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July 27, 2017

University of Minnesota announces 2017 Farm Families of the Year

ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/12/2017)—Eighty families from throughout Minnesota are being honored as 2017 Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota.

July 10, 2017

Extension introduces 'Master Woodland Owner' courses in northeastern Minnesota

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, Extension news media manager,, 612-626-4077 (office) or 651-492-0811 (mobile).

ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/10/2017)—A new program to help private woodland owners steward their land and legacy begins this summer in northeastern Minnesota.

June 28, 2017

See U of M Extension at the 2017 Minnesota State Fair!

Note: This list will be updated as more information becomes available.

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, Extension news media manager,, 612-626-4077 (office) or 651-492-0811 (mobile).

If you go to the "Great Minnesota Get-Together," be sure to participate in fun and educational University of Minnesota Extension opportunities. Extension discovers science-based solutions, delivers practical education and engages Minnesotans to build a better future.

Here is where to see Extension at the fair:

June 22, 2017

Itasca County 4-H youth take home Science of Agriculture top honors

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, Extension news media manager,, 612-626-4077 (office) or 651-492-0811 (mobile).

ST. PAUL, Minn. (6/22/2017)—A project to streamline temporary electric fence installation earned a team of Itasca County youth first place in the Minnesota 4-H Science of Agriculture competition.

May 24, 2017

Want to help pollinators? Try these annuals and native grasses

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, University of Minnesota Extension, office 612-626-4077, mobile 651-492-0811,

ST. PAUL, Minn. (5/24/2017)— Minnesotans eager to help pollinators now can turn to research at the University of Minnesota Extension, which looked at which annual flowers likeliest to attract bees, butterflies, moths and other insects.

May 17, 2017

Extension receives $1 million to help Greater Minnesota

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, University of Minnesota Extension, office 612-626-4077, mobile 651-492-0811, Also: Kent Olson, associate dean and economist, University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality, office 612-625-7723, mobile 612-360-5898,; Kathryn Draeger, statewide director, Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, 612-625-3148 and mobile 651-470-7720,

Federal research grants build upon ‘brain gain’ studies, local food access to wholesale distribution

St. Paul, Minn. (5/17/2017)—University of Minnesota Extension has received nearly $1 million in two federal grants to seek solutions to current concerns in Greater Minnesota.

The grants were announced Tuesday by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. A $500,000 grant was awarded to Extension’s Center for Community Vitality to study how rural communities can recruit and retain residents to supply their workforces. The Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships received $499,760 to develop and pilot a new distribution model for small and medium-sized farms to access wholesale markets.

“The USDA grants recognize our commitment to all of Minnesota and the skillful Extension researchers and educators whose work will help us better understand how to meet important needs throughout the state and beyond,” said Extension Dean Bev Durgan.

Center for Community Vitality: Expanding ‘brain gain’ research

The grant allows Center researchers to widen their “brain gain” research, which has found adults 30 to 49 years old are disproportionately moving into Minnesota’s rural areas. The focus on newcomers and their integration into rural communities also will consider the experience of minority and immigrant residents in those areas.

“As baby boomers retire from the workforce, replacement workers are needed. Employers and communities are very concerned about that workforce, and many Minnesota communities are genuinely interested in learning how they can attract residents,” said Kent Olson, Associate Dean of the Center for Community Vitality. “This project will allow us to better understand why people move to rural areas and what makes communities successful in keeping them. As initiatives sprout up around Minnesota, we want to know what works.”
Five people walking down town sidewalk

The research will use surveys, focus groups and demographic analysis to gather information from community initiatives, newcomers and long-time residents. Researchers, including those from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, will explore three basic questions:
  • What are the characteristics of newcomers in rural areas? 
  • How well do different categories of newcomers integrate differently into rural communities? 
  • What private strategies and public policies are communities trying to attract and retain newcomers to their areas and what is working? 
Findings will inform future Extension educational programs and economic development initiatives, resulting in new community education that informs local policy-making and initiative planning.

Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships: Building farm-grocery-wholesale networks
The RSDP grant is the nation’s first study to develop and test “backhauling” as a way to help small- and mid-sized farms get their produce to wholesalers for wider distribution. Backhauling uses the return trip of a delivery truck to carry locally grown foods from rural grocers back to wholesale distribution centers. The long-term goal is to increase the viability, competitiveness and sustainability of the farms through access to the wholesale market.

The research will bring Extension and the University together with stakeholders from across the food supply chain, including producers, grocers, wholesalers and regulators.

“We need to understand the complexities of farm-to-grocer-to-wholesale, including logistical, financial and regulatory challenges,” said Kathryn Draeger, statewide director of RSDP, who will co-lead the study with University Applied Economics professor Hikaru Peterson. “This innovative research will help us learn how we can build systems for local food growers, help wholesalers and support grocers, who are such an essential part of Main Street across Minnesota.”
Produce in a grocery store

For nearly two decades RSDP, along with its University colleagues and community partners, has conducted research and outreach on regional food systems. RSDP supported 55 local foods and sustainable agriculture projects in fiscal year 2016 alone.

Examples of recent RSDP projects include the 2015 statewide Rural Grocery Store Survey and development of toolkits such as a produce-handling guide for rural grocers and a commercial kitchen guide for producers to safely process locally grown food. Through a longstanding partnership with Kansas State University’s Rural Grocery Initiative, RSDP provides training and outreach to support rural grocers’ sales of local produce.


For more news from U of M Extension, visit or contact Extension Communications at University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

April 18, 2017

Minnesota wines and grapes: Growth continues, many plan expansion

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, University of Minnesota Extension media relations, office 612-626-4077,

ST. PAUL, Minn. (4/18/2017)—The farm-to-table presence of Minnesota grapes-turned-into-wine continues its growth as the latest University of Minnesota cultivar, the Itasca, is planted for the first year.

An analysis by the University of Minnesota Extension found the economic impact of the state’s vineyards and wineries grew to $80.6 million in economic activity, up from $53.6 million four years earlier. On average, each winery reported average sales of $580,000 in 2015, from $311,000 in 2011.
Grapes on vine
Itasca: Newest grape developed at University of Minnesota 

Other indicators of growth include:

  • Visits to tasting rooms doubled, from 6,800 to 13,600
  • Percent of hours provided by paid labor went from 22 to 30 percent 
  • Average cost charged per bottle went from $13 to $15 
“The industry continues to grow professionally. They’re not giving wine away anymore because they don’t have to, while that was the case 10 years ago and it even might have been five years ago,” said Extension senior economic analyst Brigid Tuck, who conducted the study. Tuck, who conducted the study with Extension economist William Gartner, said the identity of Minnesota wine is taking hold. “Minnesotans are starting to identify with Minnesota wine.”

The conclusions are drawn from responses from 110 Minnesota grape growers and winemakers surveyed in 2016. They also want to get bigger: 31 percent said they intend to expand significantly within five years and another 39 percent indicated some expansion is planned. Another 15 percent, though, indicate they hope to sell their operations within the next five years.

With lower acidity and higher sugar content than other cold-hardy grapes developed here, the new white grape Itasca will broaden Minnesota winemakers’ opportunities, said Matt Clark, Extension specialist and assistant professor of horticulture at the University. The first Itasca vines are being planted this spring; commercial wine made from Itasca will arrive in another two to three years.

“Minnesota is showing growth rates similar to other emerging wine markets like Oregon, which has grown dramatically in the last 25 years. And we have a lot of enthusiasm for local foods,” Clark said. “Wine is made in the vineyard, with the quality of grapes. At the University, we’re focused on helping build best practices in the growing community and sharing them.”

Minnesota’s wine and grape-growing experiences were part of a larger research project by Tuck and Gartner, which examined the wine industry in 12 northern states.

For more news from U of M Extension, visit or contact Extension Communications at University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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