, Gearld is in his 80s.

We are disappointed to have to cancel the workshops, however, we are more disappointed that Gearld is under the weather. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Fry family at this time. If it’s possible to reschedule these events, we will, and we’ll let you know; if you registered for either Gearld Fry event already, we will be in touch as soon as we know more.

Thanks for your ongoing support.

SFA Farmers Featured on ‘Specialty Crops’ Radio Series

The creativity and ingenuity of Minnesota farmers are the focus of a new radio series, Spotlight on Specialty Crops. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) supports the radio series with funding from the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The series is produced by the Minnesota Farm Network, which broadcasts throughout the state.

The minute-long features traverse the state and explore how Minnesota growers are improving production, profitability and personal satisfaction with specialty crops. The MDA works with an advisory committee to suggest topics to feature and provide further resources for interested farmers.

The first show in the series was recently released and spotlights SFA members Finke’s Berry Farm, a pick-your-own strawberry grower in Carlton.

Other topics to air in the 12 show lineup include hops, mushrooms, dry beans, ginger and season extension strategies. Audio files and transcripts of each show are posted at the MDA’s new spotlight page, which includes links to resources and information on each topic.

To find the Minnesota Farm Network station in your area, or to listen online, visit www.minnesotafarmnetwork.com. To suggest stories for this series call Meg Moynihan at 651.201.6616.

Farm to School Grant Program Still Accepting Applications

The Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture’s Farm to School Grant Program supports Minnesota school districts and child care centers in the processing of Minnesota agricultural products. Grants are intended to both create feasibility plan that identifies specific equipment, tools, training or policies needed by school districts and child care centers; and purchase equipment to allow schools and child care centers to purchase, prepare and serve more Minnesota grown and raised food.

Applications for this grant program in 2015 are still being accepted; proposals must be received no later than 4 p.m. Nov. 3, 2014.

Farm to School was established to create new markets for local growers to provide fresh products for the local school cafeteria. The program coordinates at least $10 million in local purchases annually. Although most purchases involve fruits and vegetables, schools are also purchasing fluid milk, meat or poultry, and grains.

Applications can be found on the MDA’s website. For more information, email michael.crusan@state.mn.us.

Register Now for Gearld Fry Field Days in Morris, Wadena

As part of our ongoing Keep Cattle in Minnesota project and GrazeFest series of grass-based livestock events, SFA is proud to announce two farmer networking and educational events with cattle-breeding expert Gearld Fry.

The events will take place Aug. 14 in Morris and Aug. 15 near Wadena. Cost is $40 for SFA members and $50 for nonmembers; registration includes lunch. Current SFA members received a discount code in a members-only email; questions about membership status should be directed to jason@sfa-mn.org.

The Morris day will begin with Gearld leading a beef genetics discussion at the West Central Research and Outreach Center. Next, the group will caravan to the Mark Erickson farm, where Gearld will lead a hands-on session on how to pick breeding stock for grassed beef.

The Wadena day will begin with a discussion with Gearld on dairy genetics for grass-based dairy operations, followed by a caravan to Midd-Minn Dairy, 17784 Country Road 7, Verndale, where Gearld will lead a hands-on session on picking dairy animals for grass-based dairies.

Fry has decades of experience around the world in selecting and breeding cattle that will perform on a 100 percent forage diet. He is the founder of Bovine Engineering & Consulting and the American Herbataurus Society, and his wisdom and understanding in the field is greatly valued.

Space is limited, so register today by Aug. 10 – click here for Morris and click here for Wadena.

For more information, contact Keep Cattle in Minnesota coordinator Wayne Monsen at wmonsen@gmail.com.


These events are sponsored by West Central MDI and Organic Valley.

MDIOrganic Valley

SFA Hosting Two Events With Cattle Breeding Expert Gearld Fry

Gearld Fry

Gearld Fry

As part of our ongoing Keep Cattle in Minnesota project and GrazeFest series of grass-based livestock events, SFA is proud to announce two farmer networking and educational events with cattle-breeding expert Gearld Fry.

KCIM Keep Cattle in MinnesotaThe events will take place Aug. 14 in Morris and Aug. 15 near Wadena. Registration will be required and lunch will be included; look for a registration link and cost information in an upcoming edition of SFA Connect.

The Morris event will begin with Gearld leading a beef genetics discussion at the West Central Research and Outreach Center. Next, the group will caravan to the Mark Erickson farm, where Gearld will lead a hands-on session on how to pick breeding stock for grassed beef.

The Wadena day will begin with a discussion with Gearld on dairy genetics for grass-based dairy operations, followed by a caravan to Midd-Minn Dairy, where Gearld will lead a hands-on session on picking dairy animals for grass-based dairies.

Fry has decades of experience around the world in selecting and breeding cattle that will perform on a 100 percent forage diet. He is the founder of Bovine Engineering & Consulting and the American Herbataurus Society, and his wisdom and understanding in the field is greatly valued.

For more information, watch your email, this website and SFA Connect for updates, or contact Keep Cattle in Minnesota coordinator Wayne Monsen at wmonsen@gmail.com.