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.n1425156287m-afs1425156287@nhoj1425156287.

SFA Providing Technical Assistance to Central Minnesota Project

For Immediate Release – Feb. 10, 2015

Contact: John Mesko, 763-260-0209, gro.n1425156287m-afs1425156287@nhoj1425156287

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

Farmers: Minneapolis Public Schools Seeking Local Produce

Minneapolis Public Schools is excited to work with local farmers for the 2015-2016 school year! Find all the details about selling fresh produce to MPS through our Farm to School program in our Request for Information (RFI) available here:  Responses are due by noon on Thurs., Jan. 22, 2015.

There will be an optional RFI Q&A phone call at noon Jan. 14. Notes from the Q&A conference call will be posted on MPS’ Farm to School website. Conference Dial-in Number: (712) 775-7031 and Meeting ID: 545-938-784

Please spread the word to any farmers in the area you know who might be interested.

Please email Andrea Northup, MPS Farm to School Coordinator, with any questions. You can learn more about MPS’ Farm to School program at

SFA Chooses Winter Sustainability Conference Interns

Katie Harris

Katie Harris

For the second consecutive year, SFA has tapped Sustainability Conference Interns to help plan our winter conferences and become a part of our farmer networking organization. This year, three interns were picked from a diverse, deep pool of applicants: Katie Harris, Helen Schnoes and Kelsey Wulf.

Harris (top right), who will work alongside Livestock & Grazing Specialist Kent Solberg, is a student at the University of Minnesota with a major in Food Systems – Organic and Local Food Production Emphasis. Harris, of Anoka, works at Grass Roots Cooperative in Anoka, has volunteered at Mill City Farmers Market and has studied sustainability in Ecuador.

Helen Schnoes

Helen Schnoes

Schnoes (middle right), who will work alongside Event Coordinator Jerry Ford, just received her Master of Regional Planning degree from Cornell University. A Minneapolis native, she has extensively studied food systems and co-funded Sitka Salmon Shares and has experience planning several local foods events.

Wulf, who will work alongside Communications Coordinator JasonWalker, is a familiar face at SFA events and graduate of the Sustainable Food Production program.

Kelsey Wulf

Kelsey Wulf

Wulf, who lives in Detroit Lakes, has worked on several farms, including Seven Pines Farm and Lida Farm. She has also been selected to help with SFA’s 25th anniversary celebration, and has written and compiled several submissions for the upcoming CornerPost and an online historical archive.

SFA thanks everyone who applied for our sustainability internships.