Interview with a Farmer: Peg Sheaffer, Sandhill Family Farms

Peg Sandhill

 For over fifteen years, Sandhill Family Farms, along with partnering family farms, have been serving as many as 475 CSA members in the Chicagoland area, supplying them with organic vegetables, fruit, eggs, dairy and meats. 

While located on two farms, one in Brodhead, Wisconsin, and the other in Grayslake, Illinois, the award-winning Sandhill Family Farms creates member share boxes that are consistently full of certified organic, high quality produce.  At the helm, is co-owner Peg Sheaffer, who works alongside her farmer-husband Matt on their Brodhead farm, along with farmers Jen and Jeff Miller who steward the operations in Grayslake.  Together, they turn out a dizzying array of over 150 different cultivars of vegetables over the eight-month growing season. 

We took a walk with Peg Sheaffer as she checked on her flock of St. Croix sheep to learn more about her and her farming operations. Her farm will be featured on the  SOIL SISTERS: Tour of Farm on August 2, 2015.  She’ll also be teaching a SOIL SISTERS: Green Acres Workshop on raising chickens on August 1.

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A Community Supported Restaurant: The Cow and Quince

 lori-cowQuinceRest_0291.jpgLori Stern, owner of Cow & Quince Market and Restaurant in New Glarus, Wisconsin, is out to do more than serve up great tasting seasonal dishes made with locally-sourced, sustainably raised or grown ingredients. 

In a manner of speaking, she’s looking to entice some members of her community to get into business with her by offering a Community Supported Restaurant, inspired by the popular Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model where farmers get paid up front by their “shareholders” for the products grown throughout the season.  Along with being a CSR-focused restaurant, Cow & Quince also serves as a hyper-local market for the fresh vegetables, fruits and meats available in the area.

At the upcoming SOIL SISTERS event July 31 through August 2, 2015, Stern’s Cow & Quince will be showcasing the amazing abundance the area has to offer, featuring numerous locavore specials while hosting the SOIL SISTERS: Taste of Place.  The Taste of Place is a culinary farm-to-table gathering where you can try out a variety of flavors while you meet some of the farmers and food artisans behind the ingredient list.  Delicious dishes prepared by Chef Jared Austin will include Summer Vegetable Tarts, featuring heirloom tomatoes from Grassroots Farm, greens from Scotch Hill Farm and cheese from Landmark Creamery.

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Feast! Update

Well, it’s official! Thanks to great public support and food producer interest, along with our partners and sponsors we will be hosting Feast! again this year in Rochester. 

Get it on your calendars and come out to see what’s new in local foods from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin: December 4 & 5, 2015. 

This time around, our plan is for the industry-only “tradeshow” to be on Friday and the busy aisles, delicious demos, and mouth-watering displays of the local foods public "festival" will be Saturday.  

Last year’s exhibitors were truly outstanding and while we had planned (or at least talked about) giving out awards for the “best of show”… we just couldn’t pull off in year one amidst all of the great networking and learning sessions.  

So no “official” winner – but…I (Brett here, fearless Creative Director) wanted to at least acknowledge some of my personal favorites.  Some categories were almost impossible and I wanted to say they were all winners – but this is not a hippy-waldorf-everyone-get’s-a-trophy kinda thing.

I broke down the show into a few categories – and, I could give you a list of the nominees for each category – but really… we all just want to know who won the Oscar, not who didn’t. (Which reminds me we should have a name for this and an award! Like a golden whisk and they could be called the Whiskey! – because who doesn’t like whiskey?)



        Red Table Meat Co.

Bakery and Grains

        Simply Native Foods

Sauces and Preserves

        HealthGlen Farm & Kitchen           


        K’uun Coffee

Wine, Beer and Spirits

        Vikre Distillery 

Cheese and Dairy

        Alemar Cheese 


        Roots Chocolate


        Keewaydin Farms

Best New Product

        Local Burrito


Ok, there it is! Make sure you like Feast! on Facebook and check out for a complete list of the exhibitors from last year. They are all winners!

Oh, and then go buy some of their amazing products and ask your grocer, market, restaurant, and neighbors to stock up too.


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Agritourism coming to Minnesota

pizza farm

Would you like to visit a pizza farm? Watch a newborn lamb take her first steps? Help a farmer with planting or harvesting?

You can help make these and other fun and educational opportunities more possible by contacting your representative TODAY! The Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee will be deciding at a hearing at 2:00 on February 4th to pass through new agritourism legislation.

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Post Harvest Handling Workshops Coming Your Way!

PDSC_5346.JPGRenewing the Countryside is partnering with Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture to bring four post harvest handling workshops this March 2015.  

These half day workshops will be presented by farmers Lisa Baker of Bakers’ Acres, Laura Frerichs of Loon Organics and Joan Olson of Prairie Drifter Farm.  They will cover a range of topics from on farm food safety to sorting and grading to transport.

The cost to attend is $20 for the first person and $10 for the second if coming from the same farm (fee includes lunch). Workshop attendees will also get a discounted rate for the Wholesale Success book that can be purchased at the workshop.

