Farm Solutions Podcast – Deep Roots Farmer Development

The Deep Roots Farmer Development program is Farmer-to-Farmer Networking designed to help other farmers get started in agriculture and food systems.  One of the key components of DR, which is making it so unique and so successful in the marketplace of Ideas is the concept of Mechanical Solidarity. Its a sociological term which really gets at the need we have in agriculture for community.
I spoke recently with Dr. Sue Wika, the DR Design leader about the unique approach DR is taking and about the kinds of students who are finding DR to be helpful.
Following the interview is a mention of some upcoming Deep Roots classes.

NOTE: The Spring 2015 semester of Farm Skills 101 is sold out. Fall 2015 registration is NOW OPEN HERE.

Farm Skills 101 consists of around 50 hours of on-farm education in three weekends of fun and fulfilling learning. These are days in the field, not field days. Participants will need pants, closed-toe shoes, gloves and safety glasses.

Deep Roots programs include small class sizes and individualized attention. Every student engages in the activities. This is real-world, real-time education. 

Fall 2015 classes will be held Oct. 2-3, 9-10 and 16-17 at farms near Alexandria, Minn. Friday classes run from 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Pack sack lunches and breakfasts; Friday local-foods suppers are included. Tuition also includes housing at nearby Faith Haven Camp.

Register below for “Nuts and Bolts,” a workshop designed for those with a desire to farm but with little or no experience with common farm tools and equipment. In this workshop, students will gain practical experience with farm tools and materials.

Get prepared for the upcoming season of food production by participating in this Deep Roots Farmer Development Program workshop. You will increase your handiness while developing competence with farm tools and materials. Get the edge for summer farm internships by listing this course on your resume! This is also an appropriate preparatory course for Farm Skills 101.

Bring a sack lunch.

Small class size guarantees that all students receive ample individual attention. Course instructors are seasoned farmers.Students should have gloves and safety glasses and wear closed-toe shoes and long pants.


  • Common hand tool identification and use on the farm
  • Hands-on operation of common tools
  • Ergonomics and body mechanics
  • Common hardware identification & use: nails, nuts, bolts, staples, screws
  • Building materials, such as lumber
  • Small carpentry project completed during class
For more information, contact Dr. Sue Wika at gro.n1427905963m-afs1427905963@eus1427905963 or 218.747.2202.
Registration Link:
More information is at

Farmers Take the Stage

The 13th annual Farmers Take The Stage, LSSFA’s spring fundraiser, will be held on March 20, 2015, from 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at Clyde Ironworks, 2920 W. Michigan, in Duluth. Last year was an incredible evening and we are happy to be back in this great venue!  Farmer musicians, poets, and other entertainers will show off their talent.   We are again cooperating with the CSA Guild Open House and hope to have a rousing crowd! We’ve adjusted our times slightly to allow for a better transition between events. The CSA Guild’s Open House will start at 5:00 p.m. The farmers will take the stage at 7:30 p.m.

If you are interested in performing, contact board member Joel Rosen at 218-389-3306 or moc.l1427905963iamg@1427905963mrafe1427905963kalkr1427905963ap1427905963 for more information

Gabe Brown Discussion Table at MSHS

At the 2015 Midwest Soil Health Summit, our speakers had discussion tables during the breaks, where participants could sit down in a group and visit one on one with each other and with our speakers.  Our keynote speaker, Gabe Brown, hosted a very popular discussion table, and we were able to record most of the discussion with everyone at the table.
Gabe fielded a number of questions ranging from practical cover crop issues, to building soil health without livestock, dealing with neighbors, getting started in farming, seed companies, watering cattle in winter,
**You will hear Gabe and the participants mention “Jerry” in this audio.  They are referring to Jerry Doan, one of the other speakers at the MSHS.
Midwest Soil Health Summit Keynote Speaker Gabe Brown at a discussion table, 2/18/15

Midwest Soil Health Summit Keynote Speaker Gabe Brown at a discussion table, 2/19/15

This is the kind of Farmer to Farming Networking SFA wants to promote.  As you heard, farmers asking questions, and feeding off of each other’s questions.  There were even some examples where farmers were asking questions of each other.

This really is the power of a network.  Speakers like Gabe tell us our approach is unique and beneficial.  This is a great example.

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.n1427905963m-afs1427905963@nhoj1427905963.

SFA Providing Technical Assistance to Central Minnesota Project

For Immediate Release – Feb. 10, 2015

Contact: John Mesko, 763-260-0209, gro.n1427905963m-afs1427905963@nhoj1427905963

The Sustainable Farming Association is committed to developing and promoting sustainable farming solutions on every acre of agricultural land. SFA has become a leading advocate for the integrated use of cover crops, diverse crop rotations and livestock grazing for the purpose of building soil health. Our expertise is evident through events like the upcoming Midwest Soil Health Summit our work with cover crops and the integration of livestock to build soil health through a Minnesota Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant, as well as our ongoing partnership with the Pasture Project.

In 2014, Kent Solberg, SFA Livestock & Grazing Specialist, provided suggestions to the NRCS Conservation Plan for a project at the Agricultural and Energy Center at Central Lakes College, which involved a lease of R.D. Offutt Company land in Byron Township, Cass County. The intent of the project was to look at innovative cropping practices to protect groundwater. Other members of the advisory team included staff from Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), University of Minnesota (U of M), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the regulatory agency monitoring ground water on the site through their irrigation well permitting process.

In a news release last week, R.D. Offutt and Company described SFA’s involvement as being “in partnership” with R.D. Offutt.

“While our involvement in R.D. Offutt’s Byron Township Project is primarily as technical assistance for the Central Lakes College project, we are encouraged that R.D. Offutt has been open to exploring sustainable farming solutions to expand to their many acres of potato ground throughout Minnesota,” SFA Executive Director John Mesko said. “Our goal as leaders in soil health education is to replicate high value agroecology production models on as many acres as possible, with as many farms as possible, regardless of size or current farming practice.”

Shifting the focus of agriculture from maximum yields to maximum soil health quality is critical to the sustainability of agriculture in Minnesota, the Upper Midwest, the United States and globally. SFA is committed to continued soil health programming, including programs addressing the integration of cover crops,  diverse crop rotations and managed livestock grazing. We will continue the pursuit of funding and programs that foster the development of soil health building practices for the long term.

More information about Sustainable Farming Association and the Midwest Soil Health Summit, slated for Feb. 18-19 in Alexandria, Minn., is available at