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50 minutes | Oct 13, 2021
39: Building Relationships and Telling Your Story
Connecting with others and meeting new people has always been important to John Beaton, and it’s this flair for relationship building that is at the heart of his farm story. John and Emily Beaton operate Fairhaven Farm just north of Duluth, Minnesota. John got his start on a local CSA vegetable farm, where his mentor, Rick, eventually gave him space to plant his own field to start his farm business--something Rick’s own mentor had also done for him when he was starting out. A series of meet cutes and handshakes paved the way for the Beatons to buy a farm and grow their business in new directions. They were also privileged to have steady off-farm employment and financial support from family. John and Emily currently run a 50-member CSA on just shy of an acre of production, and grow plant starts for their local co-op and several other accounts in the region. These enterprises, too, grew out of personal connections and intention. After receiving so much support from others in purchasing a farm and getting started, John wants to do the same for other emerging farmers. Utilizing his firsthand experience with the process of finding and purchasing farmland, he serves as a Farmland Access Navigator through Renewing the Countryside’s Farmland Access Hub. Through this grant-funded program, he provides detailed, free guidance for land-seekers. He also serves as a Conservation Connector, helping connect historically underserved farmers with conservation programs such as EQIP and CSP (both of which his farm has applied for and received) that can provide some financial support. John intends to keep paying it forward. “We need more farms here, and whatever I can do to help people achieve that...that’s my goal.” This ethos is baked into Fairhaven Farm itself. He and Emily are looking to expand their gathering space centered around their pizza oven, building up a regional farm store and event space. To build relationships with others, John encourages fellow farmers to put themselves out there and tell their story. “Every bit of good fortune in one’s life comes from other people,” he says. And in connecting with others and authentically sharing one’s story, it creates opportunities to help each other out. John Beaton, Fairhaven Farm and Lake Superior Chapter member Jared Luhman, SFA Soil Health Lead Resources: Farmland Access Hub & Navigators Conservation Connections Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association. Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Leave us a review, or drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box.
59 minutes | Sep 29, 2021
Revisited: Planting Minnesota Garlic
It's that time of year again! Garlic growers in Minnesota are preparing for planting. We're bringing this episode back into your feed to help you get ready with advice from two seasoned garlic growers: Jerry Ford and Sunny Ruthchild. --------------------- “Minnesotans don’t like that garlic. They don’t eat that spicy stuff, dontcha know?” Jerry and Sunny and their sold-out-by-August harvest beg to differ! Jerry Ford and Sunny Ruthchild are longtime friends in Minnesota garlic and organic farming. Sunny runs Merryweather Gardens near Walnut Grove, raising garlic, poultry, vegetables, and pigs who are happy to be the clean-up crew for her orchard. Jerry raises replacement dairy heifers, grass-fed beef, and garlic with his family at Living Song Farm near Howard Lake. Before they get back out there to plant next year’s garlic crop, they’re taking some time to compare notes and philosophies as they prepare for the next season and climate unknowns. They get into: Site Selection - Jerry’s land is hilly, Sunny’s land is flat. They both make it work. Soil Prep - “If you need to add chemicals to the soil, you need a different site.” Timing of planting Seed garlic and varietal selection - Seed garlic grown in Minnesota does well in Minnesota. First-time growers & gardeners - Porcelain varieties are a great place to start Dip treatments - Nah. Their agriculture philosophies Mulching Being adaptable to change in markets and climate Garlic is a high-value, premium crop here in Minnesota. As Sunny says, “the truth is, Minnesota can grow garlic. And the other truth is, people in Minnesota love good garlic, don’t let anybody tell you anything else.” Jerry Ford - Living Song Farm, SFA Network Coordinator Sunny Ruthchild - Merryweather Farm Katie Feterl - SFA Communications Director The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Resources: Minnesota Premium Garlic Project Minnesota Garlic Festival & Virtual Directory Dirt Rich Episode 6: Harvesting Minnesota Garlic SFA Garlic Videos
46 minutes | Sep 15, 2021
38: Getting Water Quality Certified
“It’s hard to find a Minnesotan that’s not proud of the fact that we’ve got so many wonderful lakes in our region and we’re the source for the Mississippi River...We have a lot of pride for our natural resources in this state and we have a lot of pride for our operations.” -Jennifer Wagner-Lahr The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is a statewide opportunity for farmers to be recognized for their efforts to protect water quality. The certification also provides regulatory certainty for 10 years, and the process opens up opportunities for technical and financial assistance to help achieve certification. Farmers Jennifer and Larry Lahr laud the financial assistance and the guidance from their certifier, Mark Lefebvre, for helping make “the leap” in implementing some new practices into their crop and livestock operations comfortable. In this episode, the three guests share their experiences with getting certified under MAWQCP, some of the nuts and bolts behind the program and other opportunities for support, and the changes that they’ve seen on-farm as a result of implementing conservation and soil health building practices-- even in the face of drought conditions. Get started on program certification here or reach out to your local Soil Water Conservation District Office. More information on the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium pilot is available here. Katie Feterl, SFA Communications Director Mark Lefebvre, Stearns County SWCD Certifier, (320) 251-7800 x3, Mark.Lefebvre@mn.nacdnet.net Jennifer Wagner-Lahr, Lahr Heritage Acres Larry Lahr, Lahr Heritage Acres, (320) 761-3925, email@example.com The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association. Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Leave us a review, or drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box.
