June E-Newsletter


June 2019

Profiles | Events | Partners | Resources | Reading | Trivia

 Although it's been a rainy spring, we can see summer is on the way. We've been waiting for fields and lawns to dry up and sunny days to bloom those flowers and grow the wheat or broccoli. It's been a very challenging year for many, but we're on this journey together. We're excited to spend summer with you, and look forward to sharing how our work, and the work of our partners, might reach and support you in the coming weeks and months below. 

join us: volunteer at the State Fair!

State Fair

Love cooking, local food, and farmers? Renewing the Countryside is looking for volunteers for our 2019 Healthy Local Food exhibit in the Eco Experience building for the MN State Fair. We would love to have you there! Volunteer shifts are 3.5 hours long, with shifts ranging from 9:00am to 7:30pm, August 22 to September 2. Invite your friends, family and co-workers, and sign up! More details and your tickets will be mailed out to you after you sign up. 

As a volunteer you will receive one admittance ticket to the State Fair for the day you volunteer, an organic cotton t-shirt and the opportunity to learn more and spread the word about local organic foods! 

More information is on our webpage!

partner spotlight: CERTs


We know there are many ways to renew the countryside, and one that has been growing strong over the past decade or so is renewable energy.

As we help rural businesses find ways to strengthen their bottom line, while caring for their resources, we often ask if they have explored renewable energy options. If they haven’t, we point them to the CERTs, Clean Energy Resource Teams.

Operating throughout Minnesota, CERTS provides a wide array of resources and support for everything from residents, to farmers, to businesses to counties, and more.

To learn about some of their tools and guides and other offerings, and upcoming opportunities like the Seed Grants, visit their website

where we're going: Squash Blossom Farm, Nature - A Walking Play

Squash Blossom

Nature is the mythical telling of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau’s friendship and mutual love of the natural world. With drama and humor, the actors and musicians take the audience on a journey through the natural environment as the epic story unfolds around them. The audience walks with the cast to scenes at four evocative locations on the farm. Bagpipes, ancient flutes, drums, dance and rich choral arrangements are woven into the experience.

Much of the writing in the play is taken directly from or inspired by Emerson’s essay “Nature,” and Thoreau’s book Walden. The cast and and musicians consist of some of the Twin Cities’ finest talent, including  McKnight and Bush Fellows, as well as Guthrie veterans.

Audience members at the Saturday matinee are invited to stay for a question-and-answer session with the Director and cast post-show.  On Saturday evening, audience members may wish to stay for a wood-fired pizza feast after the performance.

There are five performances from Friday - Sunday, August 2 - 4, 2019.

You can find additional information and make reservations at www.squashblossomfarm.org.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant to Renewing the Countryside from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund. 

look who's renewing the countryside: Kathy Ruhf

Kathy Ruhf is Senior Advisor at Land For Good (LFG), a New England-based nonprofit that specializes in farm access and transfer. She was co-founder and Executive Director at LFG. For three decades Kathy has taught, written, consulted and advocated on these critical issues in her region and nationally. Organizations such as ours have reached out to LFG for guidance on developing similar programs and training staff.

She's been a fantastic resource as we expand and strengthen our Farmland Access work though our hub of partners across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.  

While regions have unique characteristics, land access and farm succession challenges are fairly consistent across the country. Kathy has been especially interested in fostering successful transfers between unrelated parties, exploring less traditional farm access and tenure methods, and addressing affordability, social equity and  farm “findability.”

resource pick of the month: MDA's Tough Conversations workshops



One of the hardest things we do is work with farms and businesses that are really struggling. A few years ago, we were part of a project with the Sustainable Farming Association called Adjust 2015 where together we worked with SFA and MISA to develop the New Farm Reality Check Curriculum

As part of that, we conducted surveys and interviews with farmers to better understand how they handled things when things didn’t go as planned. Injury, divorce, weather, prices, death - they all are things that don’t just affect the farm family, or the farm business, but both. And this year, perhaps more so than anytime since the 1980s farm crisis, farm businesses and families are really struggling.

We are thankful that our friends at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture are offering Navigating Conflict & Tough Conversations in Agriculture, a workshop designed to help agriculture professionals navigate potentially contentious situations. Workshops are taking place throughout the state this summer. See when and where at their event page.

what we're listening to: Rise Up! Podcast

Rise Up

Neighborhood bakers play a hugely positive role in their communities. One that goes far beyond basic nourishment. Their stories deserve to be heard.

The Rise Up! Podcast is a celebration of bakers, the bakeries they create and the people they serve. Several recent episodes also touch on the farmers, millers, researchers, and others in the foods supply chain that make good bread and good community possible.

Join host Mark Dyck as he talks with bakers and bakery owners from across North America and around the world. Hear about their struggles and triumphs and learn about the satisfaction that feeding a community can provide.

Especially given our growing work in connecting, supporting, and strengthening those involved with growing, processing, and using artisan grains in the region, hearing how other regions are developing these markets provides inspirations and ideas for our innovative models and approaches.

For a great example along these lines, listen to Mark's interview with Jennifer Lapidus, who has made a huge mark all over the Southern USA baking scene.  A baker and former bakery owner, Jennifer is the founder of the Carolina Ground mill and a leading advocate for bread wheat production in the South.  She's also one of the lead organizers of the famous Asheville Bread Festival.

trivia of the month



Q: Are small towns in Minnesota generally experiencing a growth or decline in population among those aged 30-49 currently?

The answer to last month's question about foraging honey bees was 50-100 flowers per hour. Newsletter reader, Mark Boen, was our winner. Here's a bit more about Mark and what he things about the work of Renewing the Countryside.

Mark and his wife, Diane, operated Bluebird Gardens in West Central MN for 39 years.  Now Mark is continuing his career in teaching in San Tan Valley, AZ and is standing in his school garden in the midst of cow pea cover crops. He says, "Biological farming works in the desert as well!!"
"Renewing the Countryside is vital to keep the connection between local growers and consumers alive.  The food system is very streamlined and it is easy to forget the local grower."

E-mail your response to [email protected] for a chance to win a local foods T-shirt.