SA Newsletter Jan-Feb 2005

Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter

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Sustainable Agriculture Newsletters Archive

College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences
Volume 13, Issue 1 – January/February 2005

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A convergence of conservation requirements and opportunities this winter means that farmers should be headed now to their local USDA-NRCS office to sign up for EQIP, the USDA-NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which provides cost-share and incentive payments for a wide range of conservation practices.

The deadline for starting feedlot runoff fixes under the feedlot rules' "Open Lot Agreement" is October 1, 2005. EQIP can pay for some of those fixes.

The deadline, under the feedlot rules, for preparation of manure/nutrient management plans for operations with more than 300 animal units is January 1, 2006. EQIP provides incentive payments for developing and implementing nutrient management plans.

Farmers who wish to be eligible for the Conservation Security Program when it rotates to their watershed will need to develop a two-year history of meeting nutrient management and soil conservation standards. EQIP can help meet these standards with incentive and cost share payments for specific practices.

NRCS began sign-up for EQIP on December 13, with scoring of applications on January 28, February 25, and, if funds are still available, again on March 25. Cost-share or incentive payments are available for a wide range of conservation practices addressing livestock, crops, trees, and grasslands. The state has received more than $21 million for this sign-up, approximately the same as was available last year, and six times the level available under the previous farm bill. The majority of applications submitted last year were funded.

More information on EQIP and the Conservation Security Program is available at For more information on the Open Lot Agreement for livestock producers with less than 300 animal units see .

Les Everett, UM Water Resources Center, or 612-625-6751.

Marketing Meat Goats in Minnesota: A 2004 SARE farmer grant recipient profile

Despite the common belief that urban and agricultural areas are in conflict with each other, sometimes farmers can benefit from being near a large, diverse city . . . and those diverse populations can benefit from the taste of home provided by a culturally sensitive farmer.

Such is the case of Bob Hassett from Big Lake, Minnesota, who was awarded a 2004 USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) farmer-rancher grant for his innovative plan to market goat meat directly to Somali consumers in the Twin Cities.

Because goat meat has long been an important part of the Somali diet, immigrants - or "New Americans" as Hassett refers to them - continue to seek it out. "Minnesota's growing Somali population has created a huge market for goat meat, and my customers place a very high value on the foods they buy and eat," Hassett says. To feed this demand - currently over 500 goats are sold a week in the Twin Cities - Somali markets have typically carried meat that has been frozen and shipped from Australia and New Zealand.

This, however, is about to change, thanks to Hassett's work to increase the ties between local consumers and producers. Using the SARE grant, Hassett will work with bilingual Somalis to: conduct a market survey; build internet communication; conduct an economic analysis; invite Somalis to his farm for field days; and build a composting facility on his farm for slaughter byproducts. Hassett has planned for things such as van transportation to the field days and ways to connect with Somali women's organizations. In addition, he is working to find access to a Halal, or Muslim-approved, slaughterhouse.

The learning goes both ways, as Hasset has discovered: "There is some interest [among Somalis] in buying fresh locally grown produce but there are a number of hurdles The more I work with them, ask questions, and listen to them the more I am learning from them."

Already, Hassett has gathered a cooperative of 30 goat producers. With a cooperative, goat meat prices can be competitive to imported goat meat, and will provide Somali customers with a higher quality meat.

Hassett will be presenting a session on "Small Ruminants-Huge Potential: Production and Marketing Insights" on Saturday, January 22, 2005 at the Minnesota Organic Grazing Conference (see notice in this newsletter). Bob will be joined by Lynne Shonyo, a new meat goat farmer who is a member of the new meat goat cooperative, Gina Hugo of the Sherburne County Soil, Water and Conservation District who has worked with Bob on a grazing plan for goats on his farm, and Mohamed Yusuf, one of Bob's meat goat customers who works with Lutheran Social Services in St. Cloud and is a respected member of the St. Cloud Somali community.

