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From the Ground Up: Help for MN's Freshman Farmers

Farmers Luke and Liana Tessum graduated from the 2006-2007 Farm Beginnings course, where they learned about business and marketing as well as sustainable farming practices. (Land Stewardship Project)
Farmers Luke and Liana Tessum graduated from the 2006-2007 Farm Beginnings course, where they learned about business and marketing as well as sustainable farming practices. (Land Stewardship Project)
July 13, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As the average age of Minnesota's farmers continues to trend toward retirement, a longtime program is helping the next crop of young farmers.

New faces are much needed in the industry, according to the Land Stewardship Project, a sustainable-agriculture support group. It holds a "Farm Beginnings" course and is taking applications for people looking to get started.

Course organizer Dori Eder said the goal is to connect new and prospective farmers with their more experienced counterparts and folks with related business experience.

"Ideally, people who hope to be farming within the next one to three years and who want to develop a plan to farm that is both ecologically sound and economically viable," she said. "So, it's really a strategic business-planning course for farmers."

In the past 19 years, more than 750 people have gone through the Farm Beginnings course. For the next round of classes this fall, people have until Sept. 1 to apply.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, consumer demand for locally grown foods is continuing to expand. Eder said she believes the next generation of Minnesota farmers and the state itself will see long-term benefits from making farm operations both profitable and sustainable.

"The more people in Minnesota who are farming sustainably and successfully," she said, "the better protected our lands and water resources are, the stronger our food economy is, the more that farmers can contribute to rural vitality."

The training program runs for a full year and typically meets on weekends to help freshman farmers to navigate everything from farm and financial planning to marketing.

Program information is online at landstewardshipproject.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN