As we write this newsletter, we're amazed at what we've seen in this month of March. From seeing schools and businesses close down, to the strong spirit of community finding ways to bridge the gaps, it makes us more grateful than ever for our local farms, food businesses, and retail outlets that offer local goods.
If you haven't had a chance to weigh in on this SUPER SHORT survey, please do - it takes <2 min and will help gauge interest in our program areas. Plus, you will be entered to win a Local Foods T-shirt! Thanks to those of you who've already responded!
Here are our recent happenings—please read and share!
Radical Patch is a group of farmers in Iowa farming cooperatively under a multi member LLC structure. They recently achieved land access with help from a Farmland Access Hub Navigator. Meetings took place over a few months, starting with farmland access readiness meetings and concluding with a signed lease on a new piece of land with a landowner!
Their Farmland Access Navigator, Kate, guided the farmers through the process— from farmland selection and other readiness issues all the way through elements of the farm lease and negotiation with the landlords.
These farmers are just one example of many farmers achieving land security through Renewing the Countryside's Farmland Access Hub program. We're excited to see how they flourish this year! If you are too, follow them on Facebook to see more great pictures like this one:
RTC is part of the Artisan Grain Collaborative (AGC), which is a broad group of people all along the ‘grains value chain’ from seed variety researchers and farmers to millers and maltsters, to bakers, chefs, brewers and distillers. We’re working to strengthen grain production and markets, and to educate consumers that grains are another potential part of their local food shopping basket, from flour to whiskey.
With the business disruption of the pandemic, we've seen many distilleries shift to making hand sanitizer, and giving it away. Another response was borne out of a desire to keep production going - to maintain flour demand and allow bakeries to continue supporting their employees, while also providing fresh bread to those in need in our communities. "Neighbor Loaves" was started with four AGC member bakeries in three communities—Bloomington, IN, Evanston, IL, and Madison, WI.
In just one week's time (3/21-3/27), the project has seen over 1,000 loaves purchased/donated!
Are you suddenly craving some freshly milled flour or bread? Check out this listing of Upper Midwest mills and bakeries that offer online ordering and delivery.
FEAST! Local Foods Network
This month's FEAST! Local Foods Scoop e-newsletter shared a variety of news and resources related to how our communities are banding together amidst the social distancing. Stories included,
- a profile on a pastured-meat producer turning to increased online sales,
- info on drive-thru farmers markets with a list of resources for consumers to find farms that sell online
- a summary and resources on the outlook and options for small, independent restaurants
In addition, we shared a video memory from our event last December, when we were so grateful to be able to come together to celebrate local food. It was a treat to have artist, farmer and friend Susan Waughtal create the Vegetable Alfombra harvest display —which was made possible by a grant from the MN State Arts Board.
In partnership with the Minnesota Dept of Ag, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Renewing the Countryside, and the other committed organizations that make up the FEAST! Network have held the FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace annually since 2014. The event brings farmers and food businesses together so they can connect with each other and with the public. Learn more at local-feast.org.
Farm to School & Early Care
For the past year, we've been working with early care settings in St. Paul to implement Farm to Early Care activities. These practices help establish lifelong healthy eating behaviors and food system literacy by connecting where food comes from, how it grows, and how it is prepared.
These activities are just as fun and impactful at home, and many children are currently home as public health developments change throughout our communities. One activity conducted earlier this month at a Head Start was a hit — if you are home with little ones, try it out!
Beet Watercolor (pictured, above)
"One young participant even exclaimed it was 'so awesome,' and thanked us for coming. Sometimes preschoolers are kinder than you can possibly imagine!"
— Nora Shields-Cutler
For more Farm to Early Care activities, check out our website for a wealth of curriculum, guides, and other resources.
Also, remember to follow RTC on Facebook, where we'll also be sharing activities throughout the coming weeks. Because staying home can be fun!
Women in Ag
With the changes we're experiencing related to holding events, farms may be looking for new ways to diversify—if baking is in your wheelhouse, you might want to give this new toolkit a close read!
A team of Wisconsin women farmers created “Launch a Farmstead Bakery: Recipes and Resources” to help you sell baked goods made in your home kitchen under your state’s cottage food law. The free on-line toolkit guides home baking entrepreneurs to use more local farm-raised produce with over twenty recipes using seasonal produce such as zucchini, apples and pumpkin. The toolkit also showcases ideas on how to creatively package and display your items to increase sales.
This North Central SARE Farmer Rancher funded project supports farmers to bake up value-added items with tested recipes for non-hazardous baked food products like zucchini and pumpkin muffins. See the full recipe database along with a webinar of project learnings at www.cottagefoodhomebakery.com.
Renewing the Countryside leads a portfolio of projects that champion women committed to sustainable agriculture, vibrant rural areas and land stewardship. This work uniquely celebrates and roots in the importance of building connections and networks of women to enhance our communities and food system through a shared value of sustainability, conservation and collaboration and supporting each other.
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!
Renewing the Countryside is a non-profit organization that strengthens rural areas and small towns by championing and 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 and sharing stories of rural renewal, providing practical assistance and networking opportunities for those working to improve rural America, and fostering connections between urban and rural people.