As we close out the year, we're thinking of farmers who lost high tunnels, barns, and other infrastructure in the extreme, historic winds Dec. 15-16, and knowing that each of them has a new, unexpected challenge to solve—affecting their sense of wellbeing as well as their ability to do what they do; it impacts us all.
It's important to seize opportunities to support farmers, and that means staying in touch with them, whether through conversations at farmers' markets, their own social media and newsletters, or via organizations like ours who are working every day to help farmers.
Our work ranges from working lands to rural places and local foods, and we appreciate you for staying engaged with our activities and for being thoughtful about the food and beverages you choose to purchase, eat, and drink. Below are some brief updates. We wish you plenty of holiday rest, relaxation, and togetherness!
Want to make an end of year donation with a HUGE impact? One that will help bring affordable farmland to beginning farmers? Right now we're focusing energies on helping Singing Hills Farm, along with the American Farmland Trust, to be able to sell their farm to an incoming, aspiring farmer at a low rate while still earning full price for value of their land investment.
Please consider supporting this exciting initiative using the button below:
Another option, if you're able, is to shop at Lakewinds Food Co-op in December!
Lakewinds gives tens of thousands of dollars in grants to local small-scale farmers every year, and they have a Community Giving Round Up program for organizations that help develop local organic food supply chains. For the month of December, Renewing the Countryside's Farmland Access program is the Round Up beneficiary—specifically, the Singing Hills Easement effort. If you live in the Twin Cities, or are traveling through, be sure to stop by Lakewinds' stores in Richfield, Chanhassen, or Minnetonka, MN in the remaining days of this month, and say 'yes' when the cashier asks if you'd like to "round up."
Baby goats photo courtesy Lynne Reeck, Singing Hills Farm
Lakewinds canvas bag photo courtesy Matt Barthelemy
We had a great time coming together—despite the snow—at the 8th Annual FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace for curbside pickup and in-person festival on Saturday, Dec. 11 at the Mayo Civic Center, in Rochester, MN.
We were delighted to award the 2021 People's Choice winner, Panache Beverages, a business owned and operated by Ameeta Jaiswal. And for voting the fun family pictured above was the lucky winner of an egg basket overflowing with local foods donated by our vendors.
FEAST! is all about highlighting the unique flavors of the region and supporting the farms and food businesses that are adding to economic vitality in their communities by working with local farmers, creating jobs, and giving back to the community in many ways. Learn more about this year's vendors at local-feast.org.
In collaboration with Renewing the Countryside, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute has launched a new effort that will assist “socially disadvantaged” farmers who are interested in participating in Farm Service Agency (FSA) Programs and Loans. Those considered “socially disadvantaged” self-identify as African-American, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Asians, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, Refugees and Immigrants belonging to any of the groups named above as well as women.
We encourage farmers with varying levels of experience to reach out to a Regional Connector near them.
St. Louis County: John Beaton
Olmsted & Ramsey Counties: Katie Kubovcik
Washington County: KaZoua Berry
Hennepin, Ramsey, Isanti Counties: Moses Momanyi (pictured here)
Dakota County: Xiong Thao
Milwaukee County: Una VanDuvall
Dane County: Robert Pierce or Donale Richards
Pepin County: Sara George
If you are a socially disadvantaged farmer or work with socially disadvantaged farmers living in Wisconsin or Minnesota, but they don’t live in one of the counties listed above, please reach out to Donale Richards or Sara George for more information.
Women in Ag
Staffers Sara George and Elena Byrne, both coordinators for Wisconsin Women in Conservation, are excited to share that the WiWiC Listserv will soon launch as a way for women landowners to easily ask and answer questions of each other.
WiWiC virtual events have already seen great connections happening for women who live near each other and share an interest in conservation. "We hope this will be a catalyst for more learning and support for conservation efforts," Elena says.
WiWiC will next offer a series of mental health sessions to offer training in ways to support each other. The online sessions will have limited space, but free registration is open now for RTC's two regions:
West Central Region (Pierce, Pepin, Buffalo counties)
Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, 10am - 12pm
Southwest Region (Vernon, Crawford, Grant counties)
Thursday, March 3, 2022, 10am - 12pm
We hired a new staffer!
In the midst of our busy time leading up to the FEAST! event, we eagerly welcomed Matt Barthelemy, shown at right, seated and helping secure a festive tree with Brett Olson (and Sara George, peeking out from behind).
We're so grateful for his enthusiastic spirit and willingness to jump in with both feet.
We look forward to sharing more about Matt's work in the year to come.
Behind the camera: Elena Byrne
New Workshops Address Labor Questions for Farmers
Finding and retaining good labor is one of the biggest challenges that beginning farmers face.
To offer knowledge and tools needed to successfully recruit and manage employees, the University of Vermont (UVM) Extension New Farmer Project, in collaboration with University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and the University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, will host an online workshop series, beginning January 11.
The workshops are geared to produce and diversified livestock producers who are new to managing employees and to farmers who are considering changes to how they arrange for, and manage, labor on their farms.
The fee for each two-part workshop in the 2022 Farm Labor Dashboard Workshop Series is $35. Scholarships and discounts if registering for multiple workshops are available but must be requested and approved in advance. Learn more and register HERE.
Upcoming GAPs Food Safety Training Opportunities for Fruit and Vegetable Producers
GAPs Half-Day Training Course is a 3.5-hour, online, in-depth look at GAPs on the farm and "one stop shop" to learn about food safety best practices in the production, washing, packing, storage and transport of fresh produce. These sessions are strongly encouraged for all fresh produce farms regardless of size. Cost: $15 Upcoming dates: Jan. 26, Feb. 17, Mar. 11. Learn more and register HERE.
One Hour GAPs Deep-Dive Webinars will cover specific topic areas related to food safety on the farm. You will have the opportunity to learn from experienced farmers and Extension staff in these sessions, offered Wednesdays at 9am from Feb. 9 to March 2. Learn more and register HERE.
For questions about this educational series please reach out to Annalisa Hultberg; UMN Extension Educator, Food Safety at [email protected]. If you have questions or need assistance with registration, please contact Katie Drewitz at [email protected] or call 320-255-6169 ext. 1.
Minnesota Cottage Foods Producers Association Conference, virtual, Jan. 6-7, 2022
Minnesota Organic Conference, virtual, Jan. 6-7, 2022
SFA Annual Conference, College of St. Benedict, Feb. 12, 2022
Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference
It has been said that those who keep their eyes on the horizon will find the right path. PFI's 2022 annual conference, “Facing the Horizon,” will bring people together, seeking new knowledge, broader understanding and unexpected ways to improve our farms and communities.
The in-person gathering will be January 21 - 22, 2022 at Iowa State University's Scheman Building. Learn more and register HERE.
Registration open for MOSES Organic Farming Conference
The event will be held in person again in La Crosse, Wisconsin on February 24-26, 2022.
Now in its 33rd year, the conference offers collaboration, connection, and skill building for all experience levels. The schedule is available online, full of speakers (80+), workshops (60+), and Organic University classes (8+). Learn more and register HERE.
Tell Us What You Think
Did you get a chance to fill out our Community Survey?
Renewing the Countryside is planning to launch a “Friends of the Countryside” membership program next year, and we’d greatly appreciate your thoughts and opinions about our action areas, ways you’ve engaged with us in the past, and how membership might work for you—and for helping us stay engaged with everyone who cares deeply about the work we’re doing.
Please follow the link below. Thank you!
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!
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.