January 2023 News


January 2023

Warm winter greetings to you, as we're alternating between hunkering down and dashing across the region for numerous conferences and gatherings; while the soil slumbers, the farmers plan!

Here's our latest, and as always, we'd love to hear any feedback you have for us. Thanks for reading and being engaged with our work, and we hope your 2023 is starting out well!

—the team at Renewing the Countryside

Labor Learning Circle for Women

  • Are you a woman farmer new to managing employees on your farm?
  • Maybe you are thinking about expanding and hiring staff for the first time next season?
  • Or did you just wrap up your first year with staff and want to process what you learned and what you’ll do differently?

Renewing the Countryside is excited to partner on a new partnership with the University of Vermont for Farmer-to-Farmer Learning on Effective Labor Management. The partnership offers various tools to support farmers in managing staff, including this unique, virtual winter collaborative learning environment for woman-identifying farmers to learn along-side our peers.

From effective delegation, to navigating conflict and developing creative solutions to labor needs, this three-part virtual series will connect you with relevant resources and a network of women farmer peers addressing similar challenges. Each “learning circle” series will consist of three back-to-back daily 75-minute sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Sign up for the month that works best with your schedule. Space is limited.

More information & Registration

Each “learning circle” series will consist of three back-to-back daily 75-minute sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Sign up for the month that works best with your schedule to attend the three days. Sessions are free and space is limited.

February Sessions: February 14-16; 9 am -10:30 am CST

March Sessions: March 3-7; 6 - 7:30 pm CST

Check out the range of labor management resources and other events for this project on the Farm Labor Dashboard.


Cottage Food Conference

Get started with your dream of owning your own home-based cottage food business or take your business to the next level at 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.

This conference is designed to offer practical, actionable ideas and information from some of the leaders of the cottage food movement and from cottage food entrepreneurs who are running a successful, and profitable, business from their home kitchen. The conference also addresses the growing food freedom movement. This year's conference builds on a successful first event in 2021 with over 900 attendees, establishing it as the preeminent national gathering of the cottage food and food freedom community.

On each day of the four day virtual (online) conference, a keynote will kick things off, followed by 3 practical workshops, each to include live question-and-answer sessions. This adds up to a great value of sixteen sessions and over nine hours of content, all hosted on the Whova conference platform that provides plenty of opportunities to engage with others attending. Prizes are even given away for the most Instagram-worthy product photos!


Farmland Access

Connectors Retreat

Renewing the Countryside and Marbleseed hosted a training retreat in Shoreview, Minnesota January 24-25 to train Conservation Connectors, Farmland Access Navigators, and Wisconsin Women in Conservation Coordinators on Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs that benefit beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.

On day two, participants got to dig a bit deeper into the inter-workings of the Farmland Access Hub and the Farmland Access Navigator program. A panel of Navigators (shown above) shared stories of work with clients—both challenges and solutions—and some of their own experiences with obtaining access to land.

Learning opportunities included group discussions, hypothetical land-seeker and landowner situations to work through, and an informative land access presentation by Kathryn Ruhf, founder of Land for Good, on the complexities of land tenure and the variety of models that can be used to help farmers obtain land.

Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference

RTC staff and several Navigators will be hosting three separate events on Friday, Feb. 24. For Friday's first session, a land access presentation for emerging farmers will be facilitated by Jan Joannides, Brett Olson, Katie Kubovick, Moses Momanyi, and Bonnie Warndahl. In the late-morning block Bonnie Warndahl will facilitate a women’s land access discussion, and in the afternoon block all will be present to facilitate a land-seeker/landowner meet ‘n greet. Additionally, Farmland Access Navigators will be present throughout the conference at the RTC booth to answer questions and give free 15-minute consultations. If you’re at the conference come visit us with your access questions!

Organic Broadcaster: Land Access Article

Farmland access can be a confusing topic. It is, however, an extremely important issue that requires immediate attention. Marbleseed’s quarterly publication, the Organic Broadcaster, recently published an article on this topic by RTC staff member Bonnie Warndahl. Learn more about Bonnie’s own land access journey on page 32 of the Winter 2023 issue or here with audio of Bonnie reading the article!


Local Foods

If you're like us, you love seeing regional food businesses on all kinds of store shelves, from specialty shops to co-ops to large grocery stores. With the FEAST! Local Foods Network, we're working to increase that representation with our industry-only tradeshow, coming up this March.

The FEAST! Local Foods Tradeshow brings regional food businesses together for a wide audience of buyers, and we're always working to invite more buyers to attend this event. If you're able to help encourage stores you frequent to be a part of this amazing day, Thursday, March 23, we invite you to refer them to the website—and if you're able, you can print a flyer to share with them!

During the tradeshow, we'll be presenting our vendor awards for Innovative Local Sourcing and Inspiring Social Benefit, as well as our retailer award for Local Food Champion—which we created to honor and highlight the extra effort it takes for stores to discover and stock local brands. That's where you come in...

Check out our new directory of stores that champion local foods, and help us build the list by filling out the form to submit stores you know of who do an excellent job of providing local foods—including meat, cheese, and shelf stable products—to their customers.

For questions about the tradeshow or stores directory, contact Elena at 608.712.8340 or [email protected].


