SFA has stepped forward to support an award-winning beginning farmer educational program, Sustainable Food Production, which formerly was a part of M State Fergus Falls. The Sustainable Food Production program will now continue as a program under the SFA umbrella.
Sustainable Food Production is a much-needed beginning-farmer curriculum that emphasizes all three tenets of sustainability, plus provides extensive skills training. A unique aspect of SFP is its commitment to community development and mentoring, a perfect fit with SFA’s farmer-to-farmer network.
Instructors are all farmer-educators: Sue Wika, PhD; Tom Prieve, DVM; and Kent Solberg, MS. Each possesses both real-world experience and the educational background to provide comprehensive sustainable food production education.
Deep-Winter Greenhouse Class Returns
A new class from the SFA Sustainable Food Production Program, “Deep Winter Production of Greens and Livestock Fodder Utilizing Passive Solar Energy,” will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. March 15, 2014, in Ashby, Minn.
During the class, farm owners Sue Wika and Tom Prieve will provide a detailed overview of the construction and operation of their deep-winter greenhouse, which utilizes passive solar energy with underground heat storage. The greenhouse provides greens for local consumers. In addition, the structure is utilized to produce fodder for the farm livestock. Students will be in the greenhouse to see how greens and fodder are planted and harvested.
Sue and Tom’s greenhouse was recently profiled by Minnesota Public Radio. To read the MPR story, click here.
Cost is $100/person. Bring a sack lunch. Beverage and fresh winter salad (grown on-site) provided.
The class will be held at Paradox Farm, 11643 State Hwy 78, Ashby, MN 56309 (Directions: 7 miles north of Ashby; 10 miles south of Battle Lake). To register, click here.
Intro to Small Ruminant Husbandry Offered in April 2014
Looking for on-farm, hands-on experience working with goats and sheep?
This course, held from 1 to 5 p.m. Sat., April 26, 2014, at Paradox Farm in Ashby, Minn., provides students opportunity for hands-on work with sheep and goats. In a working-farm setting, students can learn how small ruminants can fit into a natural systems farm. Course topics include: holistic management, ruminant nutrition, animal handling, fencing, grazing strategies, holistic veterinary care, shelters, weight and age estimation. Wear clothing appropriate for working with animals: closed-toe shoes, gloves, long pants.
Cost is $80. Instructors are Paradox Farm owners Dr. Sue Wika and Tom Prieve. To learn more and to register, click here.
Farm Skills 101
This course covers the hands-on essential skills necessary for a forage-based livestock producer. Elevate your handiness while building community and competence. Registration is now open for the next Farm Skills 101 class in fall 2014.
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.
Fall 2014 classes are Oct. 3-4, 10-11 and 17-18 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; a Friday local-foods supper is included. Housing is available at Faith Haven Camp on Eagle Lake for a modest fee. Free primitive camping available at farm site.
Also, all students receive a free one-year SFA membership – benefits include various conference and event discounts, the CornerPost magazine, and more.
To learn more about the history of the program, click here to read a story from August 2013 by Carol Stender of AgriNews.
Here is a sampling of some likely topics to be covered during Farm Skills 101. Though the list may change, these are some of the basic elements that represent the depth and breadth of the program.
1. Fencing Strategies for Forage-based Livestock Systems
- Principles and components
- Corner and end brace design
- Portable, electric fencing options
- Permanent fencing options
- Maintenance and repairs
- Creative options
- How to “keep them in!”
- Parasite management – quantitative fecal exams, FAMACHA
- Estimating weight
- Foot trim
- Health assessment
- Basic vet care
- Flight zone and pivot point
- Butchering and home processing
- Common pasture plant and forage plant identification
- Water systems
- Managing the grazing season
- Principles of grazing strategies
- Incorporating annuals
- Estimating paddock carrying capacity
- Principles of Stacking
- Legal descriptions and plat books
- Hooking up hydraulic hoses
- Use of three-point hitch
- Implement identification and use
- Farm tools identification and use
- Farm carpentry, plumbing and electrical skills
If you wish to learn more, click here, fill out the basic form, and an instructor will contact you.
Or, click the following links for news stories about Sue Wika and Tom Prieve’s Paradox Farm:
- “A Touch of Spring in the Dead of Winter,” WDAY-ABC Fargo, Feb. 4, 2014
- “Deep Winter Greenhouse Grows Veggies Year-Round,” Minnesota Public Radio, Feb. 3, 2014
Ready to enroll?
Click here to visit our enrollment page and view payment information.
Dan Fabian, 2013 SFP Graduate:
“In the spring of 2012, I decided to take a sabbatical from my 29-year career as a Civil Engineer doing water resource engineering and learn how to farm. As an engineer I needed to know both the “how” and the “why” farmers did what they did. I also knew that I learned best by “hands-on doing” in addition to lecture.
“To be of value for my career it needed to be a formal certified program offered by a credible organization and a college was my first choice. Having lived my entire life in town I had very little experience with farming and needed to learn an entirely new set of skills to have the confidence to pursue my farm dreams.
“Fortunately I stumbled across the “M-State Sustainable Food Production Program” which just happened to be right in my home state of Minnesota at Fergus Falls. Having now completed the program I can say it not only satisfied my initial criteria, it far exceeded my expectations.
“Not only did I learn how to operate a tractor, loader, no-till drill, roto-vator, milk cows, milk goats, care for cows, goats, pigs, chickens, sheep and horses; I also learned about the sociological underpinnings of the current agricultural system, crops and forages, wrote a business plan, learned to add value to the food produced through direct sales or by making various artisan food products like cheese, canned goods, yogurt, butter, butchered chickens and other animals.
“But perhaps most importantly, I began to develop my support community of people and resources that I can call on as I continue on my journey into sustainable agriculture.”
Nicole Moore, 2013 SFP Graduate:
“Skill development within this curriculum directly empowers the student. Physical involvement in a process makes a lasting impression, allowing the student the space and time to discover questions or thoughts related to the experience that would otherwise have never been conceived if she or he had only read or heard about the process.
“With this approach, students walk away with tangible, demonstrable skills. What’s more effective a learning tool than, at the end of the session, being able to walk onto your own property and build yourself a reliable fence? Can’t beat that.”