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.

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.

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

Festival of Farms is Next Saturday, July 12; Coteau Ridge Chapter Event Added in Pipestone

SFA_CoteauRidgeC_RGBA new Festival of Farms event has been added in the Pipestone area,  where SFA Coteau Ridge Chapter is hosting its Festival of Farms event from 1 to 4 p.m. July 12 at 1826 70th Ave, Pipestone. Visit the diverse farm of Don and Beverly DeWeerd, who have been farming organically and sustainably for more than three decades.

Dr. Kristine Nemec, Postdoctoral Research Entomologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Brookings, S.D., will present on the research project she is conducting at the DeWeerd farm that studies the response of pollinators and natural enemies to oilseed crops.

Dr. Christina Mogren, Research Entomologist at USDA-ARS in Brookings, will share the research she is conducting on the effects of landscape level habitat on native pollinator diversity and honeybee health.

This event is co-sponsored by OCIA MN #1. A lunch will be served.

The event is free and open to the public, but please RSVP at 507.215.7291 for food-preparation purposes.

A compendium of SFA chapters that are participating in Festival of Farms, along with complete details and scheduling, is available on our Festival of Farms homepage.