February 2021 News


February 2021

Have you had enough cold weather? Seems like it was many months ago when we were in a deep freeze—oh how a couple of warmer days can make you forget the long, dark, and cold days of winter. Our thoughts are with those in Texas who are still dealing with the aftermath of the polar vortex, but the rest of us are probably squinting at the sunny and quickly-lengthening days plus warmer temps, and envisioning the first spring radishes and peas.

BUT—it’s still pretty chilly and more cool days are to come, so what to do? BAKE. Attend virtual conferences. And get ready for planting seeds!

In this issue we share a broad perspective on farmland access, a new virtual conference just for cottage foods, a conference all about school gardens, and a new cookbook from Beth Dooley, focused on the sustainable crops of the Forever Green Initiative. Check it out!

—the team at Renewing the Countryside

Farmland Access

We rarely dip a toe into the policy world but, we recently wrote to express our support for Minnesota Governor Walz’s 2022-23 budget proposal for Farm Transitions, because policy is an important component of change.

RTC has been actively assisting emerging farmers in their search for farmland tenure for over three years, and before that, was involved in the related work we called ‘farm transitions.’ Often, the beginning farmers we work with do not have a farming heritage, or if they do, the family farmstead is not sufficient to support as many heirs as are interested in continuing that tradition. So they go looking elsewhere for farmland, which is increasingly difficult as less and less farmland is available, and what is available is often out of the price range for a beginning farmer.

Tools like the “Beginning Farmer Tax Credit” help, but even with this generous program it is difficult to find suitable land for many beginning farmers. Here is where a “Farmland Access Navigator” can be helpful. By assisting emerging farmers to refine the infrastructure, features, criteria and geographic area for their future farm, navigators can:

  • save time and energy in an approach to a land search,
  • assist with identifying professional services that can save emerging farmers from poorly designed leases and purchase agreements,
  • provide guidance on financing options from traditional bank loans to working with the Farm Credit System, Farm Service Agency or Rural Finance Authority,
  • work with farmland owners who are trying to transition away from farming full time in a graceful and economical way.

Negotiating an equitable and durable match for both personal and rural community economic sustainability is the goal of a successful Farm Transition.

It is said that “the best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago and today.” The same can be said for planning transitions for farmland in Minnesota. By bringing emerging farmers to the land we will keep rural Minnesota strong - with children in schools, people in pews, and rural businesses with customers. This is satisfying work, and we’re grateful to play a role!

Learn more about Farmland Access

Artisan Grains

We’re so excited to see The Forever Green Cookbook, recently released, with beautiful design work by RTC’s Brett Olson. The 54-page cookbook has 38 recipes that bring the sustainable crops championed by the University of Minnesota’s Forever Green Institute into the kitchen.

This innovative publication is available as a downloadable PDF, or you can order it online, and bulk pricing is even available, in case you want to buy one for every person you know who likes sustainable food!

This publication was developed by Beth Dooley in her role as Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota and is published by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.

Local Food

Are you a farmer looking to increase income by selling products like pickles and jams or baked goods, produced in your home kitchen under your state’s cottage food law? Or maybe you already make some of these products and are looking for marketing advice and to connect with the collaborative community of cottage food entrepreneurs?

A silver lining of the pandemic has been the surge of these new start-ups across the country and RTC is pleased to present the first Home-Based Food Entrepreneur National Virtual Conference, bringing together an all-star lineup of cottage food leaders and operators covering a range of topics from marketing and pricing, business structure, new product ideas as well as insight into the future of the food freedom movement nationally. The virtual platform will offer opportunities to connect with others, enter a product photo contest and join specific state meet-ups. Whether you operate an established cottage food business or are just starting out, this gathering is for you. The conference takes place April 6-9, 2021, and tickets are just $20.

Register by March 1, 2021, and be entered in a giveaway of over 50 copies of the Homemade for Sale book. See https://whova.com/web/wfts_202006/ for more information and to register. Space is limited. Stay engaged at @cottagefoodcon on Facebook and Instagram.

Farm to School & Early Care

Renewing the Countryside is pleased to endorse the 2021 Schoolyard Gardens Conference: Nature Heals, happening online Monday-Friday, March 1-5. This year's conference is dedicated to Minnesota's educators and schoolyard garden professionals, with a wide range of topics from food safety to pollinators to season extension. This year’s keynote, “Re-contextualizing the treatment of trauma through a decolonized lens,” will be presented by Dana Thompson, co-owner/COO of The Sioux Chef, and Executive Director of NaTIFS (North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems). Learn more and Register at: arboretum.umn.edu/schoolyards2021.aspx.

The Minnesota Grown program and Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) have launched two surveys to learn about wholesale marketing in Minnesota. They’re seeking information to guide ways to support regional wholesale market development, connections, and promotions.

  • Producer Survey: Intended for Minnesota commercial agricultural producers who currently sell or are interested in selling into wholesale markets like restaurants, retail stores (grocery, co-op, etc.), schools, institutions, distributors, food hubs, wholesalers, and processors/manufacturers/food makers.
  • Buyer Survey: Intended for Minnesota retailers and wholesale buyers, including grocery co-ops, grocery stores, distributors, food hubs, wholesalers, restaurants, and institutional food service operators.

The surveys will be open through Monday, March 8. For questions and comments, contact MDA Regional Marketing Specialist, Helen Schnoes at [email protected]

Women in Ag


Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) website is now live, and includes information on the first virtual workshops, including RTC's West-Central region workshops on March 2nd and April 6th.

If you are a Wisconsin woman committed to conservation and curious to learn more from other women in the state, this project is for YOU! If you have questions about the project, please contact RTC’s regional coordinators: Sara George ([email protected]) for Pierce, Pepin and Buffalo Counties; Elena Byrne ([email protected]) for Vernon, Crawford, and Grant Counties.

You can follow @wiwomenconservation on Instagram & Facebook and sign up here to receive WiWiC information and updates.

*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 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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