Executive Director’s Note

John Mesko

John Mesko

By John Mesko • SFA Executive Director

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately on the current state of affairs in Sustainable Agriculture.  By some measures, the modern movement is about 25-30 years old.  Adulthood by all respects.  We’ve come a long way to get to this point.  Of course there has always been those farmers who practice sustainability and have been organic since organic was the only way to farm.  However, the term “sustainable” and along with it, “sustainable agriculture” have become a part of most people’s every day language.  To many, those terms are only slightly more specific in meaning than they were at the outset of our movement.

However, I think most of us can say we “know it when we see it.”  Sustainable agriculture is a mindset, its an approach.  Admittedly, true sustainability is a near-impossibility to achieve.   We all want to see the environment, farm businesses, farm families and our rural communities become more resilient, more productive, and in general, improve over time.  By focusing on the principles of sustainability, we can move all of these forward.

SFA, through its members, chapters and collective work has been able to make such an impact in agriculture and in rural communities over the years.  We’ve all seen the rapid expansion of farmer’s markets over the last 10 – 15 years.  Do more farmer’s markets mean we’ve achieved sustainability?  No, not really, but they are an exciting piece to the picture of the future.  25 years ago, no-till corn and soybean production models were in their infancy.  In part, through SFA’s Farmer to Farmer Network® organization of educational events, no-till agriculture has become commonplace; and improvements to the environment can be evaluated.

Now, we are in the midst of another mass migration “back to the land.”  The jury is still out  on the relative merits of this latest move.  However, with more new and beginning farmers starting sustainably-minded farms, the future bodes well for sustainable agriculture.

In the coming weeks, I hope to explore more aspects of the state of sustainable agriculture.  If you have any thoughts, let me know.  I’d like to hear lots of perspectives.  You can reach me at john@sfa-mn.org.

Thanks

Chapter Update: Lake Agassiz

Lake Agassiz for Web Use JPG

By Marie Petry • Chapter Coordinator

We are moving ahead. On June 18, a couple of Lake Agassiz chapter members met with Jerry Ford, SFA Network Coordinator, to establish our Chapter Organizing Committee. This is the first formal step towards an Annual Meeting next year and voting in a new Board of Directors.

Plans are in the works for a Fall Event in the northern part of Lake Agassiz territory. More information will be coming on this as details are finalized. This will be a great time to connect with fellow sustainable farming neighbors and to lend your voice to our growing chapter.

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.