February 2023 News


February 2023

Are you hunkered down? Here's some reading while you gather up the motivation to brave the elements and clear the snow/ice. (What was that about a mild winter?)

Also, it's that time again when we're looking for new board members! We are seeking individuals with board experience who have a passion for sustainable, vibrant and equitable rural communities and strong urban/rural partnerships. Skills or background knowledge in fundraising, organizational development, nonprofit finance, and/or human resource development is a plus.

Duties and responsibilities are outlined in the Board Member Job Description, and you can apply here.

Thanks for reading and being engaged with our work, and never fear—spring is right around the corner!

—the team at Renewing the Countryside

Farmland Access

The Farmland Access Hub has a new website! The site offers a wide array of information and helpful resources for both land-seekers and landowners.

Made up of a consortium of partners, the Hub’s primary focus is to work around barriers to land access for beginning farmers—including assisting retiring/exiting farmers and landowners with land transition planning—in order to make sure our nation’s precious farmland remains protected and in the hands of working farmers. The Farmland Access Navigator program is an invaluable resource for emerging farmers, offering cost-free, one-on-one support for business and financial planning, legal help, moral support, land-search, and more.

The Hub provides access to a wide network of service professionals with a focus on land access and food security, including real estate agents, extension agents, attorneys, non-profits, financial institutions, and others. Learn more on the new site: farmlandaccesshub.org. To receive assistance as a land-seeker or a landowner please fill out the respective intake form in the Get Started section and someone will reach out to you.



You can also access the Hub through RTC’s Farmland Access Portal on our website.

Connect with us in person!

Marbleseed (formerly MOSES) will be holding its 34th Annual Organic Farming Conference this Friday-Saturday in La Crosse, Wisconsin. RTC staff and Navigators Jan Joannides, Brett Olson, Bonnie Warndahl, Katie Kubovcik, and Moses Momanyi will be holding a presentation on Friday morning from 8:30–10:00 a.m. with a focus on creative farmland access and will also host a farm transition meet ‘n greet session from 4:30-6:00 p.m. for landowners and land-seekers. Additionally, staff member Bonnie Warndahl will facilitate a discussion at 11:00 a.m. with a focus on women’s farmland access stories.

If you’re at the conference, please stop by the RTC booth in the exhibit hall and say hello!


Cottage Food Conference

Did you catch Lisa Kivirist in this NBC-TV interview? It aired earlier this month to discuss yet another legal win for non-hazardous homemade goods, and is a great way to usher in the Home-based Food Entrepreneur Virtual National Conference, coming April 10 - 13.

Join some of the leading cottage food operators, food activists, educators, and leaders in various organizations who are fighting for our freedom to earn, whether we're selling decorated cookies, artisanal chocolates, small batch jams and jellies, hand-formed loaves of bread, cocoa bombs or numerous other "non-hazardous" cottage food products.

Tickets are just $35. Register by March 1, 2023, and be entered in a book giveaway drawing for the recently released, updated and expanded Second Edition of Homemade for Sale. Click the button below for more information and to register.


Farm to Early Care

We're hiring!

Renewing the Countryside (RTC) seeks a Community-Based Food System Coordinator to support our Farm to Early Care & Education work. This role involves project coordination, as well as direct outreach, education, and engagement with early care St. Paul providers, parents, young children, and community partners.

Our primary F2ECE projects currently take place in the Rondo, Frogtown, & Midway neighborhoods of St. Paul. The position is planned as 75% time, but is negotiable.


Farmers Market Food Hubs

In January, the team of the MN Farmers’ Market Food Hubs project and nine Hub managers came together for their annual meeting. Despite having worked together since last February, some met each other in person for the first time. The group welcomed Moses Momanyi of Dawn to Dusk Farm as a new hub manager, and Lilian Mboss, who is organizing a new hub based out of the Frogtown area of St. Paul.

Each hub had many victories to celebrate from the past year!

The Village Agricultural Cooperative started a new Farmers Market on the grounds of Olmsted County History Center in Rochester. They averaged about 10 vendors per market, and will implement their online platform for the 2023 season. Many of The Village’s vendors are new to the US and the market gave them the opportunity to share some of their traditional foods with customers.

