Have you spotted your first robin? Planted any seeds? Opened a window? It’s officially spring, a.k.a. “mud season,” as far as farmers are concerned! Roads and farm fields are mushy and muddy from melting snow and incoming rain, boots are muddy, kids are jumping in puddles and puppies are tracking paw prints all over the house. But spring also brings rebirth, renewal and awakening from the long winter, and with that, hope.
We’re hopeful that we can keep the momentum going to bridge the gap for the Lor family’s farmland access dream. Keep reading for an update on that.
Did you miss the Bridging Dreams fundraiser?
Click the link above for the full recording, complete with timestamps for each section.
Bao Xiong, Kue Lor and their daughter Mai Lor are part of a multigenerational market-vegetable farmer family who are looking to purchase farmland after 30 years of growing crops in the Twin Cities area. We’re in the final stretch towards raising the $75K to make this possible, but we still have $45K to go.
If you’re able to help, please share the video above with your networks, and consider donating today.
Are you a beginning farmer raising vegetables and interested in accessing resources to create a more successful farm business?
Looking for funding and support for a high tunnel or hoop house to extend your growing season?
Join us for an introductory webinar to learn about support available from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) — including funding available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This program can help cover costs for high tunnels, cold storage, and nearly 200 other conservation practices.
EQIP webinars: 12-1:30pm, Wed., March 30 (MN) & Thurs., March 31 (WI)
Farmers will share how they have used this program and NRCS staff will provide information and guidance on how to apply.
All beginning farmers are encouraged to attend, particularly those growing vegetables and anyone who has not yet connected with NRCS.
Hosted by Renewing the Countryside and the Sustainable Farming Association. Conservation Connections is in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.
Farmers Market Food Hub
Have you heard about the MN Farmers’ Market Hubs (FMH)? Are you interested in learning more?
RTC and project partners Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Ag (MISA) and Minnesota Farmers Market Association (MFMA) created a manual to help walk you through the process of setting one up.
A farmers’ market hub (FMH) is a licensed entity that buys products from vendors and sells them to retail and / or wholesale customers. Most FMHs are part of existing farmers' markets. FMHs were originally developed to offer an additional market channel for farmers through the farmers’ market they were already selling at as a vendor.
If you want to explore the idea of starting a hub at your farmers’ market, start with a market analysis of your foodshed. What does your community look like? Who are the potential buyers, what are their needs, what are their resources, what niche could a FMH fill?
Starting up a food hub is a complex process. Recruiting a hub manager should come early in the process so they can help guide the remaining start-up tasks: establishing a business entity, getting insurance, setting up an online sales system, onboarding vendors and products, securing a MN Department of Agriculture food handler license, and establishing day-of-market operations.
The team that developed this FMH concept in Minnesota created the www.farmersmarkethub.org website to hold documents, reports, lessons learned, and contact information for the team members. If you don’t find what you’re seeking in this manual, please visit the website or reach out to Sara George on our team at [email protected]
For more information, visit the Farmers' Market Hub website.
Women in Ag
Are you a woman landowner in Wisconsin working to build healthy soil?
Check out Wisconsin Women in Conservation’s spring gatherings designed to delve into climate-smart practices that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Whatever your background, from beginner to expert, all women farmers, landowners and conservationists are welcome to attend, as well as those looking for land.
Learn what to look for to determine if your soil is healthy, with hands-on soil samples and guidance from NRCS professionals, WiWiC Conservation Coaches, and project partners such as Pheasants Forever, the Savanna Institute, and county land and water professionals.
We’ll also be conducting free water sample testing for nitrate levels. If interested, please bring a small sample of your water to your chosen location:
April 26: Steven’s Point
April 27: New London
May 3: East Troy
May 6: Amery
May 20: Fountain City
June 3: La Farge
See all of the events and register at wiwic.org.
Contact RTC staffers Sara George or Elena Byrne with questions.
Farm to Early Care
This month we had two successful Farmer-Chef "speed dating" workshops, which is a fun way to say that we helped introduce and develop relationships between farmers and food buyers for schools and restaurants.
We celebrate those connections because they can be so beneficial: it represents bulk sales for the farm, while also meaning foodservice can serve nutritious, local food with a smaller carbon footprint than buying off of the mainline distribution delivery trucks.
