We’re back! After a June drought, this is a combined newsletter for June and July. [Less email is good, right!?]
Are you enjoying in-person events with a new-found appreciation, like we are? We're especially looking forward to the Co-op Farm Tour, coming up on July 10. Keep reading for a farmland access success story near Rochester, MN and a special field day linked to our Conservation Connections project, plus an update on our Farm to Early Care deliveries, and more.
The Village Agricultural Cooperative in Rochester, MN has provided community gardening plots around the city since 2019, primarily to new immigrants and families with limited resources. The nonprofit currently supports 160 growers and is seeking more land to help create sustainable change toward environmental justice and food security.
While “home-scale” gardening can be a great solution for families to access culturally specific produce, it doesn’t work for everyone. Some people lack the time to grow their own food, others may lack space or child care—or just not have an interest in gardening.
A few of the The Village gardeners saw this as an opportunity. If they could scale up their operations, they could sell sought-after produce—like spider flower, bittermelon, long gourd/calabash, chinsaga, and amaranth—to the immigrant populations in the Rochester area.
But this dream came with a challenge: finding land to farm. There wasn’t any available land at the Village’s current sites, so Program Director Amanda Nigon-Crowley (pictured, above left) set out to find more land. Through a series of connections, Amanda was introduced to RTC Navigator Brett Olson. Brett is one of eight Farmland Access Navigators who work across MN, WI, & IA as part of the Farmland Access Hub.
In this role, Brett meets a lot of beginning farmers, as well as landowners who want to help beginning farmers. He recalled talking with Chris Brink and Wilber De La Rosa of Júbilo Farm, who had expressed an interest in providing land access to new immigrants. The best part? Their farm is very close to Rochester.
Brett made introductions and set in motion a series of meetings where the two parties got to know each other, share their visions, and discuss how an arrangement might work. When they agreed to move forward, Brett brought in Corinne Haugen of Nethercut & Schieber Attorneys in Harmony, MN, who worked with both parties to iron out the details and draw up a 3-year lease.
Immigrants from three different continents are now growing food for market at Júbilo Farm. Regarding the quick development of this new partnership, Amanda says, “Thank you Brett. This is much faster and more official than I would have had the time or capacity to put together.” Regarding the new lease rental agreement, Chris of Júbilo Farm, joked, “Will the $1 (the rental amount for 3 years) be paid in full upon execution of the lease or in monthly payments over the term? I believe that would be 2.7 cents a month. I am fine with either schedule.”
With a goal of supporting farmers to better understand soil health, a multifaceted field day will be held on Wednesday, July 14 starting at 6 pm at Doubting Thomas Farm in Moorhead, Minnesota (pictured above). This unique event, free and open to farmers and landowners of all experience levels, especially beginning, will provide various hands-on experiences as well as opportunities to connect with conservation professionals.
“We will be offering various learning stations where attendees can see various soil health practices up close and ask questions directly,” shares Noreen Thomas, owner of Doubting Thomas Farm and the farmer field day host.
Thomas and her family live on their 6th-generation 1200-acre farm, which has been in continuous operation since 1878 along the Buffalo River near Moorhead, Minnesota, currently raising organic blue corn, rye, wheat, hay, soybeans, peas with barley and oats. “We love to open up our farm like this and share some of our experiences and bring together an inspiring team of soil health experts to share their knowledge.”
This Soil Health Field Day is part of Conservation Connections, a new project led by Renewing the Countryside (RTC) and the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota (SFA) in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with a mission to support historically underserved farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin and build connections between these farmers and resource support. The project uniquely utilizes a “boots in the field” team of twelve Connectors, including Thomas, to assist these farmers to tap into information and opportunities that support conservation and soil health to create a more successful farm businesses.
Conservation Connections: Soil Health Field Day
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Free to attend. Registration appreciated to [email protected] but walk-ups are welcome. Location: Doubting Thomas Farm, 12506 20th St S, Moorhead, MN. Look for signs directing where to park.
Farm to School & Early Care
Farm to Early Care staff members Melvin and Nora, delivering the first CSA shares of the 2021 season.
It’s CSA season! Our team has started deliveries of CSA shares from the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) to St. Paul-based early cares. The first week's boxes included a copy of “The Thing About Bees” for June, National Pollinators Month (read a little more about the book on our blog here). We look forward to sharing great produce with providers throughout the summer!
Coming up in the Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) Conservation Summer Camp Lunch Series, "Restoring Native Habitat" on July 29th at noon—sign up for updates at WiWiC.org to receive a notification.
Among the WiWiC Regional Coordinators are RTC's Sara George and Elena Byrne, who will be hosting a field day in Pepin, WI on August 14 and an in-person workshop in Falls Creek, WI on August 27. Stay tuned for more on those events, or contact Sara or Elena directly.
Join us in supporting the Somali American Farmers Collective, a beginning farmer program providing training and resources to Somali American Immigrants that want to farm in MN. RTC and Big River Farms Education Program (The Food Group) are providing classes and on-farm trainings, as well as organizational support to get the program started. Funding is needed for things like seeds, transplants, fertilizer, hand tools, watering, harvest, and marketing supplies. With 20 families signed up to participate, the plan is to grow on 5 acres, ¼ acre per family. Learn more at their crowdfunding page.
Earlier this month, the farmers from the New Roots farm in Moorhead, Minnesota discovered that their vegetable crops were severely damaged from pesticides that drifted from an adjacent farmer’s field. New Roots is an incubator farm that supports 16 beginning farmers, many of whom are immigrants and refugees, to access land to grow crops to sell at local markets. The farm uses organic practices and provides critical income and culturally appropriate food to the farmers and their families. Learn more at their crowdfunding page.
Grant opportunity: The Minnesota Farm to Early Care Network is hosting a competitive mini-grant program. Four $2,500 grants will be awarded for a total of $10,000, intended for early care centers, preschools, Head Start Programs and other early care settings. (A separate mini grant for in-home early care providers is forthcoming.) Applications are due Wednesday, July 21. Details here, or review the application form here.
Direct questions to [email protected], 651-201-3878.
Kernza® fields throughout Minnesota are growing strong in spite of the drought, and the U of MN Forever Green Institute has arranged a busy schedule of in-person and virtual field days that they're hosting along with Kansas partner, The Land Institute. In-person field days kick off July 8 in Madison, MN, followed by July 17 in Cold Spring, July 19 in St Paul, July 28 in Goodhue, and August 19 in Rosholt.
RTC partner, Artisan Grain Collaborative (AGC), is co-hosting a free online talk next Monday, July 12th at 3pm CT, about how a unique partnership is connecting pecans from Black farmers in Georgia to bakeries in the Midwest. ‘Kneading Equity: Georgia Pecans in Midwest Bakeries’ features Shirley Sherrod and Paul Jones of New Communities, Inc. and Rachel Bernier-Green of Chicago-based ‘Laine’s Bake Shop.
If you love local food like we do, you’ll want to celebrate the release of MFU’s new book, The Farmer and the Chef: Farm Fresh Minnesota Recipes and Stories. This collection of farmer-forward writings and chef-driven recipes features farm and restaurant partnerships from the rich history of Minnesota Cooks since its inception in 2003 and gives readers an inside look into the life of farming in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Learn more and order here.
We continue to invite you to donate and to consider becoming a sustaining donor if you haven't already. Your generosity makes a big difference in the sustainable finances of a small non-profit organization like RTC!
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.