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.n1427937676m-afs1427937676@nosa1427937676j1427937676.

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.l1427937676iamg@1427937676smraf1427937676muyob1427937676.
  • 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.n1427937676m-afs1427937676@nosa1427937676j1427937676. To reserve a spot for your showcase presentation and your display, contact Helen Schnoes, SFA Event Coordination Intern: 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.n1427937676amyeh1427937676robma1427937676j@oll1427937676eh1427937676.
  • 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.m1427937676rafse1427937676rcasr1427937676ekab@1427937676asil1427937676 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.n1427937676m-afs1427937676@yrre1427937676j1427937676 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!

As 2014 Ends, Help SFA Make Sustainability Happen

By Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

What do Albert Lea Seed, the Wallace Center at Winrock International, Organic Valley Co-op, and the Bremer Foundation have in common?

Organic Valley's Joe Borgerding (left) and Ken Larson (center) chat with Chris Barnier at the 2014 SFA Midwest Soil Health Summit.

Organic Valley’s Joe Borgerding (left) and Ken Larson (center) chat with Chris Barnier at the 2014 SFA Midwest Soil Health Summit.

They all support SFA financially, as do dozens of individuals, just like you.

When you donate to SFA, your dollars go directly into farmer education and networking that promotes sustainable farming and environmental stewardship. With low overhead, SFA delivers terrific bang for your buck if you are seeking a charitable organization for improving our agricultural and food systems.

For instance, SFA is working hard to revitalize our Lake Agassiz Chapter in northwest Minnesota. We’re doing it by hosting events like “Good Food From Good Farms” in Thief River Falls – events that help spread awareness of local food while building a farmer network in an underserved area.

Donate to SFA today here and feel good about where your money goes. All donations to SFA are fully tax-deductible. And next time you read about or attend any SFA event where people are networking and learning, you can say with confidence, “I helped make this happen.”

Then, reward yourself for your donation with a conference registration. Sign up now for both the SFA Annual Conference or Midwest Soil Health Summit – SFA members get discounted registration at both conferences.

Plus, SFA Annual Conference Early Bird registration ends Dec. 31. Sign up now and save!

Finally, thank you for your ongoing support of SFA and our programs. We accomplished a lot in 2014 and are ready to continue promoting sustainable agriculture in Minnesota and beyond.

Here’s to more local food, improved soil health, farmer networking, and fellowship in 2015!

From the Executive Director: Support SFA and Watch Amazing Things Happen

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

If you follow SFA, you already know about all the amazing things the leaders of our organization are doing to promote and sustain our brand of agriculture into the future. In wrapping up 2014, I just want to offer a note of thanks to everyone who has been such a supporter for SFA this year. Now, as we move on to 2015 and SFA’s 25-year celebration, we need your involvement more than ever.

Yes, this is a year-end fundraising appeal. However, in reality, it’s an involvement appeal. Your involvement with SFA really matters. We understand everyone gets involved at a different level in causes and efforts they feel strongly about. Subscribing to SFA Connect is basic level support for SFA and the movement as a whole. At this level, you learn about sustainable agriculture, and hopefully you’ve come to see the value of farmer networking as a driving force for change in agriculture.

If you’ve been subscribing for a while, but haven’t actually joined SFA with a paid membership, it’s time to take your involvement to the next level. At the paid membership level, your involvement helps to support the work of keeping everyone informed of the issues of sustainable agriculture and the work SFA is doing. Currently, only about 1 in 4 SFA Connect readers are actual paid members. Not sure if you are a member? If you did not recieve a printed CornerPost newsletter this month, you are not a paid member of SFA. Still not sure? Contact Jason Walker at ,gro.1427937676nm-af1427937676s@nos1427937676aj1427937676 and he can check for you.  As a reminder, paid members get discounts to events, like Annual Conference and Midwest Soil Health Summit, and the Winter Workshop “Reality Checking Your Farm Plan” at the MN Organic Conference in early January.

Better still, become a Sustaining Member today, and you’ll never have to wonder if you are a member of SFA.

If you’ve been a paid member, but haven’t yet made a donation to SFA, its time to take your involvement to the next level, and become a donor.  Donors are actually putting important resources to work solving major food and farming issues, like having enough successful farmers to produce healthy food for a growing population. We do that at SFA, and you can help make that happen with your donation today.

Finally, if you are a donor to SFA, we thank you! Your contributions are critical to our success, and we simply cannot complete our mission without the resources you help to provide.

Thank you for your support in 2014, at whatever level. For 2015, let’s all move our involvement to the next level and watch amazing things happen, as we take 25 years of success in farmer networking to the next level!

May 2015 be a year of tremendous prosperity for you and yours.