Happy Solstice! And at the same time, is it really summer already? We're celebrating it along with Juneteenth, now a federal holiday, commemorating the 1865 announcement of emancipation of enslaved people in Texas. It was just last year that President Biden signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. It took 156 years.
Indeed another summer is here: those first tender crops of spinach, radishes, rhubarb and raspberries are showing up on tables at restaurants and in farmers markets all around us, and planning is underway for the Minnesota State Fair and those 20,000 daily visitors. To join us at the Eco Experience building, click here.
We’re so grateful for ways to engage around improving our food system through our various programs, and for those of you who participate. If you live near the Twin Cities, we encourage you to shop at Lakewinds Food Co-op, which has been such a great supporter of local food and farm businesses (and happy retirement to outgoing GM Dale Woodbeck!). They selected Renewing the Countryside’s Land Access Program as the beneficiary of the July Community Round Up. (More about Lakewinds Community Giving Round Up here). Your support is so important for helping us get this work done—thank you!
Farm to Early Care & Education
Our Farm to Early Care team has been holding "Garden Storytimes" in St. Paul, Fridays in June. Staff member Vanessa, with support from Ramona, has been offering interactive stories, planting experiences, and snacks for preschoolers in St. Paul. If you are in the metro, check out the event details here and stay tuned to RTC Facebook for July dates!
Vanessa also has put in a lot of work aggregating great books for kids to use in Garden Storytimes. Check out the awesome, categorized list here—we're pretty sure you'll be amazed at the great array. (Pro Tip: bookmark the link for future reference!)
Field days are happening all over and we are busy hosting many of them. Renewing the Countryside has “connectors” who are farmers, trained to connect other farmers to resources that are available through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS).
At these events farmers learn from their trusted peers, as well as learn about resources and programs. Shown above, a recent field day with Moses Momanyi and some of the Kilimo Minnesota farmers.
Another field day is set for this Thursday, June 23:
Twilight Pasture Walk & Rainfall Simulator Demonstration
Starry Nights Farm, Burlington, WI
Farm to School
Sara George, RTC, Travis Pierce, District Chef with Rochester Public Schools, and Samuel Pearson, Principal Rochester Public Schools, have been meeting bi-weekly since August 2021. Why? To connect and engage with local food producers and participate in the Harvest of the Month Pilot (HOTM).
Harvest of the Month (HOTM) highlights seasonal items and the farmers who grow and produce them. The goal of the Harvest of the Month program is to help students build connections to local, healthy food while promoting Farm to School items that are offered in school cafeterias.
Each month, new products are featured based on what is available locally. Travis makes the selections, Sam provides resources for the teachers and Sara connects the farmer to the school—either with visits to the classroom, farm visits for the students, or videos from the farmers. “This would have been tough without having these conversations bi-weekly, would have felt like a big lift, but with support from the two of you, this has been so easy.” Travis said on a recent call.
Farm to School is a big win for farmers, for schools, for children and communities. Reach out if you want to learn more about Farm to School in your community! Sara George would be happy to help: [email protected]
Farmland Access Navigators
Here's a spotlight on Wisconsin Navigator Bonnie Warndahl, who joined the team in February. Our partners at Marbleseed (formerly MOSES) coordinate the Wisconsin arm of the Farmland Access Hub, and recently shared an intro to Bonnie. Here's a snippet:
Tell us about your farm, Winnowburrow Farm & Florals.
Winnowburrow Farm & Florals is a small sustainable cut flower farm, home-based floral design studio, and agritourism business in Colfax, Wisconsin (near Menomonie–Eau Claire). I’ve been on my current farm for three years now and have been farming for seven. My business is based on beauty, sustainability, nature, and healing. For me, flowers and design are a way to bring joy to my community.
Why is land access work important to you?
In February of 2022 I joined the Farmland Access Hub and will begin taking clients in April. I am excited to do this work for several reasons. It is extremely important that we, as a society, provide more resources and opportunities to beginning farmers and ensure that good stewards can secure land tenure. While real estate prices continue to soar, and viable farmland is paved over and developed, not only is it becoming harder for beginning farmers to afford farmland, but that farmland is also becoming more scarce. I believe this to be both an environmental crisis and a slow-burning humanitarian crisis.
Get to know all the new Farmland Access Navigators by starting here!
Farmers Market Food Hub
The magic of the Farmers Market Food Hub is that it allows farmers to sell bulk amounts to large-scale foodservice buyers, along with the individual sales to casual market-goers.
