Annual Conference Schedule Announced; Nearly 8,000 Votes Cast

By Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

You spoke, and we listened – after tallying nearly 8,000 votes from SFA members and supporters, we have developed the schedule for our Annual Conference, set for Feb. 14, 2015, at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph.

SFA_AC_The schedule includes the top vote-getters from our survey as well as staff, board and grant-related recommendations. More details and added presenters for each session are still rolling in; for the most up-to-date version of the schedule, visit our Annual Conference schedule homepage. 

With two months until the conference we’ve already registered 75 people for the Conference – clearly the buzz is building about our yearly farmer networking showcase. Without further ado, then, here are the sessions scheduled for the 2015 SFA Annual Conference. More presenters may be added to these sessions, and other changes are possible, but here is what we have so far:

  • Better than California: How to Grow Fabulous Greens During Deep Winter in Minnesota – with Sue Wika and Tom Prieve of Paradox Farm and the SFA Sustainable Food Production Program
  • Deep Winter Greenhouse Networking Group Organizational Meeting – with Carol Ford
  • Navigating the Pinball Game of Finance Options – with Jan Joannides of Renewing the Countryside and Pam Bishop of the Southern MN Initiative Foundation
  • Disruptive Conservation – with Tim Gieseke of Ag Resource Strategies and Jim Chamberlin, SFA Association Board President
  • Fencing Systems – with Kent Solberg, SFA Livestock & Grazing Specialist and owner of Seven Pines Farm and Fence
  • Food Hubs in Minnesota – with Joe Domineer of MN Valley Action Council and Arlene Jones and Jessie Sprout of Brainerd
  • Resources for SFA Chapters – with SFA Network Coordinator Jerry Ford
  • Adjust 2015: Stories From New Farms – with John Mesko
  • Salvaging, Adapting, Repurposing Equipment & Buildings – with Josh Reinitz and Daniel Zetah
  • Youth Conference Kickoff – detailing our upcoming Youth Conference with John Mesko
  • Post Harvest Vegetable Handling: Quality Produce from the Field to the Box – with Lisa Baker of Baker’s Acres Farm
  • Small Dairy Resources – with Kent Solberg
  • Your Legal Questions: Asked and Answered – with Jennifer Jambor-Delgado and Amanda Heyman of Jambor Heyman
  • Integrated Crop & Livestock Systems – with Kent Solberg
  • Sheep Farming Basics – with Wayne Martin from the University of Minnesota Extension
Mary Jane Miller

Mary Jane Miller

Our Culinary Session with Mary Jane Miller is also coming together, and as usual Mary Jane has a full day’s worth of food, drink and cooking demonstrations on tap. This schedule is still being finalized, but as of today the frontrunners are:

  • Cooking With and For Kids – Bring new ideas to the family table and bring the farm to the high chair and lunch box.
  • Start with a Rotisserie Chicken – Get the inside scoop on how to shop for a good roasted bird and taste creative ideas for dinner in a hurry.
  • Grassfed Beef: The Art of Braising – Learn how to coax the best from grassfed beef with long, gentle cooking. Taste braised short ribs, slow cooker Italian beef ragout, and Argentinian pulled beef sandwiches.
  • Stump the Sommelier – Mary Jane will cook dishes that are notoriously hard to pair wines with; Marcus Hanson will take a shot at choosing the perfect wine for each. Taste along and see if you agree!

Remember, for the most up-to-date schedule, always check out our “Annual Conference Schedule and Other Cool Stuff” page. And if you haven’t registered, do so today as the price goes up after Dec. 31.

SFA Annual Conference Tidbits

SFA_AC_Updated Dec. 16, 2014. Note that registration goes up starting Jan. 1, 2015!

