April 2023 News


April 2023

The days are getting longer, and for the first time in a long while, snow is not in the 10 day forecast. That’s good news, right!?! We're seeing photos of the first greens of the season and promotions for those CSA boxes, so if you have not already purchased yours for the year, now is the time! We've had a jam-packed month and are excited to share updates and opportunities with you. Thanks for reading!

—the team at Renewing the Countryside


Farmland Access

Special Livestock Giveaway


Harry and Jackie Hoch of Hoch Orchard & Gardens are in the process of securing successors for their established orchard and cider business in La Crescent, MN (near La Crosse, WI). In the meantime, they are beginning to downsize farm operations, including reducing livestock on the farm.

In their continued efforts to give beginning farmers an advantage, the Hochs are planning a livestock giveaway contest to rehome their well-loved and cared for lamb and pork breeding stock. Renewing the Countryside, Marbleseed, Sustainable Farming Association, Land Stewardship Project and Practical Farmers of Iowa are teaming up to hold a regional contest to rehome three pastured/orchard pigs (two sows and a boar) and 12 sheep (11 ewes and one ram).

Eligible candidates must live in relatively reasonable distance to the Hoch’s farm in Southeastern Minnesota and have relevant livestock knowledge, experience and infrastructure, as well as adequate pasture to sustain the animals. Winners are expected to continue raising the awarded animals on pasture using organic methods.

Applications must be submitted by May 15, 2023. Winners will be announced May 19 and animals must be relocated within the first week of June.

First Farmland Access Meet 'n Greet a great success!

On Saturday April 8 the Farmland Access Hub hosted the first of what is hoped to be an ongoing series of regional Meet ‘n Greet events to connect landowners and landseekers. Thirty-six participants attended the 3-hour workshop in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, and feedback following the event was positive, with many saying they wanted “more time for networking.” Photo by Sabri Fair

The optional farm tour was well attended—thanks to all who participated!
Photo by Sabri Fair

The Farmland Access Hub will continue to seek farm sites for meet ‘n greets in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Want to get involved?



Building Community for Land Access

A partnership of Land Stewardship Project, Kilimo Minnesota, Renewing the Countryside, Commons Land, Women Food and Agriculture Network, Sharing Our Roots and Big River Farms is offering a series that lifts up the rich communities of African farmers in the upper Midwest and presents opportunities for land-seekers and landowners to build relationships for the purpose of facilitating land access and tenure and learn more about each other’s stories and cultures.

The initial webinar will be Wednesday, May 17 at 5:30 PM CT

For questions, contact Robin Moore at Land Stewardship Project:

320-321-5244 or [email protected]


Conservation Connectors

New Go Farm Connect website has launched

EXPLORE: www.gofarmconnect.org

Our collaborative Conservation Connectors program now has a new online home! The Go Farm Connect website is a one-stop-shop for historically underserved farmers in Wisconsin and Minnesota to find a trained peer Connector to connect them to agricultural support agencies and experts to help their farms succeed.

The site is also a great way to stay in touch with events, both in-person and webinars. The next upcoming event is a webinar focused on accessing disaster assistance funds:

Is ERP2 Rights for You? Disaster Assistance Basics

Tuesday, May 2

4:00 - 4:30 PM CT via Zoom

Cottage Food Con Recap

Home-based cottage food entrepreneurs gathered from across the country for the 2nd Home-based Food Entrepreneur Virtual National Conference April 10-13. The word cloud above shows states represented, with size proportional to attendance numbers. Feedback was very positive, evidenced by the quote below:

"Thank you for creating another phenomenal virtual conference. It's clear a tremendous amount of time, funds and effort have gone into it. It is all truly appreciated. I look forward to the future of this industry."

In addition to four days of programming including daily keynotes with industry leaders and 12 workshops led by successful entrepreneurs, the virtual platform enabled attendees to share and learn from each other on everything from product development to pricing—inflation's impact was a key topic!


126 Community Board topic posts

425 Photos taken

464 Total attendees

2,890 Messages sent among attendees

Thank you to our 16 sponsors who enabled us to keep registration a low $35 as well as distribute over 100 scholarships!


Castiron & Food Freedom Foundation


Sugar Cookie Marketing, New Society Publishers, Food Business Success, The Kitchen Door, Institute for Justice, North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NC SARE)


FEAST! Local Foods

We'd like to give a special shoutout to the food sponsors for the FEAST! Local Foods Tradeshow in late March, where we were honored to be able to go to extreme lengths to put as much locally-grown and locally-made food as possible on the tables for our breakfast, lunch, and dessert!

Cannon Falls Economic Development Agency, Kowalski's Markets, and Minnesota Farmers Union were cash sponsors who made this possible. Thank you!

We delivered bread made with Minnesota grain from Baker's Field Flour and Bread to Cannon River Catering Co. for the sandwiches, which also included microgreens from The Greensted, cheese from CannonBelles Cheese, and turkey from Ferndale Market.

Thank you to generous exhibitors who made donations: Country View Dairy donated yogurt, chocolate milk and creamer, Carlson Roasting donated coffee, The Bee Shed donated honey, Sacred Blossom Farm donated tea, Coconut Whisk donated gluten-free cookies, and West Indies Soul Food donated a sweet potato pie. Learn more on the website here.

