June 2023 News


June 2023

Time flies when you're having fun, so the saying goes...and so here we are, amazed to realize that this year, Renewing the Countryside is turning 20!

Keep reading to learn about the origin of the org as well as our roundup of this month's news fit to crow about!

—the team at Renewing the Countryside


Once upon a time...

Did you know it all (kindof) started with a book?

Or should we say, NINE books?

As the story goes, Jan Joannides, as part of her master's degree at the University of Minnesota, visited amazing people across Minnesota who were working their land while caring for the environment. A friend shared a publication that showcased rural renewal across the Dutch countryside, and after seeing it, Jan knew Minnesota needed its own publication—one that would lift up the stories of the people she had interviewed. Tapping talented friends and like-minded organizations to pitch in, the project took off. What ensued was the beginnings of bringing together people and organizations to collaborate on ways to hold up examples of positive initiatives to strengthen rural areas.

The first book, Renewing the Countryside: Minnesota, was published in 2001, and was followed by eight others. Along the way, in 2003, Renewing the Countryside was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Twenty years later, RTC is now lots of boots on the ground, working to not just seek out and show stories, but to play a role in creating and supporting vibrant rural revival everywhere we can.

Learn more about all nine books on our website

Minnesota State Fair

Our theme for 2023 is farmland preservation!

With more farmers aging out of farming and the increased repurposing of farmland for other uses, studies show 40% of MN farmland will be in a state of transition over the next 10-15 years.

Thankfully, we've seen that people across Minnesota want to see an increase in farmland access for beginning and emerging farmers. We know that getting more farmers on the land will help strengthen local markets, communities and our ecosystem alike. Renewing the Countryside’s Preserving Farmland for a Resilient Future exhibit uplifts these ideas and explores ways that we can address this pressing and increasingly urgent issue together.

Would you like an opportunity to attend the Minnesota State Fair for FREE? Sign up to volunteer today to reserve your spot. Not only will you get in free, but you also get a limited edition Renewing the Countryside local food organic cotton t-shirt as a token of our appreciation.

Volunteer shifts average three hours and are available every day of the Fair, Aug. 24 - Sept. 4, from 9am to 7:30pm. We hope to see you at the Fair!


Farmland Access

Hoch Orchard Transition—Livestock Handoff!

By Brett Olson

On Tuesday, June 13, 2023, the animals that have been calling Hoch Orchard & Gardens “home” traveled to their new farms with their new families. In May, Renewing the Countryside—along with partners—held a livestock giveaway contest to find a “forever farm” for the Hoch’s hog and sheep breeding stock. The generous offer by the Hoch’s was an effort to help other beginning farmers succeed in getting established, as well as to raise awareness about the need for successors for their orchard business.

Harry Hoch said, “We are thrilled to know that these animals are going to new farmers who will continue to raise them with care on pasture.”

Sal Daggett and her husband arrived early in the morning ready to bring home their two sows and a breeding boar named Basil. Harry shook a bucket with a handful of oats in the bottom and with just a couple mentions of “here pig, pig,” the trio trotted up the ramp and onto the livestock trailer. “It’s a good thing they are being cooperative this morning,” said Harry, “because if a 400-pound pig doesn’t want to do something, there’s little you can do to change its mind.”

Kifah Abdi, along with her husband and two daughters, arrived shortly after to bring home 20 sheep. While the heat of midday could have made for extra work getting a couple of dozen sheep to fall in line, they seemed to have gotten the same memo as the pigs. Harry handed lambs over the gate to the waiting arms of Kifah and her daughter to put them in the pickup bed. Harry warned them, “hold on tight—they’re pretty squirmy!” Lucky for all of us, no one got loose.

It was pretty obvious that Harry was going to miss his orchard crew but he remarked that if they are going to successfully transition the farm, he’s going to need to simplify and streamline operations.

“There’s just a tremendous amount of moving pieces to this place,” remarked Harry.

With 65 acres and 10,000 fruit trees plus a vineyard, commercial kitchen, a jam and jelly business, and markets for fresh and hard cider, it’ll take a person or group with the right motivation and skill sets to keep a handle on everything. The Hochs are willing to work with and assist an energetic and skilled successor (or successors). If this is you, please reach out to Bonnie Warndahl!

Farmers Market Food Hubs

The Village Food Hub - High Tunnel!

The Village Agriculture Cooperative is a non-profit organization based in Rochester, MN that serves 200 families that represent 24 different countries—and they are one of Renewing the Countyside’s newest food hubs!

The biggest issue The Village contends with is land access for their farmers. To address this and adapt to the short Minnesota growing season, they have wanted to build a high tunnel for the past five years. Through their new partnership with the History Center of Olmsted County, they have finally realized their dream!

Read the full story and learn more about their organization and success here.


Labor Learning Circle for Women

In partnership with the University of Vermont, we're helping offer Farmer-to-Farmer Learning on Effective Labor Management, and the latest event is a check-in for women farmers to discuss a wide range of mid-season challenges such as keeping up morale, providing constructive feedback, how to set a cell phone policy, and more.

Date: July 17, 2023
Time: 11am - noon Central
Location: Online via Zoom
Fees & Registration: FREE; advance registration is required.

FEAST! Local Foods

Calling all regional food businesses!

We're gearing up for our 10th year of the region’s largest local food festival, and it’s set to be the biggest yet: food & bev from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, plus cooking demos, music, kids’ activities, craft alcohol tastings, prize drawings, and we’ll award the 2023 People’s Choice winner.

FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace runs from 10am to 4pm, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023 at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minn. Regional food businesses who register by August 31st receive a discount and priority booth placement.

Learn more and register at local-feast.org/registration2023.

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

Aug. 4 Soil Sisters Share

While the number of farms has been on the decline for many years, the number owned and operated by women is on the rise – according to the USDA Census of Agriculture. Soil Sisters, a project of the non-profit Renewing the Countryside, supports these new and all women farmers with a day-long workshop on Friday, August 4: Soil Sisters Share: A buffet of resources, support and inspiration for women farmers.

The Soil Sisters Share event will include over a dozen agricultural organizations and agencies who will share resources and funding opportunities, including Wisconsin Women in Conservation, Wisconsin Farmers Union and NRCS. Additionally, the workshop will cover ergonomic basics, including how to care for our bodies to keep farming for the long term with resources from the Farm Labor Dashboard and AgrAbility of Wisconsin.

Farm host Chelsea Chandler will take folks through a detailed tour of her CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) organic farm, including the high tunnels used to extend the growing season and how financial support from Wisconsin NRCS (Natural Resources and Conservation Services) made these possible. The tour will also include the packing shed and converted barn used for wedding and agritourism rentals with plenty of time for questions.

Go Farm Connect

We want to recognize the efforts that the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) are putting into helping small, beginning, underserved and urban farmers.

Here you see an impromptu visit of the FSA state executive directors from four different states visiting Kilimo Minnesota on Thursday to learn from hands-on tours, better understand how an incubator farm operates and what support they need, and hear how RTC is helping emerging farmers to be FSA-ready with our connector model of outreach and education.

For questions about Go Farm Connect, contact [email protected]

Wisconsin Women in Conservation

Joy Miller of Keewaydin Farms and Driftless Curiosity discussing perennial agriculture during our Southwest region field day last Friday, June 23rd.

WiWiC Summer Field Days continue! Sara and Elena will be in the West Central region this Friday, June 30th with Jennifer Nelson of Humble Pie Farm.

To celebrate Wisconsin Women in Conservation Week, we have Educator Network Happy Hour Celebrations in our regions—Wed., July 12 in Mount Horeb, and Thurs., July 13 in Mondovi.

Also, catch our next Conservation Summer Camp lunch webinar: Critters of Conservation: Bugs and Beetles! on Thursday, July 20 at noon CT.

More about WiWiC


Farm to School & Early Care

What could be better than getting kids excited about fresh veggies!?

Saint Paul Early Care kids learn about veggies and where they come from with Farmer Lillian and Farmer Sara! We hear that the kids are still talking about this farmer visit!



Staff Moment

We're so glad to have Kara Komoto on staff, and since she joined the team in March 2023, it's high time we share an introduction!

What are/have been your stomping grounds?

I am a Midwesterner through and through! I grew up in Northwest Wisconsin and lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, then East Lansing, Michigan while attending school. Currently I split time between rural Wisconsin and Minneapolis–I appreciate the differing character of both places.

Recent work in a nutshell?

I am a geographer interested in agriculture, climate change, and environmental justice, all of which have driven my work for the past few years.

I have studied how historical and projected changes in climatological factors may impact growth and storage of potatoes, as well as crop disease affecting apple and cherry, both in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

With the Twin Cities Community Agricultural Land Trust (TCALT) for the past 2.5 years, I have primarily explored how policy—particularly related to land access—at various levels may challenge or support people growing food in urban settings. We are starting to build a more comprehensive and inclusive list of support options for urban food cultivation in Minnesota.

My land access work with TCALT led me to Renewing the Countryside (RTC). So far, aside from my involvement in the Farmland Access Hub, I have done organizational work for RTC, and completed data management and analysis for Wisconsin Women in Conservation. I am excited to continue working with RTC, mainly through developing an urban land access navigator role that will help facilitate more equitable access to land and other resources for growing food in urban and peri-urban areas.

What's your favorite thing to get from the garden or farmers market?

I am a big fan of leeks and beets.

What do you love to do in your free time?

I often spend my free time watching/playing soccer or tennis, running, going on walks, paper cutting, and consuming/discussing media with my friends and family (I enjoy listening to/playing music, reading most books, and watching tv and movies–preferably those with low stakes!).

Read Kara's bio and more on our staff page


Community Happenings


Building Equitable Farmland Tenure Models for Upper Midwest Farmers

Agrarian Trust and local project coordinators in Minnesota are co-hosting an online Equitable Land Access (ELA) Co-Learning and Training opportunity for participants interested in advancing equitable farmland access opportunities in their communities.

While the priority for this Co-Learning and Training is to reach ag service providers in the Upper Midwest, those from other states or other professions who are interested are welcome to register.

For questions, email [email protected].

Dates: July 13 and July 27

Time: 5:30 - 7:30 pm CT




Land Stewardship Project (LSP) is once again offering their Farm Beginnings Class, a year-long training program for new and prospective farmers. The class focuses on the goal-setting, marketing, and financial skills needed to establish a successful farm business.

Participants will name their vision, acquire the tools they need to make it happen, learn from farmers, and become part of a community of support to help them succeed.

Classes will be offered primarily online, with a few in-person sessions in the Twin Cities. Duration: Nov. 2023 - April 2024.

Application deadline: September 1.
Applications submitted by August 1 are eligible for a $100 discount.
Scholarships will be available—see links below for more info.

Click here for more information about Farm Beginnings.

Click here to apply for Farm Beginnings 2023-2024.

*Read past issues of the RTC Rooster on our blog*
Thank you for your support of time, energy, funds, and enthusiasm!

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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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