Organic Certification Cost Share is Back for 2014

Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson has signed an agreement with USDA to offer an organic certification cost share program again in 2014. This program offers important regulatory cost relief for organic farmers and handlers who are required by law to hire an accredited certifying agency to verify they are complying with National Organic Standards.

All certified organic operations in MN should receive application materials in the mail in a couple of weeks. The materials will also be available online after that time at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic.

The program refunds up to 75 percent of certification costs for operations that are certified (or have continuing certification) by Sept. 30, 2014. Funding for the Organic Certification Cost Share program was included in the Farm Bill passed by Congress earlier this year. Minnesota’s allocation for 2014 is $541,500.

In Minnesota, applications will be due Oct. 31. Information about organic practices, certification requirements, and other related topics is available right now at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic.

If you are in transition right now and will not be certified before Sept. 30, 2014, you may qualify for our Minnesota Organic Transition Cost Share program instead. More info here.

Executive Director’s Note

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko

Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to chat with SFA member Sylvia Burgos Toftness, a grass-fed beef producer and radio host from Amery, Wis. Sylvia invited me to be on her radio show, and we had a wide-ranging conversation about sustainability, food and farming. We discussed the Adjust 2015 Project at length. You can listen to the podcast of the interview here!

In other news, Festival of Farms is around the corner. I hope you’ll be taking advantage of this opportunity to reach out to neighbors and friends during this community building event! Have a great time.

For Rent: 80 Acres Near Princeton

SFA was contacted by a landowner looking to rent up to 80 acres of land near Princeton to a sustainable farmer. The landowner, Myron Angstman, lives in Alaska but spends a few months a year on the farm, dubbed Long Pond Elk Farm; a caretaker, Dave Price, looks after it while they are gone.

The land, located two miles east of U.S. 169 off County Road 9, is currently rented for corn, beans and alfalfa. To learn more or set up a showing, contact Myron (on Alaska time, three hours earlier than Central Time) at 800.478.5315, or caretaker Dave at 763.389.2742.

Fall Harvest Gathering for Women Slated for Nov. 7-9

Save the date – attend the 15th Fall Harvest Gathering for Women in Sustainable Agriculture on Nov 7-9, 2014, in Whalen, Minn.

Get to know other women who care passionately about farming and the earth. Some attendees farm and some want to farm, but all enjoy sharing and learning from each other at the annual Fall Harvest Gathering at Cedar Valley Resort in Whalen. Costs are reasonable and scholarships are available. All women are welcome. Highlights will include:

  • Three virtual farm tours
  • Lively discussion on soil health, what to look for, and how to keep it
  • Panel discussion on passing on the farm
  • Excellent potluck lunch Saturday (and great food throughout the weekend)
  • Music, campfire, silent auction
  • Time to walk (or bike) the Root River trail
  • Time to talk casually with women who share your passion

More information: staceyleighbrown@gmail.com.

Executive Director’s Note

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

SFA was created out of the Land Stewardship Project specifically for the purpose of establishing a Farmer-to-Farmer Network® organization. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, LSP realized there was a need for a separate organization that would serve in this networking capacity. Recently, SFA has been working to carve out a unique spot in the Upper Midwest sustainable ag landscape related to this purpose. It is what we bring to the table in the broader discussion of sustainability, sustainable ag, local food, etc … Specifically, we’ve:

  • Successfully registered the trademarked phrase “Farmer-to-Farmer Network®” with the US Patent and Trademark Office,
  • Produced a brand identity around this trademark which is gaining a fair amount of exposure
  • Invested heavily in staff resources to support and build this network

In the work of sustainable agriculture there is a need for organizations in our sector to be clear about what we do and don’t do, so we can all have our unique and strong position, which, when linked with each other, results in a stronger, more productive movement as opposed to when several organizations conduct overlapping programming. So, in keeping with that understanding, SFA has sought to be the Farmer to-Farmer Network® organization wherever possible. Whether the issue is local food, nitrates in the water, agroforestry, educating beginning farmers or farm to institution, if SFA is involved, at the Association level particularly, we see our primary role as providing and supporting the farmer network around that issue.

Many other organizations have built and maintain a farmer network as a part of their work; at SFA, the network is our work. The sustainable agriculture community also recognizes this.

We hope other organizations partner with us to make good use of the resources our community has put into developing this network. To the extent that our collective audiences benefit from a streamlined communication plan and clear, thoughtful programming, we offer up our work to the collective movement. It’s the role we play.