We're looking forward to coming together for the 2023 FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace festival this fall, Saturday, November 4th in Rochester. Save the date!

For questions about FEAST! Local Foods Network programs, contact Elena at 608.712.8340 or [email protected].

Wisconsin Women in Conservation


WiWiC's Spring Digging into Soil Learning Circle workshops continue with West Central Region Coordinator Sara George hosting her event on May 12 in Prescott, WI. There will be conversation about soil texture along with a demonstration on how to assess your soil texture and how that affects what you decide to do on your land. Learn more about what to expect from reporter Gillian Pomplun's writeup of the Southwest Region event that Coordinator Elena Byrne hosted earlier this month.


WiWiC Summer Camp webinars are returning soon, this time with a focus on 'unhuggable' critters that are important to foster. Join us on May 18th at noon CT for Critters of Conservation: Birds! with speakers Joy Miller of Driftless Curiosity and Cindy Becker of Southern Driftless Grassland Conservancy.

More about WiWiC


Farm to School & Early Care

In April our Farm to Early Care team has grown by two—a big welcome to Tachianna Charpenter and Alexandria Harris!


Tachianna (shown here) has a background in social justice and advocacy in the 7-county metro area and gained much of her sustainable gardening knowledge from her Northern rural MN childhood.

She currently calls East Side Saint Paul home and is an artist, regularly collaborating with other local artists on mosaic and multimedia murals throughout the Twin Cities that focus on themes of revolution, healing, and accountability.

Alexandria shared what she's excited about in her new role with RTC:

"I’m looking forward to connecting with folks over how magical an opportunity it is to feed our youngest children with fresh foods. Foods from land so close they can go and touch it, maybe even meet the hands who grew the foods. Raising children to connect to their community and their own bodies, through the earth—that’s an incredible way to bring up the next young people in this world."

Farmers Market Food Hubs

Spotlight on Virginia, Minnesota from Maeve Mallozzi-Kelly

As we continue to inch towards warmer weather this spring, our Farmers Market Food Hub vendors are working hard to prepare for a bountiful season. Jason Mandich of Snapshot Farms in Hibbing, MN supplies chickens to the Virginia Food Hub in St. Louis County and is raising 175 Cornish Cross chicks this spring!

He has the brooders set up with heat lamps as the Northeast is still thawing out. The chickens are pasture raised once the temperature reaches at least 50 degrees, and in ~8 weeks will be ready for market!

Jason has been keeping livestock since the first grade but just started producing poultry for market in the past four years. Last year was his first time selling to a food hub and using the Farmers Market Hub’s Open Farm Network (OFN) online sales platform. Jason has a full time job on top of his poultry production so using OFN and selling to the Virginia Hub makes it easier for him to manage and deliver orders.

The Farmers Market Hubs sell products from multiple farmers on the OFN platform—meaning a customer can purchase from 5+ different local farmers without having to drive to each individual farm for pickup. Having one drop-off location for multiple orders makes it easier for the farmers too, giving them time back to spend on their production, other jobs, and family.

How is this possible, you ask? The Hubs add a small fee to each box to pay for the aggregation efforts: driving to the different farms to fill orders, paying for OFN, getting licenses and doing all the marketing and advertising. Jason advises that it’s cheaper for customers in the long run to pay the extra couple bucks to pick up all of your products in one place than what it would cost in gas to drive to each individual farm to make individual purchases. He encourages everyone in the area to purchase through the Hub. Orders will be available through the Virginia Food Hub in just a few weeks—find Jason’s OFN page to place orders here!

More about the Minnesota Farmers Market Food Hub

Contact project manager Sara George: [email protected]


Staff Moment

We were so excited to learn of a recent honor bestowed on RTC staffer Melvin Giles—he's one of seven receiving a Black Legacy and Leadership Enrichment Initiative grant acknowledging exemplary local activism work that serves the community.

From the article:

"Giles, a lifelong Rondo community activist and urban gardener in St. Paul, is known for blowing bubbles as a central part of his peace advocacy. In addition to co-leading the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance and spreading joy with bubbles, Giles also installs peace poles, simple monuments with the inscription ‘May peace prevail on Earth’ in several languages.

"The grant initiative is a collaboration between the Minneapolis-based Cultural Wellness Center and the Pohlad Family Foundation, which over the past several years has crystallized a focus on racial justice and housing stability."

Photo: ThreeSixty Journalism


Learn more on our staff page


Community Happenings

Angel Fest

May 4, 2023

Groove Capital offers this immersive one-day conference empowering and connecting angel investors from Minnesota, and beyond. Angel Fest is the region’s marquee annual investor conference.

Learn more and register here

2023 Emerging Farmers Conference - Call for Proposals

The Emerging Farmers Conference is focused on farmers and led by farmers. It is for farmers who traditionally face barriers (including immigrant farmers and farmers of color) to the education and resources needed to have a successful and sustainable farm.

Do you have a session you'd like to share at the conference? Would you like to work with the EFC planning team to put together a presentation? Do you have experience to share that will help other farmers become successful?

The deadline to submit proposals is May 15.

Submit proposals here.


*Read past issues of the RTC Rooster on our blog*
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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.