Happy Holidays from RTC

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December 2020


As we all gather our thoughts of a difficult year, we can take comfort in some silver linings of this pandemic—and look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel in 2021!

During this year we adapted, as many did. Some highlights:

  • shifted an online sales platform to allow for online ordering from farmers' markets as early as March 21
  • held a virtual fundraiser in May that saw the silliness of a kazoo-a-long as well as testimonials from staff and partners in some of our core programs
  • continued our farm to early care work, focusing on activities for parents and caregivers to do at home to help kids learn about farm-fresh foods
  • planned for a hybrid version of the annual FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace—and then adjusted to online-only when infection numbers increased
  • doubled the number of our Farmland Access Navigators (now eight!) who provide one-on-one support to beginning farmers in IA, WI, and MN. Our navigators have helped >70 farmers achieve secure access to land
  • forged two new partnerships with NRCS to increase conservation training and resource connections to women landowners and historically underserved farmers (BIPOC, immigrant, low-income, and veteran)
  • Soil Sisters became an official project of RTC, supporting this vibrant Wisconsin-based network of women in sustainable ag to grow new networks + continue their successful annual event.
We remain grateful for the ability to continue doing the work we're compelled to do! We hope you got to know more farmers this year, or increased your connection to them.

The other necessary ritual at the end of each year is a reminder to you, that if you're deciding on donations that have impact, we hope you'll consider donating to RTC. Below, we introduce you to one of our board members. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful holiday!

—the team at Renewing the Countryside

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November News

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Special Edition | Dec. 2, 2020


Hoping this finds you well, and replenished from the recent Thanksgiving holiday. As unusual as it was, we've talked with many who appreciated the absence of the typical chaos and rush.

We've had a busy November, very focused on pivoting the annual FEAST! event to an Online Marketplace for this year—so we are taking a break from our usual newsletter format for a brief check-in here to tell you a bit about it below.

Thank you for your time and attention to the different ways we can work together to renew the countryside!

—the team at Renewing the Countryside

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October 2020 enewsletter

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October 2020


 
It's not time to hunker down yet! Farmers have many end of season responsibilities, and many are celebrating the last outdoor farmers' market of the year tomorrow...

Meanwhile, RTC staff are celebrating another month of progress in our program areas, including Pint Size Produce materials for young eaters (more on that below). We're also celebrating the just-published FEAST! Local Foods Magazine that we produce with our partners at the FEAST! Network. Keep reading for details on that and more!

—the team at Renewing the Countryside

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September 2020 enewsletter

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September 2020


 
With the leaves turning and a cool breeze in the air, many of us are starting to set our sights on celebrating fall. For many farmers, there's still a wealth of food for our communities coming from the earth, but we're all well aware that the season is quickly shifting. It's a time to reflect and celebrate. Read on below for opportunities to celebrate, from restaurant collaborations dedicated to local food, to all of the ways we can participate in a month dedicated to the many benefits of Farm to School, to how we can celebrate life through plants, and more....

—the team at Renewing the Countryside

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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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