Farmers Market Food Hubs

The Minnesota Farmers’ Market Food Hubs haven’t missed a beat moving into the winter months. Trainings have been scheduled in nine food hub areas, each one an all-day event. Shown below is the Moorhead, MN event.

The unique opportunity starts with a Good Agricultural Practices food safety workshop for Minnesota farmers and then school food service directors are invited to join the group for networking time. Another partner on the event, the MN Dept. of Education, also presented to the food service directors about procuring local foods. To find a training or hub in your area, visit the Farmers Market Food Hubs website.


Thank you to our VISTA! Kathleen Rykhus got a send-off from Jan and the entire MN Food Hubs group, complete with cake! It was great to have all of the Hubs together, and special to wish Kathleen well since she has been a huge help with coordinating our Hubs program. RTC utilizes an Americorps VISTA position to build capacity in our programming.

We're currently looking for an Americorps staff in the Southeast MN area—if you're interested, write to us at [email protected]


Artisan Grains

We'd like to share a story with you about Perennial Pantry, a Minnesota business making an impact in the food and agriculture sphere, which staffer Elena recently shared in the Artisan Grain Collaborative newsletter. Beyond being lucky to have Christopher Abbott as a past RTC Board member, we were also thrilled to have Perennial Pantry join us for last year's FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace. They're definitely one to watch!

Perennial Pantry is a Burnsville, Minnesota-based company on a mission to bring the perennial grain Kernza® into people’s kitchens, hearts, and minds. Launched in 2020 by Christopher Abbott, Joe Kaplan, and Nick Gardner, their goal is to accelerate the transition to perennial agriculture through the use of Kernza.

With a high protein to calorie ratio as well as a lot of bran, Kernza is a great addition to flour blends, contributing its nutty flavor. Perennial Pantry launched flour and whole grain berry products in 2020, a pancake and waffle mix in late 2021, and in 2022 shipped test crackers and tortillas out to customers for voting, along with a playlist and party planning guide of things to eat with them.

Involving consumers in the process of product development is key to Perennial Pantry’s introduction of novel grain crops, so they started a CSA, and are shipping about 125 boxes a month to subscribers in 30 different states. For now, most of their products, like the tortillas, are only available through the CSA, though hopefully not for long! “We’re particularly excited about the crackers, and are working to increase processing capacity,” says Christopher. ”We hope that opens the door for broader interest in what Kernza is.”

To discover more about Perennial Pantry and Kernza, read the full story.


Women in Ag

The Wisconsin Women in Conservation team was thrilled to come together with Conservation Connectors and Farmland Access Navigators at the Connectors Retreat mentioned above, to dig into how best to help women landowners access services from the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service).

We're looking forward to the WiWiC "Winter Conservation Camp" lunchtime zoom, this Thurs., Feb. 2, for "5 insider tips on developing a plan for your land," featuring Britta Petersen, Pheasants Forever farm bill biologist, along with a panel of inspiring women farmers.

Learn more & register here.

Staff Moment

We're so glad to have Jody Padgham on our team!

Initially joining staff to help manage grant proposals and reporting, Jody, shifted into the role of finance manager last year. Her strong background in finance includes project-managing, editing and co-authoring the book Fearless Farm Finances, as well as running her own farm operation in central Wisconsin.

Speaking of, we recently learned that Jody plays the accordion...and that her neighbor's Hereford cattle appreciate her skills, too! Check out this spontaneous response, much to her surprise, when she decided to practice outdoors one day:

cattle enjoy accordion

Click the image to watch!

Read more on our staff page

Community Happenings


Sustainable Farming Association Conference


Saturday, February 11, 2023

St. Joseph, MN

We'll be at the SFA Conference in St. Joseph, MN on Saturday Feb 11. While the conference is sold out, you can sign up on their waiting list. If you're coming, stop by and say hello!

See the schedule here.


The Future is Fractional - entrepreneur expertise

Feb. 16, 2023
Finnovation Lab
Minneapolis, MN

Fractional Executives are emerging as a competitive advantage for scaling start-ups to leverage c-suite level expertise in a fractional capacity to accelerate growth and keep costs down. Join fractional talent experts and founders in a discussion about how we can all work better together to create more impact for our local food & beverage ecosystem!

Learn more & register here


Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference



February 23-25, 2023

La Crosse, WI

The conference schedule is out, have you registered?

About the Keynotes

Keynote speaker Austin Frerick will address America's increasingly concentrated food system, while farmers Doug Crabtree and Anna Jones-Crabtree will talk about building a resilient organic farm through diversity in all things.

Learn more & register here

Farmer Grants


Mill City Farmers Market's Next Stage Grants program is open for applications now through March 1st, with grants awarded in early April.

Awards range up to $7,000 and are available for a range of solutions to help farmers and makers grow.

Learn more and apply here.



Food-Grade Grains Guide

For farmers interested in producing grains intended for human consumption, there are a unique set of opportunities, challenges, and considerations.

This guide, developed collaboratively by UW-Madison, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, and the Artisan Grain Collaborative, debuted this past weekend at the OGRAIN Conference in Madison, WI, and is intended for farmers interested in adding food-grade grain crops to their farms.

Sections include crop timing and rotation recommendations, variety selection, seed sourcing, production management, and post-harvest handling, and ample photos are included to show equipment and specifics about the different grains.


*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 & 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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