This Little Sprout House of mine.

(I’m going to let it shine!)

During the spring and summer, my kids participated in growing a garden; they loved sowing the seeds and watching the plants grow. It got me thinking, ‘How can we show kids the unique capabilities these little seeds have, to those who either don’t know about gardening or are interested in learning how things grow?’

I searched the internet for ideas and came upon....

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2016 Top Ten!


Here it is - the Renewing the Countryside "End of Year Top 10 Review."

2016, by some accounts, is one to forget - However, we are rather proud of what we got accomplished and think you will be impressed too. From a successful fundraiser for a micro-loan fund for farmers (who can forget the amazing crew of "Mud Bucket Challenge" volunteers?) to the long list of partnering organizations who were instrumental in making this year a success.  Of course, we couldn't have done it without the support of you - our volunteers, friends, supporters, and donors.

Remember, this coming year, you don't have to wait until the end of the year to see what we've been doing at Renewing the Countryside! Just follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page to make sure you don't miss anything!

Also, it is not too late to make a tax-deductible donation to Renewing the Countryside


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Renewing the Countryside Welcomes MN GreenCorps Member

Hi, my name is Cassaundra Lewis, and I was selected to become a member of the MN GreenCorps program for the 2016-2017 year. I will be serving with Renewing the Countryside on the Farm to Child Care and Education program. Farm to School (F2S) has been such a national success, that parents and providers of child care want to incorporate Farm to Child Care (F2CC) or Farm to Early Care. Educating kids with educational curriculum such as the Farm to Preschool Curriculum  by UEPI or the Farm to Child Care Curriculum by IATP. By using local farm fresh food from farmers, not only does it help kids by learning to eat healthier, it also helps the farmers locally. Helps reduce the environmental footprint. Helps to bring the community together. And helps to empower parents and their kids in healthy choices.

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Inside Cooperative Principal





Cooperative Principal (CP) 001 started off the new year at the Eastside Food Cooperative’s juice bar. Getting a taste of the juices, coffee drinks and hors d’oeuvres at the co-op’s new cafe, club members got a chance to see the in-progress renovations of the store’s new building. “We’ve got to check out what the co-op did with our money,” members joked as we walked through the soon-to-be refrigerator and dry goods storage area before settling down for business in a temporary office behind the store.


This investment club, founded in conjunction with a nonprofit by the same name, offers average folks the chance to learn about and collectively invest in cooperatively run businesses. Despite the meeting being filled with technical business topics like a “Financial Review of Investments Outstanding and Portfolio” and “2015 Tax Reporting,” members were making wisecracks and jokes, turning a dry agenda into a fun and lively conversation.

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Feast Local Foods Network wins food stewardship award

FEAST Local Food Network Wins Food Stewardship Award


Bill Swanson, Lanesboro; Jane Olive, UMN SE Regional Sustainable Development Partnership; Devon Ballinger, Renewing the Countryside (RTC); Brett Olson, RTC; Jan Joannides, RTC; Tim Penny, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF); Eli Goodwell, RTC; Pam Bishop, SMIF; Neal Cuthbert, The McKnight Foundation

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., June 20, 2016 - The FEAST Local Foods Network and its partners won the Environmental Initiative Award in the Food Stewardship category on Thursday, May 26. This program, hosted by the nonprofit Environmental Initiative, annually honors projects that have achieved extraordinary outcomes by harnessing the power of partnership.

The FEAST Local Foods Network is a collaborative network across Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin of local foods advocates. The FEAST Network organizes the annual Feast! Local Foods Marketplace. Partners accepting the award included Renewing the Countryside, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), University of Minnesota Southeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, The McKnight Foundation, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Mayo Clinic and People's Food Co-op. The network was created to support local food producers and foodmakers by boosting access to financing, resources, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

"Our collaborative approach to local food is really focused on the entrepreneur," said Jan Joannides of Renewing the Countryside, a lead partner in the Network. "It's about helping create small, sustainable food businesses to adopt practices that are better for all of us."

