SA Newsletter May-June 2008

Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter

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Sustainable Agriculture Newsletters Archive

College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences
Volume 16, Issue 3 – May/June 2008

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By now most of us have heard that food on a typical lunch menu travels 1500 miles. But if you asked the students in the Willmar High School cafeteria last week how far the greens from the salad bar had traveled—you’d hear a surprising “less than 2 miles.” Surprising not only because the greens were local, or that the students knew that the greens were local, but because the students might have actually had a hand in growing and harvesting the greens. As part of the Youth Energy Summit and a “Co-opetition” challenge to design an energy action project, a group of Willmar students decided to reduce the community’s carbon footprint and improve the local diet at the same time by developing community greenhouses. Working with science teacher Robert Palmer and Karen Hilding, energy coordinator for the schools as their coaches, they converted an old greenhouse on the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar to a community greenhouse.

Last week, about a pound of the first greens harvested from the greenhouse were available on the salad bar at Willmar High School. “We washed and placed the greens on the salad bar and they were gone before the first of four lines ended,” said Food Service Director, Annette Derouin. For more information, contact Robert Palmer,


The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has published its 2008 Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms. The directory lists more than 200 of Minnesota’s certified organic producers, organized both by county and by the type of organic crops, livestock, fruits, or vegetables produced.

Print copies of the 2008 Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms are available free of charge by calling 651-201-6012. The directory is also available in electronic format on the MDA’s web site at

This directory is intended for use by organic food manufacturers, marketers, brokers, dairy and other livestock farms, grocery stores, restaurants, and other food service operations. Consumers who want to buy organic products directly from farms should use the new 2008 Minnesota Grown Directory at


In response to farmers’ growing interest in direct-to-retail sales, the University of Minnesota’s Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems Program surveyed retailers in August through October 2007. The telephone survey contacted more than 115 independent and chain stores located in 18 metro and non-metro Minnesota zip codes, and 225 individual buyers were surveyed. General store managers as well as produce, meat and dairy buyers were surveyed separately at each store. Responses were well distributed throughout Minnesota with approximately 30 percent of surveys coming from stores located in the Twin Cities and the remainder from outstate. Those buyers were asked questions about current and expected sales of organic farm products, sourcing practices and preferences, as well as their attitudes toward direct store delivery by farmers.

Key results suggest that Minnesota grocers anticipate significant growth in organic sales over the next 1 to 5 years and have a positive attitude towards sourcing direct from farmers. Minnesota grocers use a variety of suppliers to source organic food products: wholesalers, distributors, brokers and farmers. Survey results imply that independent grocers, and to a lesser degree chains, have the flexibility to source direct from farmers. Seasonal availability of produce was a barrier that limited the amount of their direct purchases from farmers. Other purchasing constraints included: insufficient volume, lack of specific product/variety, poor communication, and distribution or transportation problems. Grocers who did purchase direct from farmers in 2006 said they did not use the Internet, conferences/trade shows, or farmers markets to locate farmers. Most buyers said they would prefer that farmers contact the store themselves to arrange sales. When buying directly from farmers, grocers regularly requested items such as price sheets, delivery schedules, labeling, copies of organic certification and point-of-purchase materials. Survey results are available by product category and by zip code. Survey data can be used by farmers in Minnesota and throughout the Upper Midwest to develop well-informed retail marketing strategies. For more information, contact Gigi DiGiacomo, 612-710-1188, . The survey report is available online:


Minnesotans live close to the land and love good food, so when they go out, they expect the best—the tastiest dishes with the freshest ingredients, locally grown and true to their roots. This is the kind of homegrown regionalism celebrated in The Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook. With 100 recipes from 31 of Minnesota's outstanding restaurants with a special commitment to locally grown, organic, sustainable cookery, this cookbook combines rich traditions and delightful innovations. The painstakingly prepared fare of world-class bed-and-breakfasts is here, alongside the saucy mix of cultural cuisines from kitchens at the Twin Cities' Café Brenda, Lucia's, Heartland, and the delectable cooking of eateries like the Angry Trout Café, and Minwanjige Café. These recipes comprise a travel guide through Minnesota, with illustrated profiles of each restaurant, chef, and uniquely appetizing locale. Funding for the development of the cookbook was provided by the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program to Renewing the Countryside. Minnesota Homegrown shows the locavore movement alive and flourishing in Minnesota.

