Organic Potato Farm Tour Set Near Sebeka

Join Larry Heitkamp, Kent Solberg, and the Toxic Taters Coalition for a free organic potato farm tour from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 13, at Heitkamp’s Yellow Rose Organic Farm.

There are 50,000 acres of potatoes planted in Minnesota every year. And while conventional, chemical-intensive production is the norm on many of these acres, it’s not the only way that potatoes can be produced. Organic and sustainable potato production is possible; in fact, Minnesota farmers are already doing it.

Please join the Toxic Taters Coalition to learn more about organic potato production. Heitkamp and Solberg, SFA Livestock & Grazing Specialist, will give a tour of an organic potato farm and share information about cover cropping, soil health, insect and disease management, and their efforts to move toward no-till practices. Over lunch, members of the Toxic Taters Coalition will share information about their campaign to protect local communities from pesticide drift from RD Offutt’s potato fields.

Directions: From Sebeka, MN, take Hwy 12 East for 7 miles. Turn right (south) on 201st Ave (a dirt road). Go 1/4 mile and take a left into the potato field. We’ll have signs up on the road to help you find the right place.

The event is free and lunch is included. Please RSVP to Lex Horan at lex@panna.org or 651.245.1733.

Farm Skills 101 a Sellout, but Spring Semester Added

By Jason Walker • SFA Communications & Membership Coordinator

SFA’s Farm Skills 101 is a popular, intensive skills-training course geared for the forage-based livestock farmer.

woman with tractor horiz - 500p for websiteHow do we know it’s popular? The Fall 2014 semester is now completely full, two months before it begins.

But if you were still hoping to enroll in Farm Skills 101, or know somebody who was thinking about enrolling, fear not. Dates for the Spring 2015 semester of Farm Skills 101 have been set: April 17-18 and 24-25 as well as May 1-2. Registration is not yet open but should be soon once lodging options are nailed down.

Given the sold-out fall semester, Dr. Sue Wika, Sustainable Food Production Program educator, said she was happy that demand for the practical education contained in Farm Skills 101 continued to be so high. Other farmer-educators in the program include Tom Prieve, DVM; and Kent Solberg, SFA Livestock & Grazing Coordinator.

“We provide the intensive skills training and holistic philosophy that can help beginning farmers have a realistic and well-planned entry into the farming world, and that’s exciting,” Wika said. “Plus, our low student-teacher ratio ensures all students have ample opportunity to engage in discussion and hands-on activity.”

With its emphasis on practical farm knowledge and skills training, the overall SFP program fits well into SFA’s niche as a Farmer-to-Farmer Network® organization. John Mesko, SFA Executive Director, said the curriculum was emblematic of where SFA can best contribute to sustainable ag in the Upper Midwest.

“It includes both the philosophy of sustainability and the practical hands-on skills, plus it’s taught by real farmers,” Mesko said. I have no doubt several of the next generation of SFA leaders will come through the SFP Program.”

For more information about SFA’s Sustainable Food Production Program, as well as Farm Skills 101, visit our SFP homepage or email Dr. Sue Wika at sue@sfa-mn.org.

Register Now for Gearld Fry Field Days in Morris, Wadena

As part of our ongoing Keep Cattle in Minnesota project and GrazeFest series of grass-based livestock events, SFA is proud to announce two farmer networking and educational events with cattle-breeding expert Gearld Fry.

The events will take place Aug. 14 in Morris and Aug. 15 near Wadena. Cost is $40 for SFA members and $50 for nonmembers; registration includes lunch. Current SFA members received a discount code in a members-only email; questions about membership status should be directed to jason@sfa-mn.org.

The Morris day will begin with Gearld leading a beef genetics discussion at the West Central Research and Outreach Center. Next, the group will caravan to the Mark Erickson farm, where Gearld will lead a hands-on session on how to pick breeding stock for grassed beef.

The Wadena day will begin with a discussion with Gearld on dairy genetics for grass-based dairy operations, followed by a caravan to Midd-Minn Dairy, 17784 Country Road 7, Verndale, where Gearld will lead a hands-on session on picking dairy animals for grass-based dairies.

Fry has decades of experience around the world in selecting and breeding cattle that will perform on a 100 percent forage diet. He is the founder of Bovine Engineering & Consulting and the American Herbataurus Society, and his wisdom and understanding in the field is greatly valued.

Space is limited, so register today by Aug. 10 – click here for Morris and click here for Wadena.

For more information, contact Keep Cattle in Minnesota coordinator Wayne Monsen at wmonsen@gmail.com.


These events are sponsored by West Central MDI and Organic Valley.

MDIOrganic Valley

SFA is Lead Sponsor of GLCA’s Annual Videoconference

GLCA Videoconference LOGOSFA is proud to be the lead sponsor of the Grazing Lands Conservation Association’s annual videoconference, to be held Dec. 5 at seven sites around Minnesota. More information and registration will be coming soon – watch SFA Connect for details. Agenda and topics include:

Opening Addresses on why NRCS and DNR encourage grazing – Don Baloun, NRCS State Conservationist & Dave Schad, DNR Deputy Commissioner

  • Importance of soil health and ways to incorporate soil health strategies – Gene Groven, North Dakota farmer
  • Keynote: “Keep it Growing, Keep it Green: Soil Health and Water Protection are the Answers:” New research on managing soil biota, Dr. Kristine Nichols, USDA-ARS (from Mandan, ND)
  • Using Livestock to Enhance Prairie: Opportunities to graze public and private conservation lands. Monitoring to see the results of grazing – Carmelita Nelson and Greg Hoch, DNR
  • Producer Panel and Discussion: Strategies MN farmers are using to improve soil health to improve pastures and increase farm income, including “Options for increasing soil health and profitability for your farm or ranch” with SFA Livestock and Grazing Coordinator Kent Solberg.
  • Introduction to the Keep Cattle in Minnesota Project

The videoconference is held at locations in Crookston, Lamberton, Morris, St. Paul, Rochester, Pine City and Staples.