42 minutes | Sep 1, 2021
37: Wisdom of the Prairie: Diversity, Connection, Community
Megan Benage, a Regional Ecologist for the Minnesota DNR, brings her passion for the prairie to 32 counties in southern Minnesota--and to thousands of listeners on the Prairie Pod, which she hosts with fellow scientists. And today, she brings it to Dirt Rich! Once covering a full third of the state, Minnesota’s tallgrass prairie is now 235,000 acres of remnant reference prairie. Megan shares what the day in the life of an ecologist is like, and how her work intersects with agriculture. In fact, she describes the balanced prairie ecosystem function that she works towards as incredibly relevant to the farmer: “Every regenerative agriculture model that we have is based on how a prairie is just living its life.” There’s a lot to be learned from the prairie, especially in a changing climate. Megan distills it down to diversity, connection, and community. “When we put our natural resources first, we are putting ourselves first, because we all need the same basic things to live.” Additional Resources: Prairie Pod Xerces Society USDA NRCS Minnesota DNR ‘Beyond Your Backyard’ archive Katie Feterl, SFA Communications Director Megan Benage, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Regional Ecologist The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association. Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Leave us a review, or drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box.
24 minutes | Aug 18, 2021
36: Growing Grazing Dairy Farmers
Angie Walter, the SFA/DGA Central Minnesota Education Coordinator, and her husband Nate run an organic dairy in Central Minnesota, and are also masters in the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program. Today’s episode features them in conversation with their first apprentice, Ryan Heinen, who now manages a dairy in Waukesha, Wisconsin. His passion for ecology and restoration led him to farming and to grass-based dairy, and DGA helped him build a solid foundation to take on a new endeavor. The Walters and Ryan share their experiences in the DGA program from both the master and apprentice perspectives--it was a positive and valuable learning experience for all. Angie highlights the value of networking events, such as pasture walks, to dairy farmers of all experience levels. There are two pasture walks remaining this season, one on August 24 in Verndale, MN, and one on September 9 in Brandon, MN. Both are free, they include lunch! More information and registration can be found on SFA’s DGA page. Katie Feterl, SFA Communications Director Angie Walter, SFA/DGA Central Minnesota Education Coordinator, Walter Dairy Nate Walter, Walter Dairy Ryan Heinen, Land and Livestock Manager, Gwenyn Hill Farm Additional Resources: Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship SFA/DGA Resources and Events Dirt Rich Episode 19: Family Dairies & Apprenticeships The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association. Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Leave us a review, or drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box.
61 minutes | Aug 4, 2021
35: Pastured Pork & an Incubator Farm
“What else is livestock farming but sort of a dance and a balance between farmer happiness, livestock happiness, and soil health happiness?” Dayna Burtness discusses her “pastured pig-centric farm,” marketing enterprise, and incubator farm near Spring Grove, in the Driftless region of Minnesota. Dayna is the sixth generation in her family to farm in Houston County, and she and her husband Nick Nguyen are finishing 75 mixed breed heritage pigs on pasture this season. They utilize a wagon wheel hub model and are constantly experimenting to improve soil health, pit happiness and health, and farmer happiness and health. In her conversation with Jared Luhman, Dayna shares how her production system has evolved over time, her focus on soil health, her intentionality in the incubator farm, and her philosophy on marketing, pricing, and running a farm business. She also offers sage advice to those pursuing similar ventures, and plenty of examples of ‘failed’ and successful on-farm experiments. Jared Luhman, SFA Soil Health Lead Dayna Burtness, Nettle Valley Farm Additional Resources: Soil Health Case Studies Vol. 3, featuring Nettle Valley Farm “Building Profitable Farms through Direct Marketing” webinar video The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association. Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Leave us a review, or drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box.
34 minutes | Jul 21, 2021
Revisited: Implementing Silvopasture
In anticipation of our trio of silvopasture field days and workshops next week, we wanted to re-release Episode 10: "Implementing Silvopasture" as a refresher or introduction to the topic. If you'd like to learn more, you can also listen to our other episodes that cover this management approach with ecological and indigenous origins: Episode 9: "Silvopasture in Minnesota" with SFA's Tyler Carlson and Jared Luhman. Episode 10: "Implementing Silvopasture" with SFA's Tyler Carlson and Jared Luhman. Episode 23: "Origins of Oak Savanna" with Stephen Thomforde and Tyler Carlson. Episode 24: "Restoring Oak Savanna" with Stephen Thomforde and Tyler Carlson. Episode 25: "Home on the Tree-Range" with Tony Wells and Jared Luhman. Find more resources and information about the upcoming field days and workshops on our website. ------------------------------- Episode 10: Implementing Silvopasture Jared Luhman and Tyler Carlson return to further discuss Silvopasture: “the intentional integration of trees, forage, and livestock into one intensively managed system.” Formerly a trope to “keep livestock out of the woods,” now farmers have the tools to properly manage their impact. By intensively managing trees to optimize the growing environment for the forage below, as well as the timing and location of livestock grazing, farmers can reap numerous benefits. Silvopasture practices can boost soil health, water quality, wildlife habitat and diversity, and carbon sequestration. Silvopasture can also raise timber value, animal performance, and overall economic returns, making this system an attractive option for some farmers. Tyler describes his own operation, from his intensive study of agroforestry as a student at the University of Minnesota, to his 200 acres in Todd County today. He and his wife raise grass-fed beef, pastured lamb, and perennial fruits on their farm. Tyler shares his experience in working with both existing woodlands and establishing silvopasture on cleared land for those looking to get started. Resources: SFA Silvopasture & Agroforestry Homepage - Learn more and register for upcoming workshops here. Silvopasture Handbook Silvopasture Webinar Series University of Minnesota Silvopasture Learning Network NRCS EQIP Jared Luhman, SFA Soil Health Lead Tyler Carlson, SFA Silvopasture & Agroforestry Project Lead The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota. This episode is supported and funded by a grant from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). It is part of the “Oak Savanna Restoration through Silvopasture Project” in cooperation with University of Minnesota Agricultural Extension, Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM) at the University of Minnesota, and Great River Greening.
