Positive Impact Statements

I am a faculty member in the College of Human Ecology. When I decided that I wanted to research family issues for families involved in some form of sustainable agriculture, the MISA staff was quite helpful to me in a number of ways. They helped me to know about several research projects that had not yet shown up in indexes of published work. They helped me to link up with local sustainable farming groups around the state, with the sustainable farming folks in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and with sustainable farming groups in North and South Dakota. MISA's help was crucial to me in writing a grant proposal that was funded, in finding respondent families for my study, and eventually in producing interesting, publishable, published research findings. As an added benefit, the knowledge I acquired from MISA and through the research I did has enabled me to be an effective consultant in the development of a statewide whole-farm-planning program for farm families.

Paul C. Rosenblatt
Family Social Science
290 McNeal Hall
1985 Buford Avenue
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN 55108-6140
office phone: 612-625-3120
office FAX: 612-625-4227

I am replying to your request for information about how MISA has positively impacted me.

I chose to become a graduate student in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics here at the University of Minnesota because of the graduate minor in sustainable agriculture offered through MISA. During my time here I have been very involved with the weekly discussion group, WUSA (What's up in sustainable agriculture), including leading the group for a semester while we investigated the agricultural systems of NW MN and the scab crisis. This resulted in my first publication, which was part of a chapter co-authored with another sustainable agriculture graduate student.

Additionally I was able to give a presentation this year on how agriculture may be affected by new WTO rules after having attended symposia and forums in Seattle during the WTO minesterial. Through the programs provided by MISA I have been able to get a more rounded education on problems in world agriculture. The attention that MISA pays to issues of community health, power and ecological viability in relation to our farming systems has improved my understanding of risks and benefits of the current agricultural economy and of future or alternative pathways. Investing in MISA should be equated with investing in future agricultural leaders who will have a strong background to apply to the challenging and complex problems faced by the global agricultural community.

Kristin Mercer
Graduate Student
Agronomy and Plant Genetics

I have had many positive experiences with MISA over my several years with the organization, ranging from the Monitoring team to Rosemount planning. Rather than list them all, I will give two examples from the past month that have been of help to my department (Applied Economics).

First, MISA was instrumental in designing and implementing the April 12 "New Language of Farm Policy" symposium. The symposium was a great successs and would not have happened without MISA support.

Second, our department offered a fellowship to a highly-recruited graduate student. He was on the fence about accepting after a departmental visit, but when he learned of the sustainable ag minor program he chose UM over many other offers. He is looking forward to orienting much of his program toward issues relating to sustainable agriculture.

Respectfully submitted,
Richard A. Levins
Professor and Extension Agricultural Economist

MISA-sponsored programs and events have been critical in my development as a graduate student at the University of MN. The courses associated with the sustainable agriculture minor have presented perspectives that were not available elsewhere in the curriculum. Seminars provided by MISA have been particularly helpful in my personal development of a systems view of agriculture.

MISA has also been important in generating grant writing ideas. My conversations with MISA staff have resulted in attaining over $200,000 in grants for sustainable agriculture research that is directly associated with my dissertation research. MISA has developed a network that is able to catalyze the thinking and relationships necessary to generate the ideas that will attract funding from a wide range of sources.

I fully support the continued funding of MISA at current or increased levels. This center has and will continue to produce great returns on every dollar invested in terms of education for students and bringing additional grant money into the University of MN.

Lee R. DeHaan 
Ph. D. Candidate
Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics

I would like to endorse the continued involvement of the University in MISA & other similar activities. In southwestern MN we have become heavily dependent on a corn/soybean rotation in our cropping pattern. Since over 90% of the land area in Redwood County is either of primary or secondary importance to agriculture, we are heavily dependent on agriculture & crop farming. Between 80 & 90% of this land is currently planted to corn or soybeans. We desparately need viable alternatives to rotate with these two crops to minimize the effect of diseases, insects, and other pests. Plus, we need some economic diversity to spread out risk.

The role of the University should be to help foster other viable alternatives, not to just improve on growing more corn and soybeans. It is very important that the University continue to remain involved in organizations and initiatives such as MISA.

I have worked with several area farmers who have tried several different ventures and methods. Much of this would not be happening without MISA and other similar institutions. While most of these ideas and ventures are not yet mainstream, they are providing new knowledge and skills, some of which will be vital in the future to developing a new viable product, crop, or venture.

For the past 6 years, I have coordinated the University and Extension tent and plots at FARMFEST. We have exhibited a number of different new crops, cover crops, forages, and conservation methods. These always receive a tremendous amount of interest and questions, highlighting the fact that farmers are interested in this type of thing.

Wayne Hansen
Extension Educator
Livestock Systems / Community Resource Development
University of Minnesota Extension Service 
Redwood County

I have been very pleased to refer Minnesota citizens, University students, and members of the Minnesota Dietetic Association to MISA, providing them with copies of the MISA Newsletter to document that the University cares about sustainable agriculture, the economy, the environment, and people. MISA has been a pathfinder, a flag that we can point to and rally around. MISA must be a viable and visible organization in the State and at the University.

