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Extension > Small Farms News > October 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016

Newsletter - Let's talk about SARE


Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education - SARE.  I typically hear the acronym followed by the word "grant".  If you're into sustainable agriculture, take advantage of what SARE has to offer.  There are a few opportunities coming up - including a webinar tomorrow (!) on their Farmer Rancher grant.  Also, there are a ton of great resources available in print and online, more below!

-Jake Overgaard
 UMN Extension Educator

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Join MN SARE for Farmer Rancher grant webinar

The SARE Farmer Rancher Grant program is accepting proposals until December 8th, 2016.

To that end, on Tuesday, November 1st, from 6-8 pm SARE Farmer Rancher Grant coordinator Joan Benjamin and MN SARE Coordinators Wayne Martin and Kate will provide an overview of the SARE Farmer Rancher grant program and answer any questions you may have

The meeting link can be found here.  For planning purposes we ask that you register for this webinar.

Please contact Kate Seager, kseager@umn.edu or Wayne Martin, marti067@umn.edu with any questions. If you're in the Twin Cities area, you can join in person - though there is limited space available, contact Kate or Wayne if interested.

FEATURED VIDEO
Reduced tillage systems for organic vegetable production

North Central SARE has a great library of videos highlighting grant project results on YouTube. Visit their channel for info on cover crops, grass fed beef, mushrooms, marketing, and much more.  



Other SARE Grants???

Indeed, there are others.

Travel Scholarships (up to $500) are intended to assist ag professionals and farmers explore topics in sustainable agriculture that are new to them. The goal is then for that individual to share the new information with others via outreach events, presentations, articles, etc. 

Mini Grants (up to $2000) provide support for organized programs such as field days, farm tours, workshops, etc. Mini Grants may also be used to help fund on-farm research trials or demonstration plots as long as there is an associated outreach component.
Applications are accepted three times per year, in January, May, and October.  


For further information about the Mini Grants and Travel Scholarships, or to apply, contact Kate Seager (612.625.8235, kseager@umn.edu), Wayne Martin (612-625-6224, marti0067@umn.edu), or visit the Minnesota SARE website

SARE Publications

In addition to grants, SARE has a ton of excellent resources, mostly free publications available on the web, as well as printed books and other materials.  On my shelf you can find "Building soils for better crops", "Managing cover crops profitably", "Building a sustainable business", and "Managing alternative pollinators".  


On their website, take a look at their Learning Center for resources.

Learn about transitioning to organic


University of Minnesota Extension will be hosting a 2nd series of Transitioning to Organic Workshops, December 5 - 7, 2016 in Lamberton, St. Cloud, and Rochester, MN. 
These FREE, one-day workshops are for both producers who are seeking more information about organic transitioning and certification, and farmers currently going through the process of transitioning to organic production. These workshops will be primarily directed to field crop producers, but all are welcome.
Dates and Locations:
Monday, December 5, 2016 – Lamberton, Minnesota
Tuesday, December 6, 2016 – St. Cloud, Minnesota
Wednesday, December 7, 2016 – Rochester, Minnesota

Each workshopruns from 9 am to 4 pm.
Building on the information and feedback from last year’s workshops, 2016 topics include;

  • business plan development and marketing
  • understanding soil microbes
  • weed biology
  • mechanical weed management
Experienced organic farmer, Carmen Fernholz, will be returning to present and field questions. Our team from the University of Minnesota – Kristine Moncada, Adria Fernandez, Gigi Digacomo and Constance Carlson – will join him as presenters.
The Transitioning to Organic workshops are designed to reduce confusion, answer questions, and most importantly, provide guidance for navigating the process of transitioning to organic production.
An agenda and list of workshop topics and speakers is available for download.
Space is limited for these workshops. Registration is required by November 22. Register here.
For more information, please contact Constance Carlson by email: carl5114@umn.edu or phone: 612-301-1678.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Newsletter - Dispatch from the National Small Farms Conference II

I had a dream last week about starting a farm…it was a disaster.  I had a partnership with two close friends who both have farming experience and would be great to work with – but then there were a whole bunch of other partners I didn’t know.  They were working on these projects that made no sense at all.  The details are foggy, but they were working on something that was exceptionally time consuming, really elaborate, and had no chance of making any money - and I couldn’t convince them it would not work.

Where am I going with this? First and foremost, my nightmares are atypical.

Secondly, this feeds into my “Dispatch from the National Small Farms Conference, Part II” on profitability.

Also, there is a grant opportunity for livestock producers available, and a research opportunity for organic produce farms that use manure.

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From the National Small Farms Conference:  Small farm profitability:  I attended several presentations and viewed multiple posters along this theme.  Cindy Fake, of University of California Extension gave a presentation titled “Beginning farmers and ranchers 2.0: Scaling up to profitability”. 

Through a survey they did of local farmers, they found…

  • A need to focus production on fewer crops to gain efficiencies, their recommendation was fewer than 10
  • I asked the presenter if they’re advising against CSAs, the answer was “yes”
  • While highly diverse cropping systems weren’t as profitable, diversification in markets was important

I can imagine you might be shaking your head, I get it -  MN and CA are different, and yes diversity is important for soil health and biology, fertility, diseases, insects, etc, etc, etc.  They, nor I, are advocating for a monocropping scenario.  There’s a lot of room for rotation growing 10 crops.  Also, scaling up may not always be the answer – marketing, financing, and labor/production management adjustments (among others) could provide solutions.

However, while a farm can lack diversity, the pendulum can swing too far the other way, at some point, we may end up juggling too much, getting away from what we’re best at producing and our most profitable enterprises.  Finding the right mix is a challenge – take a look at the Farmbyte below and business planning resources to find ideas.

Farmbyte:  Profitability, financial benchmarks, and economic impact of local food

Ryan Pesch, Extension Educator produced a report on his work assessing profitability of local farms in central MN.  Listen to an interview and read the report in this Farmbyte.


Business planning resources

There’s a lot out there, here are some resources that come to mind.

AgPlan (Web based business planning, UMN.  Find online training here)
Fearless Farm Finances (book, MOSES)
USDA New Farmers (website).

Livestock investment grant

It’s a grant, for livestock producers, from the MN Department of Ag.  Will help pay for construction of facilities, fencing, feeding and waste management equipment, etc.  More details on their website.


Research opportunity

The UMN Southwest Research and Outreach Center (SWROC) is looking for organic produce farms to participate in research investigating the breakdown of microbes in raw manure used to fertilize organic fruits and vegetables. Participants will receive soil test results, feedback on managing manure, and an incentive payment.

SWROC Research

PS:  Feel free to share using the social media icons at the top of the page, or with this link, http://z.umn.edu/19fs.
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