September 2020 enewsletter


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

Farmland Access

One farmer dreams of a chestnut/mixed tree fruit polyculture farm with integrated rotational grazing, but how does she secure the land?

Clarissa Lynn is a beginning farmer currently participating in our Farmland Access program. Although she had a couple of family members connected to agriculture (hogs, corn, and soy) prior to her birth, she didn't have direct contact with farming until college. "My freshman year of college, I worked on a diversified vegetable and chicken farm out in Colorado for a summer. Since then I've been scheming about how I could own some land and be a part of the solution to some of the economic and environmental puzzles that agriculture currently finds itself in."

But finding secure farmland for the type of operation she would like to run has been a challenge. "I'm looking for 10-15 non-forested acres, which is a smaller amount of land than most people looking to farm. Many properties that fit my size and budget have been zoned residential or have covenants limiting what you can do with the land. So, before connecting with Erin [Schneider, one of our Farmland Access Navigators], it was a lot of disappointment, a lot of calls and email conversations with realtors that didn't go anywhere."

With support from a navigator, Clarissa has been able to stay realistic about her budget and clarify aspects of her farm plan while acquiring additional hands-on experience with methods she's interested in incorporating, like integrated rotational grazing. She has also been made aware of property listings she would have otherwise missed.

"I'm still searching, but I've found property that may work and I'm just following up on a couple things first. With Erin's support, though, I feel confident I'll have land within a year or so, so I've been able to go ahead and buy chestnut seeds, which I'll stratify over the winter and start as seedlings in the spring, in a nursery if I don't have property yet to plant them on. It's exciting! And having them started will be a huge relief, because the sooner you have a tree planted, the sooner it will start producing, if everything goes alright. "

Learn more about Farmland Access Navigators here

Artisan Grains

We've heard it said that grain is the forgotten food when it comes to buying local. That might be partly because it's difficult to grow grain at a small scale—it's still a row crop, even when grown in smaller-sized fields, and of course, it takes some serious equipment. But for all of the other reasons—environmental, economic, and social—we really need farmers like Ben Penner. With his name on the bag, he's guaranteeing his commitment to regenerative practices that build soil organic matter and sequester carbon; he's forming relationships with the miller who mills his grain, the bakers who buy his flour, all the way through to the individual consumers—many buy direct from his website in this post-COVID world.

Ben personally delivers flour from his farm in Le Sueur County, Minnesota to some of his key customers, like River Rock Kitchen and Baking Co. and Baker's Field Flour and Bread. You can find his whole grain flour—rye, turkey red wheat—at some area co-ops, including St. Peter, Just Food, Valley Natural Foods, and People's in Rochester. Even more exciting is his relationship with the Waconia School District, who uses his grain for things like noodles, breakfast bars, bread and other treats for their Cafe 110. Ben says Barb Shanks, Waconia's Nutrition Director, is a great advocate, and you can see that in this DeRusha Eats video from WCCO-CBS. Among other great things, Barb's team makes fresh pasta for some lucky kids. As she puts it, "the biggest classroom in the school is the cafeteria." 

Stay in touch:
Facebook - Instagram - Twitter - YouTube

FEAST! Local Foods Network

A new downtown Minneapolis pop up is a collaboration between Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) and Birchwood Cafe—some might say a natural next step from their collaborations at the Minnesota State Fair's Farmers Union Coffee Shop in recent years. The F+B Pop Up opened August 20 at 750 South 2nd St, formerly Spoonriver, from 2006 to December 2019. A pioneer and champion of local foods, Spoonriver owner Brenda Langton was happy to see Birchwood and MFU take the reins in this historic location. With extensive local foods contacts between MFU and Birchwood, they started strong, featuring 29 local farmers in their menu, over half of which are current and past participants of the Minnesota Cooks calendar and state fair efforts.

