Free SFA Soil Health Webinar Set for Nov. 21

KCIMRegistration is now open for a free SFA Keep Cattle in Minnesota webinar featuring soil health experts Michael Lehman and Wendy Taheri of the USDA North Central Agricultural Research Lab in Brookings, S.D. The webinar, set for 1-2:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 21, is part of our Keep Cattle In Minnesota project and functions as a bridge to our upcoming Midwest Soil Health Summit, where both Lehman and Taheri are scheduled to present.

Presentations include:

Cover Cropping: A Great Tool for Building Soils That Work – Lehman will consider the invisible world of soil microorganisms, what they do that is helpful to producers, and how cover cropping is one management tool that promotes soil microorganisms and their beneficial activities.

Understanding the Importance of Diversity in Cropping Systems – Taheri’s presentation will help farmers understand the importance of diversity in their cropping systems and the role cover crops play in creating and maintaining diversity.

To register, click here. This webinar is sponsored by The Pasture Project.

Calling All Budding Farmers to the 2015 SFA Annual Conference

Art and science projects, cooking lessons and more – the Budding Farmers program is coming to the 2015 SFA Annual Conference, set for Feb. 14 at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.

 SFA member Monica Irwin of Northfield launched Budding Farmers in 2013 after years of experience working within the local food system as a farmer, farmer’s market manager, community educator, and good food activist. The goal of the program is that all kids should know where their food comes from and why they should be eating healthy food.

At the SFA Annual Conference, registered children will complete art, science and cooking projects, and move around playing imaginative games. Also, each child will go home with plenty of fun activity pages and materials, including a seed-sprouting kit, so they can be a Budding Farmer at home.

“We’ll be doing hands-on agriculture-themed activities that focus on the Budding Farmers motto: ‘Learn, Cook, Grow – I’m a Budding Farmer!’” said Irwin (right).

Registration for children’s programming is just $10 – Budding Farmers students will return to their parents for lunch, and parents may want to pack snacks and drinks for their students to have during class time. Children attending must be between 3 and 12 years old and potty trained; kids under 3 are welcome to attend the conference but are the responsibility of their parents. Click here to register.  

To read more about Monica and Budding Farmers, visit her homepage or read this 2013 article from the Northfield News.

Volunteer Registration Now Open and Other Annual Conference News

  • Volunteer registration is now open – all 2015 volunteers receive a newly designed SFA t-shirt. Volunteers are needed to be session monitors, help with parking and registration, setup/teardown, and more. To volunteer or to learn more, contact SFA Volunteer Coordinator Gretchen Boyum at 218.535.1567 or boyumfarms@gmail.com.
  • Register through Dec. 30 at the rate of $45/members and $55/nonmembers. SFA members will receive a separate email with discount registration instructions. Only SFA members will receive this separate email.
  • Vendor/Exhibitor Registration is open as well. Visit our Annual Conference homepage to download the proper form.
  • Scholarships to attend the SFA Annual Conference are available for current students and require a volunteer commitment; for more information, email Jerry Ford at jerry@sfa-mn.org.

From The Executive Director: Send us your memories, your thoughts, things you’ve learned

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

SFA has played a major role in the advancement of sustainable agriculture over the last 25 years.  Founded in 1990, SFA’s Farmer to Farmer Network™ organization has helped to develop and promote foundational practices in agriculture; some of which have become mainstream.

For example, in 1990, reduced tillage and no till agriculture was somewhat obscure for most farmers.  Today, zero tillage, particularly in soybean production has become the standard.  Today, farmers are smarter about chemical applications, there are more farmers markets, more farmers selling direct to consumers and more beginning farmers than ever.

These advances would not have succeeded without the network of SFA farmers, who over the years have shared their insights and learnings with neighbors and friends through SFA chapters and involvment in SFA events.  If you’ve been around SFA for any length of time, you’ve had a hand in this as well.  Send us your memories, your thoughts, examples of the things you’ve learned.  Its time to celebrate the accomplishments of all of sustainable agriculture!

Upcoming Webinar: Building Farm to Institution Markets

Nov. 6 webinar postcardA free webinar and survey to help Minnesota food producers grow, “Building Farm to Institution Markets,” is set for 3-4 p.m. Thurs., Nov. 6.

This webinar is for farmers, ranchers and producers currently selling to, or interested in selling to, schools, child care centers, hospitals or other institutions. It will provide an introduction to farm to institution practices and benefits. It will focus on how the needs of the producer can be matched with the needs of the buyer, accessing the potential of this rapidly expanding market channel. This webinar pairs with a new survey that invites producers to share their input on farm to institution opportunities, barriers and resource needs.

Presenters scheduled to appear include:

  • SFA member producer Greg Reynolds, who will discuss his experience with farm to institution sales
  • Andrea Northup from Minneapolis Public Schools, who will talk about the institution’s perspective
  • Ryan Pesch from University of Minnesota Extension, who will talk about the market potential of institutional sales

This is a project of: Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Renewing the Countryside, and Sustainable Farming Association.

Click here to register.

After Last Year’s Sellout, Midwest Soil Health Summit Returns With Gabe Brown; Registration Now Open

Registration is now open for SFA’s second annual Midwest Soil Health Summit, featuring Gabe Brown, set for Feb. 18-19, 2015, at Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, Minn.

Dr. Allen Williams

Dr. Allen Williams

The MSHS, newly expanded for 2015, also will feature Dr. Allen Williams, a champion of the grass-fed beef industry.

Brown, the keynote speaker, owns Brown’s Ranch in Burleigh County, N.D., and is a pioneer in diverse cover cropping who has used no-till techniques for two decades. At the 2015 MSHS, Gabe will discuss soil health programming for beginners as well as lead a separate program for advanced farmers – if you attended the previous MSHS, rest assured this year’s version will include plenty of fresh information from Gabe.

Gabe Brown chats during the 'Gab With Gabe' session at the 2014 MSHS.

Gabe Brown chats during the ‘Gab With Gabe’ session at the 2014 MSHS.

Last year’s MSHS was a sellout; register now to guarantee your spot. Walk-up registration will be dependent on pre-registration numbers, and SFA members receive a $50 registration discount. Click here to register.

Also scheduled to appear:

  • Jerry Doan, farmer from Black Leg Ranch in Burleigh County, N.D., a multi-generational family farm that emphasizes soil health.
  • Dr. Michael Lehman, a research microbiologist whose studies include evaluating soil microbiological responses to agricultural management practices.
  • Dr. Wendy Taheri, a research microbiologist who specializes in the study of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF).
  • Kent Solberg, SFA Livestock & Grazing Specialist, will discuss Designing Complex Cover Crop Blends
  • John Mesko, SFA Executive Director, will lead a program on Soil Science Basics
  • Ian Cunningham, a cow-calf producer and veteran cover cropper from Pipestone County, Minn.

Also returning this year is our exclusive “Gab With Gabe” networking session from 4 to 6 p.m. Feb. 18, 2015, with Gabe Brown. ONLY 10 TICKETS will be sold at $50 each for this chance to network one-on-one with a soil health pioneer. You must register for the MSHS separately – this ticket will ONLY get you into “Gab With Gabe.” Click here to register for “Gab With Gabe.”

Need a room? Arrowwood Resort is a family friendly location with ice fishing, cross country ski trails, snowmobiling, ice skating, broomball, and more. For more information or to reserve a room at the special MSHS rate of $99, call the resort at 320.762.1124.