The creation of a thriving local food economy needs to be both community-based and driven by everyone involved - from farmers to consumers. The FEAST Local Foods Network is building partnerships across the local food system to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. More than 1,300 people have been reached through the network's various tradeshows and events. Save the date for 2016's Feast! Local Foods Marketplace, taking place December 2-3 at Rochester's Mayo Civic Center.

"Collaboration isn't always easy. This rich and diverse network is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished for our environment, economy, and all Minnesotans when we choose to work together," said Environmental Initiative's Executive Director, Mike Harley. 


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FEAST Local Foods Network award finalist for food stewardship


The FEAST Local Foods Network, a collaborative network across Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin of local foods advocates and organizer of the annualFeast! Local Foods Marketplace, was selected as a finalist for an Environmental Initiative Award. FEAST was one of three finalists in the Food Stewardship category. The winners for the six Environmental Initiative Award categories will be announced on Thursday, May 26.

The Environmental Initiative Awards, established in 1994, annually honor innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results by harnessing the power of partnership. From large statewide efforts to small-scale locally based projects, many of Minnesota's most innovative environmental efforts have succeeded as a result of collaboration.
FEAST Local Foods Network is a group of local foods stakeholders who work to develop a coordinated and sustainable food system in southern Minnesota. The network is made up of representatives from many organizations and businesses, with leadership and facilitation Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), Renewing the Countryside, and the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership. The FEAST Network aims to provide resources, forge partnerships, and leverage expertise to increase awareness of the local food entrepreneurs and creativity driving the local foods economy in southern Minnesota and surrounding region.
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2015 Feast! Whiskeys

The Official Best of Feast! 2015 Awards!

 err..un-official – again.

Best laid plans and all… I still couldn’t pull together a full team of judges for the 2015 Feast! BUT I’m marching forward with my own awards. AGAIN.

I have to say that all the exhibitors are amazing food makers and I celebrate each of them for their hard work in making great food. They are all truly heroes of local foods! But… I'll need to pare down the list to just a few. 

The categories I created last year are still going to work – maybe not perfectly, but I got out the old shoe-horn and made them work again this year. 

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Investment Clubs - Collective Investing for a Better Future


 Seventeen people gathered around a large table at the Impact Hub MPLS on a Thursday to explore investing for a better food system. Attendees came from an array of backgrounds--some as interested citizens wanting to invest more consciously, others were financial experts, and still others were budding food and agricultural entrepreneurs. Together, we sat down with Joe Riemann of Cooperative Principal who chatted us through the nuts and bolts, and the possibilities and limitations of a method he’s found to be a fun and fulfilling way to move money: investment clubs.

The model is straightforward. It’s a group of people, setting aside a certain amount of money each month to collectively invest. Through regular meetings, the group decides where its money should go. By pooling their resources, members can fund larger initiatives, minimize risks, and educate each other on investing. As Joe explained, since their beginnings in the 1800s these clubs have become increasingly popular through the ‘90s. Folks enjoyed a chance to come together to “beat Wall Street.” That is, until the recession hit and investment clubs “just weren’t fun anymore.”

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2015 Top Ten List!

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Thoughtful Investing in Farming and Food


On a lovely summer evening in June, 150 people came together for the kick-off of Slow Money Minnesota. The event came about because of the energy and interest bubbling up locally around how Minnesotans can do more to support a healthy local food system. The gathering provided an opportunity to learn about investing in food and farming, as well as sampling delicious local fare.

While Slow Money conversations have taken place in Minnesota, and some Slow Money-style investments have occurred, the timing was right to broaden the dialogue and leverage efforts. The event was designed to set the groundwork for expanding the flow of funds to promising and growing businesses, provide people at various levels of wealth to be able to invest locally, and, as a result have more successful farm and food businesses.

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