People to People: Sustainable Agriculture Networking for Farmers and Rural Communities
The People to People project is a continuation and expansion of the Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) of Central Minnesota's networking and educational programs. The SFA recognized that networking with other agriculture organizations and agencies can have a great effect on the community discussions and solutions for and about agriculture. The SFA can be the link to strengthening these relationships.
The major goal of this grant is to continue and expand educational outreach and networking opportunities for farmer members for the SFA and other interested parties. To achieve this broad goal, our objective is divided into four areas: Whole-Farm Planning, Farmer Travel, Developing Markets/Marketing Knowledge, and Developing School Curriculum.
The objective of the Whole-Farm Planning is to provide a minimum of six workshops or field days per year in our region on topics such as agroforestry, biological monitoring and other areas of interest to member farmers. By networking with other agriculture organizations and agencies, the SFA of Central Minnesota has provided six field tours/pasture walks with more than 200 attendees.
Farmer travel funds have made it possible for farmer members to attend other events that are relative to area needs, providing them with an opportunity to network with each other and offer support to one another. The participants bring information back to share with others at local field tours/pasture walks and meetings.
Two marketing workshops have been hosted with more than 30 attendees. These events have provided information to many area farmers looking for ways to improve their bottom line. Direct marketing appears to be a possible solution to many struggling farmers.
The school curriculum is an opportunity to develop written workbooks, handouts, teaching support materials and videos about sustainable agriculture. The high school level, which focuses on agroforestry, is completed and is available for distribution by request from the SFA of Central Minnesota's expanded resource library. The first and second grade portion of the project is being pursued with plans to complete and distribute a coloring book and 12-minute video by September 2000.
The SFA of Central Minnesota has continued to develop and work with area projects. Individuals and groups have emphasized the importance of continuing to provide opportunities for teamwork and farmer-to-farmer networking and see SFA as a link to building bridges between agencies, other agricultural organizations and individual farmers. Attendance at and participation in pasture walks and field tours and workshop document the positive impact on the community. This involvement has opened doors to many opportunities for area farmers. These opportunities include information on how to produce alterative crop sand learning how to direct marketing crops and livestock as value-added products. This project was instrumental in laying the groundwork and early development of a Dairy Diagnostic Team Project, which was funded by the Minnesota Legislator through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to the SFA of Minnesota. Hazelnut research and development is a new opportunity for local farmers as an on-farm option. On-farm options include, but are not limited to, crop diversity, crop rotation and agroforestry.
For more information:
Central Chapter Coordinator
Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota
RR 3, Box 54
Browerville, MN 56438