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Monday, September 19, 2016

Newsletter - Farm Safety and Health Week

I was working last week to harvest a corn silage plot with a local farmer.  We’ve had wet weather in southeast MN lately, and more rain was in the forecast.  Needless to say, they were in a hurry.  I was doing my best to work as quickly and efficiently as possible so that I didn't slow their work down too much.  Having grown up and worked on farms, I was reminded of the pressure one feels in these situations.

That pressure can push us to take short-cuts, stress us out, and is simply tiring.  At these times, it’s important to remind ourselves and one another to always keep safety in mind. 

This week, we recognize National Farm Safety and Health Week by highlighting these useful resources.

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Article:  Farm Safety is a Year-Round Priority

Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator in Stearns, Benton, and Morrison Counties, shares ideas on working with livestock, training, equipment, and creating a culture of safety. 


The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH) has multiple MN connections including the UMN School of Public Health and College of Veterinary Medicine.  They have developed many resources on farm safety including fact sheets, posters, videos, and more.  Take a look at their resources.

MDA’s Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS) Rebate Program

The MN Department of Agriculture’s ROPS program will reimburse farmers and schools for the cost of rollover bars and safety belts. 

Caught in the grain!

Article from North Dakota State University on grain bin safety with recommendations on precautions and rescue procedures.


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Additional resources

Friday, September 16, 2016

Learn how to graze cover crops at field day

Livestock producers interested in cover crops should attend this field day in the Oronoco/Rochester area to learn about grazing cover crops, cattle nutrition, and the benefits to soils.  Speakers include Eric Mousel, UMN Extension Livestock Educator; Dan Nath, NRCS Soil Scientist; and Dean Thomas, Area 7 Soil Health Tech. 

The field day will be held at the Anthony Rossman farm.  On the farm, a 6 species cover crop mix was planted following peas.  The Rossmans produce beef cattle, the cover crop is being grazed this fall.  Attendees will learn how cover crops fit in their crop rotation and how they are utilized by cattle.

This free field day will be held September 27th from 9:00-11:30 am.  The Rossman farm is located at 7000 70th St NW, Oronoco, MN.  If you have any questions, please contact Dean Thomas by phone, 507-765-3878 Ext 3, or email,

For more information, view the flyer.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Newsletter - Labor Edition

I hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend!  Speaking of labor (what a transition!), here are some resources to help you understand the legal side of hiring employees and interns on farms, some labor saving tips, and recommendations for safely working with cattle.

To sign up to receive this newsletter via email, fill out this form.

Legal guides:  Interns and employees
Farmer Legal Action Group (FLAG) has produced two manuals for small farms with guidance on how federal and MN State law apply to farms in these areas. 

Webinar: Tools for small scale crop production
The focus of this webinar is on hand tools, principally for vegetable production.  From the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

Article: Ten steps to better weed control
Weed management can require a lot of labor – here’s a list of ways you can reduce the time you spend handling weeds.  From University of Vermont Extension.

Videos and Factsheets:  Stockmanship

The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH) has developed resources providing advice on working with cattle.  They have factsheets and videos in English and Spanish on stockmanship.  Very high quality, useful information. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Newsletter - Soils Farmbyte + Value added grant

I’ve been preparing and holding local field days this week and time is at a premium.  So, I have an abbreviated newsletter.  The field days are nutrient management focused, soils are on my mind and so I’ve got a soils-focused Farmbyte for you. 

Also, there’s a fantastic grant opportunity from the MN Department of Ag that comes around annually, I think many of you could benefit from the grant.

To sign up to receive this newsletter via email, fill out this form.

Soils:  Sampling and nutrient guidelines

In this Farmbyte, we share…
  •          A video on soil sampling procedure
  •          Nutrient guidelines for fruit, vegetables, row crops and small grains
  •          Article on how to maintain soil fertility in organic fruit and vegetable systems
  •          USDA Web Soil Survey

MN Department of Agriculture's Value Added Grant program
From their website...

Who's eligible?
  • Individuals (farmers) or businesses
  • Agricultural cooperatives
  • Local government entities

What can you use the money for?
  • Equipment purchase or physical improvements to intended to support businesses that will:
  • Start, expand, or update livestock product processing
  • Purchase equipment to start, upgrade, or modernize value-added businesses
  • Increase the use and processing of MN Ag products (required for all grants)
  • Purchase equipment or facility improvement to increase food safety
  • Increase farmers' processing and aggregating capacity to sell to schools, hospitals, or other institutions

Maximum grant award is $150,000, minimum is $1000.

For more information, visit the MDA website.

That’s all for this week, have a great weekend!


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Additional resources
UMN Extension Crops Website & Calendar of Events

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Newsletter - Happy National Farmers Market Week

This week is National Farmers Market week (read the USDA news release), so I'm sharing some marketing ideas and resources.

Prior to joining UMN Extension, I worked on a farm in Winona County.  During that time, I spent a season selling (mostly) fruit and (some) vegetables at the Winona Farmers' Market, I really enjoyed it.

Obviously, after just one year I'm not the professional marketer that many of you are, but here are the strategies that worked well for me;
  • The advice "pile it high and deep" is sound
  • Vary the height of product displays
  • Clearly display prices
  • Smile and say hello to EVERYONE that passes
  • Get to know and support your fellow vendors
  • Have fun
For more ideas on display, The Art & Science of Farmers’ Market Display (UVM Extension) has some great ideas.

Other marketing resources

In each newsletter, we list "additional resources" at the bottom.  Among them, is the UMN Extension Community and Local Food Resources.  Within this site, there's a great section on marketing local food.  There's an excellent list of resources, take a look.  

