SFA Annual Conference Registration Now Open

A scene from the 2014 SFA Annual Conference. Registration is now open for the 2015 version, again to be held at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.

A scene from the 2014 SFA Annual Conference. Registration is now open for the 2015 version, again to be held at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.

By Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

Get your winter planning off to a sustainable start: Registration is NOW OPEN for the SFA Annual Conference, Minnesota’s farmer networking showcase set for Feb. 14, 2015, at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph.

A founding concept of SFA is that there is wisdom in our farming community. So, just like last year, YOU will help to determine and lead the sessions, which will include casual but focused networking conversations on topics that you choose. Using an online voting system, SFA members chose session topics; we will analyze the data and create the schedule around your wishes. Vote on our AC homepage and view the leading session topics.

Again on Saturday morning will be our yearly Leaders Breakfast and SFA Awards ceremony at7:30 a.m. This event costs just $15 and includes breakfast, a special “State of SFA” address, and the awards ceremony. This is a separately ticketed event from the Annual Conference.

New this year is a special day-before workshop on Deep Winter Greenhouses, from 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 13, 2015, at Paradox Farm, 11643 State Highway 78, Ashby, MN 56309. Space is capped at 10 registrants for this innovative workshop at Sue Wika and Tom Prieve’s farm; the Annual Conference will also include a follow-up session on Deep Winter Greenhouses on Saturday at St. Ben’s. There is no discounted registration available for this workshop, which may only be purchased in a special combination pack with the SFA Annual Conference. This workshop will definitely sell out, so sign up ASAP.

Family programming will return at the 2015 Annual Conference, led this year by Budding Farmers.

Family programming will return at the 2015 Annual Conference, led this year by Budding Farmers.

Also, family programming is returning – admission for children ages 3-12 is just $10 and includes separate programming from Budding Farmers. Children 2 and under are free but will be the responsibility of their parents.

Of course, everything you expect from the SFA Annual Conference will return as well – culinary demonstrations from Mary Jane Miller; a trade show; the end-of-day local food, wine and beer reception; plus plenty of networking, fun and fellowship.

The venue at St. Ben’s is a familiar, centrally located one that’s easily accessible. Lunch is not included with registration; instead, you’ll enjoy a lengthy break, during which, you may eat at St. Ben’s, walk to one of the local-foods restaurants in St. Joe, or bring a sack lunch. The idea is to give you the freedom to network at your own pace, and to take advantage of the quaint surroundings.

Register through Sept. 30 at the Early Bird rate of $35/members and $45/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.

See you there!

Harvest Festival, Sept. 6 in Duluth, Has Something for Everyone

Harvest FestivalBy Abby DeVita • Lake Superior Chapter Coordinator

It’s food, it’s learning, it’s growing, it’s fun. It’s something for everyone, and it’s free. Why not make a day of it at Harvest Festival, set for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat., Sept. 6, at Bayfront Park in downtown Duluth.

For over two decades, the Lake Superior Chapter of SFA has put on this premier event, connecting producers and consumers. Harvest Festival features one of the best and largest farmers’ markets in the region, along with live music, craft village, nonprofit showcase, educational exhibits, family activities and more! The best part is that it’s all locally focused, locally grown, and locally sourced. Admission and parking is free to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by donation after that for the evening entertainment acts.

This year, the LSSFA is working in collaboration with the Twin Ports Bridge Festival to to put on one broader event connecting people and celebrating community. Honoring our greatest lake and the communities that it brings together, we are uniting to bring you the best event yet! Fly a kite, pet a goat, meet a piping plover. Listen to music and treat yourself to handmade craft items. Eat something fresh and healthy (or maybe just a little bit indulgent). Learn about backyard composting or backyard chicken-raising or beekeeping. Meet your neighbors and the people who grow your food.

If you’re local, walk on over. If you’re from out of town, make a day of it or stay for the weekend. The 21st Annual Harvest Festival welcomes you!

