Blog

Crop Insurance: A Safety Net Becomes a Threat

When it comes to the crop insurance sweepstakes, southwest Minnesota farmer Darwyn Bach is a winner. But he concedes that his good fortune presents a quandary, since the way the program is implemented these days creates significant losers: the soil, beginning farmers and Main Street businesses that suffer when the number of families in a…  Read More

Cashing in on Soil Quality

Talk of how agriculture can improve soil quality seems to be popping up more frequently these days. Perhaps the most exciting recent mention was in an issue of Successful Farming magazine, which has produced an impressive package of stories called The Good Earth. Most of what’s in this package won’t be news to anyone who’s…  Read More

Loving the Land Enough to Let it Go

While recording a recent LSP podcast interview with southwest Minnesota farmer Carmen Fernholz, I was reminded of how important it is that farmers identify closely with the land they’re producing a livelihood from. As Fernholz put it: “If you’re a good farmer you can’t help but become attached to the land. And when you become…  Read More

Eating Our Own Farm Financial Cooking

One winter evening in 1999 I was sitting in on a Farm Beginnings class being held in the southeast Minnesota community of Plainview when a local banker stood up and made a statement that about knocked me out of my chair. “We need to eat our own cooking,” said the banker, Dean Harrington. The statement…  Read More

Conversations with the Land

Many good arguments can be made for supporting a type of agriculture less reliant on energy, technology and Wall Street, and more on soil, communities and people: it’s better for the environment, produces good food and keeps more Main Street businesses open, to name a few. But after reading Jim Van Der Pol’s just-published collection…  Read More

Why ‘Middleman’ Doesn’t Have to be a Dirty Word for Farmers

At a time when we’re all scanning the dark horizon of recession land for any economic spark, local food systems look to be a flare-up that’s got some staying power. The past several weeks have been full of signs that both in Minnesota and nationally producing and consuming food in our own collective backyard isn’t…  Read More

The Food Desert’s Hidden Oasis

While spending time in western Minnesota’s Big Stone County recently, I came across a lot of talk about food deserts—those places where people don’t have good access to healthy, affordable food. But while interviewing LSP organizer Rebecca Terk for this week’s podcast, an interesting twist emerged: a type of food desert can exist even when…  Read More

When Buildings Are More Than Buildings

When a business closes in a rural community, the following 24 months or so are key. Whether it be a farm, small town grocery or repair shop, if the real estate it occupied is still lacking a day-to-day human presence a year or two down the road, it sends a troubling message about the future…  Read More

Putting Out the Welcome Mat for New Agrarians

There are numerous ways of communicating the value society places on having more family farmers on the land, not fewer. This morning, the USDA announced it was awarding $18 million in grants to groups that are helping beginning farmers nationwide. That sends an important message that the federal government, thanks to initiatives put in the…  Read More

Troubled Waters Remain Troubled

A three-hour drive separates the rolling hills of Minnesota’s Douglas County from the front steps of the Bell Museum of Natural History. But a year after the controversy over Troubled Waters—the Bell’s Emmy award-winning film on farmland pollution in the Mississippi River basin—brought words like “dead zone,” hypoxia” and “nitrogen fertilizer” to the attention of…  Read More