Lake Agassiz Seed Swap April 26 in Bagley

SFA_LakeAgassiz_RGBSFA Lake Agassiz Chapter is hosting a Seed Swap and potluck from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 26, at the American Legion, 112 Main Ave N, Bagley. This event is free and no registration is required.

Attendees can bring extra seeds saved from crops or leftover purchased seeds, all in containers that are not spill-prone and clearly labeled, along with small envelopes to carry home your exchanges. Do not bring treated or GMO seeds. Cuttings, scion wood, etc. are welcome.

No seeds? No sweat! Come anyway and pick up some things that interest you. Discussion welcome on the history of heirloom seeds and ancient grains.

For more information, contact Jim Ingvaldson at 218-694-3071.

From the Executive Director: Volunteering for SFA is Win-Win

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

SFA’s website is loaded with helpful information. A key part of the SFA website is our volunteer page. If you are a volunteer, you will need to be familiar with the volunteer handbook, which can be found there. If you haven’t already been through the handbook, please read it, and then sign and submit a volunteer release form. This is required of all volunteers.

Also on the volunteer page, you can track your volunteer hours. This is a great way to make a formal donation to SFA. By recording your hours here, you are actually making an “in-kind” donation to SFA. This is very useful to us when we write a grant that requires matching funds. But we can only take advantage of this if you record your hours.

If you have a volunteer opportunity in your chapter, listing it here may help you find the right person for the job. We get frequent requests from people who want to volunteer, and since we don’t always know everything going on in each region, this is a great tool for communicating your need for volunteer assistance.

Association Board Elects New Officer Slate

Executive CouncilAt its meeting on Feb. 13, 2015, the SFA Board of Directors elected a new slate of officers.

At-large member Libby Wyrum was elected Vice-President, Lake Agassiz Chapter representative Marie Petry was elected board Secretary, and at-large member Chris Kudrna was elected as Treasurer.

Jim Chamberlin will remain in his role as Board President.

Wyrum has been on the Association Board since 2012. She is the founder of Frank & Ernest Foods, a local marketing consultancy, and is the director of the Linden Hills Farmers Market. She lives in St. Paul with her husband Dan and their two dogs, Frank and Ernest.

Petry has worked tirelessly for the past few years to revitalize SFA’s Lake Agassiz Chapter. Most recently, she has organized three popular “Good Food From Good Farms” events and is planning a yearly Lake Agassiz Chicken Festival. She and her husband, Bob, operate GrassStain Farm near Wolverton.

Kudrna is a longtime SFA Board member and past President who is a stalwart of Crow River Chapter and vendor at Minnesota Garlic Festival. He and his wife, Joanne, own Plum Creek Garlic near St. Cloud.

Chamberlin and his wife, Audra, own Island Lake Farm south of Deerwood, a 107-acre diversified farm where they raise food and fiber for their nine children, seven grandchildren, extended family and friends.

New SFA East Central Chapter Hosting First Meeting

A new SFA chapter is forming in the East Central part of the state, and all are invited to the first official chapter meeting, set for 6 p.m. March 29 at Kimberly-Glen Town Hall in Aitkin.

Admission to this event is free and no registration is required.

The purpose of this meeting is to elect a Chapter Board of Directors and discuss the direction and goals of this new Chapter. Here are the particulars about the event:

  • Date:  March 29, 2015
  • Time: 6 pm
  • Location: Kimberly-Glen Town Hall, 32631 Dam Lake St, Aitkin, MN 56431
  • Cost: Free

For more information, contact Jerry Ford at gro.n1429389863m-afs1429389863@yrre1429389863j1429389863.

From the Executive Director: How You Can Build a Network

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

What makes SFA’s farmer network unique? When you look over the landscape of sustainable agriculture today, there are many “farmer networks” in existence. What makes a network, and why is SFA’s network unique?

A network, as we are using the term here is defined as: “a group or system of interconnected people or things.”

Twenty-five years ago, at the founding of SFA, the idea of farmers networking together to solve the issues of sustainability was a relatively new concept. There were networks, of course, but many of these were bonded with the glue of political partisanship. Such networks are very effective navigating the politics of any issue, but really struggle to provide solutions for issues that cross political lines, and food and farming is one of those issues.

Today, SFA is a Farmer-to-Farmer-Network® organization and is really a network of farmers who work independently and interconnectedly to solve their own issues around sustainability as well as the broader issues of local foods, healthy communities and the sustainable agriculture movement in general. In other words, our network is designed to help individual farmers become more successful, as well as elevate the conversations around food and farming, bringing about a sustainable future across the board.

Building a professional network of clients and contacts for your business involves how you relate to people. Developing a professional network includes awareness of people who interact with your business, having a positive attitude about people, communicating effectively with people, and doing the things that build strong relationships.

The strength of any network is really found in the interactions of individuals to help build it. And you may be asking, “OK, how can I help build this network?” Here a list of things you can do within SFA that will help both you and the bigger sustainable agriculture picture:

  • Be Aware. Opportunities are all around you, and yet if you are not aware of them, they may as well not exist. Reading SFA Connect is a great way to be aware.
  • Have a helpful attitude. Being an effective networker isn’t just about what you do; it’s also about your attitude toward what you’re doing. Your attitude influences everything in your life — the goals you set, the risks you’re willing to take, the way you approach people, your willingness to approach people, the way you respond to people, and much more. Volunteering at your chapter and recording your volunteer hours is a great way to demonstrate helpfulness. It’s fun too! Your attitude not only affects what you do; it also affects the way people respond to you. Your attitude can create a barrier and turn people off, or it can communicate with people that you want people to interact with you.
  • Hone your communication skills. Networking happens through conversation. After mastering the art of small talk, you will feel more comfortable meeting new people and developing rapport. By developing rapport with people, you will be able to turn small talk into opportunities to make requests and be a networking resource. Attend a chapter meeting, workshop or conference connected to SFA. You’ll have a chance to communicate with other like-minded farmers.
  • Develop relationship-building habits. A network exists as a series of relationships and connections between people. People must relate with and respect one another in order for a valuable networking exchange to happen. Building relationships is your first priority when networking.

Editor’s Note: Adapted from “How to Build a Professional Network.” John Wiley & Sons, publishers. Accessed: March 23, 2015