Mary E. Darling, Ph.D., R.D,
Assistant Professor and Extension Nutritionist
Department of Food Science and Nutrition
University of Minnesota

Dear Beth:

I am sorry, I did not get a chance to participate in the Symposium on "Enhanced Landscape, Human and Animal Health". I had another commitment at that time. Therefore, I do not have any specific comment about the Symposium.

On the question of Centers at the College, I believe it is a bad idea as the concept has evolved over the past 10 years. They are taking meager resources away from the faculty and the departments. Every time a Center is set-up at the College, they end up spending most of the money in overhead by hiring staff. Furthermore, in some cases USDA-ARS or other interesting parties are using these centers to take resources away from the University faculty. College and Experimental Station Deans and Directors tell us they do not have any extra money to support faculty's research but I do not understand how they have money for ARS Scientists or other groups who get money from these centers. Furthermore, the center ends up spending the hard money to hire support staff, another level of overhead. I do not see any benefit of spending money this way.

Many of us never get any money from these centers. Furthermore, why does a center need to take money from the University and then distribute it to the faculty. Why can't that money be distributed directly through regular channels like Dept. Head or Expt. Stn. Director.

I do not know how MISA has handled its affairs but I believe the present concept of center at the college level is bad. If the center concept stays at the college level, then they should be not be getting any money from the University after 2 years. We need to have the same concept as the Graduate School does for its centers. After 2 years, every center should be on their own and no resources should be put in from the College, Expt. Station, or the University budget. Furthermore, the first 2 years money should be no more than $50,000 per year.

My comments are no reflection on MISA but this is a good time to look at all the Centers and have an honest review/discussion on what we are doing at the College and the Expt. Station.

Satish Gupta

As a graduate student in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, my most valuable experience was funded through the Minnesota Institute of Sustainable Agriculture. I spent eight months working with the Whole Farm Cooperative and their "Food with a Face" project. I had the pleasure of interviewing farmers about their farms, farming practices, and why they do what they do. The objective was to create profiles about the farmers for the general public to learn more about who is producing their food and how it is produced. Not only did I learn more from these farmers than I ever did in a class, but the Whole Farm Cooperative was provided a valuable service by my labor which they might not have otherwise been able to provide. Without MISA's support, I would have never been provided the opportunity for such an experience.

Kristen Corselius
Research Assistant
Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics
University of Minnesota

MISA's role as a visible, competent clearinghouse and referral agent for information on sustainable agriculture is not to be underestimated. The impact is significant, ironically, because there are increasing numbers of places to get such information, and thus confusion and frustration among citizens and local government officials in Minnesota. When I ask people where they go for authoritative information on sustainable agriculture, they usually say MISA's the best and first stop.

Philipp Muessig
Pollution prevention specialist
Sustainable Communities Team
Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance

I am an organic vegetable grower in south central Minnesota, (Blue Earth County) and I see at the Mankato Farmer's Market. It has been helpful for me to access MISA on the internet when I need help in finding Minnesota suppliers for things such as organic fertilizer, cover crop seeds, and irrigation supplies. I also occasionally look at the MISA calendar for learning events, such as field days and workshops, although I haven't attended any yet.

Thank you. Jean Lovett 
Tinken Creek Farm 
Amboy, MInnesota

As an older farmer who has a son who is farming with me, I would like to take this opportunity to express my feelings and the impact that MISA (Minnesota Institute of Agriculture) has had on us and our farming operation.

I feel MISA has been very instrumental in getting the Alternative Swine Task Force into operation and assisting with setting up of a deep-bedded swine system at the U of M in Morris. This program would not have materialized without MISA and Don Wyse. Since we produce pigs from farrow to market in totally deep bedding and pasture, we fully realize and appreciate the support and philosophy recognition which MISA gives with this new venture. Without these types of programs, I feel that the U of M would be failing to maintain support of our smaller family farms.

In this point in time, we desperately need programs which moves our agriculture to more sustainability and reduces exploitation of our people, land and natural resources.

Dwight Ault
Austin, MN.

To Whom it May Concern:

I am an attorney with the Minnesota Family Farm Law Project in Mankato. Along with others on our staff, I have looked to MISA for leadership in knowing how to conduct our legal representation of farmers. We have also considered applying to MISA for funding of certain projects that we may consider taking on from time to time.

MISA is an indispensable organization. We all have a big stake in supporting and furthering its work.

Peter Gustafson
Attorney at Law
Doctor of Philosophy

By Stephanie Lundeen

In 1998, I took a Sustainable Agriculture colloquium to learn more about what is going on in Minnesota in regards to agricultural systems that strive to be in harmony with the natural world. I met compassionate, dedicated and interesting farmers, teachers, graduate students and undergrads - like myself. The teaching assistant, Julie Grossman, encouraged me to apply for a MISA grant for the internship that I wanted to do in South America.

