We're in gratitude mode, and count our dedicated readers among our blessings—thank you for staying engaged. We deeply appreciate those of you who also donated to our work in last month's GiveMN day of giving.
This month we're sharing some updates on our efforts in farmland access, farm to school and early care, local foods, and conservation. And we have a small request for our readers who make it to the end of the newsletter (spoiler—it's a short survey)!
Here's hoping you're feeling secure and prepared for winter, and as always, we welcome your thoughts.
Want to help bring affordable farmland to beginning farmers? An innovative initiative, introduced in our September newsletter, involves a unique collaboration among RTC, Singing Hills Farm, and the American Farmland Trust. The effort seeks to reduce the price of land to an incoming farmer while still allowing a retiring farmer to get full price for their investment. Renewing the Countryside is leading fundraising efforts to cover the farmland preservation easement and invites your involvement and support. Please read more and consider supporting this exciting initiative!
Singing Hills Farm is one highlight in the realm of farmland access that evolved out of the broader, collective effort of the Midwest Farmland Access Hub. The Midwest Farmland Access Hub—a collaboration of over twenty organizations (and growing) working together to help beginning farmers secure improved access to land- received a boost over the summer as USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program committed another 3 years of financial support. In partnership with Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) and Practical Farmers of Iowa, Renewing the Countryside has served as the convener of the collective which is also supported by Bush Foundation, Lakewinds Food Co-op and Compeer Financial.
New activity includes development of state Hubs in Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota and support from partners in Illinois. The Hubs unite organizations, service providers, educators and other regional groups to support farmland access work.
Farmland Access Navigators have been at the core of the Farmland Access Hub’s success:
- assisting farmer clients in developing farmland access plans,
- answering questions,
- connecting them to resources, and
- offering information and support.
Under our new funding, 8 current Navigators will continue their work, and we'll bring on new Navigators with a goal of helping more BIPOC farmers access land.
The latest MOSES Organic Broadcaster newspaper features an article by RTC staffers Jan Joannides and Jody Padgham that details the Singing Hills story and more about the Midwest Farmland Access Hub. Read the article HERE.
Photo of Lynne Reeck courtesy Singing Hills Farm
The 8th Annual FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace is the region's largest local foods festival, and we love putting it on. The Online Marketplace is open now through Dec. 9, where you can browse local foods from Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin and purchase for curbside pickup in Rochester. Or, even better, consider it a preview of the in-person festival on Saturday, Dec. 11 at the Mayo Civic Center, which includes samples and shopping.
Vendors this year include artisan chocolates and cheese, specialty sauces and jams, spice rubs, pastured meats, local honey and barrel-aged maple syrup, and special craft juices and shrub made with locally-grown fruit.
The festival also features cooking demonstrations, voting for your favorite vendor, chances to win local food gift baskets, and a kids' bingo game for exploring the exhibit hall. Admission is $10 adults, $2 for ages 2-12, and $25 for a wristband ticket for access to the Wine-Cider-Beer Fest within the event.
FEAST! is all about highlighting the unique flavors of the region and supporting the farms and food businesses that are adding to economic vitality in their communities by working with local farmers, creating jobs, and giving back to the community in many ways. Hear about the event from RTC staffer Elena Byrne on Q Media Group's Good Morning, Good News program. Learn more and buy tickets at local-feast.org.
Farm to School & Early Care
We loved this photo from Rochester Public Schools' celebration of the Great Apple Crunch! With the culmination of Farm to School and Early Care Month, we just had to share this along with a reminder that apples are just the 'low hanging fruit' that serves as a great symbol for all of the engagement centered on farm fresh foods that are frequently tied to curriculum in the classroom, school gardens, and interaction with farmers. As a reminder, Farm to School is a phenomenon that's only been around for about 20 years, and we're thrilled to see the way these programs are thriving!
Renewing the Countryside is happy to have staff representation on the Minnesota Leadership Teams for Farm to School (Brett) and Farm to Early Care (Nora). We are also excited to be working so closely with Rochester Public Schools (Sara) in this year's Pilot Harvest of the Month (HOTM) program. Minnesota’s HOTM program includes one regionally appropriate food per month to focus on including things like apples, squash, mixed greens, wild rice, and many more.
This past month, Rochester Public Schools were able to source local apples for their lunchroom, for children to participate in the Great Apple Crunch, learn about apples in the classrooms, and also visit a local apple orchard while learning hands on how apples are grown. What a perfect way for the students to create lifelong healthy eating habits while strengthening rural food systems. Way to go, Rochester!
To learn more, visit renewingthecountryside.org/farm_to_school
Farmers Market Food Hub
We’re delighted to announce that we've gotten a green light on our Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) project to fortify and multiply Farmers' Market Hubs. The project will increase functional and efficient connections between small-scale local farmers, institutional and wholesale buyers, consumers, and those suffering from food insecurity.
Aggregation programs create opportunities for farmers to access local buyers, increase profits, and grow sustainable businesses; for buyers it means expanded options and access for local produce.
We'll build on five years of preliminary work to develop and expand our Farmers' Market Hub model along with our project partners: MN Farmers’ Market Association, MN Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, MN Dept of Agriculture, MN Statewide Health Improvement Partnership Coordinators, local farmers’ markets, and others.
To learn more, visit farmersmarkethub.org.
Women in Ag
We've been inspired to see the number of stories, radio interviews, and even TV coverage of the Wisconsin Women in Conservation work that we're doing in partnership with Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Wisconsin Farmers Union, and Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES).
In particular, a recent article from Spectrum News1 offers an in-depth discussion of the initiative and includes an interview with RTC staffer Sara George (pictured here at left with counterpart Elena Byrne at the August 2021 Field Day in Pepin County). Read the article at the link below.
‘We want to take care of our land’: Wisconsin Women in Conservation builds support for sustainable ag
Melvin and Nora enjoyed delivering Thanksgiving shares to early care sites ahead of the holiday—which signals the end to a rewarding season of connecting young children with locally-grown foods and coordinated curriculum materials!
Tell Us What You Think
If you're still reading, thank you for being engaged!
(We sometimes have a lot to say about our programs :D)
Renewing the Countryside is planning to launch a “Friends of the Countryside” membership program next year, and we’d greatly appreciate your thoughts and opinions about our action areas, ways you’ve engaged with us in the past, and how membership might work for you—and for helping us stay engaged with everyone who cares deeply about the work we’re doing.
Can you spare just four minutes to fill out our Community Survey?
Please follow the link below. Thank you!
Note: if you responded to our Membership Survey in October, thank you, and you don’t need to complete this one.
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.