Hassett's Berry Farm is a small family farm on 25 acres that also offers pick your own strawberries and Hampshire sheep. The first Annual Minnesota Meat Goat Field Days have been scheduled for October 1-2, 2005, and will include a variety of fun and educational activities. For more information on these activities, or to join the meat goat listserv, contact Bob Hassett,

'Tis the conference season

There are many great conferences at this time of year-check out the calendar on the MISA website for a complete listing. We've highlighted a few that are of general interest and in our own backyard.

2005 Minnesota Organic and Grazing Conference. January 21-22, 2005. St. Cloud, MN. Growers wanting to explore grass-based livestock production strategies or organic agriculture opportunities should plan to attend. The full program and registration form is available at or by calling 651-296-7686. Registration includes all educational sessions, trade show entry, breaks, and two locally-sourced and organic lunches.

Midwest Value Added Agriculture Conference. January 28-29, 2005. Eau Claire, WI. Workshops will offer new information and personal experiences on issues important in strengthening farm operations. Anyone who wants to enhance profit on their farm or small acreage will benefit from attending this conference. For more information about attending or exhibiting at the conference, visit or call Meg Moynihan, Organic and Diversification Specialist, 651-297-8916.

Sustainable Farming Association Annual Conference: Sustainable Farming's Next Generation. February 19, 2005. Morris, MN. The 14th Annual Conference features Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs and Beth Waterhouse, author of the recently released book Time, Soil and Children. This year's event features young, beginning and transitioning farm families, new American farmers and sustainable farming's elders and mentors. Contact Anne Borgendale at for more conference information. Or, Contact Mary Jo Forbord at 320-760-8732 or

Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference.February 24-26, 2005. La Crosse, WI. A growing number of producers in the Midwest are seeking to transition to organic production. This year, the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) will once again help organic farmers and transitioning farmers, as well as others involved in organic and sustainable agriculture, respond to consumer demand by hosting the 16th annual Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference. Some of the more than 45 workshop topics will include: specialty crops, marketing issues, crop production, animal husbandry, soil management, organic certification. 715-772-3153,

NCR-SARE travel scholarships

Minnesota NCR-SARE travel scholarship money is available for agricultural educators to attend sustainable agriculture conferences and seminars. Educators gain information that helps them develop programming that increases the sustainability of Minnesota farms. Last year, more than 15 Minnesota educators benefited from partial travel scholarships. From time to time we will share information from their reports, to keep you informed about new developments and practices. The next two articles are examples of reports on travel scholarships. If you'd like more information about SARE travel scholarship money (see article about upcoming conferences), contact Beth M. Nelson, 612-625-8217,

Is the water cleaner? nonpoint source monitoring conference

We talk a lot about evaluations and measuring "outcomes" in our sustainable agriculture work. Dan French, a grazier in Southeast Minnesota often ends those discussions with this bottom line question, "Is the water any cleaner?" Last year, Gary Sands, from the Biosystems and Agriculture Engineering Department at the U of MN attended a workshop on how we can find the answer to that question. The workshop on nonpoint source monitoring focused on the $64,000 question of how to measure or gage the water quality impacts of recommended/appropriate/best management practices adopted in a watershed. The conference included several tours. One tour stop was a water quality monitoring site in a corn/soybean watershed. The monitoring site was on a conventional farm that was adjacent to an organic farm. The researchers were measuring atmospheric deposition of nutrients and pesticides (attached to airborne sediment particles). As Gary said, "Until this visit I had not considered the potential for atmospheric deposition of these compounds, and the ramifications for organic production. While the amount of deposition was typically small compared to movement of the compounds with surface runoff and subsurface flow, it was not zero." Gary recently delivered a talk at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, on modern drainage research and practice - including practices aimed at defining drainage practices that meet both agronomic and environmental objectives. For more information, contact Gary at or 612-625-4756.

New Minnesota expertise in organic processing

The organic marketplace is booming, with consumer sales of certified organic food and beverages growing an estimated 20 percent per year. In order to be sold as "certified organic" food must be processed and handled organically, in addition to being grown using organic practices. Processing is the critical link between farmers and consumers. More organic processors in Minnesota means more access to high value markets for our organic growers. Meg Moynihan, Minnesota Department of Agriculture Organic and Diversification Specialist, attended training last fall to learn more about organic processing.

