New local food college offered in northwest Minnesota

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MPR file photo

The University of Minnesota is responding to a growing interest in local food production by offering a Local Food College for interested farmers starting January 24th.

The program will include seven classes over three months, offered at eight locations across northwest Minnesota via interactive television.

The sessions cover topics from soil preparation to crop production and marketing.

The most recent USDA Agricultural Census done in 2007 found about 4,300 Minnesota farms selling some type of food product direct to consumers.

A local food study done in Minnesota in 2011 said:

“The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Minnesota Grown program has increased the number of farmers listed in its directory every year for the past 20 years and now includes more than 1,000 farms that market their products locally.”

The same study pointed out an increase in small farms which are more likely to produce food for sale to consumers.

“Although the small number of very large farms in Minnesota continues to increase and medium sized operations (which make up slightly more than half of Minnesota farms) diminish, small farms seem to be more prevalent than in previous years. According to the USDA, between 1997 and 2007 farms between 1 and 99 acres increased faster than any other segment from 32.8 to 40.4 percent of Minnesota farms. As these farms are more likely to grow food for local consumption, this pattern may reflect the growth of the local food movement in Minnesota.”

Minnesota Public Radio’s Ground Level project examined the issue of local food in depth in this series of reports.

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