Best of Neighborhood News 9/19: Somali immigrants utilize farmer training program to establish farms in Minnesota

For many immigrants with hopes of making a living off farming, owning and operating a farm can seem like an impossible task between startup costs, attaining Minnesota agricultural knowledge and finding a market for produce. The Minnesota Food Association (MFA) works to alleviate some of these challenges by offering an in-depth, hands-on farm training program for immigrants, refugees and other individuals from historically marginalized communities. As part of this program, many Somali immigrants, including Naima Dhore, have been able to find success in organic farming, sustaining the food system and carving out a niche for immigrant farmers to develop and hone agricultural skills. “The most important piece in the process for me has been letting [members of the East African community] know where their food is coming from and what their responsibilities are in terms of taking care of this planet that we all share,” said Dhore. “That’s the biggest takeaway.”

Read more at The Somali American. Continue Reading

Buffers: farmer mentions removal of Dakota people, whines about land grabs in same breath

The tweet above by a friend who attended the Governor’s buffer initiative meeting in Worthington was fleshed in a Worthington Daily Globe article by Julie Buntjer, Dayton’s buffer initiative targets water quality:A New Ulm-area farmer was the first to speak up, saying that of the 55 million acres in Minnesota, the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages more than 5 million acres, and 27 million acres is in production agriculture.“I foresee this as a land grab,” the man said. “My ancestors settled in southern Minnesota in 1858. They removed the Native Americans from this property to gain access to it, and now I look at our government moving us off of our land.”Moerke noted in a message that this statement caused some in the audience to groan.  Buntjer reports on the governor’s response:“We’re not trying to take your land away, but when it comes to runoff and stuff going into the water, that’s a different story,” Dayton responded. “If everything were good out there, there’d be no reason to get involved with it.”He then turned the table on the crowd, asking for solutions to clean up Minnesota’s waters.Covering the same meeting, MInnesota Public Radio’s Mark Steil reports in Plan to curb runoff too costly, unworkable, farmers tell Dayton:At a meeting in Worthington Thursday, farmers said they want to help solve the problem. But many told Dayton his plan goes too far and would take too many acres of cropland out of production.”I foresee this as a land grab,” said Tim Waibel of New Ulm, Minn. “When you start taking 50 feet of my ditch slopes away, it hurts you in the back pocket.”Moerke confirmed that Waibel is the same guy who mentioned that his ancestors removed Native Americans from the land and he now fears a land grab by the government.  This is a curious take from a guy who grabbed $588,971 in farm subsidies between 1995-2001, $4,765 of which came from conservation subsidies, between 1995 and 2012, according tothe EWG Farm Subsidy Database.Here’s a screengrab of the payments:[Another sign of Tim Waibel’s oppression are the crop subsidies he’s received, via EWG Farm Subsidies Database. He’s a victim.]Waibel’s farm property is locate in rural Courtland, Nicollet County. Courtland is a small town near New Ulm.  Waibel’s wife, Mary Jean Waibel, received $115,293 in subsidies from 2006 through 2012, according to the EWG database.In an added twist of irony, the New Ulm Journal reported in 2008 that the Pawlenty administration gave the Waibels a good neighbor award. Continue Reading

Mission to Cuba would make Minnesota farmers first to market

In mid-December the Obama administration announced it would begin to normalize relations with Cuba, opening the door to potentially lucrative new markets. Now, Minnesota farmers want to be among the first to move through it.The House Agriculture Finance Committee heard legislation Tuesday which seeks to help them do just that. HF772, sponsored by Rep. Jack Considine Jr. (DFL-Mankato), would provide $100,000 to identify existing and emerging opportunities in Cuba for Minnesota’s agricultural producers.“I believe there’s an opportunity for the best family farmers in the world, here in Minnesota, to expand the markets in Cuba as the restrictions are being lifted,” Considine said. “I’d like to see us get down there first.”The bill, which was laid over for possible omnibus bill inclusion, would also direct the Department of Agriculture to effectively communicate these opportunities to producers and processors. The companion, SF733, is sponsored by Sen. Dan Sparks(DFL-Austin) and awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee. Continue Reading

A rural take in defense of Rep. Jean Wagenius

A farmer friend emailed us yesterday:

