December 2022 News


November/December 2022

In this season of giving thanks, RTC is especially grateful for:

❤️ local farmers and entrepreneurs

❤️ our partners

❤️ our donors

❤️ our staff

❤️ our readers.

You make our work possible. Read on for updates on our recent efforts. Thank you for your support!

—the team at Renewing the Countryside

Farmland Access

Harry Hoch describes orchard and pastured animal practices during the October 29 field day. Photo by Sabri Fair


On October 29, RTC and partners sponsored a farm transition event at Hoch Orchard & Gardens in La Crescent, Minnesota. Owners Harry and Jackie Hoch, retiring from their multi-faceted Orchard and Winery/Cidery operations, are ready to pass the torch to the next generation of farmers.

In an effort to help them attract new potential successors, RTC held an in-person event in which participants enjoyed a tour of the facilities and orchard, including an entertaining visit with the Hoch’s pastured pigs and lambs. Approximately 20 individuals attended the event and had the opportunity to ask questions about the property, business, and the Hochs' plans for transitioning the farm to new owners/operators. A delicious light dinner and cider-tasting topped off the experience.

On Monday, Dec. 12 from 4 – 6pm CST we will be hosting an online event and discussion for anyone interested in learning more about the transition of Hoch Orchard & Gardens. Topics will include various aspects of the business including market outlets and connections, recent financial figures, and the Hochs' transition plan. This Zoom event is open to any interested parties or members of the public, although registration is required. Register online here.

As we try to find the next generation of owners for the orchard, we would greatly appreciate your support in sharing this message far and wide with your networks by word of mouth, newsletters, websites, or email lists.

Hoch Orchard Transition Discussion
Monday, Dec. 12
via Zoom

Wholesale Readiness Training

Are you a farmer who sells produce? Are you considering selling wholesale? Have you tried selling wholesale and think it could work for you?

Wholesale isn't just for large-scale distributors. Sales in your community to schools, restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals—those all count as wholesale sales. Wholesale doesn't have to mean truckload or even pallet-load quantities. Local food businesses can often buy quantities that are manageable for smaller-scale farmers.

Get information you need and take steps toward launching or expanding your wholesale produce sales in the new Wholesale Readiness Training program. The project launches with in-person regional meetings in January. Sign up to attend by Dec. 20.

What’s in it for you?

  • TRAINING: In-depth on 6 key topics, January through April 2023
    • Business Planning & Marketing Mix
    • Production for Wholesale
    • On-Farm Food Safety
    • Food Regulations
    • Product Standards, Packing & Packaging
    • Connecting with Buyers
  • CONNECTIONS with other farmers in your area.
  • ASSISTANCE: Focused and one-on-one, from Extension and other experts, in developing your plans, connecting with buyers, and launching wholesale sales; throughout 2023 and first half of 2024.
  • MONEY: You’ll be eligible for a $500 mini-grant in 2024, to cover expenses related to launching your wholesale enterprise.

Learn more from the introductory webinar video and the project page.

More questions? Contact: Jane Jewett, [email protected]


Come and Get It!

Community-Building Local Food Initiative

RTC is excited to announce Come and Get It!, a USDA-funded local foods initiative that will foster eight rural community teams around Minnesota to build capacity around stronger local food systems through on-farm local food events.

In partnership with Sustainable Farming Association and Minnesota Farmers Union, we will provide paid training for teams to plan and execute two events over two years, 2023-24. These events will bring farmers, food makers and community members together for opportunities to purchase from local farmers and other fun and engaging programming that will help to strengthen the community’s local food network.

Does this sound like something you'd like to be a part of? We are looking for rural communities to apply!

Great candidates for teams include communities with multiple individuals who have interest in doing more to mobilize support around local farmers and food-makers but lack resources and capacity to move it forward.

Apply by December 31, 2022—start here.

Questions? Contact Matt at [email protected] or 612-483-0286.


Farmers Market Food Hub

Northern Minnesota faces a number of unique challenges when it comes to local food systems; a short growing season and a small, dispersed population demand creative solutions to scaling up production.

