University of Minnesota Extension
Menu Menu

Extension > Small Farms News > July 2016

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!


P.S. Sharing is great, feel free.  Use the "share" button above, or, here's a short link:


Additional resources

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Apply for value-added grants

MN farmers have the opportunity to fund projects through grants from the 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.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Newsletter - Season extension

Local food growers who use season extension may see multiple benefits.  Yields and quality can be improved.  Growers can also be first to market with earlier crops and produce longer into the fall.

Growing in a high tunnel, a.k.a. hoop house, or using other means of season extension come with a unique set of challenges; different pests and diseases, crop rotation, irrigation management, etc.

So, here are some resources and educational opportunities for those looking to add season extension to their farming mix or make improvements to existing practices.

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

In the news:  Extending Minnesota’s growing season

Go back in history to 2008, when high tunnel production was starting to take off in MN.  This MPR story profiles a farm in northern MN and talks tunnels with now retired Extension Educator, Terry Nennich.


Resource:  UMN high tunnel website

So much here! 
  • Basic management info
  • Structures
  • Crop specific recommendations
  • Economics and marketing
  • High tunnel conference presentations
  • Additional resources


Educational opportunity:  High tunnel and farm tour

Date:  August 8th, 2016
Location:  Tour leaves from Little Falls, will visit two farms
Cost:  $15
Preregistration:  Required
Deadline:  July 30th

In addition to the farm visits, topics and speakers include;
Dr. Angela Orshinsky and Dr. Chris Phillips, University of Minnesota
  • High tunnel integrated pest management
  • Pest and disease scouting
  • Spotted wing drosophila
Terry Nennich, UMN Extension, Emeritus
  • High tunnel research results
  • Successful high tunnel production

Resource:  UMN low tunnel strawberries

Research at the West Central Research and Outreach Center has shown great results from low tunnel strawberry production.  Their website features articles on different aspects of the production system as they go through the growing season. 

If you’re interested in this system, I highly recommend the free eBook "Cold climate strawberry farming” featured on this site.


Educational opportunity:  Build a low tunnel

At this event, you can participate in the construction of a low tunnel!  A tour will also include growing techniques and tips for day-neutral strawberry cultivars in the Upper Midwest.

The tour is part of the annual Horticulture Night at the West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris.  

Date:  Thursday, July 28, 2016
Time:  Tour times are at 5:15 and 7:15 pm.  
Location:  West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris


Video:  Growing raspberries in high tunnels

This short video goes over some basic considerations of high tunnel raspberry production including cultivar selection, layout, and a primer on spotted wing drosophila.


Recorded presentation:  Increasing vegetable production with economical season extension

High tunnels are not the only game in ‘season extension town'.  In this recorded presentation, Terry Nennich, UMN Extension Emeritus, discusses…
  • Raised beds
  • Plastic mulch
  • Row covers
  • Low tunnels


Because it’s hot (especially in a high tunnel!):  Heat illness and agriculture

Work still needs to get done despite how unpleasant the weather may be.  This Penn State Extension article goes over the risks, symptoms and strategies for dealing with excessive heat on the farm.  A few of their tips include…
  • Drink approximately 8 oz. (1 cup) of water about every 15–30 minutes. (Note: Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink water!)
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, drugs and large amounts of sugar because they can speed up the dehydration process.
  • If you are a farm owner or manager, educate your workers about the prevention and emergency response of heat-related illnesses. Also observe your employees for heat related problems as well.


That's it for this week, have a great weekend!



Additional resources

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Visit the UMN Student Organic Farm

The University of Minnesota will be hosting two Open House and Field Days this summer and fall at Cornercopia, the student organic farm and research plots. 

This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the innovative organic growing practices students at the U of M are involved with as well as talk with researchers about their work in organic and sustainable agriculture. 

There will be tours, tasting, & more! These events are FREE & open to the public. We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 27th6-8pm
Tuesday, September 20th4-6pm

Cornercopia Organic Farm on the UMN St. Paul Campus, Intersection of Lindig St & Dudley Ave.

Available in the Gortner Ave Ramp, 1395 Gortner Avenue, St. Paul, MN, 55108


For more information, view the event flyer.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Newsletter - Cottage food law update

UMN Extension has some important training opportunities coming up for those home bakers, confectioners, fermenters, jammers, etc who sell their goods at our great MN farmers' markets (and elsewhere) - so, it's a good time to share this particular set of info.  

If you haven't heard of the cottage food law, or have questions about what you need to do in order to sell your homemade goods, check out the info below.  


In the news:  Now everyone can enjoy your home-baked treats

This article from the Start Tribune provides some background, context, and basic information on the Cottage Food Law.  Click below to read.


The Law:  Cottage food producer registration

This MN Department of Ag (MDA) website explains the rule and it's requirements.


Workshops:  Cottage food producer food safety training

If you're a cottage food producer, you may be required to take an advance training as explained on the MDA's website (see above).  Workshops are quickly approaching!

Do you make and sell baked goods, home-canned pickles, salsa, jam and jellies? Are your annual sales $5001-$18,000 per year? If yes, this workshop is for you. By attending this session, you will meet the training requirement to register as a cottage food producer with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
  • Dates and locations
    • July 21st - Mankato
    • July 28th - Rochester
    • August 4th - Farmington
    • October 13th - St. Cloud
    • November 1st - Cloquet
  • Topics - Food safety processes for...
    • Drying
    • Baking
    • Confections
    • Jams and jellies
    • Acid and acidized fruit and vegetables
    • Fermentation


Answers:  UMN Extension and MDA FAQs

It's possible that you have questions about all this Cottage food law business that have already been answered, UMN Extension and MDA have "Frequently Asked Questions" sections on their websites.  

Extension focuses on things like...
  • Are there rules on sanitizing my bottles to package kombucha? I don't want to use bleach. Could I use vinegar?
  • Someone told me I couldn’t sell home-canned spaghetti sauce because it requires pressure canning. Is that true?
  • Is honey or maple syrup a cottage food?
MDA answers...
  • Is there a cost to registration or a limit on the amount of food I can sell?
  • How long is my registration good for?
  • Where can I sell food that I make?
  • Can I have a Community Supported Agriculture model of distribution for products under the Cottage Food Producer Registration?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sign up for high tunnel farm tour

Join us for a high tunnel and farm tour to local farms on Monday, August 8, 2016 in the Little Falls and Brainerd area.

In addition to the farm visits, topics and speakers include;

Dr. Angela Orshinsky and Dr. Chris Phillips, University of Minnesota
  • High tunnel integrated pest management
  • Scouting
  • Spotted wing drosophila
Terry Nennich, UMN Extension, Emeritus
  • High tunnel research results
  • Successful high tunnel production
Registration is required by July 31, and the cost is $15.
  • © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy