SA Newsletter Nov-Dec 2004

Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter

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Sustainable Agriculture Newsletters Archive

College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences
Volume 12, Issue 7 – November/December 2004

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Dear Readers:

As we go to press with this edition of our newsletter, we are excited about the present and developing future of sustainable agriculture in Minnesota. Our friend and colleague, Dick Broeker, had a lot to do with shaping that future, and we are deeply saddened by his sudden death this past week. Dick's commitment to sustainable agriculture and to local food systems was intense, his insight irreplaceable, and his sharp wit and sense of humor will be greatly missed. Dick's family requested that rather than honor Dick with gifts of flowers, you support your local farmer. What a fitting tribute.

 Time, Soil, and Children reading and discussion

The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) invites you to attend a celebration of Beth Waterhouse's Time, Soil, and Children. This event will include a reading by Beth as well as a conversation with the sons and daughter of sustainable farm families in Minnesota featured in her book. A reception featuring local foods will follow. The event will take place on Thursday, November 18th from 3:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. in 408 Hayes Hall on the University of Minnesota campus.

As an Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota, Beth reflected on the early days of the sustainable agriculture movement. She thought of the many families involved in both farming and policy changes, and wondered what had become of the children growing up in those families during that time. Beth interviewed fifteen of the sons and daughters of those families for her book Time, Soil, and Children. Her book is available in print from the MISA office for $6.00, 800-909-6472, or online. For more information on the event, contact Kate Seager in the MISA office at 612.625.8235 or

Riddle elected chair of National Organic Standards Board

Jim Riddle of rural Winona, MN, was elected chair of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) at the Board's recent meeting in Washington, DC. The NOSB was established by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on the establishment and implementation of the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP).

Over the past 24 years, Jim has been an organic farmer, inspector, educator, policy analyst, author, and consumer. He was founding chair of the Independent Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) and co-author of the IFOAM/IOIA International Organic Inspection Manual. He has trained hundreds of organic inspectors throughout the world.

Jim chairs the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Organic Advisory Task Force, and was instrumental in passage of Minnesota's landmark organic certification cost-share program. He holds degrees in biology and political science from Grinnell College, and works as an organic policy specialist for the Rodale Institute's In 2003, Jim received a one-year appointment as School of Agriculture Endowed Chair of Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota.

Jim is enthusiastic about his new leadership role in the NOSB. "I appreciate the hard work of NOSB members and NOP staff and the collaboration expressed by the USDA," said Riddle. "The organic sector is expanding rapidly and I look forward to a productive and rewarding year." Jim Riddle can be reached by email:

SARE producer grants awarded to Minnesota farmers

The North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE) has announced the 2004 Minnesota Producer Grant recipients:

In Duluth, Lois Hoffbauer received $6,000 to explore "Evaluation of Raspberries Grown in High Tunnels for a Northern Climates."

Sean Albiston of Manning has $3,960 to implement his project, "Sustainable Small Farm Promotion Using Novel Market Stand."

Don DeWeerd of Pipestone is the project coordinator of a group of producers -- who received $16,150 as a group -- for their project, "Improved Management of Rye Cover Crops for Organic Soybean Production."

Paula Westmoreland and a team of other producers in Minneapolis were awarded $13,733 for their project, "Designing and Validating Plant Communities/Cropping Systems for Multiple Benefits."

Constance Karstens of Hutchison is the project coordinator for a producer team project, "Advanced Techniques for Sustained Marketing Success of Team Farmers," for which they got $17,146 in funding.

Bob Hassett of Big Lake was awarded $5,000 for his project, "Connecting Meat Goat Producers to Existing Ethnic Consumers."

In Lake City, Fred Keller received $5,600 to explore "How Fall Cutting vs. Fall Residue Affects Yield and Quality of Alfalfa the Next Year."

Michele Skogrand of Montevideo leads a team that will implement "Decorative Woody Florals Learning Circle," with funding of $9,454.

Ardie Eckardt of Odessa was awarded $2,181 for "Expanding Consumer Interest and Home Gardeners' Use of Heritage Tomato Varieties."

Congratulations to these recipients! We look forward to bringing you in-depth information about these projects in future newsletters.

The NCR-SARE program provides competitive grants to farmers, educators, graduate students, and researchers furthering economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable agriculture. For more information on NCR-SARE, its competitive grant program, or to be notified of NCR-SARE's call for grant proposals, call 402-472-7081 or 1-800-529-1342. For information on NCR-SARE activities and opportunities in Minnesota, contact Beth Nelson, NCR-SARE Minnesota Coordinator, 612-625-8217.

SARE producer grant profile

Lois Hoffbauer of Duluth recently received a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant for 2004. Using this grant, Lois will experiment with using a greenhouse-like high tunnel to provide Duluth customers a longer raspberry season. Her research could create a new tool for sustainable agriculture in Minnesota and in other cold climates throughout the country.

Raspberries are a high-value product in Duluth, where the Zone 3 short growing season makes visitors to the farmer's market hungry for every bit of summer sweetness they can find. Talking about her experience with farming, Hoffbauer explained, "We learned years ago that, living this close to Lake Superior, we had to 'cheat' the weather any way that we could." The high tunnel would extend the season on both ends, allowing her to produce raspberries earlier in the year and to experiment with fall-bearing raspberries.

