Deep Roots Class: Intro to Small Ruminant Husbandry

IMG_1993Anyone considering adding goats or sheep to their sustainable food production system or those who want to manage their small ruminants more holistically should attend our SFA Deep Roots class, Intro to Small Ruminant Husbandry, 1-5 p.m. Sat., May 16, 2015, Paradox Farm, 11643 State Highway 78, Ashby, Minn. (ten miles south of Battle Lake; seven miles north of Ashby)

Deep RootsThis 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.

Cost is $80 and space is limited. To register, click here. 

From the Executive Director: Networking at its Finest

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko

At the 2015 Midwest Soil Health Summit, our speakers had discussion tables during the breaks, where participants could sit down in a group and visit one on one with each other and with our speakers. Our keynote speaker, Gabe Brown, hosted a very popular discussion table, and we were able to record most of the discussion with everyone at the table.

Gabe fielded a number of questions ranging from practical cover crop issues, to building soil health without livestock, dealing with neighbors, getting started in farming, seed companies, watering cattle in winter.

This is the kind of farmer networking SFA is promoting. As you’ll hear on this recording, farmers asking questions, feeding off of each other’s questions, and farmers asking each other questions.

You can listen to the recording at SFA’s Farm Solutions Podcast Page. Check it out, and if you have questions you’d like to see addressed on the Farm Solutions Podcast, send them to

Also at the Summit, we held our first ever International Roundtable. About 20 people attended. The importance of this event is in looking at how we can take the soil health building production models developed here in the Midwest and find ways to adapt them for broad application world-wide. Notes from the International Roundtable are available online.

This really is the power of a network. Speakers like Gabe tell us our approach is unique and beneficial. The Midwest Soil Health Summit is a great example.

Around 200 See Power of Soil Health on Display at MSHS

SFA Executive Director John Mesko (left) leads a Q&A session with Dr. Allen Williams (center) and Gabe Brown at the 2015 Midwest Soil Health Summit on Feb. 18 in Alexandria, Minn.

SFA Executive Director John Mesko (left) leads a Q&A session with Dr. Allen Williams (center) and Gabe Brown at the 2015 Midwest Soil Health Summit on Feb. 18 in Alexandria, Minn.

The 2015 Midwest Soil Health Summit showed SFA’s strengths as a Farmer-to-Farmer Network® organization – nearly 200 farmers had the chance to talk one-on-one with some of the world’s leading experts on soil health.

MSHS_2colorBoth informational and inspirational, the presentations from the likes of Dr. Allen Williams and Gabe Brown (shown above with SFA’s John Mesko), Jerry Doan, Dr. Wendy Taheri, Kent Solberg, Dr. Michael Lehman and Ian Cunningham prove that soil health not only has the potential to transform agriculture in this country, it has both the potential to transform it soon and to provide immense benefit to farmers who use these methods.

The importance of a Farmer-to-Farmer Network® organization like SFA was clear when examples were given that both Allen and Gabe – two incredibly innovative, successful farmers – have neighbors who still refuse to adopt soil building farm practices. When world-famous farmers like these still face skepticism, it’s no wonder SFA members see the value of networking with others in their area for camaraderie and wisdom.

Attendance at the 2015 MSHS was up nearly 50 percent, and the crowd was encouragingly diverse – as one attendee remarked, it was “nice to see a long line at the women’s restroom.” SFA is an inclusive, family-like organization, and we are thrilled to see farmers and farm families of all types attending our events.

Thanks to all who came, and we are excited to begin planning the 2016 version. Look for an announcement of 2016 dates coming soon.

To download Dr. Allen Williams’ presentation and for other resources, visit our MSHS homepage. 

On Display at 2015 Annual Conference: 25 Years of SFA’s Vibrancy

SFA AC 2015 Kent teaches

SFA Livestock & Grazing Specialist Kent Solberg leads the Fencing session at the 2015 SFA Annual Conference on Feb. 14 at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.

It was a cold Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, 2015, but the energy inside the College of Saint Benedict easily lifted the spirits of the over 250 attendees at the vibrant SFA Annual Conference.

Snapshots from the day illustrate just how diverse an organization SFA has become:

  • Josh Reinitz and Daniel Zetah’s idea-packed session on salvaging and repurposing farm equipment and buildings was innovative, pointed and, at times, hilarious.
  • John Mesko’s opening remarks about SFA’s 25-year anniversary prove not just how much SFA and its members have accomplished, but how optimistic we are for our future and our role in regenerating the land in the Upper Midwest and beyond. Click here to download John’s opening presentation slides.
  • Budding-FarmersLed by Monica Irwin, the Budding Farmers program, which drew nearly 20 children to the conference, went home with abundant art they had created as well as seeds from their visit to the seed swap.
  • Mary Jane Miller’s braised beef was, in the words of Kelsey Wulf, “out-of-this-world.”
  • Deep Winter Greenhouses drew a crowd to Paradox Farm on Feb. 13 for our sold-out “combo pack” session, which was followed by two DWG-related sessions on Feb. 14 at St. Ben’s that combined Minnesota Deep Winter experts like Carol Ford, Sue Wika and Ryan Pesch.

And, of course, we debuted our popular “Back End of a Cow” t-shirts, only a handful of which remain. That’s what makes SFA great – we combine the most innovative thinkers and sustainable ag experts, but we’re not above making a good manure reference on a t-shirt.

Photos from the Conference coming soon here and on our Facebook page.

Look for an announcement regarding the 2016 SFA Annual Conference soon.

Another FREE SFA Keep Cattle in Minnesota Webinar is March 6

KCIM Keep Cattle in Minnesota“Strategies for Implementing Cover Crops,” a SFA Keep Cattle in Minnesota webinar led by Livestock & Grazing Specialist Kent Solberg, is scheduled for 1-2:30 p.m. March 6. The webinar is free and open to all.

Cover crops are a powerful tool farmers can use to improve soil health. Cover crops can play a key role in implementing soil health principles. Specifically, cover crops aid in keeping soil covered, adding diversity to the rotation, keep a living root in the soil, and serve as the “bridge” between cropping systems and integration of livestock.

In the webinar, Kent will review the principles of building soil health, integration of cover crops and real world examples of how adding cover crops to your farm can move you toward productivity and profitability.

This webinar is the second in a series of KCIM webinars SFA has planned. Others are slated forApril 3 and Nov. 6; keep watching SFA Connect and our homepage for details about all upcoming KCIM webinars and programming.

Click here to sign up. For more information, visit our Keep Cattle in Minnesota homepage.