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.

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.

Voting Now Open for 2015 SFA Annual Conference Topics

Ten of the session topics at this year’s Annual Conference were chosen by you, SFA’s members and supporters, using an online application that allowed you to vote for your favorite topics as well as submit your own. The top vote-getting topic, Root Cellaring, was a standing-room-only session led by root cellar builders Jerry Ford and Greg Reynolds as well as the esteemed John Fisher-Merrit, who dazzled the attendees with the details of his affordable yet highly customized root cellar that has significantly enhanced his farm’s revenue stream.

With this year’s SFA Annual Conference fresh in your minds, it’s time to start thinking to our next annual gathering, set for Feb. 14, 2015, again at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph.

We have opened voting for the 2015 Annual Conference session topics – click this link to begin voting. The more votes we tabulate, the more accurately we can tailor the session schedule around your wishes. One thing we hear a lot during an after the Conference is, “there were so many good sessions I had a hard time choosing.” If there was a session you missed in 2014 but still are interested in, be sure to input that topic into the website. Some of the topics already submitted include:

  • SFA_AC_Cover crops and soil health
  • Fencing
  • Integrating crops and livestock
  • Hogs on pasture
  • Root cellaring
  • Agroforestry
  • New crops
  • Season extension
  • Seed saving
  • Grazing for beginners

Make your voice heard – submit your own ideas and vote early and often.

Also, photo galleries from both the 2014 Annual Conference and inaugural Midwest Soil Health Summit are available on each conference’s homepage. Check them out!