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.

Australian Farmer Completes Trek to Midwest Soil Health Summit

By Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

Evan Lewis for Connect:homepageFebruary’s SFA Midwest Soil Health Summit drew a crowd from at least five states and Canada, but the easy winner for farthest traveled was Evan Lewis.

Evan (right) came all the way from South Australia to attend the Summit. He had been searching the internet for Gabe Brown, came across SFA’s homepage and liked what he saw, and then decided to make the trip, his first to the U.S.

“We have various issues with our soils that I believe cover crops can help to alleviate,” he said. “I’m keen to see if we can adapt the principals to our no-till system.”

Evan’s trip, though, got off to a bad start. Horrible, actually. His travel agent had booked his flight not to Alexandria, Minn., but Alexandria, Louisiana. He emailed me the night before and said he was in the wrong Alexandria and would try to make it the next day, but that his “Gab With Gabe” ticket could probably go to somebody else.

Luckily, though, the air travel system came through. Evan arrived in Minneapolis on Feb. 19 and hopped on a shuttle to Alexandria, where he arrived a little after 4 p.m. in time for the limited-ticket confab with Summit keynote Gabe Brown.

Evan and I tried to connect during the Summit, but every time I saw him he was busy chatting and networking with other farmers in attendance. However, after getting snowed in at Arrowwood Resort on Feb. 20 due to a nasty winter storm, I was able to have dinner with Evan as well as also-snowbound Kent Solberg, Jerry Ford, Jane Jewett, Cassie Dahl, Dan Tiffany and Dan Fabian. Despite being stuck at Arrowwood, it was a great evening of conversation.

Evan has returned to Australia but said he’s interested in returning to Minnesota again and possibly bringing some farmer friends for an SFA field day.

“My challenge now is to adapt the concepts to our own climate and conditions,” he said.

Healthy Soils on Diverse Lands Topic of Forage Council Workshop

KCIMThe Crow Wing River Basin Forage Council held its 14th Winter Workshop, “Cover, Cattle, Crops – Keeping Healthy Soils, on Diverse Lands, at the Center of Profitability,” on Feb. 11 at Central Lakes College in Staples.

The workshop was sponsored in part by the Keep Cattle in Minnesota Project, a collaborative project of SFA, NRCS, and Grazing Lands Conservation Association.

Over 80 people turned out to hear presenters Ken Miller and Joshua Dukart, both District Technicians with the Burleigh County (N.D.) Soil Conservation District. Miller and his wife operate a 2,000-acre ranch near Fort Rice, N.D. Dukart, a Certified Educator of Holistic Management, remains involved in the management of the family ranch and teaches regularly throughout the US and Canada. Through diverse cover crops, rotational grazing, and crop rotation, they explained how farmers have increased soil carbon, reduced inputs of fertilizers and herbicides, and increased farm production all while improving wildlife habitat and water quality. Dukart was adamant of the need to get cattle back on the land, stating “that science has yet to replicate what comes out the back end of a cow.”

For more information about the Crow Wing River Basin Forage Council, contact Jim Chamberlin at jchamberlin@hugllc.com.

Organic Management Workshop Upcoming in Verndale

Jim Chamberlin

Jim Chamberlin

Staples Area Farmers Market Association is hosting an event, Organic Management Workshop, focusing on gardens, seasonal high tunnels, and hoop houses, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Verndale Community Center, 109 1st Ave SE, Verndale.

The workshop is designed to address local needs for organic production practices of low income, small producers of horticulture crops in central Minnesota. Speakers will answer questions and make recommendations on soil health, organic fertilizers, organic pest management, and composting.

Speakers include high-tunnel expert Terrance Nennich as well as SFA members David Birky, Arlene Jones, Kathy Connell and SFA Association Board President Jim Chamberlin.

Cost is $8 by March 15 and $12 thereafter; both fees include lunch and materials. Send a check payable to Staples Area Farmers Market Association and contact info to Lois Detloff, 21390 County Rd 24, Bertha, MN 56437, or click here here to download a brochure and registration form.

For more information, contact Deb Erickson (218.445.5147), Lois Detloff (218.924.2704) or Mel Wiens (218.894.2715).

Lake Superior Chapter Plans Farmers Take the Stage

Please join SFA’s Lake Superior Chapter for an evening of musical and variety talent presented by our members and supporters – SFA_LakeSuperior_RGBFarmers Take the Stage, set for 7-9:30 p.m. March 21 at Clyde Ironworks, 2920 W Michigan St, Duluth.

All area farmers, SFA members and supporters are invited to perform their music, poetry, or other act at this event. If you are interested, please contact Joel Rosen at plfarm@q.com or 218.389.3306

A $10 suggested donation goes directly to the work of LSSFA.

Cover Crop Workshop & Information Exchange in Worthington

NRCSCurious about cover crops? Have you ever stopped to wonder how cover crops would work for you? Explore the possibilities of cover crops on your land by attending the Cover Crop Workshop and Information Exchange at the Minnesota West Community and Technical College campus in Worthington from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. March 11. Preregistration for this event is preferred as the first 50 farmers to preregister will have their registration fee waived and receive a free lunch. After that, registration will be $10 to cover the cost of lunch.

To preregister, contact the Nobles County NRCS/SWCD office by calling 507.376.9150 ext. 3 or stop in the office at 1576 McMillan St. Please preregister by March 10.

The day will include cover crop basics and looking at the benefits they provide for our soil, crops and biology; as well as a farmer panel with three farmers from around our area who have started using cover crops in the last five years. Hear how they got started, what they have learned and the adjustments they’ve made to make cover crops work for them.

This workshop is sponsored by the Nobles County NRCS and SWCD along with Sustainable Farming Association, the Okabena & Ocheda Watershed District, Nobles County Corn & Soybean Growers Association, MN West-Worthington Campus and numerous other partners.