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December 2013  

Sustainable Farming Association - Central Chapter

It’s almost the end of the year. The first big snowfall is blanketing our region. It’s a great time for producers from St. Cloud to Cambridge, Staples to Wadena, and Fergus Falls to Elbow Lake to watch the snowflakes fall and reflect on a successful year of growing our crops, livestock, food systems and more.

Your involvement in Central Chapter activities and events makes farmer-to-farmer networking work – and we are happy to facilitate the connections and education. We invite you to look forward with us at the busy winter season ahead, full of learning and networking opportunities in our region. Here’s a short list of dates for your calendars:
  • Dec 10 - Central Chapter Board Meeting, Hewitt City Hall, 5 p.m.
  • Jan 10-11 - MDA’s Organic Conference, St. Cloud
  • Jan 25 - Annual meeting of Central Chapter, location TBD
  • Feb 1 - Back-to-Basics event, 8-4:30 p.m., Pine River
  • Feb 7 - State SFA Board Meeting, St. Joseph
  • Feb 8 - SFA Annual Conference, College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph
  • Feb 11 - Crow Wing River Basin Forage Council’s Winter Meeting, Central Lakes College, Staples
  • Feb 19-20 - SFA’s Midwest Soil Health Summit, Arrowwood Resort, Alexandria
  • Feb 27-Mar 1 - MOSES Organic Farming Conference
We look forward to seeing you at one of these events! For more information about the Central Chapter and its ongoing projects, check out our chapter website at www.sfa-mn.org/central.

Share Your Story

Something new is coming to your Chapter Update Newsletters. We will feature bios and interviews of members and storytelling about members’ farms and experiences. If you’d like to be featured, contact us! Here is a story from Jim Chamberlin to get us started. He tells a story about how SFA’s connection to producing good food is one thing that spurs his involvement. In the next issue, Kathy Connell shares her thoughts with Susan DeBlieck on why she is a food producer.

Good Food Can Change Everything

By Jim Chamberlin

I was recently asked by a friend how I remain so passionate about sustainable agriculture.  “You know there are millions of people who don’t give a rip,” he said. It’s not that he doesn’t understand where I come from. He’s listened to me explain the science behind ecological food production and sees the potential. 

Later, I listened as he was talking to two of my sons about a volunteer trail clearing trip he and I took many years ago to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. He had attended the orientation in my absence where they described a menu of Mac-n-Cheese and Hamburger Helper. Having eaten (and enjoyed) my camp chow many times before, he suggested to our small group that he knew someone who might be willing to cook. My vegetarian chili and multigrain wild rice breakfast stew were a big hit. He went on to explain to my boys that, upon review of the post-trip evaluations, most groups of volunteers were less than happy about the experience and, in particular, gave poor marks to the food. Our group, however, gave positive marks across the board. Good food had made the entire trip a positive experience.

“That’s why I do what I do!” I explained to my friend and my boys. It’s all about the food. Good food can change everything.

That’s what first attracted me to the Sustainable Farming Association – and it still does.  Good food and good people.  They go hand-in-hand.

Chapter Membership

We’re always looking for new members to join our chapter to fuel sustainable agriculture efforts. As a member, you get discounted registration at events statewide, this chapter update newsletter as well as statewide communications, plus networked into the farmers and supporters in your region. If you know of someone in your community who might like to get involved, send them our way! Memberships cost between $10 and $40, depending on whether you’re a student, individual or family. If your membership has lapsed, you can easily renew online here. Be sure to select “Central Chapter” when you register so that you get all of the communications specific to your region.

You are Invited to Attend a Chapter Board Meeting

Approximately once per month, the chapter’s board of directors meets at a location that supports sustainable agriculture. Members are welcome to participate and bring ideas and questions. Also, if you’re interested in joining our board of directors, let us know. 