Because of the grant award I received from MISA, I was able to conduct one month of intensive research in the Ecuadorian Amazon studying sustainable agriculture techniques used by the Quichua people. Since my internship, I have given presentations, documented my work, published an article and made lasting relationships with researchers and tribespeople in South America.

International internships are a great way to see the world and get involved with the community in which you are conducting the research. I cannot say enough good things about my experience which was made possible by the encouragement and funds I received from MISA.

I also appreciate the WUSA brown bag lunch series. I am now graduated with an Environmental and Sustainable Agriculture Education degree and work at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Minnesota Food Association, both of which are directly related to sustainable agriculture in Minnesota. Although I am not on campus as a student, I still attend WUSA wednesdays whenever I get the chance!

Stephanie Lundeen

In your effort to receive citizen input on the MISA Center, I would like to submit the following documentation:

MISA has affected my viewpoint on "land grant mission" and citizen involvement in determining the future for my region of the state. I'm sure some people think I had a "religious experience" but it took about three exposures to the subject called a variety of things before it made sense to me. I first heard Peg Michaels sharing with a group of citizens in west central MN, the impact that active citizenship can make in local/area issues and solutions.

The above referernces were further honed at a Western MN Land Stewardship Annual Meeting in Morris in March 2000. These people were not the rabied "tree huggers" I figured they would be. They really care about sensible stewardship of water, soil, air and people. Through role plays and open discussion, I came to see this as the same thing I care deeply about - the future of communities in outstate Minnesota. We are capable of working together to face common issues, whether it is large or small farms, gmo's or organics, most of us want the same thing - to pass this land and community on the next generation in better shape than we found it.

There are many ways of reaching MN citizens, but MISA gives people credit for making their own decisons with requested assistance from their Land Grant University. It is not TOP Down, but People Involved and that is very healthy and deserves to be honored by the U of Minnesota and the COAFES.

Sincerely, Mary Ann Scharf
Citizen of Stevens County, Morris, MN
University of Minnesota Extension

I was so excited when I found out about MISA two years ago. I am a graduate student in the department of food science and nutrition. When I found out about MISA, I met with Helene Murray and she was very supportive of the idea of working on a collaborative project with the nutrition department. Until that date, I am unsure of how much interaction there was between the two departments...but I thought it made sense to work together. It has been a wonderful experience to see the faculty and students in the nutrition department working with faculty and students in agronomy, etc... There are so many important connections that are being formed and I feel that the future holds an abundance of opportunities.

I have always been interested in finding ways to support farmers who are working to improve the quality of natural resources and community life. I am particularly interested in educating consumers about the choices they have when it comes to food. As consumers, we can play a role in sustaining the planet for future generations. These days I think many people have the desire to support farmers, environment, and community but they don't know what to do about it. They often feel overwhelmed. With a grant from MISA, I am working with community organizations (LSP, MFA, and Food Choices) and grocery stores to evaluate consumer attitudes and behaviors, educate consumers about their food choices, and share with consumers how they can make an impact by choosing to buy sustainably produced food. Through consumer research which has already been conducted, it is clear that consumers are ready to support farmers...if only they knew how.

In this time of increasing concern for the environment and community, it is important to continue to finance an institute that is working to provide a healthy planet for future generations. I only hope that we do not find ourselves 10 years down the road realizing what a tragic mistake it was to withdraw funding for a department that is working to sustain the future of our communities and our planet. Is there any more noble and PRACTICAL goal?

Thanks for your time, 
Ramona Robinson

I was very excited to be able to take part in the MISA business plan manual project this winter (Rob King and Debra Elias-Morse). I had always wanted to get to the U of MN campus in St Paul, and I was extremely interested in what they had to offer--the creation of a business plan for our farm to make changes towards organic certification. With their guidance, I made up a pretty good plan, including lots of things I would not have even considered without their help. I kept changing the plan throughout the process until I was satisfied that it would work financially and labor-wise. Being a part of this program also gave me access to various departments within the University, ag econ, marekting, etc. I also got to work with other sustainable farmers from Minnesota and get to know them better.

Furthermore, at the April meeting of our South Central Sustainable Farming Association (where there were 20 plus people meeting in a living room to learn more about organics), we talked about getting together with MISA to work with them. It would be a great way to link the University with ordinary farmers in our state and share information--both scientific and practical.

If you need me to go into greater detail about my experience with MISA, I would be happy to.

Nancy Aspelund, St. James, MN

MISA's presence at the University emboldened some of us who were dissatisfied with the University's approach to swine research to go to the legislature and ask for funding for facilities and program. As a result, The Alternative Swine Task Force was established under MISA's guidance. MISA, through the endowed chair position and other direct contacts, encouraged some of the animal science faculty to take us seriously right from the start, which to their credit, they did.

