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Good News on the Beginning Farmer Front

What with ridiculously high land prices and Washington’s inability to focus on agriculture long enough to pass a Farm Bill, it’s easy to get down about the prospects for beginning farmers these days. That’s why a national meeting held in Rochester, Minn., earlier this month was so important—not only because it proved that there are…  Read More

Let’s Pull Back the Curtain on Frac Industry

I am a 6th-generation Winona County resident; I live near Lewiston on the family farm where I was raised. We are here today, in the spirit of openness and full transparency, to learn more about an industry that is poised to make a huge and rapid impact on this beautiful region. We are a region…  Read More

Restoring the Resource

I coordinate a project in western Minnesota that is based on the idea that producing positive environmental impacts in a watershed can happen without having to remake the entire region’s landscape. Scientific studies and on-the-farm experience suggest that just a 10 percent increase in diverse crop rotations, grasses and other perennial plant systems can be enough to meaningfully improve the safety of the water, reduce flood potential, restore wildlife habitat and stimulate a thriving local and regional foods economy. This is especially true if we can target fields that are particularly sensitive to problems like erosion.

Rolling Our Land to Death

I sat in a farmhouse one afternoon last month as a hot wind lifted rich topsoil from surrounding fields. On the drive in, I’d noticed a surprising amount of rill erosion on newly tilled cropland—surprising because recent rains had not been all that intense and the fields were not unusually steep. Out of the blue…  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

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

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

Mob Rule in Livestock Land

What do you do when a resource becomes increasingly scarce? One option is to use it more efficiently. That’s a key point livestock producer Greg Judy is going to make Sept. 9-10 in Alexandria during what promises to be a fascinating set of workshops. In this case, the resource that’s becoming harder to come by…  Read More

Denying the Science, Derailing the Solutions

I talked to a Todd County farmer yesterday who uses 100 percent no-till and other conservation measures to raise his crops. Conserving soil is important to him, and so he’s quite upset at how mobile humus has been on neighboring farms this fall/early winter. “You know that little skiff of snow we got the other…  Read More