September E-Newsletter


September 2019

Profiles | Events | Partners | Resources | Reading | Trivia


Fall is suddenly upon us. Harvests from gardens, farms, and windowsill pots fill our days with the summer's sunshine in the form of nutritious food and beautiful color. Following a record-breaking year at our annual Healthy, Local Food Exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair, we have a fall full of ways to engage with us at Renewing the Countryside.
partner spotlight: Northeast Farm Management Committee

Whole Farm Tour

Coming up in October, the National Farm Viability Conference will be helps in the Upper Midwest for the first time, connecting Renewing the Countryside with expertise from across the country. 

To build participants' knowledge in farm financial management through interactive small group discussions, the Northeast Farm Management Committee in collaboration with the Northeast Extension Risk Management Education will facilitate a farm tour at Dry Creek Red Angus. Participants will learn about how to help farmers identify goals for the whole farm system, factors that influence financial decisions, and how to use a team approach to problem solving.  This will be led by Seth Wilner & Lauri Wolinski, agricultural professionals from the Universities of Delaware and New Hampshire. We are excited to continue our approach to partnership through this collaboration. We don't' have to reinvent the wheel and have so much to learn from each other.

Organizations like ours can gain much knowledge and efficiency by working together and learning from each other. If you're an agricultural professional, please join us in October at the National Farm Viability Conference to learn more about sessions and tours.

resource pick of the month: Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grants


The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is now taking applications for Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grants to test ideas that could conserve natural resources, enhance profitability, and improve life on the farm.

This 26-year old program funds projects that demonstrate farming methods or systems that increase energy efficiency, reduce agricultural chemical usage, and show economic and environmental benefits. Applications from farmers receive priority, but the program also funds Minnesota nonprofit and educational organizations that meaningfully involve Minnesota farmers in their projects.

Learn more here, help spread the word, and apply soon!

where we're going: a cornucopia of events this fall


Renewing the Countryside is proud to serve as the regional host for the fourth National Farm Viability Conference happening October 22-24 in Red Wing, Minnesota! Geared towards agriculture professionals who assist farmers with farm and food business planning, crisis management, market development, and more - this is the first time the conference is coming to the Midwest!

Visit for more information.

Additionally, we'll be participating in Food, Ag, and Ideas week October 10-15, where we will discuss the work we’re doing around regional artisan grains as they intersect with innovation in brewing and distilling.

And we'll be a the Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference October 17-19, where we will share about the tools we’re developing to help women farmers amplify their voices through the media and what farmers need to consider when serving food during on-farm events. 

We hope to see you there!

what we're listening to: Farm Aid


It has been over 30 years since the first Farm Aid concert and while Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellancamp and Dave Matthews are a bit older - they can still “bring it.”  You’ll think that in that timespan someone from Renewing the Countryside would have gone to a concert - but this was the first year any of the staff was able to make it happen and mostly because it was held relatively close (near Milwaukee, WI.) Co-founders Jan Joannides and Brett Olson took the opportunity to take in the show “It was a ‘must see’ event” says Brett, “how often can you check off your ‘bucket list’ that many legends of Country and Rock and Roll at one time?” 

The farm crisis of the 80’s brought together these musicians (and many others) in an attempt to draw awareness to and garner support for family farms and the the real struggles they face. The event has generated a lot of money to support that effort too and this year Renewing the Countryside is going to benefit with a Farm Aid sponsorship of the National Farm Viability Conference.  

Even our own Lisa Kivirist, longtime RTC partner and founder of Soil Sisters, got a shout-out from Bonnie Raitt after the show (not to mention a hug from Neil Young, pictured with Lisa pre-hug). Neil urged the crowd of over 30,000 slightly damp (well...soaked) concert goers to buy local and support family farms - We couldn’t agree more! And Willie wrapped up the night with a chorus of all the performers from the day singing “Will the Circle be Unbroken” - it’s a nice reminder that we are all in this together. Check out the video Farm Aid produced this year, Farmers Building Strength Together, which also includes Lisa and other Soil Sisters friends! 

look who's renewing the countryside: Pakou Hang
In 1998 while working on a nifty coffee table book titled “Renewing the Countryside” we were gathering stories from across the state of Minnesota about folks who were leaders in how to best foster the land -- including Foresters, artists, activists and farmers. And one of those stories featured Pakou Hang. After attending Yale and working for the late Senator Paul Wellstone, she identified issues facing Hmong farmers, like her parents, and that was access to farmland - and specifically “fair” access to land tenure. This formed the basis for the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) and eventually the acquisition of a beautiful and productive farm straddling highway 52 just south of the Twin Cities.

Ms. Hang noted that Hmong farmers were often charged 2X+ the rate per acre for farmland compared to row crop farmers and even more than that for additional services like fertilizing and tilling. This just wasn’t going to cut it. So, after identifying this prime farmland, and hearing of a generous and anonymous benefactor buying the land to lease to HAFA, Pakou and the other founders of the association set out to build the infrastructure to create some efficiencies that would make farming more profitable for the Hmong Community. Shared processing, marketing, delivery, and invoicing has been a great model for HAFA to generate on average $10,000 and tens of thousands of pounds of food per acre every year! 

Currently, HAFA is an active member of our Farmland Access Hub, which works with partners across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa to help beginning farmers navigate access to secure and affordable land. We'll be convening partners and digging into solutions on October 21st at the Farmland Access Summit. 

trivia of the month


Q: Approximately what percentage of farmland in the United States will change hands in the next 25 years?

From last month: At this year's State Fair exhibit, A.W. from Minneapolis won a drawing for a year's supply of Peace Coffee, a year's supply of Seven Sundays Muesli, AND one of our fabulous Renewing the Countryside local-food T-shirts.

She says that she like to support local food for a number of reasons, "I know more about where my food is coming from, it's fresher and of better quality, I'm supporting the local economy of my community, and because the food doesn't need to travel far, it has less of an impact on the environment.  It's a win for everyone!" 

We love learning about our community. Please keep in touch!

E-mail your response to [email protected] for a chance to win a local food T-shirt prize.