The results for the University and the people and farmers of this State so far are: A hoops building project nearly complete at Morris, along with interest from across the University in using it for research. A pasture farrowing and deep straw farrowing system soon to follow. A scientist position is being advertised for and the program in research is starting.

Two major grants are being applied for which if funded will result in research work across five to seven University departments. Another major University funder is in conversation with University researchers about a new and ongoing commitment. And animal science, as well as the University as a whole, is poised (should it decide to take advantage of it) to be in the forefront of changes in the hog markets as well as rural communities and economies.

All this was sparked by MISA. A wonderful return on investment, in my view.

Jim Van Der Pol
Chippewa county

Dear Friends at MISA,

On May 8th, I graduated from the University of Minnesota's College of Agriculture with a major in Agricultural Education. One of the reasons I chose that particular college was the fact that I believed the University offers a wide range of agricultural related coursework. I was able to study the history of agriculture as well as learn of the possible future of agriculture. My coursework included classes ranging from biotechnology to organic farming methods. I was very happy that I was able to obtain such well-rounded information. I am afraid that if MISA loses their funding, future students will not be afforded the opportunity to examine the many aspects of agriculture. This will be a serious misfortune for the entire state of Minnesota. Not only for future students, but also for the many farmers who depend on MISA for the wide bank of information and resources that are now available to them. I have had the opportunity to explore sustainable farming practices in other states such as Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa. I was very impressed with the wide amount of support these Universities offer for alternative agriculture. If Minnesota farmers loses MISA, they will be forced to look to alternative states for guidance. This is very unfortunate.

My husband and I just recently purchased some farmland. As small farmers, we realize that if we are to make it, we cannot farm with conventional methods and make a living. We must look to alternative farming methods. During the past 5 years, MISA has been a very valuable source of information to us as we develop our farm plan. We have developed a network of supporters and have attended many informational seminars and classes, which have helped us to make informative decisions. If that information had not been available to us, I do not believe we would have decided to farm. Small farms are failing at an alarming rate, yet, with the research we have done, we believe we have the power to succeed. MISA played an enormous part in our research and I can only hope that it will be around to help us accomplish our dreams.

You have our full support and if there is anything more we can do to help, please feel free to contact us.

Ray and Brenda Postels

To misa and in ardent support for and defense of sustainable agriculture:

The root river market coop in houston, mn had and has the support of the experiment in rural cooperation. Thanks in large part to the experiment the market has become involved with a number of other experiment projects that are coming together to form what will be a sustainable regional food system. As recently as fifty years ago houston was a busy town with amenities that contributed to today's relative stability. The social, economic and political qualities that draw people to se minnesota are, however fragile and deteriorating. Scale is critical. Township government is neighbor-to-neighbor goverment. Bureaucracy is by-passed by small goverment.

It was our goal at the outset to supply an almost moribund but very attractive small town with an urgently needed market com[etently managed, owned by and responsive to the community. Our so far dramatic success in organizing memberships (350 families in a town of some 1100 souls) and designs for an outstandingly attractive market -- houston's "center." The market, for example, will buy as much food as possible from an already established community of organic farmers aware of the need for meat, fruit and vegetables uncontaminated by noxious chemicals used in production of so many commercial foods.

Misa plays a vital role in the growth of support for strategies that will persuade many people to take proper care of their children, their communities and ther environment and ultimately the planet.

Peter Denzer

Paul Conklin & Becky Marty wrote:

Here's an example of MISA helping in a small but important way. Last summer our sustainable agriculture group had a tour of an organic blueberry farm. The tour got posted on the MISA website. As a result of this posting, folks at the Staples center, who were doing a project on blueberries, including organic production, became aware of this grower and were able to make contact. This is the kind of link that is very hard to make without a centralized, state-wide resource for Sustainable Agriculture.

I am an urban resident (St.Paul) who works closely with the farming community in Minnesota. I do this work as a way of contributing to the overall health of rural residents, which in turn gives me better food, secure water quality, and much pleasure in my job. By 'health' I refer as much to economics as to the environment and social well-being of our rural landscape and its communities. This is a driving credo of the Land Stewardship Project, my employer, and of MISA, a major collaborator in directing my work.

The proof is in the fields, which host water monitoring units and healthier livestock because of research; in farm families and a sustained rural lifestyle because of alternative markets and premium prices; and in the watershed teams that mark my work as an organizer. MISA is behind it all.

We're a diverse group, befitting the dynamics of farmers and non-farmers trying to do things better. Our work ranges from university-based scientific research to streamside bird walks - it takes vision and panache to keep us all talking and working together and MISA is central in that role. If one is dedicated to sustainable agriculture as a function of soil, farm families, and rural Minnesota, then one must be dedicated to MISA for forwarding the reality.

