January 2024 News


January 2024

The calendar says January, but by the latest temperatures here in the upper Midwest, you wouldn't know it. And yet, while the growing season remains dormant (we hope), farmers and those who work to support them are busy attending conferences and workshops to make the most of the winter. 

Renewing the Countryside has no small number of events on our docket, including the Minnesota Organic Conference earlier this month, and the upcoming Sustainable Farming Association conference, where we're happy to share about programs like the Come and Get It on-farm food festivals, farmland access work and Go Farm Connect, to name a few.  

—the team at Renewing the Countryside


Farmland Access

Webinar for Landowners

Your Farm’s Future Steward: What to consider before making your land available to the next generation

Are you interested in renting your land to a beginning farmer?

Is it time to start thinking about transitioning your farm to a new steward?

What should be considered—and where do you begin? 

Join the Farmland Access Hub for an introduction to making your land available to the next generation of farmers. This online event is FREE for farmland owners in the Midwest and beyond, whether you are interested in renting, selling, or transitioning your farm to a new owner.

Participants will hear about both the land-seeking farmer and exiting-farmer perspectives. All are welcome to attend an optional 30-minute Q&A following programming. 

Bring your questions and your curiosity to one of two online events (or both), which are offered at different times to increase accessibility to attendees. 

Tues., Feb. 6
5:30-6:30 pm

Tues., Feb. 13



The Land Stewardship Project is also offering a webinar series for landowners, Feb. 1- March 8, online. Register HERE


Did you join us for the Farmland Access Summit in November? We enjoyed the article in Agweek from Noah Fish recapping the event—in general we had a wonderful time diving into this important topic. For a peek at our staff together at the Summit, check out the Staff Moment below.

Urban Farming News

Renewing the Countryside is excited to work with USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and other partners to enrich urban agriculture in the Twin Cities metropolitan area through 3 new Urban Agriculture micro-grant opportunities. Eligible applicants include individuals/farms, community gardens, and People’s Garden and we'll let you know when the applications open—stay tuned to our website and social channels for updates! 

The application periods for all three micro-grant programs are expected to open soon. In the meantime, if you self-identify as being (or having been) a farmer in an urban or suburban setting anywhere in Minnesota, we invite you complete a brief 10-minute online survey developed by Indiana University.

The purpose of this study is to understand participation and non-participation in land transfer programs, including Minnesota’s Beginning Farmer Tax Credits, by farmers in the rural-urban interface.

If you would like to participate, click HERE. 

For questions, contact the researcher, Dr. Shellye Suttles: [email protected].

For more about farmland access, including an update on Hoch Orchard & Gardens, the beginning farmer tax credit from the MN Department of Agriculture, and more, see the latest Farmland Access Hub newsletter

Family Farm Breakfast & Lobby Day

Please join Renewing the Countryside, Land Stewardship Project, and other partners at the 2024 Family Farm Breakfast & Lobby Day!

Thursday, March 7, 9:00 a.m.

Wilder Foundation

Saint Paul, MN

Enjoy a delicious, locally-sourced breakfast followed by issue briefings and constituent meetings with legislators and other public officials. Lobby training provided. Transportation options and childcare available.

Learn more and register HERE 

Farm to School

Minnesota Farm to School Roadshow is a series of regional in-person networking events for producers, schools, and early care providers to make connections and learn how to build successful relationships. There will be six events around the state and each will include training and facilitated networking. Please consider attending the session nearest you! 

Date and Locations (All events will run 12-4pm)

Wed., Feb. 7 - UMN Regional Extension Office (Rochester, MN)

Mon., Feb. 12 - UMN Regional Extension Office (Grand Rapids, MN)

Tues., Feb. 13 - Bucks Mill Brewing (Detroit Lakes, MN)

Wed., Feb. 14 - Midwest Technology Campus (Willmar, MN)

Sun., Mar. 4 - St. Peter Community Center (St. Peter, MN)

For questions, contact Sara George at [email protected]

Wisconsin Women in Conservation

WiWiC's winter webinar series this year is focused on wellness, staring with a very well-attended January session featuring Laura Frederiskson-Gosewisch of Vital Ground Farm. If you missed it, check out Queen Bee Podcast Session #12 with Laura, who's a certified clinical massage therapist and farmer wellness coach (on top of being a farmer and market manager). 

The February 29 session, Empower Yourself with Herbs for Health and Stamina, features Jane Hawley Stevens of Four Elements Organic Herbals and promises to be full of nourishing information for mind and body. Learn more and register HERE

More about WiWiC

Artisan Grains

Know your grain farmer!

