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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 www.mnproject.org.

Help Our Award Winning Program Grow!

November 8, 2014

Give To The Max Day 2014 - Nov. 13th.November 13th is Give to the Max Day in Minnesota and your support is needed to help our award winning Fruits of the City program continue to grow! You can visit The Minnesota Project’s GiveMN page to schedule your Give to the Max Day donation today.

The Minnesota Project’s Fruits of the City program has continued to grow as a resource for Minnesota food shelves and the families they serve. Since 2009, the program has harvested and delivered over 280,000 pounds of fruit to food shelves throughout the state.

Our successes have not gone unnoticed.  This year, The Minnesota Project was recognized at the 20th Annual Environmental Initiative Awards when we received the Food Stewardship award for our Fruits of the City program. This awards program annually honors innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results by harnessing the power of partnership.

The Fruits of the City program addresses the lack of access to fresh, healthy fruit for the economically disenfranchised by coordinating teams of volunteers and fruit tree owners to deliver thousands of pounds of fresh fruit to local food shelves and food banks.

“The Minnesota Project and their partners have worked together on a project that is creating a better environment for all Minnesotans,” said Mike Harley, executive director of Environmental Initiative.  “We are grateful for their passion and support of our belief that by working together, we can achieve great things.”

“With the help of over 500 volunteers in 2013, the program collected and donated a record 128,000 pounds of fruit that was shared with hungry families throughout the region”  notes Jared Walhowe, coordinator of the Fruits of the City program.  “None of this would be possible without the generosity of our registered fruit tree owners, our supporters and our dedicated volunteers who join us for harvesting events.”

Fruit tree owners and volunteers can learn more about how to participate in the Fruits of the City program at www.fruitsofthecity.org or by contacting the program directly at fruits@mnproject.org or 651-789-3321.

The Minnesota Project was also a finalist in the Energy and Climate category at this year’s Environmental Initiative Awards for their work to retrofit 16 Minnesota poultry facilities with LED lighting technology –reducing energy consumption by approximately 70% with simple paybacks for farmers of 3 years or less.

Give Today!

Visit www.givemn.org/organization.Minnesota-Project to schedule your Give to the Max Day donation.

About the Awards

The Environmental Initiative Awards was established to honor those working in partnership and encourage collaborative approaches to environmental problem solving. From large statewide efforts to small-scale locally based projects, many of Minnesota’s most innovative environmental efforts have succeeded as a result of collaboration. The program annually honors innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results by working in partnership.

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 policy research, education and outreach, as well as developing key ground-up, grassroots initiatives targeted at empowering communities and their leaders. www.mnproject.org.

Heat on the Farm – What’s the cost?

November 7, 2014

Woody-Biomass Hand

In light of Minnesota’s loss of the Cochin Pipeline, which just happened to supply 38% of the state’s propane, many ag producers are considering propane alternatives or locking in LP prices now.

Fortunately, there are available resources to help farmers decide the best ways to heat their barns.  Penn State University Extension developed a nice Energy Cost Comparison Tool to help farmers decide on fuel sources.

Iowa State Extension also has a Liquid Fuel Measurements & Conversions chart so farmers can calculate their thermal load in Btus (British thermal units) and determine which fuel or technology would best suit their needs.  Hint: If available, woody biomass is cheaper than propane and solar thermal is a smart investment.Liquid Fuel Measurements

Folks at The MN Project also suggest farmers take a look at solar hot water or solar hot air technologies and the Made-in-Minnesota rebates for companies like Solar Skies and Rural Renewable Energy Alliance.  These technologies are proven and provide a nice hedge against propane costs because, ahem, solar energy is free.

Solar Spill

Apples to Sustain our Community, Donations to Sustain our Organization

November 4, 2014

Last week on Monday, October 27th, The Minnesota Project planted over twenty apple trees at Oxbow Creek Elementary School in Brooklyn Park, MN. The new trees will produce fresh healthy snacks and learning opportunities for the students for years to come.

This site was previously unused space which has been transformed into a positive asset to the community, and is one of several projects that The Minnesota Project has coordinated and successfully completed this year.

We need your help to continue our projects! Save the date, Give to the Max Day is November 13. Click here to schedule a donation, and to see how your contribution is supporting our organization.

 

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 policy research, education and outreach, as well as developing key ground-up, grassroots initiatives targeted at empowering communities and their leaders. www.mnproject.org.

Grant Funding Announced For Livestock Producers!

October 27, 2014

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture recently announced available funding for farmers through the Livestock Investment Grant Program (LIGP). The grant application period closes December 10th.

Successful applicants will be reimbursed ten percent of the first $500,000 of proposed investment, with a minimum investment of $4,000. In other words, grant awards range between $50,000 (total lifetime) to $400. Qualifying projects include investment in buildings and capitol that have been purchased following the receipt of the award, meaning the project must not start until notification of an award from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Authorized expenditures cover the purchase, construction, and/or improvement of facilities for the production of livestock, including energy efficient equipment like LED lights, plate coolers, high volume low speed fans, variable speed drives, and more! Also eligible are livestock producers who have suffered from a natural disaster. The grant does not cover, however, the purchase of new land and livestock, as well as the cost of debt refinancing.

Grant applicants are scored competitively based partly on the following metrics:

  • Does the project improve profitability or efficiency?
  • Does the investment have a positive impact on the environment?
  • Does the project bring new livestock and employment opportunities into the area?

The application period is open and available online here with helpful instructions included. Again, individuals have until December 10, 2014 to submit their applications online or in paper format.

Started in 2008 as part of the Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation Program (AGRI), the Livestock Investment Grant program was designed to promote the long-term development of Minnesota’s $7 billion dollar livestock industry. Since then, grant recipients have invested approximately $93 million into improving their livestock operation! These grants not only help support the industry statewide, but also improve its competitiveness nationally. And in some instances, investments spent on modernizing equipment and similar improvements have helped accelerate the farm passage to their children.

If you have any questions or need any assistance with the application process, please contact The Minnesota Project’s Energy Program Director Fritz Ebinger, by phone at (651) 789-3330, or by email at FEbinger@mnproject.org. Good luck and capture those savings!

Fruit Tree Pruning Class, Nov. 22nd

October 21, 2014

Do you have a fruit tree in your backyard, or areIMG_2033IMG_2034IMG_2020 considering planting one? Interested in learning more about caring for and maintaining your tree?

It’s time to learn. Say “Goodbye” to poor quality fruit littering your lawn and unseemly wild branches, and say “Hello” to delicious fresh fruit and a happier healthier tree. Come to The Minnesota Project’s Fruits of the City Fruit Tree Pruning Class on Saturday, November 22nd.

For more information and to sign up, click here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fruit-tree-pruning-tickets-12310385695

The class will take place at The Dodge Nature Center’s Farm Education Building, and consists of two sessions. The first session will be a lecture by Jeffery Johnson of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and the second session will be an outdoor demonstration of pruning (including guided practice time). After attending, students will have a working knowledge on pruning theory, and practical hands-on experience.

This class is offered as part of an ongoing educational series by The Minnesota Project’s Fruits of the City program.

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 FEbinger@mnproject.org.

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. http://gardengleaning.org/resources/garden-gleaning-project-toolkit/

If you are interesting in volunteering for any of The Minnesota Project’s programs, visit http://fruitsofthecity.volunteerhub.com/events/indexhub to sign up!

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