Thinking about getting into farming? Farm Dreams is a good place to start


I meet all kinds of people who want to get into farming–whether it’s someone who wants to expand a backyard garden or cultivate a field for vegetable production, raise chickens to market eggs and meat, or get into larger pastured livestock production, organic grains, fiber, dairy, you name it! It seems like everyone has a “farm dream.”

But moving those dreams toward reality is a big step. How to get started, time, access to land, money, markets,–all those questions can cause a person with a farm dream to put it back on the shelf with a sigh–and without action.

Truth is, we need more farmers on the land to provide for an ever-growing demand for locally and regionally produced farm products and to strengthen our rural communities and economies. We need you and your farm dream!

Every year, Land Stewardship Project holds a couple of workshops that are helpful for exploring the aspirations of would-be farmers with a vision but without a clear idea of how to start down the path. The Farm Dreams workshop “…is the first step in planning an educational path toward farming and is designed to help people who are seeking practical, common sense information on whether farming is for them,” says Nick Olson, a Farm Beginnings instructor.

This year, the class is being held in Clinton, Minnesota (my fair city!) on Sunday, January 8th from 1-5pm. Class size is limited and the deadline is fast approaching, so pre-registration is required. The class costs $20 for LSP members and $40 for non-members, and it’s probably the best investment of time and money a farm dreamer can make.

Click HERE for the Farm Dreams workshop press release on the Land Stewardship Project website. For more information on the workshop (and to register), contact Nick at (320) 269-2105 or nicko@landstewardshipproject.org.

Hope to see you there!

South Dakota Local Foods Conference & GAPs Training Nov. 11-12


The South Dakota Department of Agriculture, Dakota Rural Action, Buy Fresh Buy Local SD, and the SD Cooperative Extension are all teaming up to hold a South Dakota Local Foods Conference, November 11th and 12th at the Huron Events Center in Huron, SD.

Friday break-out sessions include discussions on farmers markets, high tunnels, value-added, food safety, farm to school, and Buy Fresh Buy Local. Saturday focuses on GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices) training–good for all producers, but especially important for producers looking to sell to institutions or through distributors.

Contact Alison Kiesz at the SD Dept. of Ag for more information or to register: (605) 626-3272 or alison.kiesz@state.sd.us.

Spaces Still Available for Farm Beginnings in Sioux Falls!


Farm Beginnings is a farmer-led training and support program offered by Dakota Rural Action that provides participants an opportunity to learn first-hand about low cost, sustainable methods of farming and offers the tools to successfully launch a farm enterprise.

The course runs from fall through spring, with participants meet two Saturdays per month to learn about farm planning, financial planning, resources, marketing, and more. The next course starts in November, and applications are being accepted now!

Anyone interested in developing or transitioning their farm enterprise can and should apply. Participants can be of any age, do not need to own land, and prospective, beginning, part-time, and full-time farmers are welcome!

Participants come with a wide array of sustainable farming interests and experience, including:
Cattle, hogs, goats, poultry, and other livestock
Dairy Vegetable and fruit production
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and farmers markets
Grains
Fiber production
Specialty products like value-added foods
Flowers

The size and scale of production ranges from very small (just a few acres or a small urban plot) to large (hundreds or thousands of acres in production). Experience levels range from no experience farming to currently owning and operating their own farm.

To find out more about Dakota Rural Action’s Farm Beginnings course, visit their website.

Also be on the lookout for Farm Dreams workshops being held this winter through Land Stewardship Project and Dakota Rural Action on both sides of the Minnesota-South Dakota border.

VCDC Offers Flood Relocation Funds…to the Wealthy


Dang it, Steve.  The thing is, I really like you, and I think you’ve done good things for the community.

But it kind of sticks in my craw when I read in the Plain Talk that the Vermillion Area Chamber and Economic Development Company is offering relocation funding up to $5000 for victims of the Missouri River flood–that is, if they buy at least 100K worth of house or build a new one [Travis Gulbrandson, "VCDC offers flood relocation program," 24 June 2011].

What this says to me is that the VCDC wants people who could afford nice homes on the river to bring their wealth to  Vermillion (a truly shocking revelation).  If you had a modest place that flooded out or you lost everything, well, don’t expect a helping hand. The VCDC isn’t offering relocation incentives to young people starting out or families trying to regain their footing in tough circumstances.

I think I have a better idea.  Sure, it won’t make the realtors quite as much cash, but what if the VCDC looked at their priority job development areas–say, food business or light industry or the non-profit sector–and then considered the more modest salaries those people might expect?  And then what if the VCDC decided to incentivize on an inverse scale?

