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yellow apples on a branch

Professional Development

Jeff and Cindy’s current professional memberships include the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota's Lake Superior Chapter, the Land Stewardship Project, MOSES, the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, and the Organic Tree Fruit Association (OTFA). Cindy and Jeff also pay attention to what's going on with the Minnesota Apple Growers Association and the Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.

Farmer’s Perspective: On The Bookshelf

In addition to reading the newsletters published by various groups to which they belong, Cindy and Jeff stay up to date with resources, events, and methods through two electronic mailing lists: MISA’s Sustag Listserv and the University of Minnesota’s Poultry Listserv, and the OTFA and MOSES listservs.

As described under Assessing & Planning > Getting Started and Business Planning, Cindy and Jeff used a Farm Beginnings program and a mentoring program to strengthen their knowledge base. In addition to the planning tools they acquired from Farm BeginningsTM, an important insight gleaned from the wide range of speaker experiences was where they fit into the realm of financial situations. Some farmers rely on off-farm income, for example, and others have their land paid for; Cindy and Jeff appreciated the chance to explore how these and other factors affect what you can do and how fast you can do it.

Cindy and Jeff also regularly attend conferences, such as the MOSES Organic Farming Conference, the Minnesota Organic Conference and Trade Show, and workshops held by other organizations such as Sustainable Farming Association, the Organic Tree Fruit Association, and the University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. They credit many of their “lessons learned” to conference attendance, such as adding carbon to their chicken compost to keep the ammonia down; or feeding broilers at night, when they need energy for warmth, instead of in the morning.

They have also found conferences to be a helpful way to learn what not to do. At one point they were considering adding sheep to their farm, in response to ongoing customer requests. But after three days at a regional conference, they realized sheep were not a good fit for them at the time, and they were grateful for the opportunity to rule out the possibility before having invested time and money in it on the farm.

Jeff and Cindy devote considerable time to networking and to creating synergies between the farm and their off-farm careers. Their contacts have played various roles in their farming efforts, such as encouraging them to try raising hogs, inspiring the design for their custom-made cider press, or providing feedback on use of the mobile poultry processing unit so Jeff and Cindy could develop a manual and a rental protocol. Jeff works with the school district’s food-to-farm program and provides farm tours for school groups. Cindy is on the steering committee for a Seeds of Success Urban Agriculture program with Community Action Duluth to help develop a fruit gleaning project and a USDA proposal for a community food systems project (see also Production > Harvest & Processing > Apples & Other Fruits). She also serves as Orchard Manager for the University of Minnesota – Duluth Sustainable Agriculture Project.

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