SFA @ 25: Review and Renewal

As SFA celebrates 25 years as a Farmer-to-Farmer Network® organization, there have been ample opportunities to reflect on where we’ve been, the accomplishments that got us where we are today, and what, if any, changes we can foresee in the future about where sustainable agriculture is going – and what role SFA should play in that future. Recently, SFA Executive Director John Mesko published an overview of the past 25 years of SFA’s development as an organization, highlighting some of the key issues and strengths of SFA, and considerations for an organization poised for growth in influence.

To this end, the SFA Board of Directors is establishing a committee of board members and others to take a look at SFA’s Organizational Structure, Brand Identity/Communications, Chapters, Memberships, Strategic Planning and Fundraising, with an eye toward 2040 and beyond to be in a position to play the lead role in further developing and promoting sustainable agriculture.

Questions or comments? please email them to: gro.n1425386249m-afs1425386249@nhoj1425386249.

SFA Annual Conference: Last-Minute Details and Updates

SFA_AC_The 2015 SFA Annual Conference will be this Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, in the Gorecki Center at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn. Some last-minute details:

  • Pre-Registration has closed but you may still register at the door – all walkup registrations are $65. Registration begins at 7:15 a.m.
  • Children 3-12 who wish to attend the Budding Farmers programming may also register at the door for $10 each. Budding Farmers children must be potty-trained.
  • The Conference program and full schedule is now available for download at our Annual Conference homepage.
  • Mary Jane Miller’s Culinary Sessions include “Cooking for Kids,” “Start With a Rotisserie Chicken,” “Grassfed Beef 2: The Art of Braising,” and “Stump the Sommelier.” Then our popular after-conference reception will include beer from 612 Brewery and Mankato Brewery as well as cheese from Caves of Faribault.
  • There may be a limited amount of Leaders Breakfast spots available at the door for $12.50. If you wish to purchase a Leaders Breakfast ticket, make sure you arrive before the breakfast begins at 7:30.
  • Lunch is not included in conference registration. The bountiful and delicious St. Ben’s Cafeteria is in this building; there are restaurants across Minnesota St (which are listed in the conference program); and if you brought your lunch there are plenty of spots to enjoy that, including the Lunch Hour Sessions. Lunch is also a great time to visit our fabulous exhibitors and the ever-popular Seed Swap.
  • Want to set up a carpool? The SFA Annual Conference has a Facebook page.
  • Parking is available in Lot 5 across from the Gorecki Center at St. Ben’s. Enter the campus at the North Entrance on NW 3rd Ave off Minnesota St (be careful, blink and you can miss it). Just look for the SFA signs.

NEARLY 200 PEOPLE have already registered for the SFA Annual Conference. If you haven’t yet, make plans to attend!

Annual Conference Member Discount Ends Jan. 31; Sign Up Your Budding Farmer for Just $10

SFA_AC_SFA’s Annual Conference, “Loving the Land: 25 Years of Sustainability,” is set for Feb. 14 in the Gorecki Center at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph. Registration opens at 7:15 a.m., programming begins at 8:30 a.m., and sessions run until 4:20 when the after-party with local beer and cheese begins.

SFA members: Register through Jan. 31 at the rate of $55 for members (registration is $65 for nonmembers). Current SFA members should have received a separate email with discount registration instructions. Only SFA members will receive this separate email – if you recently joined online, you should have received the email at that time.

If you need a reminder of the discount code or to check your membership status, email gro.n1425386249m-afs1425386249@nosa1425386249j1425386249.

More Annual Conference Tidbits:

  • Art and science projects, cooking lessons and more – the Budding Farmers program is coming to the 2015 SFA Annual Conference. 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. We already have a good number of kids registered – this is a very exciting addition to the festivities and for just $10 per child it’s a great deal! Click here to register.
  • You can still sign up to volunter – all 2015 volunteers receive a newly designed SFA t-shirt. Contact SFA Volunteer Coordinator Gretchen Boyum at 218.535.1567 or moc.l1425386249iamg@1425386249smraf1425386249muyob1425386249.
  • There is still time for Vendor/Exhibitor Registration as well. Visit our Annual Conference homepage to download the proper form.
  • Join us during lunch for a viewing and discussion of “Grow,” a short film that captures the stories of young farmers around Fergus Falls and shares their visions for the local food movement and the future of Minnesota’s rural communities. The session will be hosted by SFA Sustaining Member Katy Olson, who is featured in the film. Katy is a farmer, beginning farmer mentor, activist, and owner of Body Mind Center with a focus on holistic health.
  • The Seed Swap is returning! Bring your seeds and swap away.
  • Chapters: Take part in our Opening Session Chapter Showcase by giving a one-minute introduction of your chapter, and share your happenings from 2014 and what you’re planning for 2015. Or, foster conversation and promote chapter engagement throughout the conference by preparing a tri-fold display to show all your chapter’s projects. SFA Communications Coordinator Jason Walker can provide chapters with display advice, graphics and fonts; email him at gro.n1425386249m-afs1425386249@nosa1425386249j1425386249. To reserve a spot for your showcase presentation and your display, contact Helen Schnoes, SFA Event Coordination Intern: helenaschnoes@gmail.com or 612.741.1591.
  • Through Feb. 1, 2015, we will be collecting SFA members’ most important questions for attorneys Jennifer Jambor-Delgado and Amanda Heyman to answer during a special session. At the conference, Jambor-Delgado and Heyman will also provide information about how smart legal strategies can help grow and protect your business. Join us in making this great opportunity a success – send your questions to moc.n1425386249amyeh1425386249robma1425386249j@oll1425386249eh1425386249.
  • Socialize with your farmer friends the night before the SFA Annual Conference during a reception and jam session from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13 at Minnesota Street Market (the food co-op in downtown St. Joseph). Bring the whole family, your instruments, or just drop in to say hello. The event is free, but RSVP by Feb. 9 to moc.m1425386249rafse1425386249rcasr1425386249ekab@1425386249asil1425386249 if you would like to buy a simple soup meal served at the co-op.

MSHS: Added Programming, Discussion Tables, & More

Midwest Soil Health Summit attendees listen to Gabe Brown at a MSHS Discussion Table at the 2014 event.

Midwest Soil Health Summit attendees listen to Gabe Brown at a MSHS Discussion Table at the 2014 event.

The schedule is set for this year’s expanded Midwest Soil Health Summit, and we’ve added additional programming on the conference’s first day to buttress a second day that’s chock-full of expert soil health programming from the likes of Gabe Brown, Dr. Allen Williams, and more.

New learning and networking opportunities for the Summit’s first day include a session led by SFA Executive Director John Mesko on Soil Health Basics as well as an International Roundtable. Other programming the first day includes our popular social time with buffet and cash bar, the return of “Gab With Gabe,” a film screening, and more.

Our impromptu discussion tables were such a hit last year, they’re returning as well. Look for discussion tables throughout the day Feb. 19 featuring Summit experts, or suggest one you’d like to see – if you’re a dairy producer, maybe you want to network with other dairy producers; if you’re from North Dakota, maybe you would like to chat with others in your region. Discussion tables are the perfect format. Make a suggestion to gro.n1425386249m-afs1425386249@yrre1425386249j1425386249 or talk to an SFA staffer at the Summit and we’ll do our best to make it work.

View the schedule and register here – SFA members save $50!

From the Executive Director: Success Can Hinge on Knowing the Challenges Ahead

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

Here are four ways SFA’s New Farm Reality Check Curriculum is like a Driver’s Education Course:

  1. Both offer a “Reality Check” for beginners who are getting ready to launch into a risky, difficult, but highly rewarding adventure.
  2. Both teach about potential dangers participants will face.
  3. Both seek to prepare participants to avoid those dangers.
  4. Both are eager to see participants engage in and succeed in their endeavors.

In beginning driver education classes, we’ve all seen the videos and heard the stories of terrible tragedies that can occur when drivers overlook unrealistic expectations, bad assumptions and improper training and preparation. Does that mean we don’t want people to actually drive? Absolutely not! We are realistic about the difficulties and challenges of driving, because poorly trained drivers impact everyone on the road.

SFA’s New Farm Reality Check Curriculum is no different. We want every farmer who launches to succeed.

This year’s SFA Annual Conference will feature a brief introduction to the New Farm Reality Check Curriculum. If you are thinking about launching your farm plan, you might want to check it out!