CURE is taking a Stand for Food, assisting in a campaign to reinstate a ground-breaking, affordable one-year Sustainable Food Production diploma program at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls, on the edge of the watershed.
A visit to Paradox Farms near Ashby is like stepping into a textbook for river-friendly farming. Goats, chickens, ducks and dairy cows graze in rotation paddocks, graced by portable shelters and coops. It’s diversified livestock management at its best.
Until recently, the farm was a textbook, a hands-on lab for students enrolled in the Sustainable Food Production diploma program at M State. Program founders and Paradox Farm owners Sue Wika and Tom Prieve, along with other gifted ag instructor farmers in their area, created an innovative program to educate the next generation of sustainable and local food producers and educators.
Students enrolled in a rich blend of liberal arts and technical curriculum that taught critical thinking skills and rural sociology along with farm management, integrated livestock and cropping systems and artisan food preparation. Graduates started their own small farms, managed farms, established community and market gardens, created farmers markets, served as VISTA volunteers on reservations and urban areas, created consulting firms and became educators themselves.
The program became a national model at a time when CSAs, farmers markets and community gardens are booming, reflecting consumer demand for local food, sustainably produced, that’s good for water, soil and people.
Sadly, M State administrators missed this business trend, suddenly announcing last fall the program was suspended. Despite a letter-writing and petition campaign, offers of financial assistance from program backers and the forging of additional community partnerships by SFP faculty, grads and allies, the administration has dug in.
Aided by a small grant from the Unitarian Universalists, CURE launched Stand for Food, a campaign using social media and traditional tools to pressure M State and MNSCU into reinstating this valuable tool. Please joint us with a “Like” on the Stand for Food Facebook page, a visit to the Stand for Food blog, and following @Stand4Food on twitter. Share these tools with your friends.
While we are pulling together to restore the program at M State, the Sustainable Farming Association—Minnesota has taken the SFP program under its umbrella. If you’re interested in acquiring the hands-on essential skills necessary for a forage-based livestock producer, sign up for Farm Skills 101, a course running Oct. 4-5, 11-12 and 18-19. Friday classes run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A Friday evening local-foods meal is included in tuition. Learn more here.
Another proven winner to becoming a farmer, Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings Program, has extended its enrollment deadline to September 3. Details on the 10 month training course that provides 43 hours of training and hands-on learning opportunities in the form of classroom sessions, farm tours, field days, workshops and accessing an extensive farmer network can be found here.