For Rent: 80 Acres Near Princeton

SFA was contacted by a landowner looking to rent up to 80 acres of land near Princeton to a sustainable farmer. The landowner, Myron Angstman, lives in Alaska but spends a few months a year on the farm, dubbed Long Pond Elk Farm; a caretaker, Dave Price, looks after it while they are gone.

The land, located two miles east of U.S. 169 off County Road 9, is currently rented for corn, beans and alfalfa. To learn more or set up a showing, contact Myron (on Alaska time, three hours earlier than Central Time) at 800.478.5315, or caretaker Dave at 763.389.2742.

Fall Harvest Gathering for Women Slated for Nov. 7-9

Save the date – attend the 15th Fall Harvest Gathering for Women in Sustainable Agriculture on Nov 7-9, 2014, in Whalen, Minn.

Get to know other women who care passionately about farming and the earth. Some attendees farm and some want to farm, but all enjoy sharing and learning from each other at the annual Fall Harvest Gathering at Cedar Valley Resort in Whalen. Costs are reasonable and scholarships are available. All women are welcome. Highlights will include:

  • Three virtual farm tours
  • Lively discussion on soil health, what to look for, and how to keep it
  • Panel discussion on passing on the farm
  • Excellent potluck lunch Saturday (and great food throughout the weekend)
  • Music, campfire, silent auction
  • Time to walk (or bike) the Root River trail
  • Time to talk casually with women who share your passion

More information: staceyleighbrown@gmail.com.

Farmers Trip to Nicaragua Planned in September

A food- and agriculture-focused trip to Nicaragua in September is being planned for interested folks in the Minnesota ag community.

Against the backdrop of Jalapa, Nicaragua’s annual Corn Festival, this trip will focus on making connections between Nicaragua’s and Minnesota’s agricultural communities in the contexts of climate change and other global market impacts (e.g. Jalapa’s shift toward tobacco and coffee exports away from basic food production). The trip will foster exchanges of ideas and perhaps material or technical aid.

The trip, Harvest Time in a Changing World, is set for Sept. 14-26, 2014. Farmers and ag producers, animal husbandry experts (vets), agronomists, co-op leaders, and people interested in sustainable and international food issues should consider attending.

For more information, contact Jon Kerr at jon@isla.cc or 612.819.8877.

Save the Date: Festival of Farms is July 12, 2014

Festival of FarmsFestival of Farms™ is an opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture, network within the community, and have fun at various farms across the state. The Festival is unique to each chapter, but the goal is the same—to build a unified sense of SFA’s presence in communities across Minnesota and tighten connections within the local food community.

SFA’s chapters are currently planning their Festival of Farms 2014 events. Look for updates here in SFA Connect and on our Festival of Farms homepage.

Other upcoming SFA events for your calendars:

SFA’s Annual GrazeFest Event at Mill City is June 7; Book Signing, Cooking Demos, and More

Jason Walker

Jason Walker

By Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

SFA’s annual GrazeFest series event returns June 7 to Mill City Farmers Market, held between the Mill City Museum and Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis.

Again this year SFA’s Mary Jane Miller will be cooking on stage with food from the market as well as grass-fed beef from Living Song Farm. We’ll have a family-friendly SFA booth with a few freebies, 2-for-1 Garlic Festival coupons and plenty of SFA folks on hand, and the vibrant market itself with its 60-plus vendors is always worth the trip.

secret-atlas-cover-1500px-webNew this year is a book signing of “The Secret Atlas of North Coast Food,” which features a chapter written by me, “Open Arms, Open Farms,” that features several SFA farms, including Jerry Ford and Living Song Farm. Both Jerry and I will be there to sign copies of the book, in which maps and illustrations complement journalistic essays that take readers deep into the history, culture, and gastronomy of the Upper Midwest.

SFA at Mill City is our main urban event, reaching an audience of consumers who purchase food from our member farmers yet may not be aware of our organization. It’s a great way to help people learn about sustainable farming in general and the importance of supporting local farms and SFA.

Mary Jane’s samples of Jerry’s beef will be worth the trip alone, but it’s also a great time to pick up the “Secret Atlas” and talk local food. We’ll be there from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and hope to see you there.

If you’re interested in learning more or purchasing the “Secret Atlas” – which includes SFA members’ Living Song Farm, GrassStain Farm, Lakeside Prairie Farm and Round River Farm, as well as a wide array of other essays on Upper Midwestern food – visit the Heavy Table’s bookstore.

Farm Skills 101: Low Student-Teacher Ratio, High Level of Practical Knowledge Make Course A Great Value

SFProduction LOGOGetting a good bang for your buck is rarely guaranteed in the world of sky-high college tuition.

