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Showing posts from 2016

Small Farms Newsletter - Winter Learning Opportunities

'Tis the season for conferences
Winter is full of conferences and other learning opportunities.  
The list of conferences seems to be growing.  In this newsletter, I'm sharing a non-exhaustive list of conferences in the region you may be interested in.
Also, we have several online learning opportunities from Extension, you'll find those in this list as well.
Plus! My conference survival tips.
Hope you're enjoying this holiday season.
Online options Local Foods College is a weekly webinar series going from January 17th to March 7th with topics on  poultry production, high tunnel disease management, accessing capital, and other topics.  Watch these from home or gather with others at a viewing site.
Beef Home Study Courses are self- paced online courses that start January 17th.  Options include Cow/Calf Nutrition, Health Management for the Cow/Calf Herd, and Introduction to Cattle Feeding.
Regional conferences

MN Organic Conference,

Join us for the 2017 Local Foods College

Local Foods College is a series of eight educational webinars on topics related to local food production. The webinars (what's a webinar?  It's a seminar conducted on the web) are at 6 PM on Tuesdays from January 24th to March 14, 2017.  Topics for this year include;
Soil healthHigh tunnel disease managementSheep, goats, and fiberFarm to market vegetable handlingPoultry productionCottage food lawAccessing capitalSeed saving Local Foods College is free, but registration is required to access the webinars, visit the Local Foods College site.
This is the sixth year for this series, and the 2017 series will provide many options for participants to interact with one another. The webinar format is handy for many participants to access from home or office locations.  There are also public sites that offer opportunity to network with your neighbors.

Sponsors include University of Minnesota Extension and the Statewide Health Improvement Program (aka SHIP).

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 webin…

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

business plan development and marketingunderstanding soil microbesweed biologymechanical weed management Experienced organic farmer, Carmen Fernholz, will be returning to present and field questions. Our team from the University of Mi…

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 presenta…

Newsletter - Dispatch from the National Small Farm Conference

Last week, I attended the National Small Farms Conference in Virginia Beach (don’t get jealous, it was raining pretty much the whole time, I blame Poseidon, at right).  The conference is held every four years, this year it was hosted by Virginia State University, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and the USDA with support from Virginia Tech.  Three of us from the UMN Extension Small Farms team attended.
The conference is designed for folks like me in Extension, but also farmers, government, and researchers – along with anyone interested in learning how to better support small farms.  Here’s part 1 of what I learned followed by a training opportunity that’s coming soon to SE MN.
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Ideas for online education: Some of you have participated in our “Living on the land” program.  In the past year, our team has been working through a process of moving towards a hybrid in-person/online edu…

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. 
Farm Safety…

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.

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. 
Labor and Management
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.
Tools for Small-Scale Crop Production
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.
Ten Steps Toward Organic Weed Control

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.

Farmbyte Soils:  Sampling and nutrient guidelines
In this Farmbyte, we share… A video on soil sampling procedureNutrient guidelines for fruit, vegetables, row crops and small grainsArticle on how to maintain soil fertility in organic fruit and vegetable systemsUSDA Web Soil Survey SoilsFarmbyte
MN Department of Agriculture's Value Added Grant program From their website...
Who's eligible? Individuals (farmers) or businessesAgricultural cooperativesLocal government entities
What can you use the money for? Equipment purchase or phy…

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 soundVary the height of product displaysClearly display pricesSmile and say hello to EVERYONE that passesGet to know and support your fellow vendorsHave 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.
Marketing local food:  Start with this manual, it's great and has a MN focus.  From MISA, 

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. Watch the talk
In the News - Here's the colony-killing mistake backyard beekeepers make MPR shares how a novice beekeeper manages va…

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 receivethis newslettervia email, fill out this form.  :)
*A listserv typically a…