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.1425022039nm-af1425022039s@nos1425022039aj1425022039 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.

Chapter Update: Lake Agassiz

2014.11 Lake Agassiz Good Food event

By Marie Petry • Lake Agassiz Chapter Coordinator

SFA_LakeAgassiz_RGBThe food indeed was good at the SFA Lake Agassiz “Good Food from Good Farms” event held Nov. 5 in Thief River Falls, where local celebrity chef Sue Doeden made a delicious wild rice salad using local food.

Following the cooking demonstration (above), the 35-40 area farmers, food producers and enthusiasts who attended toured four “lightning workshops” which included: Lake Agassiz Chapter, Homemade Cheese Press, Thief River Falls Growing Forward food network, and High Tunnels.

If you missed this FREE event, you have two more chances to attend: 1:30-3:30 Jan. 15 in Detroit Lakes and 5:30-7:30 p.m. Jan. 27 in Bemidji. Check our webpage for details and free registration. All attendees receive the once-in-a-lifetime offer of free SFA Lake Agassiz membership until April 2015.

The Lake Agassiz Chapter Annual Meeting will also be held Jan. 27 at the Bemidji event, where an important and exciting agenda item will be the act of voting in a Chapter Board of Directors.

Also upcoming in Lake Agassiz Chapter is the Small Scale Sustainable Sheep Farming event at 11 a.m. Feb 21 at the Northern Woolen Mills in Fosston. SFA Business/Organization Member Alethea Kenney of Reedbird Farm has put together a wonderful slate of speakers and vendors for those raising sheep or interested in getting started.

For more details on this event and the upcoming Lake Agassiz Chicken Festival, watch our homepage.

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 gro.n1425022039m-afs1425022039@nosa1425022039j1425022039. 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 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  moc.n1425022039amyeh1425022039robma1425022039j@oll1425022039eh1425022039.
  • 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.m1425022039rafse1425022039rcasr1425022039ekab@1425022039asil1425022039 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 moc.l1425022039iamg@1425022039smraf1425022039muyob1425022039.
  • 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 gro.n1425022039m-afs1425022039@yrre1425022039j1425022039.