You don't have to wait until the end of the year to see what we've been doing at Renewing the Countryside!
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1. Slow Money Minn
2015 is the year we helped launch a Slow Money Network in Minnesota! This network gives farm and food business connections to new sources of capital, and provides opportunities for community members to invest in their local food system, straight to the soil. Follow us on Facebook to ensure you hear about the newly launched Slow Money seminar series and food and farm entrepreneur trainings. We’re also exploring if there might be a way to capitalize on the new MNVest legislation, which will open up new opportunities for investors and businesses alike. With this network, and the commitment of our supporters and partners, we will increase the flow of knowledge and capital in support of local food makers and farming.
2. Farm to Child Care
Our Farm to Child Care program connects child care providers, parents, young children, and other early care professionals with local farmers to providing healthy meals and snacks, nutrition education, and gardening themes into curricula and activities. This year, in addition to our provider trainings across the state, we piloted a learning group model that complemented our training with ongoing support and peer learning opportunities. Through our partnerships, hundreds of children are learning about the win-win benefits of healthy, local food.
3. Specialty Crop Enhancement Teams
Did you know that the healthiest food to eat - vegetables, fruits, nuts (aka specialty crops) - is also the most difficult for Upper Midwest farmers to produce profitably? To increase the success of these types of farms, we are piloting Specialty Crop Enhancement Teams. We ask farmers what obstacles are hindering their success or what opportunities they need help pursuing. We then round up a team of experts - from fellow farmers, to finance gurus, to soil scientists, to help the farm find solutions that will make their operation more profitable, and help them grow.
4. Come & Get It!
Think wood-fired pizza topped with fresh tomatoes and basil straight from the sunny, rolling fields behind you! A program designed to help farmers successfully launch farm-based food businesses (including fancy dinners and pancake breakfasts), we worked with partners to host educational (and delicious!) field days, web-based training, and how-to guides. Although the maze of logistics, licensing, and other concerns can be overwhelming, we have helped communities come together over a shared love of food and farming. (And behind the scenes, we help to coordinate a statewide Local Food Advisory Committee that is working to find ways to minimize the hurdles and confusion related to food regulations and licensing in Minnesota).
5. Women Caring for the Land
Women represent a growing segment of farmers and farmland owners in Minnesota. For the past two and a half years, Renewing the Countryside has worked to expand outreach and assistance to these critical players in our agricultural landscapes and rural communities. In partnership with Women, Food and Agriculture Network (who developed the Women Caring for the Land efforts) and local conservation professionals, we brought groups of women together in eight communities for to learn about soil health, cover cropping, legacy planning. These powerful meetings (where there are sometimes tears, and always laughter), empower women to be good stewards of their land and link them to their local conservation staff and other women landowners.
6. Green Routes
We shared regular travel tips throughout the summer, and keep connections going between rural sustainable business, and the people who want to visit them! Earlier this year, we also kept the pressure on Agritourism bill SF152, which promotes more agritourism by protecting farmers with liability protection. It went into effect August 1! Look for a brand new GreenRoutes.org website to be unveiled Spring 2016! Find one-of-a-kind places to eat, play, shop, sleep, and learn in our unique sustainable travel directory.
7. agriCULTURE at the Minnesota State Fair
Another year, another 250,000+ fairgoers coming through our Healthy Local Foods Exhibit at the EcoExperience! We had so much fun with a focus on agriCULTURE: from First Peoples to New Immigrants. Visitors engaged in hands-on kids activities, educational kiosks, and delicious chef demos featuring recipes like: Naam Prik Ong (from chef Joe Hatch-Surisook of Sen Yai Sen Lek), Bangla Tilapia (from chef Ruhel Islam of Ghandi Mahal), and Cedar Maple Iced-T and Native Granola (from chef Sean Sherman of Sioux Chef / Tatanka Truck).
8. New Organic Stewards
In 2015 we expanded our partnership with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) on their New Organic Stewards program. We’re helping plan four New Farmer University conferences across four states [MN, WI, IA, IL] in the next two years. Look for the first to take place in Minnesota in the fall of 2016! And join our new and improved public Facebook Group to keep up on the latest.
9. Farmland Access
In 1990, Minnesota average cropland values were less than $700 per acre. By 2014, the average was over $3,500 per acre with prime land (near metro areas or great soils) selling well over $10,000 per acre. Many new farmers (unless they have inherited land or married into land) are unable to launch successful businesses because they cannot get long-term access to farmland. We are working with an array of innovative partners to address this obstacle. We’re working towards building an integrated system that will shepherd new, but vetted, farmers through a process which will bring together the needed expertise, financing, and assistance to get them long-term farmland access, so we can be assured of food security for our communities.
We are just now recuperating from the second annual Feast! Local Foods Marketplace, held Dec 4-5th! If you were there (and many of you were), you know that the Mayo Civic Center halls were full of cheer, delicious samples, and happy people supporting their regional food system by ticking off items from artisanal cheese to hormone-free turkeys for their holiday menus, pantry, and Santa’s list! The public festival was preceded by a fantastic trade show day, offering peer-learning workshops and connecting institutional and retail buyers with farmers and food makers from Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. Make sure to join us, and our partners, again next year!
Help us build a healthier food system, more vibrant
communities and a brighter future for our planet!
And the staff, board, and intern team!