Executive Director’s Note

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

There isn’t much going on in the news these days that inspire confidence about the future. The news from the Middle East, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere leaves us staggered. Sometimes, there can be so much bad news that we just zone it out, push it away. It’s a normal response.

At the risk of sounding like Pollyanna, however, I have to admit I’m optimistic about sustainable agriculture. I really am. As I prepared to write this, I could hardly contain my excitement about the future of our preferred production model in agriculture.

Just take a look at this issue of SFA Connect. We’ve got examples of several SFA member farms being named as University of MN Farm Families of the Year. This is a real validation of the kind of food production espoused by SFA over the past many years. Thank you to all the farms represented in that list, and I can’t wait to see next year’s list.

Also, SFA has just come off another very successful Minnesota Garlic Festival, and we are rolling into what looks to be another great Harvest Festival up in Duluth on Sept. 6. The Farm Skills 101 class is booked to capacity, and over 4,000 votes have been cast in our poll for Annual Conference Topics.

There’s a lot going on! SFA’ers are involved, committed and making a difference for sustainable agriculture in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest.  I’m really looking forward to this winter’s meeting season. There’s never been a better time to be a sustainable farmer!

Here’s to a safe and prosperous fall 2014!

SFA Chapters: Comment on New Resource Portal

SFA has created a Chapter Resource Portal for chapter coordinators and leaders: Learn how to properly represent the Association in your communications, read our Chapter Resource Guide, download appropriate logos and templates, view your chapter charter and other official SFA documents, and more.

We hope you find this useful and would love to hear your feedback. Check it out, make suggestions and email them to Jerry Ford by Oct. 1 so we can take your suggestions and improve the Portal before your annual chapter meeting.

Best Stinking Festival in Minnesota, MN Garlic Festival, is Aug. 9

Garlic Festival WITH SFABy Jerry Ford

The ninth annual Minnesota Garlic Festival will be Sat., Aug. 9, at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson. Festivities begin at 9:50 a.m. with an Opening Ceremony, “Throwing Out the First Bulb,” and things just get more pungent from there.

Presented by the SFA Crow River Chapter, this is the premier event for lovers of garlic, great local foods and good times! Family friendly, fun-filled and fragrant, this festival features fantastic foods, celebrity chefs, marvelous music, a fashion show, area artisans, goofy games … and lots of GARLIC – all in support of a healthy environment, sustainable farms and vital rural communities in Minnesota.

If you’re a garlic grower, you can enter your bulbs in the Garlic Growing Contest and win fabulous prizes. See more here.

If you’re looking for seed garlic to plant this fall, this is the best place to get it. Fourteen of the finest growers in the state will have their premium garlic from their 2014 crops, and all of them are tested for Garlic Bloat Nematode, a disease that is devastating garlic crops elsewhere. Plus you’ll know that these bulbs are already acclimated to our northern growing conditions. See the list of growers here.

The festival runs its own cafe, The Great Scape, known as “the best ephemeral restaurant in Minnesota,” where you’ll find celebrity chefs preparing and serving dishes planned just for the day.

On the Lakewinds Co-op Local Foods Stage, Mary Jane Miller hosts a full day of cooking demonstrations with the finest chefs around, including the Emmy Award-winning author, Raghavan Iyer.

Alt Garlic Fest Slider for homepageThere are ongoing activities planned for the kids, from being in the Peculiar Pragmatic Promenade – the grand parade in the middle of the day – to building and flying their own kites. See more about the entertainment lineup here. 

For the adults, we have local craft beer, cider and Minnesota wines, served in a souvenir wine glass or beer mug. More on this here.

And so much more! Visit the homepage to get the very latest on all the attractions. Hint: there’s a downloadable 2-for-1 ticket coupon on the website, too.

Come to Hutchinson on Aug. 9 and taste the bounty! We promise you’ll go home smelling very different.

It’s not too late to volunteer to help out with the festival, and it’s a great deal: free admission, a meal and a t-shirt. Contact Volunteer Coordinator, Brigid Borka, beeborka2@gmail.com.