Instead of offering more money as the price of the house goes up, why not offer more incentive as the price goes down?  People who can afford a $100K house probably don’t need a $3K grant, but I’ll bet a young (or not-so-young) person or couple looking in the $75-80K range could be enticed by that figure.  How about a slightly larger grant for people looking in the very modest range–an incentive to help fix up some of the not-so-lovingly-cared-for dwellings?

Now, that would be a strategy that wouldn’t make me choke so much on that final story quote from VCDC Executive Director, Steve Howe–that “…we’re taking care of our own.”

Introduction to Permaculture Weekend July 30 & 31


Want to learn more about permaculture, but don’t have the time to take a two-week Permaculture Design Course? Then join us for a two-day Introduction to Permaculture Weekend at Glacial Lakes Permaculture in Estelline, South Dakota!

Topics will include:

• History, Principles and Ethics of Permaculture
• Permaculture Design & Methods
• Climate- and weather-resilient food garden design
• Water harvesting, storage, recycling
• Ecosystems, landscapes and soils
• Earthworking
• Permaculture in cold climates
• Orchards & forest gardens
• Animals in permaculture design
• Social permaculture
• And much more….

Activities will include a tour of Glacial Lakes Permaculture (the host site), lectures, presentations, hands-on projects, design work, group discussion, and networking with others interested in ecological and sustainable living.

COST: $100 – includes two full days of instruction & activities, tea/coffee breaks, two locally-grown organic lunches, handouts.

For more information or to register for this course, contact Karl Schmidt: karl@glaciallakespermaculture.org

A Correction on the SD Home-Processed Foods Law Tweaking


More information about HB1240′s hoghoused strangeness, that I wrote about rather scathingly in a recent post:

Apparently, the new piece of legislation does not change the previous Home-Processed Foods Law for shelf-stable baked goods and third-party processing authority-certified acid or acidified canned goods sold at farmers markets, roadside stands, and similar venues.

Here’s what it does do: it sets a $5000 yearly gross sales limit for homemade shelf-stable (non-temperature controlled) baked goods from the home itself.

The bill was crafted in response to a request from a constituent who has a cottage bakery business. The sales limit was reportedly set by the Dept. of Health in consultation with commercially licensed bakeries–the sales limit at which those commercial bakeries felt they were not threatened.

The limit was not set due to health or safety concerns.  The limit basically tells a home baker that they have to walk out their door if they want to sell more than $5000 worth of bread or cookies or cakes a year.

The new law is all about point of sale (where the money changes hands), and sales of baked goods at farmers markets, roadside stands, and similar venues do not count toward the $5000 gross sales limit for in-home sales.

I apologize for any confusion my initial post on this law has caused, though I have to admit that clarification on the content and intent has only increased my own confusion about the point of this thing.

SD Home-Processed Foods Law Gets Unnoticed Updates


I no longer live in South Dakota, but when I saw this legislative–>hoghouse maneuver, it really ticked me off.

Without consulting or notifying those who are affected, or those who actually worked on this legislation in the last session, SD legislators made some changes to the Home-Processed Foods Law and got them through committee and passed without anyone noticing–until now, that is.

First off, on initial introduction, HB1240 would have required a yearly $40 license from the Health Department to operate a “cottage food industry.”  Then the bill was hoghoused (SD speak for “stripped of its language and pretty much completely changed but still under the same bill #”) and changed to one that sets a $5000 yearly income limit on sales of homemade baked goods (pdf!).

I know the history of the SD Home-Processed Foods Law, so I know whereof I speak.  When our producer group worked with the SD Dept. of Health to draft this law, we asked for our own version of the MN Pickle Law, which does have a $5K income limit per year on home-processed baked goods and acid or acidified canned goods, but does not require testing of those canned goods.

What we ended up with was a version that allowed home-processed shelf-stable baked goods and acid and acidified canned goods to be sold at farmers markets, farm stands, and “similar venues”–but those acid and acidified foods needed to be tested by a “third party processing authority.”  And, there was no yearly income limit on sales of these goods.  At that time, the Health Department deemed income limitations unrelated to preserving the public health.

The recent legislation does not set a yearly income limit for the canned goods (cutbacks to the Cooperative Extension–the main processing authority–should pretty much see to that), but it does set a yearly income limit on baked goods.

So, why exactly did South Dakota’s legislators suddenly decide a fee limit was needed?  And why weren’t there any discussions about this new legislation with the people who are affected by it?

Representatives Greenfield and Sly? Senator Nygaard?  South Dakota’s small producers are on the line, and they have some questions…

 

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