The F+B Pop Up offers lunch/dinner Thursdays and Fridays, plus weekend brunch. Order online—when you arrive you can either call them at 612.436.8877 and they’ll bring your order out to you, or you can enter the building, shop their Grab + Go market and pick up your order at the counter. Masks are required.

Farms supplying ingredients:
Blue Fruit Farm — Dragsmith Farms — Featherstone Fruits & Vegetables — Ferndale Market — Fischer Family Farms Pork  — Gentleman Forager — Hidden Stream Farm — Hmong American Farmers Association — Hope Creamery — Kadejan Inc — Red Lake Nation Fishery — Red Table Meat Co. — Riverbend Farm — Shepherd's Way Farms — Singing Hills Goat Dairy — Whole Grain Milling Company

Photos by Katie Cannon Photography

Read more from the FEAST! Local Foods Scoop e-newsletter 

Farm to School & Early Care

Prepare to Celebrate: October is National Farm to School & Early Care Month
We know school nutrition professionals and local farmers are heroes to our communities as they nourish our kids and support strong local economies. While Farm to School & Early Care Month will look different this year, let’s celebrate what is happening across our communities! What's your plan?

Thursday, October 8th is the Great Apple Crunch, but you can join any time, and in many ways. Make a plan to celebrate! Learn about all of the ways you can connect with Farm to School Month and register your activities here. A few options include:
  • Crunching into a local apple at home, virtually or socially distanced with your family, classmates and coworkers. 
  • Adding a local item to a meal, snack or weekly meal kit
  • Serving an all local meal (e.g. Minnesota Thursdays)
  • Signing the Local Food is Essential Pledge
  • Joining a virtual farm tour hosted by Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom 
  • Submitting a proclamation to your city or county government celebrating farm to school heroes in your community
  • Cooking a meal with a local item at home with family
  • Hosting an in person or virtual garden harvest party or other activity in the school garden
  • Using class time for a farm to school activity
  • Taking a photo or short video of your celebration and posting it to social media using #MNfarmtoschool

Women in Ag

Photo: John D. Ivanko Photography

As the growing season of 2020 ends, we celebrate the abundance of the butternuts and Brussels sprouts amidst a deep heaviness. As women with our hands in the soil and sharing a commitment to the long-term health of the planet and people, this past year adds up like no other with multiple crucial and compound concerns that weigh heavily on our hearts.

For many of us, a patch of peace has always been our land, taking the strain of the world and channeling it productively into growing and raising food while stewarding the soil. For others, solace comes in the kitchen, creating healthy sustenance from the harvest—like the Harvest Spring Rolls pictured here (see recipe, below).

As fall now bursts into the air, use this new season to start to cultivate something that sows hope and positive change for the future. This can be a very symbolic and personal planting that you alone know about and do with intention. Or perhaps it involves and supports others collaboratively. The idea here is to channel what we women in sustainable agriculture already deeply know: planting just about anything in the soil grows hope and is an act that fulfills us with optimism for the future.

The key: to be conscious and thoughtful in how and what we do in order to amplify the meaning and outcome, even if it’s an audience of simply ourselves. Read on for four ideas to tap into this autumn season that thoughtfully connect your land and what you plant with what’s to come. 

1. Plan a Justice Garden

“I started thinking about what one could plant that would perpetuate what a certain person symbolized to you,” shares Erin Schneider of Hilltop Community Farm in LaValle, Wisconsin.

“This became very real to me after Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s passing. I wanted to do something to honor her life and saw this as an opportunity to do something positive and celebrate someone’s immense contributions while still helping manifest grief through what I know best: plants.”



*Read past issues of the RTC Rooster on our blog*
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Renewing the Countryside is a non-profit organization that strengthens rural areas and small towns by championing and supporting farmers, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, activists, and others who are revitalizing the countryside through innovative endeavors.
We build awareness and support for these initiatives by collecting and sharing stories of rural renewal, providing practical assistance and networking opportunities for those working to improve rural America, and fostering connections between urban and rural people.

Renewing the Countryside

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