41 minutes | Jul 7, 2021
34: The Potential of Perennial Crops & Kernza
“I’m so heartened by the work that our farmers are doing, that our researchers are doing, to create these really sustainable crops--they’re actually regenerative crops--that are not only delicious on the plate, but really good for the land.” Beth Dooley shares the excitement for Minnesota perennial crops and Kernza that she, Jacob Jungers, and Peter and Anne Schwagerl all bring to today’s episode of Dirt Rich. Research by a variety of stakeholders, including the Forever Green Initiative and University of Minnesota researcher Jacob Jungers has been focused on the economic and environmental impacts of perennials like alfalfa, hazelnuts, pennycress, and the intermediate wheatgrass Kernza®. They’ve found that fewer pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are needed to grow perennial crops, and farmers reap the economic benefits. Additionally, the deep root systems that perennials grow provide many ecosystem services: fixing nitrogen, building fertility. While Kernza doesn’t fix nitrogen, it takes it from deeper levels of the soil than annuals can reach, and reduces the leaching of nitrogen into groundwater. Beginning farmers and SFA Western Chapter members Anne and Peter Schwagerl have certainly noticed those benefits on their farm so far. They have 40 acres of Kernza seeded on their organic farm this season. Says Peter, “it also offers a good way for us to tackle some of the very nitty gritty challenges that we face on a farm, particularly us as organic farmers. It really feeds a lot of needs for us from an agronomic standpoint.” They’re able to keep living roots in the soil, reduce tillage, improve pest and weed management, and break up soil compaction. The Schwagerls intend to eventually incorporate that fifth principle of soil health, 'Integrating Livestock,' and graze the forage that Kernza provides as well. As Jacob Jungers explains, grazing Kernza results in four potential income streams for the crop: grazing forage in early May, harvesting the grain, using the leftover straw for bedding or rations, and grazing again in the late fall. As markets expand for Kernza--just to name a couple examples: a Kernza grower co-operative is forming, and Dooley recently published a cookbook highlighting perennials--academic and farmer partnered research continues on quality, taste, measuring environmental factors, and increasing yields. The future of the crop seems to have great potential for connecting eaters to growers and land, tied in by the passion for great-tasting food and climate change mitigation. Links: July 8 Kernza Field Day UMN Sustainable Cropping Lab The Land Institute Kernza CAP Forever Green Initiative Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box. Katie Feterl, SFA Communications Director Jacob Jungers, Assistant Professor, Agronomy and Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota Beth Dooley, Food Writer and Cookbook Author, Beth Dooley’s Kitchen Peter & Anne Schwagerl, Prairie Point Farm, SFA Western Chapter members The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association.
44 minutes | Jun 23, 2021
33: Growing a CSA from 8 to 80
Dan Zimmerli is the SFA Community Organizer and Outreach Coordinator, and he also farms full time. He and his wife operate Cedar Crate Farm southeast of Mankato, growing produce for their CSA members. They started out with 8 members in their first season in 2015, and six seasons later they’ve grown it to 80--always with a goal of lifestyle balance in mind. Dan grew up on a corn and soybean farm in Redwood County, so he wasn’t new to agriculture when he started his own farm. He was drawn to growing produce because he enjoyed making personal connections with customers and knowing that they were taking home a high quality product that they could eat that day. “Our goals right now are really to make our farm truly sustainable in a holistic sense.” For the Zimmerlis, this includes being able to take Sundays off. To be able to leave the farm in the hands of their employees from time to time and take a trip. Technology, making processes more efficient, training employees well, and adding infrastructure have all played a role in growing their business while not spreading themselves too thin. His advice to budding farmers considering a CSA model: Start small. You want to deliver a good experience, because recruiting a new crop of members can be a lot of work. Network with fellow growers and/or like-minded individuals Try not to lose sight of the other things that you enjoy in life. Take time to enjoy them. Don’t discount the financial management and marketing pieces of your business. Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box. Jared Luhman, SFA Soil Health Lead Dan Zimmerli, SFA Community Organizer and Outreach Coordinator, Cedar Crate Farm The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association.
39 minutes | Jun 9, 2021
32: A Chat with Gabe Brown
Gabe Brown shares his ranch story and his 25+ years of learning about regenerative agriculture practices. Before “soil health” concepts entered the mainstream, a few hail storms in the ‘90s, financial challenges, connections made with soil experts, and some serendipity prodded Gabe to try things that were rather unconventional in commercial ag; he stopped tilling, he started planting some cover crops, he grazed, and he ran side-by-side trials with and without chemical nutrient inputs. He’d never seen earthworms in the soil there before, but soon they were appearing. He noticed soil aggregate and improvements in water infiltration--which, by the way, has increased from a half inch per hour to 30 inches per hour. Something was working. Another factor that Gabe attributes to his somewhat inadvertent foray into soil health is the fact that he didn’t grow up on a farm. He was a “city kid” who grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, and he and his wife eventually took on her parents’ ranch over the years. Knowing his neighbors would laugh at him no matter what he did, he wasn’t too worried about doing anything unconventional. And it’s been worth it: healthy soil has made Brown’s Ranch both more resilient and more profitable than it used to be. But he didn’t do it alone, Gabe is blunt about the valuable role of connecting with and learning from others in his own success: “Gabe Brown’s not very smart, but I know a lot of smart people.” Throughout their conversation, Gabe and Jared discuss how building healthy soils and stacking enterprises can boost farm profitability, and challenge the “feed the world mentality” as a promotion for high-yield, monocrop agriculture. Gabe also shares the ethos behind his “200-year plan” for Brown Ranch: “We don’t own the land that we farm and operate, we’re only borrowing it from our children and future generations.” Now retired from the ranch, Gabe helps other farmers work within their farm’s individual context to implement soil health principles and benefit their triple bottom line. He co-owns Understanding Ag, a for-profit consulting company that is currently consulting on over 22 million acres across the country. An active presenter, Gabe Brown spoke at SFA’s virtual 2021 Midwest Soil Health Summit. All session recordings are available on SFA’s Youtube channel. For more resources, visit Understanding Ag’s website, or their non-profit arm Soil Health Academy (there’s a June event in Cold Spring, MN for dairy farmers). There are also soil health and grazing resources and technical assistance available on the SFA website. Jared Luhman, SFA Soil Health Lead Gabe Brown, Brown’s Ranch, North Dakota; Understanding Ag The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Rate, review, or drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association.