Infrastructure like greenhouses and equipment are crucial to increasing production, but there are a variety of other ways, such as combining/aggregating products from multiple producers to meet the needs of customers and wholesale buyers. The Virginia Farmers Market Food Hub is an aggregator on the Iron Range that is doing just that: helping get more local food into schools, stores, and on families’ tables all year long.

Located in the arrowhead region of Northeastern Minnesota, St. Louis County is the largest county east of the Mississippi River. Known for its spectacular natural beauty, lakes, and trout streams, the area has a history of logging and mining of iron ore. The region also has a rich tradition of farming and local food systems.

Kristine Jonas (pictured, right) grew up in Tower, MN, where her father farmed. Today she is a vendor at the Tower and Virginia Farmers Markets, as well as the Food Hub Manager for the Virgina Market Square Farmers Market.

Read the full story here.


Local Foods


Did you join us for the 2022 FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace festival in Rochester? We had a blast being together with a great crowd for that event again, along with 87 total food & beverage vendors from MN, WI & IA, including 18 craft alcohol vendors. See the vendor list here.

There were five cooking demos, kids’ activities, live music, local food giveaways, and attendees voted for their favorite booths. See the full list of activities here. Among 42 different businesses who received votes, the 2022 People's Choice Award went to Sailor Mercy, an elderberry products wellness company out of Stillwater, MN.


Artisan Grains

Did you know there's a searchable map of farmers, processors, and others engaged in growing regional grains in the Midwest? For the Artisan Grain Collaborative, "Midwest" means an 8-state region that includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. AGC's member map allows you to search by location, by product, and by value chain role—that is, farmer, miller, maltster, baker, brewer, distiller, etc.

Give it a try, and it might help you find more local grain products to include in your holidays! If you have feedback on how the map worked for you, RTC's Elena Byrne would appreciate hearing from you: [email protected] or [email protected].

Staff Moment

We've had another new staffer join our crew!

Meet Hannah Lewis, who is actually a returning staffer, after a life chapter that included living in France and writing a book. Mini-Forest Revolution describes a rewilding approach that schools, neighborhoods, and other community groups around the world are using to build local resilience ecologically and socially.

Here's a quick Q&A with Hannah:

What was the best thing about living in France?

I loved being immersed in another language and navigating my way through another culture. You see up close the unique beauty, the quirks, the vulnerabilities, the moments of grace, that you cannot see from the outside.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love cooking, composting, and gardening and the magical nutrient cycling that links all three.

What's your favorite season?

My favorite thing about seasons is how they change! I really like Minnesota for that and missed it when I lived elsewhere.

Read Hannah's bio on our staff page

Community Happenings


Marbleseed volunteer & scholarship applications

The 2023 Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference (formerly MOSES) is coming up, February 23-25 in La Crosse, WI. Registration opens December 8, and scholarship and volunteer applications are open now:

Conference details and workshops
Scholarship Application
Volunteer Application

Scholarship applications are due Sunday, Dec. 18.


We hope to see you there!


Tomorrow: MFMA Annual Conference!




The Minnesota Farmers' Market Association's 2022 conference will be held online, Dec. 7-8. Learn more and register here.


Check out MISA's collection of Winter 2022-23 happenings

From GAP trainings to Blazing Trail seminars for food business start-ups, plus winter conferences, the MISA list of educational opportunities is a great one-stop shop!


Farm to School Networking Events

Is your school nutrition department interested in making new connections to purchase local foods from farmers and producers in your area? Buyer-Farmer speed dating continues throughout the state, with dates into March. Join us in your area of Minnesota for a Farm-to-School networking event and workshop. Space is limited so register early.

Farmers are also welcome to attend coordinated GAP-training events.

Learn more here.

*Read past issues of the RTC Rooster on our blog*
Thank you for your support of time, energy, funds, and enthusiasm!

Looking for a way to make a greater impact?

Become a sustaining donor. Your generous, on-going support makes all the programs above (and so much more!) possible for thousands in our local food system.


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.

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