Jean Wagenius has been a friend of family farmers in the last two years(and for that matter for a whole lot of years that she has served in the legislature) that she chaired the environment and agriculture finance committee on a number of issues, naming two of which are pollinators and “Forever Green”. She has been a strong defender of environmental review and gets that rural citizens should have rights to have a say about air and water quality in their community. Republican leadership acts like they are going to be bi-partisan but actions are louder than words. Continue Reading

Crop insurance: Good enough for Monsanto, good enough for sustainable agriculture

From the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction department: In 2007, Monsanto talked the USDA’s Risk Management Agency into giving farmers a discount on crop insurance premiums if they planted the company’s triple-stacked GMO corn. Reportedly, some reviewers of the proposal raised concerns that the premium subsidy would unfairly benefit a single private company. Continue Reading

Will the global climate talks address the challenges for agriculture?

The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP), a body under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), started on Monday, at the General Army Headquarters in Lima, Peru. With almost 30 tents set up across the premises, and thousands of representatives from governments and observer organizations running between plenaries, contact groups, and side events, the climate change negotiations are in full throttle. Continue Reading

5 below. In the dark. Under the coop.

I started riding NYC subways and buses on my own when I was about 12. My sister and I would take the elevated train to music lessons Saturday mornings – me for flute, Cathy for clarinet. For a short stint, we rode into downtown Manhattan on afternoons to clean cages and welcome visitors at the ASPCA. Continue Reading

“To lay an egg” – city style vs farm style

A milestone.

Even as a kid in New York City, I knew that “to lay an egg” was not a good thing. It meant you’d failed to do something you’d set out to accomplish – and everybody knew it. Why’s an egg synonymous with failure? According to numbers of Internet sources, it’s because an egg resembles a zero; and zilch is what goes up on the board when you fail to score. Continue Reading

Milk costs straining shops

Stephen Miller paid $3.15 for a gallon of 2 percent milk in August. Two weeks ago, he paid about $3.45 per gallon.Though it was a price increase of about 30 cents, Miller, the manager of Bordertown Coffee on 16th Avenue Southeast, said that extra money adds up for the shop, which goes through about 45 gallons of milk each week.As milk prices across the nation swell, local businesses, said Miller, are doing their best to keep prices reasonable while still managing to make a profit.Though Miller said the coffee shop is managing just fine, he said he thinks rising milk prices will contribute to a small increase in drink prices sometime next year.Because independent businesses like Bordertown and Espresso Royale usually don’t have extra money to dip into when facing large cost increases, they’re forced to raise prices.“In a small business, when you have margins that are as thin as they are — and the margins are very thin in small business,” Miller said, “there isn’t a lot [of money] to take … out of like a profit side of things.”The rising prices are tied to an increased international demand for the U.S.’s milk supply, said Marin Bozic, an applied economics assistant professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.Milk prices change every day, said Bozic, who also serves as the associate director of the Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center.Since milk is produced at an unpredictable rate and can’t be stored for very long, he said, its price is generally linked to other dairy products like cheese, which has a longer storage time.U.S. farmers have some cows that produce milk for sale within the country and some that produce it for international sales. But in recent months, more countries began demanding American milk, which has strained the product’s availability here in the states, he said.Qdoba Mexican Grill in Dinkytown has seen a rise in expenses as well, said owner Randal Gast.While the restaurant’s dairy products, including its cheese and the chain’s signature “3-cheese queso,” have slightly risen in cost during recent months, Gast said other changes in Qdoba’s overall pricing, as well as the cost of steak, present larger issues for the restaurant.Dinkytown’s Espresso Royale goes through almost 150 gallons of milk every week.Regional Manager Dan Zielske said though the coffee shop’s milk expenses went down last month, he’s noticed the overall increase.“It tends to be one of those things … that fluctuates more than other products,” he said. “[But] when it’s a sustained rise, you definitely notice.”Though the prices may not climb at Espresso Royale, Zielske said coffee and milk tend to have the largest pull on the shop’s prices.The cost of milk fluctuates so much, Bozic said, because dairy farmers can’t just will it out of their cows, and it expires quickly.“Supply cannot change much if needed; demand wouldn’t budge much if needed,” he said. “And if anybody sneezes, the prices can go up really high or really low depending on if we have a shortage or a surplus.”After a heavy demand for a commodity like milk, Bozic said, it takes a few months for prices to catch up. Continue Reading