Hope you're staying safe and well and enjoying the coming of spring. We're grateful to all of you who share our passion for supporting rural places, working lands, and local food.
Thanks for the great response to our Program Interest survey. We're sending a Local foods T-shirt to Taylor Strelow, the winner of our drawing!
On Wednesday, May 27, we're holding our spring fundraiser, virtually! Save the date (sign up here), and then tune in to hear from those working on the ground to renew the countryside. Plus, there will be trivia & prizes! (If you're eager to make a donation before then, we're also participating in #GiveAtHomeMN, May 1-8!)
Read on to learn more about what we've been up to:
We're excited to share with you today one of the stories that has grown out of our farmland access work. Corbin Scholz was a beginning farmer in Iowa on a 3-acre hay field with no electricity or water, on a year-by-year lease, on which she wasn't able to grow her business — when she connected with our Farmland Access Navigator, Kate.
"Kate helped me get a new piece of land that fits PERFECTLY with my needs and helped me create a lease that not only allowed me to be on the land for more than a year, but talked me through points that I had never even thought of. Throughout my time working with Kate she truly turned into my farm mentor, helping me with the lease but also giving me good farming advice."
"I now have good land access with a longer lease, closer to town, access to water and electricity, a place to live on the farm, and access to infrastructure. Being on this new land has allowed me to more than DOUBLE the size of my farm business. I couldn't be happier."
In these current strange times, the ripple effects of Covid-19 can be felt by Corbin's farming community. Her CSA, Rainbow Roots Farm, currently has more members than she had expected. It seems people are increasingly appreciative of the importance of access to secure, healthy local food right now.
That said, she is concerned that the local farmers market in her area has been postponed multiple times, "which could really really hurt some local farmers that don't have a CSA membership."
Have you been baking more during your time at home? A dramatic change in flour demand has led many to reach out to local mills, and luckily, many of them were ready to answer the demand with just minor adjustments.
Noreen Thomas of Doubting Thomas Farms told us they had just happened to set up their online ordering system about a week before the shutdown, and they've seen a dramatic increase in sales from places they've never shipped to before. They had to pause online orders for a few days to catch up, but they've got things running smoothly now.
Speaking of rising to the occasion, did you know you can make bread using beer as a leavening agent in place of yeast or sourdough starter? If you use local grain and beer, you're supporting grain farmers in two ways, which is great because local craft breweries are facing serious challenges. Not only have regulations closed tasting rooms, they also limit how/where beer sales can happen. This is troubling because breweries are a significant part of the market for regional grain farms and mills. [Recipe from Doubting Thomas Farms here.]
For some perspective on regional grain supplies, we recommend this Civil Eats article by fellow AGC member Amy Halloran, aka the Flour Ambassador: Flour shortage? Amber Waves of Regional Grains to the Rescue.
Are you suddenly craving some freshly milled flour or bread? Check out the AGC listing of Upper Midwest mills and bakeries that offer online ordering and delivery.
RTC is part of the Artisan Grain Collaborative (AGC), a broad group of people all along the ‘grain value chain’ working to strengthen grain production and markets. If you'd like to stay in touch with regional regenerative grains work, consider subscribing to the AGC newsletter, The Crumb.
FEAST! Local Foods Network
Now that we're all looking more closely at ordering food online, it's a perfect time to think about your favorite local food makers, and we have a few recommendations for finding them (from your keyboard!).
- Just in case you're looking to track down something you sampled at the FEAST! event last December, we have compiled a Google Map of the 2019 vendors that includes links to each vendor's website.
- The Good Acre has a Maker Medley Gift Boxes program—they recently sold out, but they'll be starting up again, so stay tuned.
- You Betcha! Box is accepting donations to send packages of local grab-and-go foods in their "Feed the Frontlines" program
- A group of 15 Minnesota businesses have banded together to create the MN Hero Snack Pack: Each $25 donation provides grab-and-go snacks for 8-10 medical workers. Earlier this month, the initiative was mentioned on The Today Show (yes, THAT Today Show!), and Angie Gustafson from Gustola Granola reports that orders are now coming in from all 50 states of the U.S.! Congrats to Robyn Frank of Thumbs Cookies, who launched this effort.