  • 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 jason@sfa-mn.org. 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 Annual Conference. 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  hello@jamborheyman.com.
  • 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 lisa@bakersacresfarm.com if you would like to buy a simple soup meal served at the co-op.
  • 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. Click here to register.
  • 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 Early Bird rate of $45/members and $55/nonmembers. SFA members should have received a separate email with discount registration instructions. Only SFA members will receive this separate email – new members will upon signup.
  • 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: Get Your Reality Check at MN Organic Conference

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

The MN Organic Conference is right around the corner! January 9-10 is only 3 weeks away!  I’d also like to remind you about the 2015 Winter Workshops that are being held in conjunction with the Organic Conference on Jan. 8, 2015.  There are some really great longer-format workshops available and since they are just the day before the conference, you can make the most of your time!

Special for SFA members!  If you are a paid SFA member, you can attend the “Reality Checking your Farm Plan workshop for free ($25 for non-members). This is one of the results of our Adjust 2015 project which we’ve been working on for the past 2 years.

In the workshop, we’ll review the key difficulties experienced farmers told us they faced early in their farming careers.  We’ll also give you tools to help you avoid the most common of those pitfalls, which will strengthen your plan and ultimately improve your chances of long-term success.  Specifically, we’ll be covering financial benchmarks you should be incorporating into your plan, considerations for business plan assumptions, dealing with and planning for changes in family structure and function as well as tools for building a team of experts to help you launch your business.

If you are thinking about farming, planning to farm, or have just started farming, this workshop will be of interest and benefit to you.  If you have any questions about the program, call me at 763-260-0209, or to register, click here.  See you there!

From the Executive Director: Adjust 2015 Coming to MN Organic Conference

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

Winter is here. Earlier than most of us would like, but it’s here, and that means conference season. Hopefully, you’ve already registered for the Midwest Soil Health Summit on Feb. 18-19, 2015, as those seats will sell fast. And I know you wouldn’t let SFA’s Annual Conference on Feb. 14 pass you by. It’s the perfect winter-time warm up!

NFRC_Adjust2015_RGBHowever, there’s another conference you really should be thinking about: the MN Department of Agriculture’s Minnesota Organic Conference.  I just got my registration packet in the mail recently, and I’m going to be there.

SFA will have a booth, and SFA will be offering our very first Adjust 2015 Workshop! Yes, you’ve heard about Adjust 2015 for the past two years now, and we are ready (almost) to launch the curriculum!

As a reminder, Adjust 2015’s “New Farm Reality Check” Curriculum is designed to offer beginning farmers that one final run through of their plans before they embark on an important farm business. We’ve asked hundreds of farmers to tell what the initial hurdles were in their businesses, and what they would do over again to avoid them. We’ve identified key components of flexibility and planning success that will help beginning farmers to avoid potentially disastrous situations.  Come early to the MN Organic Conference, and sign up for the “Reality Checking Your Farm Plan” Winter Workshop.  It’s FREE for SFA members!

The MN Organic Conference, easy to get to in St. Cloud, loaded with information, and SFA will be there too! Don’t miss it.

‘Building Farm to Institution Markets’ Survey Now Open

2014_11_06_ProducerSurvey_web (1)A survey for Minnesota producers, “Building Farm to Institution Markets,” is now available at: www.iatp.org/FTI through the end of November.

For Minnesota farmers, ranchers and producers currently selling to – or interested in selling to – schools, child care centers, hospitals or other institutions, this survey focuses on identifying the information and tools that producers need to build successful, profitable sales with these buyers.

This comprehensive survey has been developed by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, SFA and Renewing the Countryside – with additional input from over 20 farmers, state agencies, experts and non-profit organizations. SFA members will be especially valuable for this survey, as your answers and feedback will help build a better, more profitable farm-to-insitution system in Minnesota.

Our collaborative project group also held a webinar in early November that featured SFA member Greg Reynolds, Ryan Pesch from the University of Minnesota and Andrea Northup from Minneapolis Public Schools. You can download each presenter’s slides in the right-hand column of this page.

Questions? Contact project partners Pete Huff, Jason Walker or Grace Brogan.