Red Wing, Grand Rapids and Wabasha markets all had amazing sales for their food hubs. Not coincidentally, all of these markets worked closely with their county’s SHIP, Statewide Health Improvement Partnership Coordinators, to provide vital connections with schools and institutional buyers, and to help implement programs like Veggie Rx, a food security program that helps increase access to healthy food for individuals and families who are at risk for food insecurity. SHIP has been vital to the project by providing one on one technical assistance, along with equipment, funding, and resources for the hubs, as well as helping hub managers establish relationships with school nutrition staff and other institutional buyers. An example of SHIP’s impactful contribution to the hubs is the Great Apple Caper, when three hub managers, Allison Rian (Aitkin), WIlilyn Dowell (Grand Rapids), and Kristine Jonas (Virginia), joined together to procure, sell, and deliver over 5,300 apples to 13 schools in northern Minnesota.

Regional connection and cooperation was identified as a goal for the hubs moving forward, as well as getting more farmers to join the Open Food Network Online e-commerce platform to provide a larger volume of products that they can aggregate for larger orders. If you would like more information on the food hub in your area, visit the MN Farmers' Market Food Hubs Website.


Women in Ag

Wisconsin Women in Conservation will be at the Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse tomorrow!

If you're there, join us for an In Her Boots Landowner Meet-Up Friday morning at 8:45am, for for a new 'office hours' session Saturday morning at 8:45am. See the conference program for details here.

Next, we're looking forward to the WiWiC "Winter Conservation Camp" lunchtime zoom, next Thurs., March 2: Caring for Your Land and Yourself. We'll talk about balancing conservation amidst our chaotic lives with WiWiC project leads Esther Shekinah and Lisa Kivirist, as well as a panel of inspiring women farmers:

Michelle Harrigan, Food Web Farms

Heather Lynch, Green Haven Gardens

Chris Frakes, Farm Well Wisconsin

Pheasants Forever resource team: Britta Petersen, Julie Peterson, Gretchen Skudlarczyk

Learn more & register here.

Artisan Grains

Renewing the Countryside is engaged with grains work in a few different ways, and one of those is through a project called Grains to Trays, working to facilitate increased use of regional grains by institutional buyers such as schools, hospitals, and corporate campus foodservice. In general, this market category is often called 'Farm to Institution,' and can encompass all food groups.

Identifying a need for network building and resource development to increase the use of grains, beans, and oilseeds in Midwest institutional culinary programs, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) and Artisan Grain Collaborative (AGC) established the Grains to Trays initiative to increase the use of regionally produced and processed grains in Upper Midwest institutions.

Two reports have now been released from this effort, and are available from AGC's Grains to Trays project page:

A Literature Review of existing resources that highlight, explain, inform or relate to existing and potential regional grains to institution sourcing efforts.

An Environmental Scan (cover page shown above), which compiles information collected from food service directors, grain farmers, processors, and aggregators.

The project was powered by AGC's Institutional Procurement Working Group, which includes RTC's own Sara George, program manager for the Farmers Market Food Hubs a coordinator for our Farmer-Buyer Meet-ups.

Staff Moment

Here's a peek at the RTC staffers who participated in last month's Connectors Retreat in Minnesota!

L to R: Matt Barthelemy, Elena Byrne, Sara George, Jan Joannides, Brett Olson, Bonnie Warndahl, Hannah Lewis, and Melvin Giles. If only we'd snapped this the day before, it would have also included Jody Padgham!

Read more on our staff page


Community Happenings


Midwest GRIT Farmer Fellowship

Midwest GRIT is Seeking Farmers for its 2023 Cohort!

Join fellow agricultural entrepreneurs in the Upper Midwest in a paid peer-to-peer learning experience beginning April 2023!

Midwest GRIT (Grains Resource & Immersive Training) is a yearlong training program built on a foundation of peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. Farmers will support each other to gain new knowledge of organic food-grade grain production and marketing, while also developing and/or strengthening mentoring skills that will benefit their communities beyond the length and scope of this program and each individual cohort.

Application period is open through March 3, 2023. For program details and benefits, visit midwestgrit.org/apply.

All farmers are encouraged to apply, and one third of the cohort is reserved for farmers that identify as women. Preference is given to women, non-binary, BIPOC, and currently farming applicants in IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, and WI.

Field to Fermentation: A panel discussion

Tues., April 4, 5-6:15pm CST

How Breeders & Bakers Partner for Regional Grains Development

Did you know that plant breeders regularly work with bakers for feedback on how new grain varieties perform in the bakery? And that those research efforts help shape which varieties are developed for commercial scale?

Join this free webinar from the Bread Bakers Guild of America along with Artisan Grain Collaborative members Julie Dawson (UW-Madison), Halee Wepking (Meadowlark Organics), and Kirk Smock (ORIGIN Breads).

Register 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.

Facebook Twitter logo instagram-100px.png