Caroline van Schaik
Land Stewardship Project
Sand Creek Watershed Coordinator

I am writing to express my thanks and support to MISA. I am a graduate student in forestry and am getting a minor in Sustainable Agriculture through MISA. As a result of MISA's support and guidance I was able to spend a year as an intern working in Western Minnesota with the Land Stewardship Project. Working in the Chippewa River Watershed, I participated in the formation of two citizen/agency partnerships. These partnerships were not easy to form and my experience there taught me much about conflict resolution, consensus building and the importance of citizen participation. As a student I feel that this experience was critical to my education. Working with diverse groups and building consensus among stakeholders has given me practical experience in grappling with the ethics of organization, research and extension. This has positively effected my professional career. Without MISA's support I would not have been able to participate in this internship.

In addition, I saw the effect of MISA in the development of proactive partnerships. The two groups I worked with respected MISA as a supporter of the community engagement process, an important resource for connecting to faculty at the University, and as a provider of technical support for research and monitoring. MISA's openness to working with the local community on issues important to the community was deeply appreciated. As a result of the work of these two partnerships and MISA, antagonism has been kept to a minimum as the future use of watershed resources is explored in the Chippewa River Basin.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my admiration for MISA. Paul Wymar

As a graduate student in the Forest Resources Department, I have found MISA's support, both personal and professional, crucial to my education and performance. As an intern with the Land Stewardship Project I was supported through MISA's Graduate Internship Program. During my internship I worked with the Chippewa Stewardship Whole Farm Planning and Monitoring Team to implement farm monitoring of ecosytem function and quality of life with team members and their families. This experience gave me a strong foundation in farm family planning and monitoring, and interdisciplinary teamwork. Skills which I am currently utilizing in Paraguay as a part of an Internship with SEPA, Ecoforestry Services for Farmers. An internship that was funded by the MacArthur International Program. My work with both of these organizations has furthered their goal of promoting sustainable rural communities. I am thankful that MISA has helped me develop my skills which in turn has allowed me to serve rural communities, both in Minnesota and abroad. I am writing this letter of support to ensure that MISA is able to continue to create similar opportunities for connecting students with rural communities to help them both achieve their goals.

Sincerely, Amy Bacigalupo, Graduate Student 
Department of Forest Resources

Dear MISA,

When I first came to Minnesota, MISA was instrumental in helping me make the contacts within the sustainable agriculture community that led to my current job as an independent agricultural consultant, working primarily with organic and transitional organic farmers. When I started that work I was extremely impressed by the high level of mutual respect between farmers and the university, respect that is uncommon in other states. In other states where I have worked I would hesitate to let small and alternative farmers know that I was university-educated, or that I promoted university recommendations, because many of them associate their state university only with promotion of technologies for larger industrial-scale farms, technologies which leave them out. I think the difference here is largely due to the work of MISA.

In addition to my consulting work I coordinate a small on-farm research project with some organic farmers in the Red River Valley. My understanding of the issues in the Red River Valley has been enhanced by my participation in a MISA-sponsored field trip to the Valley two years ago, planned by the student group "WUSA" (What's Up in Sustainable Agriculture) as part of a semester-long systems analysis of the agricultural crisis there.

Although I do not spend much time at the University any more, I continue to attend WUSA and other seminars sponsored by MISA. These help me to keep up with what others are doing around the state, and beyond, which is important in my work as an information provider to farmers. Finally, I want to comment on the high quality of information available through MISA's website. The recently-released primers on Soil Biology and on Soil Management, produced in part by MISA, have been excellent, and much-needed.

Lois Braun
Agricultural Consultant

MISA has been a lot of help to us as we've tried to put together a sound economical, biological, and social system that fits our needs in todays competitive agriculture environment. Two projects that have had a big impact on us have been the Social, Biological and Economic Monitoring Project and The Dairy Team Project. We made quite a few changes in our farming system from the things learned on those projects. The multiple disciplines make-up of those research teams wouldn't have happened without MISA. Because of our involvement in those two projects we've been able to move much more quickly to the sustainable system we're trying to achieve. Because of the monitoring Project we have an on going research relationship with several of the professors at the University. We're now involved in starting a No Hormones, No Antiobiotics, Milk Coop and we are receiving funding from MISA for marketing and educational information, and to document this formation process for other small groups to use. We've used MISA many times to link up to people at the University that can help us find the answers that we need and if the answers aren't there, to encourage someone to start looking for them.

Dan and Muriel French

To whom it may concern:

My name is Carol Ekarius, and for a decade my husband and I farmed in Minnesota and were actively involved with sustainable agriculuture. (We moved to "return home" to Colorado in 1998.) During that time I had many positive interactions that blossomed thanks to MISA, including a short stint serving on the MISA Board. One thing that has been disappointing to me in my return to Colorado is that CSU has no comparable program for farmers, ranchers, and other folks to call on.

