HJ/EDHerald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch Jan. 16, 2006

Conference speaks to sustainable farmers

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Farmers and growers gathered for ideas and education Jan. 7, for the Crow River Sustainable Farming Conference (CRSF) at St. James Lutheran Church in Howard Lake.

“We are a grass roots organization that encourages farmers to live on the land, be healthy and prosperous and become an integral part of a vital rural community,” according to CRSF President Jerry Ford of Howard Lake.

The Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota “supports the development and enhancement of sustainable farming systems through farmer-to-farmer networking, innovation, demonstration, and education,” according to its mission statement.

The Crow River chapter includes the Twin Cities and rural counties to the west along the Crow River.

The chapter emphasizes sustainable education practices and an outreach program for young people.

Some future events are the Minnesota Garlic Festival and farm tours including an upcoming tour of Senator Steve Dille’s 637-acre farm north of Dassel along the Crow River in July.

The church halls were filled with exhibits from local businesses and growers. They included, Cattail Corner of Howard Lake, Dan and Becky’s Market of Cokato, Mary Schmidt’s Gardens Galore of Winsted, Living Song Farm of Howard Lake, and the University of Minnesota’s Extension Service.

Representative Dean Urdahl spoke about new legislation including grants for encouraging reduced pesticide use and installing E85 pumps at stations. He stated, “I commend all of you for your efforts.”

The all-day conference included six special interest sessions “Preparing for Conservation Security Program,” “Herbs for Health,” “Compost Teas,” “From Land to Nose” about essential oils, “Alternative Weed Control,” and “Garlic Roundtable.”

The keynote speaker was Mary Tkach from AVEDA on Environmental Sustainability from Farm to Company to Planet.” This was more of a success story of a business that practices environmental sustainability.

Tkach spoke of businesses that can become prosperous in a “environmentally and socially responsible way,” she said.

AVEDA and like companies know where their products come from and research safer ingredients and energy efficient manufacturing of the products.

Ford announced the winners of the “Outstanding 4H Members” for Wright and McLeod County along with the “Outstanding FFA Member. These awards are given by the chapter to “support and encourage the next wave of young farmers,” according to Ford.

For Wright County, the award went to Emily Dahlman of Cokato, with a gift certificate to Cattail Corner. The McLeod County Outstanding 4H member was Elise Schlueter of Hutchinson and the outstanding FFA member was Howard Lake graduate Jacquelyne Koch.

Conference attendee Karen Fadden of Howard Lake, who grew up on a farm and has been involved in 4H, said. “I’m old enough to have watched how farming has changed, and I know how certain practices can be hard on the animals and the land...I want to see if this movement can change that direction...it’s a sense of social obligation to the world.”

If anyone is interested in joining the Crow River Chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota, contact Jerry Ford (320) 543-3394 or at jerry@marienne.com or check out the web site www.sfa-mn.org for more informations about the program.

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