Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association Chapter Networking

1997 Annual Report for ENC97-019

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1997: $41,600.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1999
Matching Federal Funds: $2,900.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $19,800.00
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
DeEtta Bilek
Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota

Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association Chapter Networking


Objectives of this project include:

1) Further develop structure of the Inter-Chapter Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) of Minnesota Resource Network as the link between farmers and agricultural professionals;

2) Develop resource data including SFA farmer members as tour hosts and speakers, Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Services Agency (FSA), media contacts, and other agriculture organizations;

3) SFA, Extension, NRCS, FSA and others co-sponsor one farmer-led, on-farm field day and one workshop within each of the 12 chapter areas, specifically inviting all agricultural professionals from local chapter area; and

4) Develop partnerships with other sustainable agriculture projects currently being funded.

The Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota’s Chapter Networking project provides continuation and expansion of the SFA of Minnesota’s networking and educational programs. SFA members have been hosting farmer-led, on-farm field tours for more than 10 years in Minnesota. It is very valuable when a field day is followed by a workshop with more detail being presented on the topic.

It has been recognized that networking with other agriculture organizations and agencies can have a great effect on the community discussions and solutions for and about agriculture. Professionals from other agriculture organizations and agencies have been specifically invited to the on-farm, farmer-led events. Networking between agency personnel, conventional farmers and farmer members of the 12 chapters of the SFA is the focus of this project.

In the second year of the project, the chapters continued to develop their lists of Extension, NRCS and other agency personnel contacts and specifically invited these contacts to local events. The chapters continued to develop the resource lists of SFA farmer members, identified by product or area of expertise, and invited these farmers to host field days and present at workshops. Local food products were served at events to emphasize the importance of the producer-consumer link.

Whenever emphasized and accomplished, this networking with agency personnel to attend, co-sponsor, and announce field days and workshops has enhanced participation at events. At least five field days were held, hosted by four of the 12 chapters, with more than 200 people attending. The Southeast SFA hosted a Grazing and Haying field day at the Dan Miller farm, co-sponsored by Extension, SWCD and Farm Business Management program. The Crow River SFA hosted a field day at the Bihl farm combining the organic beef presentation with vegetable garden information, co-sponsored by the local Garden Club.

At least six workshops were held, hosted by five of the 12 chapters, with more than 300 people attending. The SFA Eighth Annual Statewide Event, Producer-Consumer Link – Making the Connection, was held at the Earle Brown Center at the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota in March 1999 with 120 attending. At least 20 were U of M personnel and students.
A direct marketing strategy makes it possible for the farm to realize a significant increase in net profit. Linking with consumers is the way to turn farm resources into profit. Using Chapter Handbook materials and a Field Tour work plan has assisted the chapter coordinators and Boards in planning events to make sure important details are covered. Additional field days and workshops are being planned to complete the commitment of at least one field day and one workshop in each chapter area.

As lists are being further developed, the importance of efficient data management has been recognized. This data is utilized for announcing events, and so far more than 200 names have been added to The CornerPost (SFA newsletter) mailing list. This list includes Extension, NRCS, SWCD, DNR, media contacts and policy makers. Chapter news, articles about chapter activities and events, is included in The CornerPost. The CornerPost also includes a Calendar of Events, which is a valuable resource for those receiving this newsletter to plan to attend specific events or to schedule their local events. Event announcements are also included on the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture web-site calendar and in the U of M Extension Sustainable Agriculture newsletter.


DeEtta Bilek

Sustainable Farming Assoc. of MN
MN 56434