The Artisan Grain Collaborative recently shared a member profile on Mark Askegaard and Beth McConnon of Askegaard Organic Farm, and staffer Elena Byrne recalled the wonderful day she spent with Mark and Beth last spring during filming for AGC’s Grain Chain Connections video, The Farmer, the Miller & the Baker.

Father/daughter team Mark Askegaard and Beth McConnon farm in Moorhead, MN. You may recognize them from our recent Grain Chain Connections video, highlighting how Askegaard Organic Farm collaborates with Laune Bread and Baker’s Field Flour and Bread. We’re excited to share more of their story.  

The family and farm name means ash tree farm in Norwegian, and amidst 950 acres planted with wheat, flax, soy, and oats, there are indeed ash trees. The farm has been in production since Mark’s great-grandfather Peter arrived to Minnesota in the late 1800s. Today, Mark’s wife Barb and other daughter Claire, and Beth’s husband Tony, help, and also have full time off-farm jobs. Beth and Mark are the primary farmers.

Mark and Barb began to transition to organic in 1995, harvesting their first certified crops in 1997. The change was inspired by health concerns, for themselves and for people eating what they grew, as well as for the environment. “It didn't make any sense to me to keep going down the path of using chemicals,” said Mark.

Read the full story HERE.

For questions, contact [email protected].

Farm Labor Dashboard

2024 Peer Learning Circles

The Farm Labor Dashboard offers tips, tools and techniques to effectively recruit, hire, train and retain workers. 

  • 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 perhaps you have hired staff for years and are looking for fresh ideas for managing your team?
  • Are you looking for a safe place to process your last season, what you learned and what you’ll do differently managing staff this next season?

You’re invited to participate in a unique, virtual collaborative learning environment for woman-identifying farmers to connect and share challenges and opportunities at this crucial stage in farm growth. These women-centered “Learning Circles” are based on a peer-based learning model that brings together small groups to share and learn from each other. Refreshingly different from typical webinar lecture formats, these participatory sessions provide space for farmers lively discussion, support, and to learn from each other's successes and challenges. 

Sessions run for 3 consecutive days, with options in February and March.


Space is limited to keep the groups small and interactive. All sessions will be held via Zoom from 11-12:15 CST.

Go Farm Connect

Go Farm Connect kicked off the new year by hosting a USDA Office Visit in Dunn County, WI, in early January. Over 20 participants packed the USDA Service Center in Menomonie. Local staff from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) presented and answered questions about federal farm loan and grant programs. Live language interpretation was presented in Hmong. After the presentations, Go Farm Connector Bonnie Warndahl and agency staff met individually with farmers and landowners to get into details about available programs and the process for applying.

All are welcome to our USDA Office Visits across MN and WI! We are hosting facilitated group visits, which include introductory presentations on federal ag programs and disaster assistance, as well as time for individual questions. Join us in Moorhead, MN, on February 15, 4:30-5:30pm.

For more information, see the Events page at gofarmconnect.org.


FEAST! Local Foods

With our industry-only local foods tradeshow coming up in just 7 weeks, we'd like to take a moment to honor Kowalski's Markets. At the 2023 FEAST! Local Foods Tradeshow, we presented them with the Local Food Champion buyer award in recognition of their dedication to seeking out local foods and getting those brands on shelves at their 11 stores throughout the Twin Cities metro area.

Following their conversations with vendors at our 2022 and '23 Tradeshows, Kowalski's onboarded over 15 different brands to their store shelves, meaning these regional brands were available to thousands more customers. That exemplifies why this industry-only tradeshow is so important for our regional brands: a single conversation can dramatically impact their annual sales.

So, thank you to Britt, Max, and the whole team at Kowalski's that continues to demonstrate wonderful dedication to regional economic vitality through these small- to mid-sized businesses. And thank you to all of the fantastic food co-ops, specialty stores, and even large scale buyers out there who are signed up to come to this year's tradeshow, Thursday, March 21, 2024 at the Grand O2 Event Center, Cannon Falls, MN.

Buyers can register for free at local-feast.org/tradeshow2024

Photo: Kowalski's Max Maddaus receiving the Local Food Champion award from FEAST! Local Foods Network representatives Marlene Petersen and Elena Byrne.

For questions about FEAST! Local Foods Network programs, contact Elena at 608.712.8340 or [email protected].

Staff Moment

November was chock full of connections for RTC staff, from the FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace and the Emerging Farmers Conference events to the Farmland Access Summit—where someone had the idea to stop for a moment and take a staff picture! Shown below, outside the beautiful Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, are the staff members who helped make the Summit great. Hooray for teamwork and blue skies! 


Read more on our staff page


*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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