While tunnels like these have been used for annual crops, this may be the first time they will be used for a perennial plant in Minnesota. Hoffbauer heard about Penn State's experimental use of perennials under tunnels and wants to see how it will work in Minnesota: "I don't know of anyone except Penn State that has had perennial crops under plastic. It will change the entire way that the plants live because the sun will heat up the ground even in the winter, then freeze again when the sun goes down." Hoffbauer will compare high tunnel yields to yields of raspberries not under the tunnel.

The new greenhouse will be up by the end of October. In the summer, field days will provide visitors a close-up look of the tunnels.

Hoffbauer has been farming in the Duluth area for over 25 years. She and her husband have twelve acres of sustainably produced vegetables, fruits, and free-range chickens, and 50 acres of Christmas trees. Now they hope to add raspberries to that list! Submitted by Jenn Reed, MISA intern

Applied plant science major

Students interested in learning more about plants have a new option for their studies. The University of Minnesota Board of Regents has approved a new Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Plant Science. The innovative program provides students the knowledge and skills to work with plant systems that produce food, fiber, energy, new products for health and industrial applications and environmental benefits. The program offers areas of specialization in Plant Improvement, Agroecology, and Plant Utilization. The unique aspects of this program include study program flexibility (20 credits of electives), emphasis on problem-solving and experiential learning. The new major is designed to provide interesting careers for students and help fill a need for skilled professionals in this area.

Find more details at Applied Plant Science major or by calling 1-800-866-2474.

Agroecosystems analysis course August 2004

They warned us it would be intense and it was, but not necessarily in the ways we expected. We rarely have the opportunity to be part of a focused community that builds awareness, promotes reflection and leads to tremendous personal growth. It is even rarer for that experience to come from a three-credit class that brings together students and faculty from six universities, all in the small town of Sioux Center, Iowa-a course in which everyone spends seven days straight visiting a dozen farms, businesses and natural ecosystems with the goal of defining a process to analyze agroecosystems. According to Mary Wiedenhoeft, of the Agronomy Department at Iowa State University, "Every year we think it can't get any better, and every year it's better than the last." That course is the Agroecosystems Analysis Field Course, a collaboration among Iowa State University, Dordt College, Cornell University, the University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, and University of Wisconsin.

This year, the class met in early August with ten faculty members and twenty-six students, six of whom came from countries outside the U.S. to explore the definitions of sustainability and agroecosystem. The class also experienced first hand our local, regional, and global food systems and some of the policy that shapes them. Surprisingly, even in an agroecology class, the range of perspectives was extremely diverse. For many, the class was just as much about devising a process and being able to communicate and articulate viewpoints as it was about agriculture and ecosystems.

There is really nothing like visiting farms and getting to know the farmers and their perspectives. The week left many memories deeply engrained in our minds. The sight of five-week-old pigs running and playing on pasture, the smell of a 1,000-cow dairy manure pit, the taste of fresh-picked sweet corn and raw milk from a pasture-based New Zealand-style milking parlor, a native prairie at dusk with fireflies lighting up the sky, and many discussions that went deep into the night debating our place in this world.

Agroecosystems Analysis will be offered again next summer through the Agronomy and Plant Genetics Department. Contact Steve Simmons for more info at 612-625-3763 or email him at
-- Submitted by Courtney Tchida, M. Ed student in Agricultural Education

Want to learn more about this class? Come to the WUSA seminar on November 17th from 12:00-1:00 in 306 Borlaug Hall. We'll hear about the course experience this past August from the perspectives of its instructors (Dr. Steve Simmons, Dr. Paul Porter and Dr. Lori Scott), as well as the U of MN students who participated in the 2004 course.

Reaping the rewards of our SARE investment: the Multi-State Farmer Linkage Program

This is a unique opportunity for agricultural educators, farmers, and ranchers to meet face to face, discuss sustainable practices that work, and develop research and education priorities for Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Since 1992, almost 200 NCR-SARE Producer Grants have been awarded to farmers & ranchers in these targeted states, representing a wealth of knowledge.

Farmers and Ranchers plan to share your personal experiences and make an impact on the future of research and education in your state.

Agriculture Educators and Professionals plan to listen, learn, and discuss with farmers and ranchers the needs and possibilities for sustainable agriculture in your state.

The conference will take place November 12-13, 2004 at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa. For more information contact the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center at 402-4721748 or toll free at 877-496-5253. More information can be found on the web.

Upcoming events

Fifth Annual Fall Harvest Gathering for Women in Sustainable Agriculture.
November 12-14, 2004, Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center in Lanesboro, Minnesota. Features the Voices of Iowa Farm Women. Workshops and other Activities. E-mail Stacey Brown at for registration form. See Women, Food & Agriculture Network for more information.

Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environmental Research Symposium.
Thursday, November 18, 2004, 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. This symposium will serve to showcase IREE research efforts and discuss them with the broader community.Cowles Auditorium and Atrium, Humphrey Center, U of MN, West Bank. More information about IREE.

Preparing Pastures and Livestock for Winter: A Pasture Walk.
Wednesday, November 10th, 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m., U of M West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris, MN. Contact Dennis Johnson at 320.589.1711, or

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.