Here's a peek at two of the nine markets in the program:
The Saturday Market at Red Wing Depot features 40+ vendors and is filled with activities that encourage visitors to learn about nutrition, food preparation, and sustainable agriculture. The market accepts Debit cards, Credit Cards and EBT (food stamps). In addition we accept WIC vouchers (FMNP) and Senior Farmers Market Vouchers (SFMNP) along with Market Bucks and Produce Bucks matches to SNAP/EBT customers.
2. Red River Harvest Cooperative, Moorhead
The Red River Harvest Cooperative is a network of several local farmers who have come together in a unique way to help each other grow their businesses while stewarding the land and serving their community. Wholesale ordering, Farm to School programs, and donations of healthy food to area food banks are helping them build strong ties within the community by championing family farms, providing farm-to-table products, and facilitating educational opportunities for vendors.
“We believe that a resilient local food economy is not only beneficial in many ways, but also necessary”, says Wholesale Operations Director Bjorn Solberg.
Women in Ag
Back by popular demand, Wisconsin Women in Conservation is hosting their monthly conservation "summer camp" sessions online. It's a great way to gather expert advice, resources and opportunities from like-minded folks! Thursday, June 23 the topic is Enhancing Pollinators, and will feature Deirdre Birmingham and her work with NRCS programs on The Cider Farm.
Summer field days also start up in July, and registration and details are available—see all of the events and register at wiwic.org.
Soil Sisters Weekend Returns!
Also, did you hear about the upcoming Soil Sisters episode of Around the Farm Table?
You're invited to a special premiere & potluck on Thursday, June 30 - DETAILS HERE
It's time for food businesses to register to attend the annual FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace Festival, happening November 5, 2022. Ask your favorite food businesses if they're signing up!
As shared in this recent article, this marks our 9th annual event, while we're also in production for our 5th edition of the LOCAL FEAST! Magazine. FEAST! activities are all designed to help local farms and food businesses grow and thrive, which we do through the support of sponsors who believe in this work. Learn more about sponsorship opportunities here.
Along with registration, we started up our season of local food contests, and the first one asked readers to share thoughts on the Joys and Challenges of Localizing your Pantry. Take a moment to read these thoughtful responses, and see our suggested resources for meeting some of the stated challenges.
It's that time of year again!
If you have visited the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair, RTC's booth at the MOSES Conference, or attended FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace, odds are you have run into RTC's Associate Director, the one and only Eli Goodwell, and you'll surely know what a likable fellow he is.
What you may not know is the he has been an absolute rock for us staff at RTC for over 8 years—managing the office, training in new staff, assisting with websites and zoom accounts, tracking user names and passwords, solving just about any problem that arises, and being a fantastic connector in and through all of the programs we're all so passionate about.
And so it's bittersweet for us to let everyone know that he's stepping down from his work with RTC to focus on his family. We know this will be great for him, and for that we're pleased. It has been an absolute honor working side by side with him. While his presence will be missed, he has agreed to be on the legendary RTC bungee cord (and we promise to not call daily). Thank you, Eli, for being a tireless professional, a helpful coworker and, above all, a great friend.
Co-op Farm Tour
Saturday, July 16, 2022 from 10 am - 4 pm. Visit the Minnesota & Wisconsin farms that make our seasonal, fresh, local food system possible.
Explore local farms as they open their doors for a day full of fun, learning, and discovery. This year 21 urban and rural farms are offering exciting activities such as farming demos, berry picking, farm-animal feeding, and more!
This is a self-guided event and free for anyone to attend, brought to you by your local food co-ops.
2021 Drought Relief
The 2021 Agricultural Drought Relief Program (ADRoP) was established to reimburse Minnesota livestock and specialty crop producers for expenses related to the 2021 drought. Eligible farmers may receive up to $7,500 for actual expenses incurred after 6/1/2021 and before 5/23/22. The application period opened yesterday, 6/21, and will remain open until July 6, 2022, 5pm CDT.
Counties excluded from this relief funding: Goodhue, Rice, Wabasha, and Winona.
Planning the 34th Annual Organic Farming Conference
Our friends at Marbleseed (formerly MOSES) are hosting Zoom meetings to invite input from the community on the 2023 conference workshops. Register for the remaining meetings below, or submit an idea online HERE.
Poultry: Wed., 6/22, 12-1:30 pm
Vegetables: Thurs., 6/23, 12-1:30 pm
Dairy: Mon., 6/27, 12-1:30 pm
Fruit/Specialty Crops: Tues., 6/28, 12-1:30 pm
Livestock: Thurs., 6/30, 12-1:30 pm
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.