33 minutes | May 26, 2021
31: Managing Spring Grazing
When is the best time to turn the cows out? Kent Solberg and Jared Luhman dig into this decision that sets you up for the rest of the grazing season. It can be awful tempting to get started as soon as we see green, but Kent illustrates how letting the pasture mature a bit more can extend the grazing season by one to two months. Waiting for the third leaf stage, starting in a new paddock each spring, increasing plant diversity, and grazing about 30-50% of the plant height are all beneficial towards animal performance and forage production in the long term. Kent and Jared also discuss some tips for management once you start your grazing season. Of course, it always depends on the context of the land and your goals. This is adaptive management, after all. Listen in for more sage advice from SFA’s resident grazing expert! More soil health and grazing resources are also available on the SFA website. Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box. Jared Luhman, SFA Soil Health Lead Kent Solberg, SFA Senior Technical Advisor; Seven Pines Farm & Fence (Verndale) The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association.
1 minutes | May 12, 2021
30: Spring Break
We’re thirty episodes in, and Dirt Rich is nearly one year old! To celebrate, my co-host Jared Luhman and I (Katie Feterl) would love to hear from our listeners and hand out some sweet SFA swag. To be entered to win an SFA hat (snap-back or knit, winner’s choice), simply post your favorite Dirt Rich episode to Facebook or Twitter, tell us why you like it, and tell us what you’d like to hear more about! We’ll use your feedback to inform our upcoming episodes. Don’t forget to tag us so that we see it. We’re @SFA.MN on Facebook, and @sfamn on Twitter. Thank you for listening! It's been a delight to bring these conversations on food and farming to you. Look out for a new one on May 26. Jared Luhman - Soil Health Lead, SFA Katie Feterl - Communications Director, SFA Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.
47 minutes | Apr 28, 2021
29: From "Conventional" to Resilient
When Jon Stevens first tried no-till, it wasn’t with soil health in mind. One “notoriously horrible spring” left it as the only option to get seed in the ground in 2014. More harsh weather conditions followed, and by the end of the season Jon’s neighbors were very unhappy with their yields, but Jon had made it through alright. He’d even noticed some labor savings. So he continued to dabble in no-till. The next season he implemented some strip-till, and as he says, “boy, that lit the ground on fire. That strip-till took care of a lot of questionable spots...immediately we saw a drastic reduction of runoff.” After hearing some buzz about cover crops, he decided to dabble a bit in that too. He was discouraged by how little came up and overwintered at first, and figured he was probably too far up north for it to work, but he kept playing with it. Over time, Jon started to notice a lot of little changes in the land, his labor, and his inputs adding up. His neighbors noticed too. After it rained, he didn’t have to wait long before he’d be able to get back in the field. “Wait a minute, I spent my whole childhood stuck in this spot, and now I’m driving through after a rain event and I’m barely making a little impression.” Something was really working, though Jon couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He started to reach out online and to other farmers, and found networks of farmers who were making real moves with soil health. Between those communities and Jon’s willingness to run field experiments and try new things even when things seemed to fail at first, he was able to adapt the soil health principles into the context of his own farm. In 2003, his family had sold the dairy cows and focused on conventional corn and soybeans. Today, the livestock is back on the land and Maple Grove Farms is raising corn, beans, beef, hay, and small grains on 700 acres this season. Over time, he created a more diverse, adaptable, and resilient system--both financially and environmentally. “All these positive things, there’s no question in my mind: I don’t have to have side-by-sides anymore for myself because we can already see the end result. And the end result is that we don’t need to rely on the commercial side, that we’re going to get it. We’re gonna be the ‘Gabe Brown of Minnesota,’ along with many other farmers that are doing this stuff.” Connect with Jon through his YouTube Channel or on his Soil Man forum. More soil health resources are also available on the SFA website. Want to get more involved and connect with fellow growers like Jon? Check out our event calendar for field days and webinars. You can also become a member of SFA and join a chapter in your region! Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box. Jared Luhman, SFA Soil Health Lead Jon Stevens, Maple Grove Farms, Rock Creek, Minnesota The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association.
