From the Executive Director: Meet the “boots on the ground” of SFA

Pictured: Part of the SFA team at a winter staff retreat in 2019.

It’s the last CONNECT of 2020, and a great opportunity to say “thank you” to the amazing team of staff and consultants who make SFA such a solid organization. Here’s who’s wearing the “boots on the ground” at SFA.

Katie Feterl, SFA Communications Director, works almost full time and has grown into the position with a flourish. The new podcast series “Dirt Rich” is made possible by her creative efforts and those of Jared Luhman and other contributors. Jason Walker, Deputy Communications Director, works part time and does amazing layout, is our database “go to” person, and keeps event registrations, meetings and activities smooth and professional. Laura Borgendale continues as SFA’s webmaster. This team really keeps our communications, online fundraising and social media programs hopping.

SFA’s Soil Health Team includes Jared Luhman, Soil Health Lead, whose columns and podcasts now populate our CONNECT columns and PodBean. He works full time and coordinates several projects, a new one featured in this CONNECT. Kent Solberg, Senior Technical Advisor (now working fewer SFA hours), continues to specialize in livestock integration and soil health, and lends his expertise to MN Dairy Initiative (MDI) and Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA). Doug Voss works part time as SFA’s Grazing Specialist, and also serves MDI dairy farmers. Angie Walter rounds out that team as the Central Minnesota Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Educational Coordinator (part time). This is a wonderful group who pull in the same direction and are eager to provide on-farm support, whether to a new farmer or one transitioning from conventional to sustainable practices.

New this year is our Silvopasture Team, led by Tyler Carlson, a farmer and silvopasture practitioner, and assisted by Wayne Monsen, providing a steady hand to our Professional Development Program. Some of you may know Dr. Diomy Zamora, who has been with SFA for several months as a Silvopasture and Agroforestry consultant. This project offers yet another regenerative agriculture practice that hearkens back hundreds of years.

In this edition of CONNECT you are also being introduced to Sarah Lindblom, Moses Momanyi and John Beaton who are coordinators for our new outreach and education project on soil health, conservation and NRCS Programs for underserved communities. We partner with Renewing the Countryside on this project, which you’ll hear more about soon.

The SFA organizing team includes Jerry Ford, Network Coordinator, who is best known as the Garlic Project Director. He works with Greg Schweser of UMN’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (RSDP). Jerry too works part time but it seems like it is round the clock. Dan Zimmerli is the Rural Organizing Leadership Development Project Community Organizer, and is working on new chapter formation as well as an innovative “Local Foods Expo” in the Minnesota River Valley area. Dan and his wife Lara just welcomed new baby Addy Lynne to their family! It is my hope that this team helps build SFA’s membership and leadership capacity in the coming year as our chapters move into a new era post COVID19. Peggy Prall with Mahoney, Ulbrich, Christenson and Ross does SFA’s books and has shown me excellent techniques to keep our financial transactions efficient and in order.

As the year closes, we are saying goodbye to Connie Karstens who ably coordinated the Asparagus Project, scaling back due to reduced funds. Annie Klodd with UMN Extension, Paul Schmidt (Schmidt Farms), Noreen Thomas (Doubting Thomas Farms) and Sarah Swan, RSDP, all did exemplary work creating asparagus workshops, fact sheets, webinars, and even a YouTube video with volunteer Jameson Johnson. On a limited basis, they are available for further workshops.

I can’t tell you how enjoyable it is to work with this crew. They were so adaptable when SFA had to pivot during COVID19 and joyfully launched our podcast. Thank you, staff and consultants, and SFA Board of Directors and chapter leadership, for enabling SFA to be true to its motto agriculture done well heals.

My best to you and your families as we celebrate the holidays and welcome in 2021, a New Year for innovation in soil health and regenerative agriculture!