February 2020 E-Newsletter


February 2020


We want to make sure we're sharing stories and information that resonate with you. To do just that, there are some small shifts ahead for our newsletter. We have a SUPER SHORT survey to help us make changes in a way that make sense for YOU.

Will you take less than 2 minutes to fill it out? Complete the survey and you will be entered to win a Local Foods T-shirt. Thank you!

Here we crow!

Farmland Access

We are excited to be hosting a new cohort of Farmland Access Navigators in the Midwest!

After the successful Midwest Farmland Access Summit held in Red Wing in October 2019, it became very clear that more Farmland Access Navigators are needed. In response, we identified possible candidates and offered an online training with Kathy Ruhf of Land For Good. And, ta-da! The second cohort of Farmland Access Navigators was born.

Currently, the new Navigators are beginning to work with clients along with the original Navigators as mentors. The synergy has been inspiring! More land seekers and land owners are being served, and outreach and awareness of the Farmland Access Hub is growing in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
New cohort Navigators include John Beaton, Minn., Katie Kubovcik, Minn., Erin Schneider, Wis., Hannah Breckbill, Iowa, and Amber Mohr, Iowa. Original Navigators are Brett Olson, Minn., Bob Kell, Minn., Jennifer Nelson, Wis., and Kate Edwards, Iowa.
Pictured above is Erin Schneider, photo by Colin Crowley.

Artisan Grains

We’re energized to see the worlds of regenerative, sustainable agriculture come together with local foods in a new way in our ARTISAN GRAINS focus area.

What do we mean by artisan grains? Check out our 2019 Minnesota State Fair exhibit. Essentially, crop rotation and cover crops are central to regenerative ag, and grains are well suited to these practices—but may not have a large demand (think buckwheat, rye, heritage wheat, etc.).

We’ve teamed up with the Artisan Grain Collaborative (AGC), a broad group of people all along the ‘grains value chain’ from seed variety researchers and farmers to millers and maltsters, to bakers, chefs, brewers and distillers. We’re working to educate consumers that grains are another potential part of their local food shopping basket, from flour to whiskey, and that these are all products whose production has environmental, social and economic impact…and for that reason, deserve a second thought.

We’re coming together in La Crosse, Wisconsin this month at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference, and there will be a strong grains presence. Friday features sessions by organic grain farmers Luke Peterson, Patrick McHugh and Halee Wepking, along with Nick Weber of La Crosse Distilling Co., which makes spirits from local grains. On Saturday AGC and partners host a Roundtable discussion about barriers in the small grain value chain. We’re also looking forward to a meetup of the AGC Brewing & Distilling Working Group, which RTC has helped to launch. 

FEAST! Local Foods Network and Marketplace


Partnering with the Minnesota Dept of Ag and Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Renewing the Countryside brings farmers and food businesses together for the FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace so they can connect with each other and with the public.

These food entrepreneurs are busy people, so it's really special to get a bunch of them together under one roof! The event attracted about 1100 ticket-buying attendees, and with the 46 volunteers and staff, the artists, chefs, sponsors and exhibitors, we had almost 1,500 people gathering to celebrate local foods at the festival. 

As always, we work to get feedback in a variety of ways. Pictured here is our People's Choice voting and dot survey station. People tell us they attend FEAST! to support local food businesses and because it's a fun event—but also because of the great vendors and the chance to do holiday shopping. We've had attendees from as far away as Arizona, Pennsylvania and North Carolina! 229 attendees voted for their favorite booth, and the winner, with 10% of the vote, was CannonBelles Cheese. Go Belles!

Besides awesome vendor booths, the event featured cooking demos with chefs from Rochester restaurants, in addition to Beth Dooley and MasterChef Season 10 Top Five contestant Shari Mukherjee—who drew quite a crowd!

Overall this event brings a lot of great information about sustainable agriculture and local food to the community of Rochester and we're honored to be able to do it. We love hearing feedback from the public like this:

"Absolutely LOVE Feast! Look forward to it every year!"
"I love that the Feast makes a really great effort to get the word out to support local business, farmers & makers! Every single bit helps everybody involved !!! Thank you!!!!"

Learn more by reading our 2020 FEAST! report.

Farm to School


Farm to School enriches community connection to fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools & early care sites. These changes strengthen child nutrition, community partnerships, & local economies.

This spring we're working in collaboration with partners in six communities across Greater Minnesota to bring Farm to School workshops to farmers, school nutrition directors, and other community members. We're eager to move these shared goals forward. 

At each workshop, we take time to build connections and skills for everyone who attends, share stories of success and overcoming challenges, highlight great tools and resources, and share information about efforts to efficiently collect and distribute produce from multiple small farmers to community institutions, something we call Farmers Market Food Hub.

Hello from the RTC Staff!


We're a group of people dedicated to building support and connections with and for just, sustainable, and vibrant countrysides.

Perhaps we're a motley crew with former (and sometimes current!) lives as graphic designers, researchers, farmers, social workers, event planners and more. But our diverse backgrounds mean we have the skill sets to innovate, create, and connect - key to our values and mission!

We came together (which isn't always easy to do - with staff across four states) this January to reflect on the full year behind and the full year ahead so we can best continue to meet you, assist your efforts, and renew the countryside!

In a world where many of us are connecting by computers or phone, we thought it was time to say hello again ;).

Pictured, (L to R, top): Ramona Robinson-O'Brien, Grace Brogan, Jan Joannides, Elena Byrne, (middle): Lynne Bishop, Kate Edwards, Stephanie Shekels, Nora Shelds-Cutler, (front): Brett Olson, Eli Goodwell. For more info see our staff page.


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 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.

Renewing the Countryside


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