Executive Director’s Note: Can All Farmers Be in the Same Category?

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

Recently, I learned the MN Department of Agriculture has essentially phased out the distinction they’ve been making between sustainable agriculture and other, non-organic brands of agriculture.  Aside from the Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant program, you’ll find very little on the MDA website referring to “sustainable” agriculture.

I think for most of us, this might come as a bit of a surprise, especially given how supportive MDA has been of our organization over the years.  Frankly, I don’t expect the change in language on the MDA website is in any way a reflection of a desire on the part of the department to become any less supportive of SFA, but it raises an interesting discussion.

The sustainable agriculture movement of the last 25-30 years or so was a product of the discontent in the land after the farm crises of the 1980s which saw many farmers succumb to the pressures of a farm economy which was heavily rewarding economies of scale and making it very difficult to farm effectively in the small and mid scale.  Pioneers banded together against the brand of agriculture forcing them out at that time.  The enemies were banks, the government, and big ag.  Those pioneers sought low cost solutions in order to survive.  As a result there were many innovative models and techniques that were developed and perfected, such as: reduced tillage, no-tillage, cover crops, and the rise of the organic farmer.

Many of these practices have become mainstream in the past generation.  The modern farmer, regardless of his or her preferred production model may be more sustainability minded than the previous generation.  And while we may differ on the definition of sustainability, there are few out there today who are actively engaging in farming with the intent to waste land resources and knowingly damage the environment.

I understand MDAs decision on “sustainable” agriculture.  It means we have more farmers in our audience.  More farmers moving toward ever improving sustainable production models is a good thing.

Do you think it’s possible for all farmers to be in the same category?  Or, should we be divided into “sustainable” and “conventional” farmers?  I’d like to hear your thoughts. Email me at john@sfa-mn.org.

Send Us Your Memories to Celebrate 25 Years of SFA

SFA 25 YEARSBy Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

Next year is a big one for SFA – 2015 marks 25 years since SFA’s formation – and we need your help.

As SFA begins a yearlong series of special events and publications revolving around our Silver Anniversary, we are seeking submissions for a special edition of the yearly CornerPost magazine – SFA-related memories, stories, photos, videos, documents.

This can be anything you have to share that can help tell SFA’s story, whether it happened 25 years or 25 days ago. A selection of these historical nuggets will be published in the upcoming CornerPost edition as well as archived on our 25th Anniversary homepage.

Photos are an especially poignant way to tell SFA’s history, and we encourage you to send as many as possible. They can be whimsical, serious, educational, adorable, or just plain goofy. Information about those pictured along with the photo would be extra helpful.

Even if you want to just send two sentences about what SFA means to you, that would be terrific. No submission is too large or too small, as we are hoping to collect as diverse a range of information as possible.

Additionally, we’re having a video contest: Make a short video (no longer than two minutes) about SFA, sustainability and what it means to you. The videos will be posted on our website, and the best video (as chosen by a panel of distinguished SFA staff) will receive a semi-fabulous prize package of SFA swag as well as free admission to the SFA Annual Conference. Then, at the conference, we’ll play the winning video during the opening plenary session. Deadline for video submissions is Jan. 15, 2015.

Deadline to make it into the CornerPost is Oct. 31, and we can’t return things you mail without prior approval. After that we welcome submissions, but they will only be reproduced on the website.

Email your materials to history@sfa-mn.org, and we’ll start compiling. Or, mail to SFA, Box 192, Princeton, MN 55371.

Deadline for submissions is Oct. 31, and we can’t return things you mail without prior approval.

Thank you for helping us celebrate 25 years of sustainable agriculture in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest!

Lake Agassiz ‘Good Food, Good Farms’ Event Nov. 5

SFA_LakeAgassiz_RGBSFA Lake Agassiz Chapter is sponsoring a free local-food event, “Good Food from Good Farms,” from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 5 at the Heritage Community Center in Thief River Falls, bringing sustainable farmers and consumers together for education and networking opportunities. If you are passionate and committed to growing and/or eating good food, you will not want to miss this exciting event. Light refreshments will be served and admission is free.

Click here to register.

Chef Sue Doeden, a local food celebrity, will demonstrate cooking with local food and provide samples to taste. Along with the demonstration will be four “lightning workshops” to visit, including:

  • Lake Agassiz Chapter SFA information table offering Free Membership until April 2015 and highlighting the 2015 Lake Agassiz Chapter SFA Chicken Festival
  • Homemade Cheese Press for your kitchen
  • Thief River Falls Growing Forward food network
  • High Tunnels

Come share ideas, learn new skills, find new markets, and meet others who think and live sustainably.

For more information, email Marie Petry at grass@wtc-mail.net.

SFA Southeast Chapter Hosting ‘Alternative Energies’ Event on Sept. 30

Southeast for Web Use JPG

The Sustainable Farming Association’s Southeast Chapter is sponsoring an informational meeting, “Alternative Energies,” from 9:30 a.m. to noon Tues., Sept. 30.

The meeting will take place at Mike Lee’s farm, 6304 Highway 42 NE, Elgin, which is 2.8 miles south of town. Mike has been using solar energy to provide his farm’s energy and will explain his system and experiences. Lee also has a large outdoor furnace that should be of interest.

At or around 10:30­ or 11 a.m., the group will caravan to the Jon Hassler Theater, 412 W Broadway, Plainview, for refreshments. There will be discussion on geothermal, solar and wood-burning energies, with company representatives.

There will be no charge for this event, but freewill donations will be accepted. Bring a friend. For more information, contact Edgar Hansgen at 507.932.­4219 or ejhansgen@hotmail.com.

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!