Foreword by Garrison Keillor, Written by Tim King, Alice Tanghe & Jan Joannides. Available to order ($29.95 plus shipping & handling) from, or call 866-378-0587.


Small ruminants—sheep and goats—are livestock that can be raised on small or large acreage. As ruminant animals, they can eat grasses and other plants that are inedible to humans, and convert that fodder into meat and milk. Sheep and goats are both complementary to cattle in a grazing situation. Sheep will graze on broad-leaved plants and weeds that cattle avoid. Goats are browsers, and will eat some weeds as well as woody plants. Cattle and sheep, or cattle and goats, or all three can graze the same areas together for a greater total production per acre than with cattle alone. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service recently released “Ruminant Nutrition for Graziers,” which contains information and tools to help manage sustainable grazing operations with cattle, sheep, and goats, online at: or order print copies from 800-346-9140 (English), 800-411-3222 (Español).

Wayne Martin, Alternative Livestock specialist at the University of Minnesota, believes that the time is ripe for an increase in sheep production in Minnesota. There is unmet demand for lamb on the East and West Coasts and in major cities in the United States. Sheep production in the U.S. is declining, and there is room to expand sheep production in Minnesota. Listening roundtables are now being organized for farmers interested in getting into sheep production, or in expanding their existing flocks. Participants in the roundtables will discuss production options as well as marketing options, such as pooling of production to ship truckloads of lambs to market. If you are interested in joining one of these roundtables to learn more about sheep production, marketing, and profit potential, please contact Wayne Martin:, 612-625-6224.

If you are interested in goat production, want to meet and talk to some goat producers and see a whole lot of great goats, come to the All-Goat Expo, May 3-4, Stearns County Fairgrounds, Sauk Centre, Minn. Attendees at the Goat Clinic on May 3 will learn about goat nutrition, mineral supplements, parasite control, and a variety of other topics. Sunday, May 4, features the American Boer Goat Association sanctioned show. Admission is free and the public is welcome to attend. Details online at, or contact Donna Ebner to register: 763-878-1257, Registration deadline is April 30, 2008.

Then on May 10-11, you can learn all about sheep at the Lamb and Wool Festival, Washington County Fairgrounds, Lake Elmo, Minn. May 10 features a Shepherd’s Clinic with courses on marketing, parasite management, loans for young shepherds, and showing sheep. The Festival is free and open to the public both days, and offers a wide variety of activities and displays such as sheep shearing, felting, working dogs, cooking with lamb, and much more! More information is online: To register for the Shepherd’s Clinic, contact Sherry Stirling, 651-257-0827,


The North Central Regional SARE has awarded 10 grants to Minnesota researchers, educators and farmers in 2008. Four Minnesota Research and Education grant awards were announced.

Satish Gupta, University of Minnesota will be studying antibiotic uptake by vegetable crops from manure-applied soils. Bill Hutchison, University of Minnesota, will be researching Integrated Pest Management “push-pull” strategies for multicolored Asian lady beetles in Midwest vineyards. Winona LaDuke, White Earth Land Recovery Project, will be doing education as a part of their indigenous corn restoration project. Paul Peterson, University of Minnesota, will be demonstrating the success of kura clover and birdsfoot trefoil on Minnesota farms. For more information about other grants awarded in the North Central Region, go to and scroll down to “List of 2008 Research and Education Projects Recommended for Funding.”

