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The Minnesota Project's blog features news, analysis, resources, musings, and events Centered on Sustainability in the areas of clean energy, local food, and conservation agriculture. Visit our Web site to learn more about the organization and our work at

Capture the Energy Savings!

October 16, 2014

One of our main objectives at The Minnesota Project is to help lower farmers’ production costs through conservation (consuming less energy) and energy efficiency (producing more with the same or less energy). If there’s a program offering financial assistance for new, energy efficient equipment, we encourage you to capture those savings!

On that note, we want to direct your attention to a USDA program called EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), under the NRCS (National Resource Conservation Service).  EQIP provides significant funding for energy and land conservation projects. EQIP has three “ranking and scoring” deadlines set this year for October 17, November 14th and December 19th.  Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, so if you missed the October 17th deadline, go ahead and submit for the November and December dates.

If you are interested in taking control of rising energy costs, use your first EQIP application to apply for an Agricultural Energy Management Plan. Step one for an agricultural energy management plan through EQIP is a farm energy audit.  Fortunately, EQIP provides funding for all requested farm energy audits.  Two weeks after your EQIP application, the NRCS office will provide you with an approval letter.  Then, you arrange for a Technical Service Provider (TSP) to visit your farm to assess your energy consumption by examining equipment, lamp fixtures, pumps, motors, insulation, etc.  The TSP will provide you with an extensive report, including recommended equipment upgrades or operational changes.  Once you have the report and show it to the NRCS officer, the NRCS writes a check for the value of the report you will use to pay the TSP.  In brief, the audit is provided at no cost to the farmer.

Once you’ve had a farm energy audit, you may apply to EQIP a second time for financial assistance on an energy conservation plan.  Conservation plans include lighting, ventilation, variable speed drives, and other upgrades.  Please note securing financial assistance through EQIP is not guaranteed. Applicants in the EQIP program compete with others across the state and are ranked and scored based on a number of factors, including cost effectiveness, kilowatt hour savings, the magnitude of expected environmental benefits, and project duration.

Most rural electric associations also offer financial assistance on new equipment. But unlike the USDA-NRCS, which will not provide financial assistance for projects that have started without their approval, rural electric associations will provide rebates for projects already installed, as long as the producer can show his costs and receipts. That is why we strongly suggest you apply to EQIP first, but ONLY if it’s right for you. We just don’t want you to miss any “free” money to help buy a new variable speed drive pump for your dairy farm or new LED lighting for your turkey barn. (And if you have natural resource concerns, you could also qualify for land-based conservation planning!). Nonetheless, it is still best practice to call your local utility and USDA service center rep before you start a project.

Local REA, USDA-EQIP, or both – we don’t care! We just encourage you to upgrade to technologies with paybacks and financing that work for your operation.

If you have any questions or need any assistance with the application process, please contact our Energy Program Director Fritz Ebinger, by phone at (651) 789-3330, or by email at

Planting Where it Matters

October 2, 2014

Fresh produce is one of the most expensive and perishable items for food shelves to purchase, but it is also vital for preventing chronic diseases and living a healthy lifestyle. This “food gap” is created when families-in-need who could benefit the most from access to produce, are denied due to financial difficulty.

The Minnesota Project has been working to alleviate the affects of this food gap, and took direct action last Saturday, September 27, when a generous group of volunteers and leaders installed twenty-five apple trees on the property of the The Food Group (formerly the Emergency Food Network) which is a full service a food bank that supplies nourishment to over one-hundred hunger relief partners in the area.


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The apple trees (five trees each of five varieties; Zestar!, Chestnut, Fireside, Red McIntosh, and Keepsake) once ready for harvest will supply the food bank with fresh, local, and high-quality produce. This will aid the food bank in conserving funds to purchase other essential items, and provide their visitors with much appreciated delicious and healthy fruit.

Last May, The Minnesota Project also installed a ‘micro-farm’ on the same property to supply the food bank with various sustainably raised vegetables and herbs during the entire growing season, and have already successfully donated thousands of pounds of produce.

Did you know that you can donate fresh produce from your garden to local food shelves? Read our Toolkit for more information, especially if you are interested in establishing a donation system between your community garden and local food shelf.

If you are interesting in volunteering for any of The Minnesota Project’s programs, visit to sign up!

Hoop House and Fruit Tree Planting Workday September 27th!

September 8, 2014


Help Construct a Hoop House
Join The Minnesota Project on Saturday, September 27th as we erect a hoop house at our Micro-Farm located at the Emergency Foodshelf Network in New Hope, MN. Volunteers are needed to assist with preparing the rows, constructing a 25′ X 50′ hoop house and with planting.