Let me give some direct and concrete examples:

  1. We were able to call on Roger Moon for information on alternative control strategies for flies in a dairy operation. Roger's information was common sense, but valuable, and later found its way into a book I wrote that came out last fall {Small-Scale Livestock Farming: A Grass-Based Approach for Health, Sustainability,and Profit, Storey Publishing, Pownal, VT..

  2. We direct marketed most of our meat from the farm, having gone through the process of getting USDA inspection and label approval. One day I received a phone call from Deborah Elias, and she said that a pig farmer who lived near us had contacted the information exchange for info about marketing pork, because the State Dept of Ag said they couldn't do it from their farm. Deborah said she knew we were doing it, and would we mind if she gave our number out so the other farmer could contact us. We said no problem, and two months later they were legally selling pork from the farm. (Unfortunately, I can't think of they're names, but if I recall, they lived in Parkers Prairie).

    Both of these previous items are directly mentioned in the text, with Roger and MISA given the credit they're due.

  3. Helene Murray was always highly effective in helping a variety of folks get projects accomplished. While I served on the SFA Board for the Central Chapter, she helped us develop ideas that were funded through a SARE grant, and than helped us implement the grant and evaluate, simply through some technical support. This support resulted in over $100,000 in Federal grant support coming to Minnesota, which could have gone to any other state in the region!

    If I had more time, I could probably come up with many more examples, but this should give you the idea: Don't cut MISA, its a program that the University of Minnesota, and the citizens of Minnesota, not only benefit from, but should be extremely proud of!

Carol Ekarius

The Experiment in Rural Cooperation - a citizen-led University of Minnesota Sustainable Regional Development Partnership

In 1999, MISA was central to organizing the Experiment in Rural Cooperation's task force initiative on sustainable financing for rural Minnesota (SFRM). The citizen leaders and farmers who direct the Experiment are profoundly concerned with the overuse of credit and debt to finance agricultural enterprises and farming in rural Minnesota. In the absence of accessible sources of patient, long-term equity capital, it is naive to believe that rural enterprise can succeed in sustainable fashion. The task force, now in its second year of operation, was initially staffed by MISA and MISA leadership played a pivotal role in recruiting the multi-disciplinary faculty team - representing a half-dozen University department or schools, including the Law School and the Carlson School of Management. The myriad dimensions of rural equity financing demand a multi-disciplinary approach that creates or invents new approaches; this requires cutting across traditional disciplines and harmoniously merging the short-term interests of citizen leaders reacting to a rural crisis and the long-term scholarship interests of a large public university. It was MISA that provided the infrastructure to launch this critical project ... on short notice in the face of some daunting challenges.

Dick Broeker, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Experiment in Rural Cooperation

I am writing to describe the unique and valuable benefits that my research has gained as a result of my participation in the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. I am a doctoral candidate in the Program in History of Science and Technology at the University of Minnesota. The field of history of science and technology is broad; however, my area of interest, the history of science and agriculture, is surprisingly understudied. And although the faculty in our HST program at Minnesota are extremely supportive of my dissertation topic area--the relations between science and agriculture in the United States and Mexico--their expertise lies elsewhere. It has been through the MISA, particularly WUSA, the graduate student group, that I have found a diverse community of agricultural researchers with whom I can discuss the agricultural aspects of my dissertation, who challenge my assumptions, and who teach me the history that they know and have participated in. Nowhere else in the University does there exist a group of researchers of all kinds who focus their attention on agriculture in the broadest sense--the individual departments are unable to be comprehensive as MISA is.

My dissertation will bear the strong marks of my involvement with MISA, and will be a much more solid analysis of the relationships among agricultural researchers, farmers, governments, and educators in Latin America and the U.S. than it would have been if I hadn't had MISA's unique resources to draw upon.

Karin Matchett
History of Science and Technology

Thanks to the funding of the Hogs Your Way Project by MISA, we were able to assemble for the first time in Minnesota a team of practitioners, extension educators, marketing experts and others to look at the practices and potential of 'conventional' and alternative hog production and marketing for state producers. From this project has come not only a presentation slide set and workbook, but the team has continued its work ad hoc and members spearheaded the development of the Alternative Swine Task Force and the alternative systems research at the Morris campus. Through this leading edge work, we now have several state producers exporting alternatively produced, value added pork to high end markets across the country through the Nieman Ranch/WIllis Pork label. This is giving state producers better return on their production as well as benefitting the environment through the use of low-impact production systems.