The training focused on grain and meat processing, with site visits to three certified organic operations: General Mills, Montana Flour and Grains, and Mickey's Packing Plant. At General Mills, milling manager Paul Steinlage presented a seminar on the basics of flour milling. At Mickey's, trainees walked through the slaughter process from beginning to end. The training became more of a hands-on experience at Montana Flour and Grains, where mill owner and manager Andre Giles and his staff let small groups work through audit trail exercises, like tracking finished product back to the farm of origin.

Meg returned better able to help on-farm and stand-alone processors troubleshoot their processing systems, devise lot numbering and product tracking protocols, and prepare for USDA certification inspections. You can contact Meg for more information at or 651-297-8916

NCR-SARE call for graduate student proposals

The call for proposals is available on the NCR-SARE website (go to , click on "calls for proposals," and scroll down to "graduate student program.") If you have trouble accessing the call via the web, you can contact the NCR-SARE office in Lincoln ( or 402-472-7081) and ask to have the call sent as an email attachment.

Graduate students enrolled at colleges or universities in the North Central Region can submit proposals for up to $10,000 to fund sustainable ag projects that will be part of their graduate programs. We expect to be able to fund 15 to 16 projects in the twelve-state North Central Region. Proposals are due in the NCR-SARE office in Lincoln, Nebraska by February 2, 2005. If you or potential applicants have questions about the program, feel free to contact Bill Wilcke at or 612-625-8205.

New timeline for NCR-SARE farmer grant proposals

There will not be a call for farmer rancher grant proposals this winter. The call for farmer rancher grant proposals (formerly called producer grant program) will be issued late summer or early fall, and funds will be distributed in early 2006.

Resources for Beginning Farmers: new publication

A new publication is available from MISA and the Farm BeginningsTM program of the Land Stewardship Project. This publication includes over a hundred books, publications and websites on setting goals, business planning, farming and production knowledge, access to financing, and transitioning into farming. Whether you are just beginning to farm, or contemplating a new enterprise, this book can point you toward a wealth of information. Available in print (order form) for $4.00 plus $1.00 shipping and handling from the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, 800-909-6472, or Also available in full text on-line. For more information about the Farm BeginningsTM educational training and support program, Contact Karen Stettler, 507-523-3366 or Amy Bacigalupo, 320-269-2105.

Other upcoming events

Upper Midwest Regional Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference and Trade Show. February 3-4, 2005. St. Cloud Civic Center, St. Cloud, MN. For more information contact Marilyn Johnson 763-434-0400 or visit

Tomorrow's Energy in Communities Today. February 28, 2005. St. Cloud Civic Center, St. Cloud, MN. For more information, please contact Margaret Broeren at The Minnesota Project, or 651.645.6159 x6.

Reaping the Rewards of our SARE Investment: The Multi-State Farmer Linkage Program. March 4-5, 2005. This conference was originally scheduled for November 2004. For more information contact the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center at 402-472-1748 or toll free at 877-496-5253.

What we're about

This newsletter is supported by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA). It's also supported by the University of Minnesota Extension Service, the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCRSARE) Professional Development Program (PDP), and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). MISA is a partnership between the Sustainer's Coalition and the University of Minnesota College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences (COAFES).

Send story ideas to the editor: Jack Sperbeck, 405 Coffey Hall, 1420 Eckles Ave., University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, (612) 625-1794, fax (612) 625-2207, e-mail: Other editorial board members: Helene Murray, (612) 625-0220,; and Bill Wilcke, (612) 625-8205, Please send address changes directly to: Bill Wilcke, Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering, 1390 Eckles Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108.

Also check MISA's home page at

Our mission statement: To help bring people together to influence the future of agriculture and rural communities to achieve socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable farms and communities.

To stimulate thinking and discussion about sustainability, we try to present items that reflect different points of view. This being the case, we aren't promoting and don't necessarily agree with everything we publish.

The University of Minnesota is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, or sexual orientation.