Some of my favorites on the page are;

Marketing local food:  Start with this manual, it's great and has a MN focus.  From MISA, 

Marketing strategies for farmers and ranchers:  Shorter, similar to "Marketing local food".  From ATTRA.


Hope it's a good week at the market for vendors and customers alike.

That’s all for this week, have a great weekend!


P.S. Feel free to share this using the options at the top of this page.

Additional resources
UMN Extension Crops Website & Calendar of Events

Friday, August 5, 2016

Newsletter - Bees

To me, it seems possible that people in caves have heard about the decline of bees, it’s all over the news.  I think people are responding - It’s exciting that a growing number of people are keeping their own bees.  In addition, as farmers, there’s a great role to play in improving the health of honey bees and the vast range of other pollinators out there for their health and that of our crops.

So, here is some information, resources, and training opportunities for current/future beekeepers, and farmers.  And, if you have a lawn, make it a bee lawn, more below.  To get more bee news, sign up for the UMN Bee Bulletin.

To sign up to receive this newsletter via email, fill out this form.

TED Talk – Why bees are disappearing
Dr. Marla Spivak, University of MN Professor, delivers this TED talk discussing the plight of bees and steps to improve bee health.

In the News - Here's the colony-killing mistake backyard beekeepers make
MPR shares how a novice beekeeper manages varroa mites and details how infested hives are impacted and can spread mites to other healthy hives.

Manual – Honey Bee Diseases and Pests
So how do you know if you need to treat for varroa mites? What are the treatment options?  What about other diseases and pests?
This UMN Extension manual provides guidance on sampling along with treatment recommendations, including organic options.

Article – The importance of pollinators
Fruit is the focus of this article on pollination; which fruit benefits from insect pollination? What are the symptoms of poor pollination? With info on pollination contracts, native bees, and more.

Handbook – Managing alternative pollinators
This book from SARE provides info on how to improve pollination on the farm, rear bumble bees, mason bees, leafcutter bees, etc along with info on native pollinators, and additional resources.  Great book!

Beekeeping Classes
Four upcoming classes on beekeeping in northern climates are offered on the UMN St. Paul Campus; one for beginners, another to help beekeepers improve hive survival year to year, a queen rearing course, and a ‘beyond the basics’ class.  Sign up early.

Videos – Beekeeping in northern climate
UMN Bee Lab and Extension produced videos on a range of topics including; frames, brood boxes, foundations, combs, etc. 

Bee lawns!
Do it.
Alright, I could go on, but I’m stopping there.  We’ll talk bees more some other time.  Also, are you impressed at the lack of bee puns in this newsletter?  I am.

Have a great weekend!


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Additional resources

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Newsletter - Pick from 15+ ag newsletters

We surveyed MN farmers last year about their interests and needs.  In the responses, there was a request to share other small farm news sources.  We don't claim to be the only online newsletter one would ever want or need; personally, I subscribe to six or seven other ag focused newsletters and listservs* that keep me up to date on events, news, research, grants, and other opportunities. 

Some of you may be thinking "Nope!  I don't have time for more emails!"  Oh, how I sympathize. My method: create rules to filter incoming messages to a dedicated newsletter folder, skipping my inbox.  Whichever email client you use, consider this option.

Earlier this week, I sent a message to the rest of our Extension Small Farms Team asking for their online newsletter and listserv recommendations, it's not completely exhaustive, but here's the list of ag focused sources we assembled.

To sign up to receive this newsletter via email, fill out this form.  :)

*A listserv typically allows subscribers to post information to all other members.

SustAg – Listserv

Personally, I like SustAg the most, lots of news from a broad spectrum of posters.

Managed by:  MN Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA)
Focus:  Informational posts about field days, workshops, courses, seminars, research results, books, articles, or any other educational resources or learning opportunities

  • SustAgMarket:  Buy, sell, lease, trade, barter goods related to sustainable ag and local foods
  • Healthy Debate: Your place for discussion, debate, and opinions related to sustainable ag
  • MNUrbanFarmers:  Ask questions, share resources and knowledge, urban ag focus


Alternative swine, poultry, sheep, and goats – Listservs

Managed by:  UMN Extension
Focus: Discussion among farmers, Extension Educators, and researchers on livestock production with focus on sustainable livestock production.

Sign up for…

MN Organic Network – Listserv

Managed by: MN Department of Ag
Focus:  Connects people who want to share information about organic agriculture, kick around ideas, ask each other questions, and work together on projects.


Weekly Harvest - Newsletter

Managed by:  National Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Focus: Has a national focus; News and resources, funding opportunities, coming events.


RSDP Happenings - Newsletter

Managed by: Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP)
Focus:  RSDP has a range of projects in MN focused on local food and sustainable agriculture.  Their newsletter features success stories, educational and funding opportunities.


Organic Broadcaster & Organic Link - Newsletters

Managed by:  Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)
Focus:  Organic production ideas, research, and policy.

SFA Connect - Newsletter

Managed by:  Sustainable Farming Association
Focus:  SFA Connect is a bi-weekly email newsletter providing news and updates from the Sustainable Farming Association, as well as a listing of other relevant events in sustainable ag.


Bee Squad Bulletin - Newsletter

Managed by:  UMN Bee Squad
Focus: News, project and research updates from the Bee Squad.


Grazing Gazette - Newsletter

Managed by:  NRCS, Fillmore SWCD, UMN Extension
Focus:  Grazing recommendations, news, and events.

Sign up: Send a request to, see the archives here.


Other UMN Extension Newsletters

And remember, there's always an unsubscribe option and a delete button.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy your weekend!


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