In addition, Greta Bernatz, working with David McConville at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona was awarded a graduate student research grant for her work using geographic information systems and the Internet to facilitate a local food distribution system. More information about graduate student grants awarded in the North Central Region can be found at and scroll down to “2008 Graduate Student Projects Recommended for Funding”

Five farmer-rancher projects were also awarded for on-farm research or demonstrations in the 2008 growing season. Jerry Tourtillot of Salol will be researching the use of warm-season grasses in his forage production system in northern Minnesota. Al Ringer of Brimson will be looking at novel strategies for winter protection of blueberries in northern Minnesota. Margarito Ramos will be using season extension to grow healthy food for the Latino market. Joe Bowman of Belle Plaine will be working with other producers to demonstrate and research integrated species pasture management. Mhonpaj Lee, White Bear Lake, will be looking at the nutritional value of Hmong traditional plants and herbs. The complete list of NCR-funded Farmer Rancher grants can be seen at: . Scroll down the page to “2007 Farmer Rancher Projects Recommended for Funding.”

In addition, a SARE professional development program grant was awarded to the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy to conduct demonstration and workshop trainings for educators about sustainable renewable energy. For more information, go to and click on “2007 Funded PDP Competitive Grants”

Look for details about these research and education projects in future newsletters.


Calls for preproposals for both the NCR-SARE Research and Education (R&E) program and the Professional Development program (PDP) are available on the website, .

The PDP pre-proposals must be submitted electronically no later than 4:30 pm CDT on Monday, May 26, 2008. This year the program is accepting preproposals in any area relevant to sustainable agriculture professional development and the funding cap for an individual grant is set at $75,000. You can contact Paula Ford, NCR-SARE PDP Coordinator, with questions about the NCR-SARE PDP program.

Research and Education preproposals are due in the St. Paul SARE office by 4:30 pm CDT on Monday, June 10, 2008. For more information about the SARE Research and Education grant program go to . You can contact Bill Wilcke (Regional NCR-SARE Coordinator) with questions about the R&E program: 612-625-8205,

In Minnesota you can also contact Beth Nelson for more information about North Central SARE programs: 612-625-8217 or 800-909-6472,


IATP, in collaboration with Rural Advantage, will be conducting a series of training sessions focused on sustainability and renewable energy for natural resource and agriculture educators throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin during 2008-2009. Funded by a SARE PDP grant, a combination of farm field days, tours and workshops will address topics including sustainable alternative bioenergy crops and production methods; balancing natural resource benefits with profit and production; rural community ownership benefits and challenges; whole farm planning for renewable energy; research gaps for sustainable production; and on-farm energy production and efficiency. The overall goal is to assure that as renewable energy is being discussed by farmers and educators, sustainability concerns—both economic and ecological—are considered along with energy production.

Rural Advantage will hold summer farm field events on Tony Thompson’s farm near Windom, Minn., and on the Forbords’ farm near Starbuck, Minn., as a part of their 3rd Crops Series. Agricultural and natural resource educators will have the opportunity to discuss sustainable aspects of renewable energy production on farms that are currently producing energy crops as well as commodity crops. As a part of this grant, additional educational workshops will also be held at the upcoming Midwest Renewable Energy Fair, June 20-22, 2008, in Custer, Wisconsin (more information at .) Three additional demonstrations and trainings will be planned for other venues in Minnesota and Wisconsin later in the year. For more information, contact Chris Mosel at IATP,, 612-870-3431


May 3-4, Food and Farm Festival and Living Green Expo, St. Paul Fairgrounds

May 3, Wild Foods Workshop, Moonstone Farm, Montevideo

May 3, Pastures A’ Plenty Farm Tour, Kerkhoven

May 17, MN Food Association Open House, Marine on St. Croix

May 18, Field Day at Open Hands Farm, Northfield

May 18, Slow Food MN Farm Event, Lake City

May 30, Kalliroe Farm Tour, Montevideo

See the MISA calendar for more event information:

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.