April 2021 news


April 2021


April in the upper Midwest brings serious changes and hope for new growth. This April has been no exception, both in the weather and in our world. In snow and buds, rhubarb and flowers, and the conviction in the murder of George Floyd, we see a glimmer of justice and a little hope, though there's still such a long way to go.

April also means friends and colleagues who are farmers are beyond busy in greenhouses and fields. In this issue, meet Jen Zimmerman of Maltwerks and our new staff member Melvin Giles, learn about opportunities to join Wisconsin Women in Conservation and the Land Stewardship Project with offerings for farmers and growers. Also, a last chance* to purchase local food from our FEAST! Online Marketplace!

—the team at Renewing the Countryside

Local Food


Supporting local food businesses can mean increasing markets for regional farms as well as enriching communities with creative entrepreneurs that create jobs and spend locally themselves. Many of these makers are in grocery stores and a wide variety of farmers markets, but this is a unique opportunity to browse a selection from all around Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. The Foodmaker Directory offers information about each business plus ‘meet the maker’ videos, like this from Doubting Thomas Farms in Moorhead, MN.

Consider a handmade foodie gift for mom this Mother's Day! All purchases through the FEAST! Online Marketplace will be entered in a local foods giveaway, including gift cards from three Rochester partners: Forager Brewery, Little Thistle Brewing Co., and Bleu Duck Kitchen.

*Last Day: store closes at midnight Wednesday, April 28 —order pickup is Sunday, May 2nd at Graham Park in Rochester, MN.


Artisan Grains


Jen Zimmerman has been called the Malt Queen of Minnesota, and if there’s an ace up her sleeve, it’s that she always has a story. As the sales director for Maltwerks, the four-year-old craft malting company in Detroit Lakes, MN near Fargo, she thinks a lot about what it takes to bring grains full circle.

In fact it’s that big picture—who and where grain comes from, how they’re processed, and what they taste good and perform well in—that has helped her build rapport with her brewery customers. “I’ll say something like, ‘Hey, the malted buckwheat is doing well in a hazy IPA. If we malted it would you buy it?’ Sometimes they’ll ask, ‘who else is using it?’ But there are very few that are stuck in their ways. Usually if I bring something new to the table, brewers and distillers are open to that.”

Before joining Maltwerks in 2018, Jen, an Indianapolis, IN native, worked for craft breweries, most recently Firestone Walker in California. Six months into her role at the malthouse, she attended the Minnesota Grains Gathering co-hosted by the Artisan Grain Collaborative and Renewing the Countryside, which was her first opportunity to meet grain farmers as well as a seed company. “I really do credit AGC for having open arms and bringing so many people together in one room with different perspectives,” she says, adding that she continues to learn every day from both farmers and brewers.

Continue reading →

Photos: Maltwerks

Farm to School & Early Care


We're excited to announce that our team has grown with the addition of Melvin Giles to our Farm to Early Care staff!

Melvin is primarily focused on our Farm to Early Care work in St. Paul, building connections and support for this work. Melvin is a long-time St. Paul community organizer and peace and diversity educator, and serves as the co-coordinator of the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance (UFGA). He is an advocate for the importance of getting our hands in the soil, and has a strong allegiance to bubbles and the color purple. We are excited to have Melvin’s depth of experience on our team.


Please give a warm welcome to Melvin over on our Facebook page, where we’ve also introduced him!


Women in Ag

A four-part virtual Conservation Summer Camp Lunch Series from Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) aims to address key stewardship concerns. All women landowners, farmers, or those with an interest in ideas and resources to better care for land, water and wildlife are welcome to attend.

“I hope that more women will be inspired and empowered to integrate conservation practices into the way they steward the land,” said WiWiC Conservation Coach Lindsey Maas, of Morning Scape Farm in Spring Valley. “As a farmer, I don't view conservation as an add on or optional. It is essential that we, as stewards of the land, work to improve the condition of soil, water, and habitat for wildlife.”

Maas, who is a Wisconsin Farmers Union member along with her husband Tony, draws from a diverse palette of conservation practices on the farm, a veggie CSA that also sells pastured lamb and beef. “We use rotational grazing, composting, cover cropping, and minimize tillage. We plant more trees and shrubs every year and include plants for pollinators in our cover crops and perennial plantings. We’re always working on ideas for ways we can improve our conservation practices.”

Registration for the Conservation Summer Camp Series will be live the first week in May, but interested women can sign up for the WiWiC newsletter at www.WiWiC.org, or follow along on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. For more information, contact WiWiC Communications Specialist Kriss Marion at [email protected] or 608-844-3758.

Thank you for your support of time, energy, funds, and enthusiasm!

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 & 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 & sharing stories of rural renewal, providing practical assistance & networking opportunities for those working to improve rural America, and fostering connections between urban & rural people.

Renewing the Countryside

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