53 minutes | Apr 14, 2021
28: Saving Seed & Dancing Feet
Today, Zachary Paige returns to Dirt Rich for a conversation on planning ahead for seed saving! You may remember him from Episode 21 at the top of the season. Zach farms and operates North Circle Seeds in Vergas, Minnesota. North Circle Seeds is a newly certified organic seed company and collective committed to creating an ecologically diverse, equitable, and inclusive food system. As the Minnesota weather warms and gardeners and farmers are beginning to plant, Zach has some pointers for planning your space for seed saving and some vignettes of the process behind saving seeds for arugula, tomatoes, squash, and carrots. Tune in for some recommendations on spacing, trellising, storage, equipment (‘smashing sticks,’ anyone?), and some colorful stories on the delicious foods and new connections that Zach has made because of saved seed. Read about North Circle Seeds in The Land. Want to get more involved and connect with fellow growers? You can become a member of SFA! There are 10 regional chapters across Minnesota. Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box. Katie Feterl, SFA Communications Director Zachary Paige, North Circle Seeds and SFA Member/Board Delegate The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association.
28 minutes | Mar 31, 2021
27: Home on the Tree-Range
Tony Wells and a few partners are years into developing a regenerative and resilient poultry production system that provides opportunities for small farm profitability, which they’ve implemented on a 40-acre farm. The model attempts to replicate a forest habitat for poultry, incorporating perennials like hazelnuts and elderberries into a silvopasture system. Not only do the birds enjoy the shade and cover from aerial predators provided by the canopy, but the hazelnuts thrive on the nitrogen-rich chicken manure and offer an additional income stream. Tony says that after 5-7 years, the hazelnuts will make up 30-50% of the farm’s revenue. Years before Tony joined the venture, his partners Wil Crombie and Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin were working on developing the system. Regi worked with many breeds, researching which would be most suitable for their design. The breed of chicken they’ve found success with? Aptly, Freedom Rangers. The goal is for this model to be replicated on other farm sites. “It’s really, really hard for one farm to make it on their own and market their own products…it’s always going to work better if multiple farms can work together.” That’s why developing scalable business infrastructure has been a significant part of the venture. Rather than each individual farmer taking the chickens to the processor, the team picks up birds and transports them there. They also handle all the distribution and sales under the Tree-Range Chicken brand. What started as a curiosity around food production and nutrition—“What goes into food?”—has blossomed into new friendships and partnerships, transplanting from Minneapolis to a Faribault farm, and a new career raising “tree-range” poultry for Tony. “I haven’t yet found anything I would rather put my energy towards at this point in my life.” Tony and Reginaldo were interviewed for SFA’s new Silvopasture Case Study series, which was just published in March 2021. Find more resources on Silvopasture on SFA’s resource page. Tony's Poultry Processing survey Tony Wells, Regeneration Farms, Cannon River Chapter delegate to the SFA Board of Directors Jared Luhman, Soil Health Lead, Sustainable Farming Association, firstname.lastname@example.org The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.
41 minutes | Mar 17, 2021
26: AMPed for Grazing!