But not for students in SFA’s Sustainable Food Production Program, which teaches various real-world sustainable farming skills in an on-farm environment. Not only does Farm Skills 101 teach students the hands-on skills needed to become successful sustainable farmers, it’s a great value, too – SFP also boasts a low student-teacher ratio that leads to a fairly intense, in-depth experience.

Dr. Sue Wika

Dr. Sue Wika

Farm Skills 101 consists of around 50 hours of on-farm education in three weekends of fun and fulfilling learning. As instructor Dr. Sue Wika is fond of saying, “These are days in the field, not field days.” Students must dress properly: pants, closed-toe shoes, gloves and safety glasses are required. Topics include Fencing Strategies for Forage-based Livestock Systems, Compassionate Animal Husbandry and Handling, Pasture Management and Grazing Basics, and Farm Equipment and Tools.

Wika said the Farm Skills 101 was developed for both students with some farm knowledge as well as for those who didn’t grow up on a farm.

“It’s a way to experience and learn some of those skills ‘farm kids’ acquired through daily interaction with farm processes,” she said. “The course is designed with a low student-teacher ratio, so the experience will be empowering.”

And then there’s the bang-for-your-buck factor. Tuition for the Fall 2014 semester of Farm Skills 101 is just $1,025, and scholarships are available. For the amount of knowledge packed into this course – students learn not in theory, but in practice – Farm Skills 101 tuition is a smart investment in the future of anyone considering a sustainable farming career.

Fall 2014 classes are Oct. 3-4, 10-11 and 17-18 at farms near Alexandria, Minn. 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. Wika at paradoxhomestead@gmail.com.

Executive Director’s Note

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

SFA was created out of the Land Stewardship Project specifically for the purpose of establishing a Farmer-to-Farmer Network® organization. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, LSP realized there was a need for a separate organization that would serve in this networking capacity. Recently, SFA has been working to carve out a unique spot in the Upper Midwest sustainable ag landscape related to this purpose. It is what we bring to the table in the broader discussion of sustainability, sustainable ag, local food, etc … Specifically, we’ve:

  • Successfully registered the trademarked phrase “Farmer-to-Farmer Network®” with the US Patent and Trademark Office,
  • Produced a brand identity around this trademark which is gaining a fair amount of exposure
  • Invested heavily in staff resources to support and build this network

In the work of sustainable agriculture there is a need for organizations in our sector to be clear about what we do and don’t do, so we can all have our unique and strong position, which, when linked with each other, results in a stronger, more productive movement as opposed to when several organizations conduct overlapping programming. So, in keeping with that understanding, SFA has sought to be the Farmer to-Farmer Network® organization wherever possible. Whether the issue is local food, nitrates in the water, agroforestry, educating beginning farmers or farm to institution, if SFA is involved, at the Association level particularly, we see our primary role as providing and supporting the farmer network around that issue.

Many other organizations have built and maintain a farmer network as a part of their work; at SFA, the network is our work. The sustainable agriculture community also recognizes this.

We hope other organizations partner with us to make good use of the resources our community has put into developing this network. To the extent that our collective audiences benefit from a streamlined communication plan and clear, thoughtful programming, we offer up our work to the collective movement. It’s the role we play.

Free Regional Plant Swaps in Pine River, Wadena

SFA_Central_RGBEarly notice of a unique horticulture event – free, regional plant swaps are planned May 16 in Pine River and May 31 in Wadena. A Plant Swap is just as it sounds: an opportunity to trade all kinds of plants, plant materials, and garden supplies. All are invited, and now is the time to get ready for your choice of 2-7 p.m. May 16 at the Hunt Utilities Group campus, 2331 Dancing Wind Rd SW, Pine River; or 10 a.m.-2 p.m. May 31 at Green Island 850 Scheer Dr NE, Wadena (right north of town off Highway 71).

Take cuttings, prepare slips, and sort seeds of you favorite or unique plants in order to be prepared. If bringing items to swap, please label or create signs, as 10-foot spaces are provided. Bring pots or packaging, and instructions. Tables and chairs will be available in Pine River; in Wadena, you must bring your own tables and chairs.

Call or email ahead to hold a free space for yourself and your trades, or with questions. Pine River attendees should contact Jim Chamberlin at jchamberlin@hugllc.com; Wadena attendees contact Kent Scheer at rscheer@charter.net.

This event is co-sponsored by SFA Central Chapter.

SFA Board Approves USDA Definition of Sustainable Agriculture

The SFA Board of Directors has approved the USDA Legal Definition of Sustainable Agriculture as SFA’s official definition. The USDA definition reads:

The term ”sustainable agriculture” (U.S. Code Title 7, Section 3103) means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long-term:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs.
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends.
  • Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.

Click here to view the USDA definition on its website. To learn more about the SFA Association Board of Directors, click here. 

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.