Four ways to embrace harvest abundance

By Lisa Kivirist

Photo: John D. Ivanko Photography 

As we head straight on into harvest season, does your “bushel of life” feel full?  Whether literally overloaded with tomatoes to sell/preserve or figuratively, with other duties that must get done, the to-do list always seems to multiply as the days grow shorter. As women farmers and landowners, we wear many boots—from family caretaker to local leadership or running our own businesses, to name a few. 

While 2020 probably isn’t your first round of managing harvest abundance, juggling all that under a pandemic is new. Canceled events mean certain time blocks have opened up, but some realities of managing farm life right now take much longer—from contacting a state agency with a question to setting up for market with new safety protocols.

The key? Embrace and savor the season’s abundance, full throttle. Approach the overload with gratitude, creativity and a dash of fun...and end up with stronger resilience when the snow flies! 

Here are four strategies to try:

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July 2020 enewsletter

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July 2020


Have you taken the LOCAL FOOD IS ESSENTIAL pledge? A coalition of organizations, including RTC, is seizing upon the groundswell of support for local foods to ensure that the lessons learned this year will be here to stay—that our commitment to local farms is steadfast so that their presence is sustained for years to come, rather than fading after COVID. 

If you're able, consider donating to the Local Emergency Assistance Farm Fund (LEAFF) to help farmers, particularly BIPOC and emerging farmers, whose businesses have been impacted by COVID-19.

In these troubling times, we're so glad to be doing work that instills hope for our food system and the people that are so dedicated to caring for the land and our communities. Keep reading for some of the other things we have going on!

—the team at Renewing the Countryside

 

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Hospitality 101: Expand the welcoming table

By Lisa Kivirist

 

Photo: Caitlin Cisar

When you think of the word “hospitality,” what image comes to mind?  Maybe a vision of mom’s china set that only came out for special occasions?  It’s easy to fall into the expected, often obligatory aspects of hospitality like dinner parties and required house cleaning. 

But today, let’s cook up a broader definition of hospitality to create a spirit of welcome that enables us to authentically invite and include a greater number and diversity of people at the table. Whether we’re shaking up the system from our literal kitchen table or a broader virtual convening, we—as women committed to sustainable agriculture and land stewardship—can actively invite more voices in. Especially as we navigate a new COVID-19 world with evolving norms of social gatherings, how can we keep warm hospitality at the forefront?

“Hospitality is how someone makes you feel, accommodation is where you lay your head,” shares Ash Bruxvoort, who runs Thistle’s Summit, a bed and breakfast in Mount Vernon, Iowa, with their partner, Marti Payseur.  As members of the LBGTQ community, Ash and Marti blend their activist mission with lodging by thoughtfully and authentically curating such a welcoming space for all.

Below are some perspectives on generating such hospitality from Bruxvoort and other women who have created such unique and enduring spaces of welcome:

 

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Finding Wholesale Markets as a Rural, Immigrant Farmer

Each farm is unique, in what they grow, in the number of employees (or not), and also, in how they market—sell—what they produce. Weather and other factors typically affect sales. But 2020 is no typical year. 

It just so happened that Emily Reno, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, embarked on a regional market analysis in February for Agua Gorda, a farming cooperative in Long Prairie, MN, at a time when wholesale markets were hit hard by the pandemic.

One of Emily’s conclusions from working with brothers Javier and Jose Garcia—two of the farm’s four workers—is that a language barrier can make traditional assistance resources unattainable. Farm owner Javier is part of the Shared Ground Co-op of farmers, which includes other Spanish speakers, but more resources in Spanish are needed to close the gap. It was only this year that Minnesota Grown’s application became available in a language other than English. Appropriately, Emily’s report is available in both English and Spanish. Could this be the beginning of a larger trend among farmer-serving organizations and businesses?

 

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June 2020 enewsletter

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June 2020


As we crossed the summer solstice this month, our communities, our country, and our world are in the middle of transitions as well. 

While we all navigate the challenges of these strange and troubling times, we wanted to let you know about a new collaborative opportunity to support those most affected by recent events in our community: the Local Emergency Assistance Farm Fund (LEAFF) was recently launched by The Good Acre, RTC, and other community partners to help farmers, particularly BIPOC and emerging farmers, whose businesses have been impacted by COVID-19.

Thanks to donations from LEAFF partners, food will be purchased at fair market value from farmers and donated to food shelves and hunger relief organizations. We are committed to providing purchased produce to organizations supporting those facing hunger and food insecurity, whether it’s people impacted by COVID-19, communities rebuilding from protests following the murder of George Floyd, or communities that have been oppressed throughout our cities’ history. Continue below for a number of other ways our programs are making the transition into summer.

—the team at Renewing the Countryside

 

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Collaborative Cake: Women Baking Up Change

by Lisa Kivirist

 Photo:

John D. Ivanko Photography 

“Would you like a slice of cake?” 