Hoop House Building Day
Saturday, September 27th, 9:00am – 1pm
Emergency Foodshelf Network – Micro-Farm
8501 54th Avenue N. New Hope, MN 55428
Cost: Free!

Register online HERE

Eric Larsen with Stones Throw Urban Farms will guide us as we work together to construct a hoop house season extension system for our Micro-Farm at Emergency Foodshelf Network.

For more information please call EJ at 651-789-3326

Fruit Tree Planting Workshop
Photo Sep 25, 3 11 22 PM
Help us plant 20+ apple trees and grow fruit for local food shelves! In this workshop we’ll learn basic fruit tree care and planting techniques and apply what we learn as we plant fruit trees at the Micro-Farm that will be used to help those in need for years to come. Volunteers are need to help dig, plant, and stake fruit trees. The workshop includes a brief indoor lecture followed by a guided hands-on opportunity to plant fruit trees.

Fruit Tree Planing Workshop
With Rebecca Koetter

Saturday, September 27th, 9:00am – Noon
Emergency Foodshelf Network – Micro-Farm
8501 54th Avenue N. New Hope, MN 55428
Cost: Free!

Register online HERE

About the presenter: Rebecca Koetter is a consultant working with various edible trees and shrubs throughout the Metro area. She has experience designing, selecting, implementing, harvesting and processing from nearly every fruit from a woody plant growing in MN. Rebecca has an undergraduate from Dept. of Forest Resources, Master’s degree from College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Science and worked with the Dept. of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota for five years.

For more information contact  Jared at 651-789-3321 or

It’s Harvest Season for Fruits of the City!
Harvest season for Minnesota apples and pears is here and The Minnesota Project’s Fruits of the City program needs your help gleaning fruit for local food shelves. Volunteer gleaners are needed to assist with harvesting fruit trees in backyards throughout the Twin Cities metro area and at nearby orchards.  

Be sure to visit Fruits of the City’s VolunteerHub page to see all of our posted volunteer opportunities. Events will be updated regularly and you’re sure to find a tree near you. Throughout September and October there will be plenty of opportunities to harvest for those in need. Visit for more information.

About The Minnesota Project
The Minnesota Project is a nonprofit organization championing the sustainable production and equitable distribution of energy and food in communities across Minnesota. To best address the multiple factors that define sustainability, the organization focuses on three areas – the development and efficient use of clean renewable energy, promotion of sustainable agriculture practices and production, and consumption of local, sustainably grown food. Founded more than 30 years ago, today the organization works toward establishing a sustainable Minnesota by 2039 through education and outreach, as well as developing key ground-up, grassroots initiatives targeted at empowering communities and their leaders.

To stay up-to-date with all the latest Minnesota Project news and activities, be sure to “like” us on Facebook at, “follow” us on Twitter at and visit us at 


Rural Minnesota Energy Board Issues First PACE Project

August 12, 2014

Blue Line Travel CenterThursday, August 7th will be a day remembered as the true ‘kick-off’ of the Rural Minnesota Energy Board’s PACE program—and it happened in style. Senator Al Franken made a stop at the Blue Line Travel Center to commemorate the first PACE project in the Rural Minnesota Energy Board territory. Larry and Deb Potter of the Blue Line will undertake a $74,000 outdoor lighting retrofit project which will replace all the bulbs in the outdoor canopy, building fascia, and pole fixtures with high efficiency LED fixtures.

The project will be financed by the Rural Minnesota Energy Board’s PACE program. Preliminary estimates project a savings of more than $14,000 in annual energy savings which more than offsets the payments on the project. This means the business will see an immediate improvement on the bottom line.

Franken addressed the group of nearly 25 supporters saying “It’s really a win-win situation. Not only do you improve your energy efficiency and use less power, you save money. You save money every year once retrofits have been installed and then you can reinvest that money, whether it is in hiring other people or maybe expanding or making other improvements. That’s why I have been a champion of retrofits a long time.”

The Blue Line Travel Center construction phase will begin in late August with a completion date in September 2014.

August Workshops and Events!

July 24, 2014
Trellising and Irrigation Workshop
10365492_10152342362963371_5915026597951504103_oJoin The Minnesota Project on August 3rd for our hands-on workshop at the Micro-Farm located at the Emergency Foodshelf Network in New Hope, MN. In this hands-on workshop we’ll cover the fundamentals of different larger scale irrigation designs and systems, including their setup and use. We’ll have some hands-on opportunities to set up the irrigation system for the Micro-Farm, too. We’ll also cover the topic of trellising- meaning supporting plants off of the ground – including different trellising systems and what plants require trellising.