Over the years of establishing and fine-tuning their management systems, grazing has become absolutely key in both Jared Luhman’s and Doug Voss’ cattle and dairy operations. Beyond rotational grazing, Adaptive Multi-Paddock grazing (or AMP) has improved the ecology of their farms--not to mention saved the time, energy, and expense of hauling around feed and other off-farm inputs--by modeling their grazing systems after the natural movement of wildlife across landscapes. “There’s no substitute for what comes out the back of a cow or small ruminant,” Doug jokes. Doug hasn’t used any off-farm inputs for years, and yet his yields continue to increase. The adaptive part of AMP is quintessential: not only is a successful grazing plan going to be unique and flexible to the context of a piece of land, but to the conditions that may come to pass during the season, be it a change in rainfall or a family wedding you need a couple days to travel to. The number of variables to consider may be daunting, but as Doug reminds us, creating an adaptive grazing plan is more of a journey than a destination. In the interview, he shares some advice for those looking to start to graze as well as those looking to improve their management, covering fencing, watering systems, rest periods, and examples from Voss Farms. The payoff is worth it. AMP grazing has brought Doug great peace of mind and more predictable income: “I have far fewer challenges where I’m not going to be productive or profitable on an acre of ground than I’ve ever had before.” Whether you own a herd or land, there are a lot of good resources to help you get livestock applied appropriately to your land: SFA Soil Health resources SFA Silvopasture resources Technical Assistance Program for Graziers Nourishment by Fred Provenza SFA also offers technical assistance to farmers, with priority given to SFA members. Doug Voss, Grazing Lead, Sustainable Farming Association, email@example.com Jared Luhman, Soil Health Lead, Sustainable Farming Association, firstname.lastname@example.org The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.
52 minutes | Mar 3, 2021
25: Integrative Nutrition with Sara Keough
Sara Keough MS, CNS, LDN is an Integrative Eco-Nutritionist specializing in clinical nutrition and regenerative agriculture to restore both human and ecological health. “Eating is an agricultural act,” are words from Wendell Berry that have stuck with Keough through her career and help illustrate the nature of her work. Her goal is to teach her patients the importance of their food choices: it’s about individual health, and also about how those choices impact our ecosystems. In a culture where discussions on diet and nutrition can often be very number-oriented or granular to the average eater, Sara’s approach stands out not only as holistic, but as tailored to the individual body (bio-individuality), exploratory, and social. She shares her knowledge and experience with nutrient dense foods, the role of animal proteins, farmers as healers, the value of eating seasonally, advice for navigating mixed messages around nutrition, and much more. Sara Keough will be speaking at SFA’s virtual Midwest Soil Health Summit (March 9-11, 2021) on March 10. Learn more about the Midwest Soil Health Summit and register on the SFA website. You can also keep up with Sara on Understanding Ag. Some of her recent articles include: Regenerating Human Health & Building a More Resilient Food System: Calls to Action Among Farmers, Consumers, and Healthcare Practitioners Artificial Animals - Part 1 Artificial Animals - Part 2: The Hidden Dangers of Processed Plant Proteins Sara Keough, MS, CNS, LDN, Integrative Eco-Nutritionist Katie Feterl, SFA, Communications Director The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.
43 minutes | Feb 17, 2021
24: Restoring Oak Savanna
Tyler and Stephen pick up their conversation on oak savanna from our last episode: How do we restore oak savanna? What does it take? Where have we been and what’s been missed in prior restoration attempts? According to Stephen, “restoration is restoring the processes that maintain the desirable vegetation.” He dives into a variety of techniques used to do so including spraying, mowing, burning, baling, and grazing. Knowing what to take and what to leave is key in changing the trajectory of an ecosystem. Stephen and Tyler also get into a popular question: do we really need fire? What is necessary to maintain the savanna once you have it where you want it? To parse out an answer to that question, Stephen walks us through historical and ecological perspectives. Considering the relationship between burning and grazing, the pair land on grazing as a primary tool and burning as a secondary tool to maintain savanna grassland; grazing reduces the necessity of burning. The opportunity of farming and restoring oak savanna simultaneously is exciting, and Stephen looks forward to the growing cooperation between farmers and conservationists to build understanding and successful restoration work. He imagines the potential that could stem from bringing grazers back into the picture on more of the landscape, even in urban areas: a stronger local food economy, more meaningful jobs. The possibilities just might be as diverse as the ecosystem itself. SFA’s Silvopasture & Agroforestry webpage: https://www.sfa-mn.org/silvopasture-agroforestry/ Silvopasture Learning Network: https://silvopasture.umn.edu/home The name we were struggling to remember towards the end of the episode was Tom Barthel of Snake River Farm. Check out his work in Sherburne county with bison and other grazers here. Stephen Thomforde, Stantec, Senior Ecologist Tyler Carlson, SFA, Silvopasture & Agroforestry Project Lead The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota. This episode is supported and funded by a grant from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). It is part of the “Oak Savanna Restoration through Silvopasture Project” in cooperation with University of Minnesota Agricultural Extension, Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM) at the University of Minnesota, and Great River Greening.