For most of us, the offer of a baked good treat brings a smile and typically an enthusiastic, “yes please.” Or how about a slice of still warm-from-the-oven sourdough bread? Or a fresh zucchini raisin muffin? For me, my eyes can spot a bakery from a football field away while traveling and I’ll always gladly detour. 

However, increasingly for women today, baked goods rise up into something more. Yes, our cookies taste yummy; however, women are leading the way for that goody to also be a catalyst for action and change. From a statement of support for local grains and ingredients to a path to entrepreneurship and bringing people together to fight racism and activate for social change, women bakers—both professional and homespun—are collaboratively whisking together ways to think beyond just a tasty treat. 

As we’ve seen during our current COVID-19 pandemic, women in sustainable agriculture and already championing fresh, seasonal food continue to creatively reset and reinvent for a hopefully more land stewardship-focused new normal. From pivoting to new ways to engage community to initiating open, respectful dialogue with neighbors, together we can cooperatively join together, all fueled even better if there’s blueberry pie involved.

Baking can therefore be your on-ramp to activism. Read on for ideas from the field (and recipes) for ways to think beyond your mixing bowl and channel those cookies together into something bigger.

 

 

 

Photo: 

Sunny Frantz

1. Honor Your Story

“For me, a cake is much more than just a dessert.  It’s a way to tell a story,” shares Monica O’Connell, owner of Curtis and Cake, a small-batch, independent bakery in southern Wisconsin inspired by the tastes of the American South and the women who created them. “I see myself and my cakes as part of a longer tradition, that I’m part of a history of Black women’s wisdom in the kitchen.”

O’Connell draws inspiration from women bakers before her, including Edna Lewis, a trailblazer whose approach to country cooking has had a deep and abiding influence on Southern cuisine. Her three cookbooks championed farm to table long before it became a marketing phrase, and now brings these recipes to new generations like O’Connell. [For more about Lewis, check out this episode of The Splendid Table.]

 

 

 

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May 2020 enewsletter

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May 2020


As this goes to print, we're still reeling from the pain and unrest following the murder of George Floyd. We stand with the communities in Minnesota, our nation, and around the world, looking to improve the ways we treat others. We stand for justice, peace, and an end to racism. 

On Wednesday of last week, we convened with supporters on Zoom for a "Streamathon"—consisting of four 15-minute sessions throughout the day. Well, okay, most of them went a bit longer, but the point was to keep it short and on-message. What was the message? As a small nonprofit, we need community and financial support to run our innovative programs and we strive to remain connected to fellow enthusiasts of local food and farming. So, each of our four sessions was designed to describe our work in one of four select program areas: Artisan Grains, Farm to School and Early care, Farmland Access, and the FEAST! Local Foods Network. 

Read on for updates on those programs, plus an update from Lisa Kivirist, our Soil Sisters/Women in Ag lead.

—the team at Renewing the Countryside

 

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Potluck Pivot: Four alternative ways to build community during COVID-19

By Lisa Kivirist

Photo: John D. Ivanko Photography

“Please come and bring a dish to pass.” 

We women in agriculture share those words of welcoming hospitality frequently, especially during the social summer months.  We know first-hand the power of the potluck and that much more takes place beyond what’s on the plate.  People connect, stories are shared and communities strengthen, all thanks to a layered casserole dish in a 9x13 pan if you live here in the Midwest. 

But the COVID-19 pandemic has put the kibosh on this summer’s typical potluck scene. While we’re all hopeful to see the potluck return in the future, for the time being we need to reinvent. Good news:  creative reinvention is something we women thrive in.  We have a knack for seeing new solutions and options, from ways to attract pollinators to how to occupy the kids when you have a farm job to do.

Now is the moment to embrace the pivot and draw inspiration from our community of women for tangible ideas and inspiration for new ways to keep the collaborative spirit of the potluck, just creating it in new ways. Seize the spring and all her vernal energy to stretch yourself to try something new, act on a passion and together build community and renew our countryside.

Here are some ideas from the field:

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April 2020_enewsletter

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April 2020


 

Hope you're staying safe and well and enjoying the coming of spring. We're grateful to all of you who share our passion for supporting rural places, working lands, and local food. 

Thanks for the great response to our Program Interest survey.  We're sending a Local foods T-shirt to Taylor Strelow, the winner of our drawing! 

On Wednesday, May 27, we're holding our spring fundraiser, virtually! Save the date (sign up here), and then tune in to hear from those working on the ground to renew the countryside. Plus, there will be trivia & prizes! (If you're eager to make a donation before then, we're also participating in #GiveAtHomeMN, May 1-8!)

Read on to learn more about what we've been up to:


 

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March 2020 E-Newsletter

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March 2020


 

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!

Are you interested in helping guide RTC as a board member? We're currently accepting applications here. See our current board here.  

Here are our recent happenings—please read and share!

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