Public Release: 

Tour to showcase Upper Midwest organic agriculture

Twin Cities' 'farm to fork' culture highlighted

American Society of Agronomy

October 6, 2015--Minnesota's Twin Cities' thriving local and organic food system provides a viable, large-scale "farm to fork" model. According to the 2014 "Twin Cities Cooperative Local Food System: A Case Study and Commentary," local food product sales reached $54 million in 2013 from approximately 300 local producers.

The "Upper Midwest Organic Agriculture Tour" planned at the Synergy in Science ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN, will highlight the Twin Cities' organic food system. The tour will be held Saturday, November 14, 2015. The meeting is sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.

"The Twin Cities is a hot spot of organic production. It's driven by an agricultural heritage and history, along with rich soils. There's a lot of infrastructure in place, and an interest in alternative growing methods and building landscape biodiversity," says Julie Grossman, assistant professor of Biological Principles of Sustainable and Organic Food Systems at the University of Minnesota.

Grossman is leading the tour along with Erin Silva, assistant professor of Organic and Sustainable Cropping Systems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The tour will include three stops highlighting food production, distribution, and education.

"We'll be highlighting unique initiatives in the Twin Cities that link the farm, production, and innovative agricultural distribution channels " Grossman says. "All are novel distribution and training models serving a market with a heightened interest in where their food comes from."

The first stop, the Minnesota Food Association Big River Farms, provides training, land, infrastructure, marketing and distribution resources to farmers from socially-disadvantaged backgrounds. The farmers include many immigrant and refugee farmers who are learning to raise crops in a northern climate.

Co-op Partners Warehouse, stocking up to 250 organic items, is next on the tour. Formed in 1999, the warehouse originally focused on product from small, quality-focused organic growers. They have since expanded beyond wholesale to include a cooperatively-owned farm and retail store.

Lunch will feature The Good Acre food hub near the University of Minnesota. This new site provides education, training, and research opportunities, in addition to distribution of locally grown produce for individual, retail, and eventually wholesale and institutional markets.

"A lot of organic farmers struggle to get their product to market. The tour will highlight success stories that can be duplicated in other places," Grossman says.

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For more information about the Synergy in Science 2015 meeting, visit https://www.acsmeetings.org/. Media are invited to attend the conference. Pre-registration by Nov. 1, 2015, is required for the conference. Visit https://www.acsmeetings.org/newsroom for registration information. For information about the Upper Midwest Organic Agriculture Tour, visit https://www.acsmeetings.org/tours-workshops#Tour%20Schedule. RSVP for the tour by Oct. 19, 2015.

To speak with one of the scientists, contact Susan V. Fisk, 608-273-8091, sfisk@sciencesocieties.org to arrange an interview.

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