55 minutes | Feb 3, 2021
23: Oak Savanna Origins
Stephen Thomforde, farmer, Stantec Senior Ecologist, and expert in fields of oak savanna research and restoration takes us on a deep dive into oak savannas. Throughout the episode, he describes the patterns of this ecosystem’s growth across geographical space and time, all the way back to when mammoths and mastodons walked Minnesota. In short, a savanna is a grassland that has trees in it. Trees that have evolved with the grassland and the grazing animals. But even the history of the word originates back to aboriginal North Americans. And in his discussion with host Tyler Carlson, Stephen brings the 1,000-foot view of the ecosystem: illuminating complex details that are often left out of common narratives of oak savanna, and dropping us back in the present day. Why does the management of this landscape matter? What does it have to offer people? Find out in part one of this two-episode interview with Stephen Thomforde and Tyler Carlson. Stephen Thomforde, Stantec, Senior Ecologist Tyler Carlson, SFA, Silvopasture & Agroforestry Project Lead The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota. This episode is supported and funded by a grant from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). It is part of the “Oak Savanna Restoration through Silvopasture Project” in cooperation with University of Minnesota Agricultural Extension, Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM) at the University of Minnesota, and Great River Greening.
30 minutes | Jan 20, 2021
22: Matchmaking for Livestock & Land
“I think the future of farming looks more collaborative. It looks like working together, and it’s about stacking enterprises.” Meghan Filbert of Practical Farmers of Iowa (and a beginning farmer to boot) joins Dirt Rich to talk about an online tool facilitating just that. Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) is a nonprofit in Ames, Iowa with a mission to equip farmers to build more resilient farms and communities. They believe that farmers learn best from other farmers, so it’s no surprise that the online platform they helped create brings farmers together. The Midwest Grazing Exchange is billed as “a matchmaking website for livestock and land.” Farmers in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin can use the website to connect with folks looking for rural or urban land to graze their livestock on and vice versa. “It’s like Tinder for cows,” Meghan quips. There isn’t a lot of livestock on the land in Minnesota, so the website creates a great opportunity for beginning farmers and row crop farmers to partner and both reap the economic benefits. For host and farmer Jared Luhman, there’s definitely a draw. “Every day that my cattle are grazing is a day that I’m not feeding hay, and that day that I’m not feeding hay is saving me quite a bit of money. For me as a livestock producer, if I can find somewhere to graze my cattle on somebody else’s land for cheaper than I can feed it at my own farm, then I’m going to do it.” This matchmaking tool can also be an asset to beginning farmers in starting a custom grazing business. In addition to the soil health benefits that come along with properly managed grazing, there’s even solid potential for an income stream for participating landowners. Meghan adds that “if you plant cover crops as a row crop producer, we know that by grazing those cover crops that is a way that you’re going to benefit economically in the short term. Within the same year...you can turn a profit and then some.” The Midwest Grazing Exchange website also includes other resources to help farmers make these grazing partnerships, such as templates for leases and agreements. In the episode, Meghan and Jared also have some pointers in figuring out your rate, and Meghan does a basic walkthrough on how to use the website and start finding opportunities in your area. If you’re looking to extend your grazing season, save some money, make some money, or improve your soil health with grazing--give the Midwest Grazing Exchange a gander! Jared Luhman, SFA Soil Health Lead Meghan Filbert, Practical Farmers of Iowa Livestock Program Manager email@example.com (515) 232-5661 The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA. Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.
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