Trellising and Irrigation Workshop
Sunday, August 3rd, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Emergency Foodshelf Network – Micro-Farm
8501 54th Avenue N. New Hope, MN 55428
Cost: Free!  Please RSVP online HERE

Our instructor Eric Larsen with Stones Throw Urban Farms will guide us in applying what we learn as we work together to construct trellising and a large-scale irrigation system for our Micro-Farm at Emergency Foodshelf Network.

For more information please call EJ at 651-789-3326

Urban Orchard Tour!
Saturday, August 2nd, 1pm – 4pm
Le Verger de Nadine
4433 Reservoir Blvd, Columbia Heights, MN 55421
Cost: Free! 

RSVP online HERE

Community members Jim Lipka and Nadine Snead invite you to tour their home orchard that has 30 semi-dwarf fruit trees and 72 dwarf apples on a standard urban lot in Columbia Heights. They’ve got semi-dwarf apples, pears (European and Asian), plums, cherries (Sweet and Sour) and a quince. The orchard includes 72 miniature apples in a Belgian Fence – an espaliered collection of trees pruned in a diamond pattern up against a flat plane. Jim and Nadine have every variety of apple publicly released by the University of Minnesota plus another 20 cold hard varieties in their collection. Most of the trees are fruiting this year. Come and see how one household has converted part of their backyard to fruit production, wild flowers, bird and animal habitat (and still has some lawn left!).

Door prizes, food, and refreshments will be provided. There will also be grafting demonstrations and information about how you can grow fruit and donate your excess to support local food shelves, should you be so lucky as to have too much.

Yardscaping with Fruit: Apples, Berries, Cherries & More!

Fruits of the City Logo-roundWith Rebecca Koetter
Tuesday, August 19th, 6:30 – 8pm
Eastside Food Co-op – Granite Studio Room
2551 Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418
Cost: $20 ($15 for Eastside Co-op Members!)

Register online at

Join the Minnesota Project’s Fruits of the City program as we learn more about some of the different varieties of apples, berries, cherries, and plums (and more!) along with the pros and cons of each. Find the perfect fruiting plant(s) for your tastes and yard conditions!

Edible Landscaping is made up of several tiers of plant types and each is very important for maximizing the production of food on your urban landscape. This class will focus on going through some of the different cultivars and species of the tree and shrub layer. Each one of the plants highlighted bear delicious and edible fruits that can be used for fresh eating, baking, juicing, drying, etc.

For more information contact Fruits of the City at 651-789-3321

Researcher Seeking Women Farm Land Owners for Focus Group

July 21, 2014

From our friends at Renewing The Countryside:

Peggy Petrzelka, a rural sociologist and associate professor at Utah State University, is travelling the country to gather informationFarmland from women farmland owners who lease their land to others to farm. If you are a woman landowner who leases land and would like to participate in the focus group please RSVP to Jan Joannides at or 612-251-7304.

The focus group will take place at:

Zumbrota Public Library, 100 West Ave, Zumbrota, MN 55992
Friday, July 25, 2014
10 am to 1 pm

(A complimentary light lunch will be served and mileage reimbursement will be provided.)

On Friday, July 25, Dr. Peggy Petrzelka will be in Zumbrota, MN to hold a focus group with women landowners. The meeting is part of a project to learn more about the issues that women landowners face nationwide and is sponsored by the American Farmland Trust and Utah State University and coordinated locally by Renewing the Countryside, with support from The McKnight Foundation and the Woman, Food and Agriculture Network.

“We know very little about this group of agricultural landowners, yet, know in some areas of the country their numbers are growing (in Iowa, for example, 48% of the agricultural land is owned by women, either as sole or co-owners),” says Peggy Petrzelka. “These numbers are expected to rise over the coming decade as the women inherit land from their parents or become sole owners if their husbands die before them.”

The focus group will include testing a draft survey that will eventually be sent to women landowners nationwide and discussing any issues/concerns women landowners have regarding their land and their interest in conservation practices. Woman will be asked to share their reactions to survey questions such as the regional appropriateness of the questions, length, confusing questions, questions which we need to be asking, etc. so the project can be improved.

The end product of this research will be recommendations to federal and state agencies to help them be more responsive to this subset of farmland owners

The Minnesota Project in the News!

July 11, 2014

Listeners of radio and watchers of local news may have heard and seen The Minnesota Project and our micro-farm project in recent weeks. If you missed it, here’s some links: Here, Executive Director, Dave Glenn and Emergency Foodshelf Network’s Sophia Lenarz-Coy, talk with Lee Valsvik of Cities97, Twin Cities Community which aired on June 8th and again on June 22nd.

And here, The Minnesota Project’s EJ Gurley and Emergency Foodshelf Network’s Executive Director, Lori Kratchmer are interviewed by Jessica Miles on KSTP on June 20th.

If you liked this and want to support The Minnesota Project, click here: Print   All donations are tax deductible. Thanks for the support!

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