Farm to School Census Results are In for Minnesota

By Susan DiBlieck
The USDA has released results from the Farm to School census. I encourage you to take a look at the numbers illuminating all of the projects that have come out of our state’s hard work. 71% of schools in Minnesota are participating in Farm to School – that is almost double the national rate reported. And thanks to that, schools are putting over $9 million into the local economy. Read the colorful and interactive report here: www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/census.

Cover Crop Bus Tour Recap

By Kent Solberg
On September 7, producers gathered at Larry Heitkamp's Yellow Rose Organics farm near Sebeka, MN to review his application of complex cover crop mixes being utilized in conjunction with a diverse crop rotation and custom grazing dairy heifers to improve soil health on his farm. 
Cover crops are a tool and not a silver bullet. Complex cover crop mixes of 8 or more species in the blend have demonstrated themselves as highly effective in improving soil health. However, they are not an instant fix. Rebuilding soil health takes time. Cover crops work best in conjunction with diverse crop rotations, minimizing soil disturbance and integration of livestock into the rotation.
Each field has its own story and must be managed accordingly. It's not a one-size-fits-all program, and that's part of the purpose of tours like these – to demonstrate the application of complex cover crop blends to match the needs of individual producers and fields.
This tour highlighted the first of 3 years of a Minnesota Department of Agriculture Sustainable Ag Demonstration Grant. Funding for the project and the field day was also provided through MDA's Minnesota Dairy Initiatives program, the National Wildlife Federation, and in cooperation with the NRCS.  Additional tours are planned for 2014 and 2015.
The tour also visited Midd-Minn Dairy owned and operated by Dan and Rosie Middendorf north of Verndale, and the Marcus Edin farm near Staples. Dan discussed how he is incorporating cover crops into his forage and cropping system for his organic dairy on both irrigated ground and dry land crop fields. At the Marcus Edin farm, the tour viewed both a spring and summer planted cover crop mix.  "My calves are at least 100 pounds ahead of last year," Edin reported, crediting the spring cover crop mix which he grazed earlier this year as to part of his success. The group was impressed by the growth of the summer mix on a sand loam site, despite dry conditions since planting.
Soil health is about stronger profits for farms. We've been trained to believe what the crop looks like above ground is important. But it's more important to look at what is going on at or below the soil surface – that’s where there is money to be made. By improving soil health and being able to reduce inputs, farmers can keep more money in their pockets.
With good soil health there is potential for individual farm profitability and the ability of this agronomic model to improve life and water quality downstream from our farms.

Feedback for the Central Chapter?

If you have feedback for educational programs, demonstrations or activities that you would like to share or learn more about, please contact the Central Chapter at (218) 296-6732 or sfaofcentralminnesota@gmail.com.


Thanks for reading our chapter update newsletter!

- Lisa Baker

Sustain MN

SFA is Working to Sustain Minnesota

You can be a part of it. Join or renew your membership to add to the farmer-to-farmer network and stay up to date on how you can be involved.

When you choose to support the Central Chapter of SFA, 100% of your membership dues go to support local chapter activities.

SFA Events

Here is a short list of SFA activities hosted in the Central region in 2013:

Festival of Farms in Onamia, SFA’s Sustainable Food Production Program, Farm Transitions workshops, New Crops Project Field day in Staples, Grazefest near Aitkin, a Cover Crops Bus Tour near Wadena, a Keep Cattle in Minnesota session near Wadena, a Grant Writing Workshop for farmers at the College of Saint Benedict.

Thanks to all of you who participated and made these events successful.


The Sustainable Farming Association of Central Minnesota is a non-profit organization that supports the development and enhancement of sustainable farming systems through innovation, demonstration, education, and farmer-to-farmer networking. The mission of this group is to promote the use of environmentally and economically sound agricultural practices and to ensure a healthy future for family farms and all of the people of central Minnesota.

Sustainable Farming Association - Central Chapter (SFA-CM)
36861 Co. Rd. 9, Avon, MN 56310

(218) 296-6732 • sfaofcentralminnesota@gmail.com


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