Prescott H. Bergh
Outreach Coordinator
Energy and Sustainable Agriculture Program
Minnesota Department of Agriculture

I have been involved with the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) since its inception. I have served as a member of the Joint Seminar, and I am a member of the graduate faculty for the minor in Sustainable Agricultural Systems. I have also worked on two MISA projects: one on farm business planning and one on collaborate marketing. I want to take time here to identify some of the positive impacts MISA has had on my work as a faculty member in the Department of Applied Economics

MISA is based on a partnership between the University and citizens of Minnesota who are interested in sustainable agriculture. This partnership has helped foster continuing, meaningful interactions among people from these two communities. Joint Seminar meetings over the years have given me a chance to be exposed to new ideas and issues in a setting that also offered opportunities to get to know farmers and community leaders and other faculty members in the College. This has helped me identify new directions for my work and has made it easier to establish working relationships with colleagues and with stakeholders outside the University.

I have advised several graduate students whose degree programs included a minor in Sustainable Agricultural Systems. I think one of the most valuable contributions of the minor is that it gives students an opportunity to broaden their understanding of agriculture. For students in Applied Economics, this means getting exposure to concepts and methods from sciences related to production agriculture. The minor has also made it easier for students in other graduate programs to get some exposure to economics. Finally, the core courses in the minor have been an excellent vehicle for graduate students to work in multidisciplinary teams focusing on "real world" problems. This helps them develop skills that will be invaluable in their professional careers.

My work on MISA sponsored projects on farm business planning and collaborative marketing has extended over the past three or four years. These have been typical MISA projects, with lots of involvement from stakeholders from the beginning. This greatly increases the quality and usefulness of the end-product. For example, my recent Extension publication titled "Collaborative Marketing: A Roadmap and Resource Guide for Farmers" (co-authored with Gigi DiGiacomo) is already in demand by producer groups and resource providers around the state. We also received a request from Kansas State University to include this publication in materials they were preparing for meetings with farmers considering involvement in new collaborative marketing ventures. Finally, in connection with my work on these projects, members of the MISA staff have always been helpful in providing support that makes it easier to get the work done.

In closing, MISA has made valuable contributions to my work, and I believe it is an organization that is valued in our College, the University, and the state.

Robert P. King
E. Fred Koller Professor of Agricultural Management Information Systems
Department of Applied Economics College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences

I feel that continued support for MISA is of great importance and value for the organic and sustainable agriculture industry. MISA's programs have been very impactful in my personal and professional life for a number of years.

I first became involved with MISA in 1997 when it co-sponsored a sustainable ag study trip to Cuba. This led to 2 more trips to Cuba and thesis research in that nation's conversion to sustainable ag. Interestingly, the president of Cuba's organic association was more familiar with the contents of MISA's website than I was! MISA's impact clearly is not limited to the boundaries of Minnesota.

I also participated in an internship sponsored by MISA and the graduate minor program. Through my position as an organic grain buyer for Northland Organic Foods Corp., I now contract with the organic farmer that I featured in my internship project. I also benefited greatly from the many WUSA-sponsored speakers and activities. I have applied much of what I learned in these seminars to my current full-time employment with Northland Organic Foods Corp. The president and staff of Northland are also strong supporters of MISA's positive influence.

For MISA's activities to be discontinued or reduced would be a great loss to the organic/sustainable ag community.

Carolyn Lane

As a graduate student in the Conservation Biology program, the Fisheries and Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit, and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at the University of Minnesota since 1996, my research interests have focused on the intersection of watershed and stream science and management.

In many parts of the world, freshwater resources are threatened and degraded by a variety of human activities on the landscape, foremost among them agriculture. Developing sustainable and alternative agriculture that does not negatively impact downstream water quality, fishery and other aquatic resources is a critical task that faces human society in the 21st century, as the stress on freshwater ecosystems continues to mount. Most of the potential gains possible at the site-level (e.g. habitat restoration, scientific understanding of freshwater ecology) have been achieved, and the majority of opportunities for gains and improvements in aquatic resource health in the future lie in the area of land use, land management, partnership, and interdisciplinary cooperation at the scale of whole watersheds to develop understanding, theory, and sustainable practice.

During the course of my graduate studies, I have seen or been part of a number of positive, grassroots-based, watershed scale, sustainable agriculture initiatives fostered and developed in partnership with MISA, including an on-farm interdisciplinary biological monitoring team. These have played an important role, not the least, in helping me and other graduate students with whom I've worked develop a more sophisticated understanding of the issues and challenges involved in developing adequate responses to the social, ecological, and economic problems of the coming century. Technology is not a magic bullet that can solve every social or economic ill--it never has in the past, and it never will.

I believe that the partnership work that MISA supports and sustains IS "cutting edge research", and it is precisely the kind of work a land grant university should be doing--research driven by the needs of working people on the land, geared to improving the quality of life for all Americans, and focused on the problems as they come in the real world--complex, social, and economic, rather than merely technical. I believe the kind of community work, problem-solving, and dialogue MISA sponsors should be the centerpiece of the University's agricultural research, rather than consigned to the periphery competing with private nonprofits for petty cash.