Participants also will receive a free copy ($10 value) of Farm Food Safety Decision Trees For Fruit and Vegetable Growers. By, Elizabeth A. Bihn, Ph.D., Michele A. Schermann, R.N., M.S., Annette L. Wszelaki, Ph.D., Gretchen L. Wall, M.S., and Susannah K. Amundson, M.S. With limited time, money, and available labor, produce farms must learn how to prioritize which practices to use on their farm to reduce food safety risks as well as achieve business goals. These Decision Trees were created to help you prioritize your farm food safety practices and begin to build your own farm food safety plan.

These Decision Trees are intended to:

· Help you begin to identify food safety risks and practices that reduce risks,

· Help you prioritize implementation of practices to use your resources most eciently, and;

· Familiarize you with the terminology, tools, and methods you may need to use to meet the requirements and expectations of your customers as well as future regulations for produce.



St. Charles -- March 3 -- Lisa Baker (Bakers' Acres)- 10AM-3PM

Fairmont -- March 5 -- Joan Olson (Prairie Drifter Farm)- 10AM-3PM

Little Falls -- March 20 -- Lisa Baker (Bakers' Acres)- 10AM-3PM

Cannon Falls -- March 25 -- Laura Frerichs (Loon Organics)- 10AM-3PM



Please visit to register for the date and location that works best for you.  If you have any questions, please contact Devon at [email protected].  



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Equity Crowdfunding Coming Soon to MN (We Hope!)

Soon Minnesota's entrepreneurs may benefit from a vast, previously untapped source of capital.

MNvest-logo.jpgWe hear from many small businesses that traditional financing can be challenging to obtain, or, without the right collateral it's simply not enough. Although we know some lenders are working hard to increase flexibility and close this gap, crowdfunding websites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have become game-changers for financing small businesses. If you haven't crowdfunded before, here's how it works: You pledge a donation in exchange for a reward, like a product or special event. For a farm, you might get to choose from an exclusive CSA box offering or tickets to a farm dinner. This model has a proven track record -- some of our favorite food businesses and farms have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars online. 

Crowdfunding has worked for some businesses, but not everyone can offer the right mix of rewards to entice donors. Fulfillment can be onerous, particularly for a fledgling business with unpredictable cash flow. With the limitations of a rewards-based system, it is often only useful as a supplement to more traditional financing. However, that may soon change. The proposed MNvest legislation has the potential to blow the lid off of crowdfunding in Minnesota.

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2014 in Review + How You Can Help

RTC Top 10

It has been a year of growth and excitement. A few highlights were our farm to child care work; helping to launch a multi-state, regional food show; building our capacity to invest more locally (i.e. slow money-style), and delving into the complex and urgent issue of making farmland affordable for new farmers.

Read on for our top ten ways we're transforming our food system. But before you do (and if you are so inclined) consider making a tax-deductible donation to Renewing the Countryside. We rely on people like you to help us work for better food systems, for stronger communities, and for a healthier planet.

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If you are feeling generous, or appreciate the benefit of a tax deduction, we would be pleased to help invest your values and dollars into your community: making our countrysides just, vibrant, sustainable, and delicious!

Jan Joannides
Executive Director
Renewing the Countryside

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Help us build a healthier food system, more vibrant communities and a brighter future for our planet! 


Thanks for your support,

Jan, Brett and the Renewing the Countryside staff and board

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FEAST! Festival and Tradeshow

Foodmakers and Farmers - Exhibitor Applications are now being accepted for:
FEAST! Festival and Tradeshow. Exhibitor Application

FEAST! - the largest celebration of local foods in the tri-state area will premiere November 2-3, 2014 at the Rochester Civic Center, Rochester, MN. The first day of this two-day event will be open to the public with a Sunday showcase of the best of local food by producers and makers from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Sunday’s theme will be “Homegrown for the Holidays” and will feature over 150 exhibitor booths, plus a lineup of chef demonstrations, tastings, live music, workshops on healthy eating and holiday cooking, activities for kids, sampling of local beer, wine and craft distillers’ libations for adults. Event-goers will be able to purchase items for holiday gifts or from homegrown holiday cooking.

The public FEAST! event on Sunday will be followed by a trade event on Monday. “Grow It, Make It” will be the theme of this regional conference and tradeshow which is being planned exclusively for food growers, makers and buyers. The conference will offer multiple tracks and will give producers and buyers opportunities to meet, network, discuss sales, and forge supply-chain relationships. A first of its magnitude in the region, this conference will offer buyers workshops and connections to accelerate local sourcing and. The day’s educational workshops will include industry panels providing technical assistance and access to funding opportunities, plus timely, in-demand classes for market-ready producers as well as aspiring farming and food business beginners.  

Premiere partners in producing this event include Mayo Clinic, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Renewing the Countryside. A crowd of organizations and food-focused volunteers are busy with the planning. Other organizations and individuals are invited to join as sponsors and volunteers. To learn how you can participate, please contact Jan Joannides at Renewing the Countryside, [email protected] or call 612-251-7304
To learn more about FEAST! visit the website at 
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