Learn more about our Farm to Early Care programs here.
We had a great time in Cannon Falls for the FEAST! Local Foods Tradeshow, where 34 regional food businesses came together to meet with wholesale buyers and network with each other.
A delicious lunch was served by The Local Plate, and we heard from Paul Willis, farmer and co-founder of Niman Ranch. We also recognized the good works of these local-focused businesses with three tradeshow awards:
The FEAST! Inspiring Social Benefit Award went to Bob Howard of Country View Dairy, which donates yogurt regularly throughout their community in and around Hawkeye, Iowa.
The FEAST! Innovative Local Sourcing Award went to Ameeta Jaiswal-Dale of Panache, who works to source exclusively Minnesota apples for her unique juice blends.
Finally, the FEAST! Retail Local Food Champion went to Dean and Jayne Bredlau for The Greensted Farm Store in Zumbrota, MN, which features exclusively regional products.
Learn more about the event here.
Have you been seeing more and more fields planted in cover crops and winter grains lately? We're excited to see that practice growing because it's so vital for soil and water health. Part of ensuring that those practices are financially sustainable for farmers is ensuring they have markets for those grains.
Through our work with the Artisan Grain Collaborative, we've recently shared stories about two different Minnesota businesses that are very focused on using locally and regionally-grown grain:
Baker Michele Huggins of Doughp Creations gives back to her community in and around Granite Falls, MN in many ways, including by forming meaningful relationships with her farmer suppliers, including Ben Penner, A-Frame Farm, and Askegaard Organics. Read more about Michele's work here.
Cereal company Seven Sundays has had high ideals from the start, which Hannah and Brady Barnstable have maintained as they've grown from selling at farmers markets 10 years ago, to now selling at Whole Foods and Costco. Full disclosure, we know them well because they've joined us at the MN State Fair for several years now, and co-owner Brady contributes to RTC's work as a board member. He also shared his expertise at our recent FEAST! Local Foods Tradeshow, mentioned above. Read more about Brady and Hannah's work here.
Meet Vanessa Apira!
We’re enjoying having Vanessa Apira on staff, as a new member of our Farm to Early Care team!
Vanessa has grown plants in a variety of settings: in college in Maine, she would save seeds from grocery runs and exchange her plants for flowers with local growers. She has grown peppers in an urban garden in Georgia (pictured here). And currently, she has a pepper plant growing in her Minnesota window!
Check out our staff page to read the bios for all three of the staff we've added in the last year: Melvin, Matt, and Vanessa!
Apply for Midwest GRIT farmer training by March 31
Midwest GRIT (Grains Resource & Immersive Training) is a collaborative project from the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI) in partnership with AGC and the Organic Grain Resource and Information Network (OGRAIN), devoted to empowering diverse small and mid-size farmers for a resilient food-grade grainshed in the Upper Midwest.
Want to learn to add food-grade small grains into your operation? Already growing grains, but want to meet like-minded farmers and develop a network that can help you succeed in production and marketing? Then this program is for you! Learn more and APPLY HERE.
Kilimo Minnesota Kickstarter
RTC has been honored to work with Lonah and Moses Momanyi in multiple ways in the past few years. Beyond their Dawn2Dusk Farm, they formed a nonprofit, Kilimo Minnesota, as an incubator farm for other African immigrants like themselves. Now expanding, they’re working to raise $30,000 by May 2022 ($15, 000 per campaign) to provide key infrastructure for farmers training on a new parcel of land in Lino Lakes, MN: water, refrigeration, and fencing. If you can donate or help spread the word, please head to their GoFundMe.
Congratulations to outgoing Farmland Access Navigator John Beaton and his partner Emily! They just finished their kickstarter, which was fully funded, to do wood-fired pizza at their farm—Fairhaven Farm in Duluth, MN, which also offers a CSA and greenhouse-grown starter plants for home gardeners.
Learn more and follow their progress here.
Grant Opportunity: Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities
Through the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, USDA will support the production and marketing of climate-smart commodities through a set of pilot projects that provide voluntary incentives through partners to producers and land owners, including early adopters.
Funding will be provided through two funding pools.
The first funding pool will be large-scale pilot projects; deadline is April 8, 2022.
The second funding pool is for innovative pilot projects; deadline is May 27, 2022.
See this fact sheet for more info, and apply 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.