Kristen L. Blann
M.S., Conservation Biology '00

I would like to offer you some brief words about how MISA has helped me. I am currently a graduate student in Nutrition at the University of Minnesota. I am also minoring in sustainable agricultural systems, of which wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the presence of MISA. This offering was large part of my decision to attend graduate school at the Univerity of Minnesota. It showed that this institution is open to alternative ways of thinking.

Last summer, I benefitted in another way from MISA. My cohort and I developed a nutrition education curriculum that emphasized sustainable agriculture/food systems. We taught this through an already established children's program which taught about cooking, art, and science through a garden. The curriculum was a great success and this was possible because of funding provided from MISA.

I could not imagine the Universita of Minnesota without MISA. It stands for acceptance of alternative ways of thinking, innovative creative solutions, and building relationships with the community - all of what a public, land-grant university is about. Sustainable approaches will be a part of my future work once I graduate. I would like to think that MISA will have a continued presence in my educational experience in order to foster such approaches, in fact its presence is necessary. MISA has given me a voice to express my alternative ways of thinking - something that is needed within this large traditionally-focused university.

Kindi Harala

MISA has had a powerfully positive impact in communities that have hosted the photo display "Getting Down to Earth", Images and Voices of Women Farmers. WISA (Women in Sustainable Farming) received some grant money from MISA in 1996 and was able to put together a 45 photograph exhibit designed to raise the awareness in local communities of the variety of ways women contribute to farming operations.

To date, the photo exhibit has traveled to at least 30 Minnesota communities that have requested it as well as making it's debut at the 1997 Mn. State Fair and many other conferences since then, including "The Soul of Agriculture", Mpls, October, 1998- The Midwest Organic Conference 2000, Lacrosse, Wisc. March, 2000- It is presently on display at the public library in Montevideo, Mn. until June 20th at which time it will travel back to St. Paul for the Rural Women's History Conference, June 22-25th,2000.

MISA facilitated this project with seed money towards a creative idea and the vision of a core group of WISA members. Without MISA's encouragement, this project would never have gotten off the ground. The "ripple-effect" of this project has been far-reaching.

Mary C. Doerr

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude for MISA's support for our internship project, Growing Up in the Garden. Without MISA's financial support, we would not have been able to provide incentives to the under served children in the project, develop and instruct our educational program, and to attend an agriculture conference to present our project. The internship project curriculum encompasses nutrition, sustainable agriculture/food systems, community, and culture. The project that my cohort and I developed was for the East Side Garden Project, in St. Paul, MN. The East Side Garden Project is a program of the Community Design Center of Minnesota (CDC) that helps give children the knowledge of sustainable gardening and fresh food to help promote healthy children and communities. They accomplish this through the learning modalities of art, science, and home economics.

Working with MISA, I personally was able to gain knowledge about organic gardening and other sustainable agriculture practices. I took this knowledge and planted my own organic garden that I feel proud of. It is free of biotechnology, pesticides, and herbicides. I feel safe to eat my own GMO free food. Thank you MISA for your mission to promote sustainable agriculture/food systems! Please keep up the great work and outreach!

Brenda DeMarco
University of Minnesota
Nutrition Student

I am writing to confirm the impact of relationship and information our farm has experienced as a result of the work of the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.

Here at Moonstone Farm in Chippewa County we have had the good fortune to benefit from the outreach efforts of a variety of MISA programs, which include the Monitoring Project and the Chippewa Whole Farm Planning Team, and the sustainable ag graduate minor program (which has linked us with the work of some wonderful graduate students).

MISA feels like our home at the University. In an era when so much research energy and expense are allocated to the kinds of farming systems which are not in keeping with our own farm's goals, MISA and its dedicated and inspirational staff have always had an open door. Through this door much dialogue has been able to take place in the service of a sound agricultural economy, environmental integrity and prosperity. MISA also serves as the portal through which we have felt we could best access other pertinent disciplines within the College of Agriculture, and, indeed the rest of the University. This is a dynamic and strategic link for those of us our on the frontier. Please accept our firm statement of support. It's the least we can express for all that MISA has done for us and farmers like us.

Sincerely, Richard Handeen and Audrey Arner
Moonstone Farm

Here is a short list of ways (there are many) that MISA has impacted me. I am enclosing a copy of a letter to President Yudof that I sent a few weeks ago in which I outlined some of the benefits. I hope this helps. I am sorry that I do not have time to polish a new paragraph right now!


  • Funded my first 2 years in grad. school
  • Aided me in designing a dissertation topic (Volunteer monitoring)
  • Provided me with invaluable contacts in the rural community
  • Changed the way I think about research
  • Given me the incentive to work on a book out the value of local knowledge(Chapter in Navigating Nature's Dynamics, Fikret Berkes and Carl Folke editors)
  • Encouraged me to change my diet - I now buy local meat and produce.
  • Given me material to use in my Environemental Ethics Course
  • Helped to make me more aware of corporate agriculture.

Julia Frost