A featured farmer this month was Andrew Serio, who grows lettuce, tomatoes and basil hydroponically—meaning they're available year-round! Visit the Rochester Farmers Markets online hub to order from Sunday to Wednesday at 8pm, or click below to read our story on Serio Farms.
Read online: FEAST! Local Foods Scoop e-newsletter
Farmers Market Food Hub
The Rochester Farmers Market (RFM) is one of the few Minnesota markets that holds an indoor winter market, but Covid-19 threatened to drastically change the situation. While farmers' markets are deemed an "essential service" in Minnesota (similar to grocery stores), few markets were operating when the pandemic first started because most are seasonal, and even fewer were prepared to pivot to operate in a manner that ensured public safety.
But the RFM decided not only to hold its regular winter market — with careful plans for social distancing, etc. — it also piloted an online ordering and drive-thru pick-up (or delivery) option. RFM has hosted four drive-thru markets so far and has been showcased both regionally and nationally as a model of how farmers’ markets can continue to operate during this pandemic.
This was possible because of astute market manager, Jessica Joyce (pictured above with the packages ready for pickup), along with mentor Sara George, support from the Friends of the Farmers Market, many volunteers, and established systems and support as a Farmers Market Hub site (coordinated by Renewing the Countryside, MN Farmers Market Assoc. and the MN Institute for Sustainable Agriculture).
Check out the links on the Farmers Market Hub site to see a slideshow or webinar on the effort.
And remember to support your local farmers by shopping at farmers' markets, signing up for a CSA, or buying direct!
Farm to School & Early Care
Have you wondered how school and community gardens are being managed while social distancing is in effect? RTC and partners are hosting a webinar to discuss best practices, and we welcome you to join us—there will be time for Q & A.
Minnesota School & Community Gardens During Covid-19
THURS, May 7, 2020 — 3pm Central
Also, if you missed the U of M Extension's webinar on Tuesday about Farm to School in the time of Covid, the recording is available HERE. Featured speakers included Samantha Burington, Deb Lukkonen, Sadie Gannet, Sue Knott, Helen Schnoes, and RTC's own Grace Brogan.
Tthe National Farm to School Network has compiled an extensive directory of resources for schools, farmers, and others to help navigate the challenges of Covid-19. It's being updated frequently, so if you know of a resource to add, they welcome input!
Women in Ag
We've been eager to share this new free resource with the world, which we hope will serve as a both guide and inspiration for women farmers to share their stories!
Amplify Our Voices: Connecting
Organic Women Farmers with the Media offers first-hand tips and advice on communicating with
With farming being an essential service during COVID-19, women farmers play a vital role in helping consumers make the connections between healthy soil, land stewardship, and what is on our plate.
Created by RTC with support from Organic Valley CROPP Cooperative, over 25 women farmers, educators and communications experts contributed to these downloadable 'tip sheets' on topics like hosting press at your farm, and tailoring the message to print, radio and tv.
Here's a sample of the trailblazing women sharing insights:
- Audrey Arner of Moonstone Farm (Montevideo, MN)
- Kris Marion of Circle M Farm (Brodhead, WI)
- Denise O'Brien of Rolling Acres Farm (Atlantic, IA) and founder of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network
- Inga Witcher, Host of Around the Farm Table
- Marji Guyler-Alaniz, Founder of FarmHer
- Jennifer Fahy, Communications Director of FarmAid, Inc.
Download the free Amplify Our Voices toolkit at
We continue to invite you to donate and to consider becoming a sustaining donor if you haven't already. Your generosity makes a big difference in the sustainable finances of a small non-profit organization like RTC!
Renewing the Countryside is a non-profit organization that strengthens rural areas and small towns by championing and supporting farmers, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, activists, and others who are revitalizing the countryside through innovative endeavors.
We build awareness and support for these initiatives by collecting and sharing stories of rural renewal, providing practical assistance and networking opportunities for those working to improve rural America, and fostering connections between urban and rural people.