New "Grow a Farmer" Loan Fund Helps Small Farmers Get a Leg-up


January 25, Owatonna, MINN. - Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), along with its partners through the FEAST Local Foods Network, including Renewing the Countryside and Slow Money Minnesota, are happy to announce the launch of a new loan fund for small-scale, sustainable farmers. The Grow a Farmer Fund is a revolving loan fund managed by SMIF that offers lower-interest loans up to $15,000 to individuals in SMIF's 20-county region for inventory, supplies, working capital or machinery/equipment.

Fundraising for the Grow a Farmer Fund kicked off last May at Slow Money Minnesota's annual gathering and was inspired by the principles of Slow Money, which originated out of the slow food movement. Slow Money's mission is to catalyze the flow of capital to local food systems, connect investors to the places where they live and promote new principles of fiduciary responsibility that "bring money back down to earth."


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Aspelund Winery Blossoms with Ingenuity

What started as planting some fruit and nut trees for their own personal use has blossomed into something much more. Bruce and Dawn Rohl’s 10 acre property now boasts a whopping 450 elderberry bushes, 150 apple trees, and 80 grapevines that they use to produce wine.



Aspelund Winery began when the Rohl’s realized they could only freeze and can so much fruit juice, fruit, jams and jellies for themselves. They knew they needed another outlet and since Bruce had experience making wine with his father growing up, it was a natural jump to become a home vintner.

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Feast is a fun way to fill your day…and your belly!

Every year now (well, for two years in a row), the Feast! planners have worked hard to build off of the previous year’s event and make it even better. There are a lot of things that have been there from the beginning—most notably, the many unique and delicious foods available for sampling and purchasing directly from the farmers and artisans who make them.

Squash Blossom Farm

Also every year we have engaging activities for kids of all ages! This year you’ll see the fun Veggie Grand Prix again, where vegetables turn into race cars. You’ll also see face painting, mini-sprout greenhouses under construction, budding artists crafting designs with dried seeds and paintings with veggie cutouts, and a special KidsFit program hosted by Hy-Vee, full of games that promote movement and learning about foods and nutrition.

 Veggie Grand Prix

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Korean Flavorful Food Traditions

KC Kye, a native Korean, moved with his family to the United States when he was three years old. As he grew older, he decided to bring more of his Korean culture back to the states with him—in the form of their flavorful food traditions.

After creating 90 different iterations of sauces, they selected the best ones, and K-Mama Sauce was born. They have currently perfected four sauces that are available to purchase, which include: original, original gluten-free, spicy and spicy gluten-free.

K-Mama Founders

K-Mama Sauce really started taking off as a business when it was placed in its first few restaurants. You can see K-Mama Sauce on the tables of Brasa Premium Rotisserie and taste it in multiple dishes at The Kenwood in Minneapolis.

After being a minister for ten years, Kye found it crucial to give back to the community. This is what inspired K-Mama Sauce to donate 30 percent of all profits to various charities. Some of the charities they donate to are the church, Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock.

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Going Gaga for Zaza's Pastas

There is a whole lotta love that goes into Zaza’s Pastas!

“We pour our heart and soul into each batch of pasta. We love the ingredients, we love the process and we want you to love what you eat!” says founder and owner Julie Parisi. Zaza’s Pasta includes only local, organic and non-GMO flour.Zaza

Julie grew up on Long Island, New York in a large Italian family. “We cooked and ate....a lot!” she says.

She thought it would be fun to try selling something at the local farmer’s market and realized no one was making and selling homemade pasta. “I thought, ‘Hey! I know how to do that!’” she recalls. So in 2010 Zaza's Pastas got started in a small, one-bedroom apartment in Iowa City.


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Century Sun Oil

When you’re around entrepreneurs for any time at all, you immediately notice how impressively hard they work. Among entrepreneurs, food businesses have additional worries with food safety and manufacturing regulations, not to mention the key factor that has really taken the spotlight in today’s food culture: supply chain. “Where does your food come from?” is an oft-repeated question, and that’s at the center of Century Sun Oil’s message.

Century Sun Oil is made from local, organic sunflower seed and there are many reasons that co-founders Pam and Dale Johnson call their sunflower oil “Your Midwest alternative to olive oil”.


Dale and Pam started Century Sun in 2009, and run the business from the 130-year old Johnson family farm in rural Pulaski, Wisconsin. Besides the farmers who grow for them, they employ two-to-three part time contract workers. They have re-purposed their processing facility from a former dairy barn, even repurposing the  stainless steel dairy equipment that is now exclusively used for their sunflower oil. Their oil is cold-pressed, which means no chemical extraction such as with cheap canola, corn, and soybean oils. It also means the extruder press never exceeds temperatures of 110 degrees, therefore maintaining the nutrients in the raw oil. Dale oversees the processing, while Pam focuses on marketing.


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Country View Dairy

In just five years, the Dave and Carolee Rapson family has gone from creating their first commercial batch of yogurt having their product served at the Chicago Google Headquarters and throughout O'Hare Airport.

“Sales are up 40 percent [this] year to date. We are now in more than 100 stores in six states, 20 public schools, 11 colleges, four health care institutions and several restaurants,” says Bob Howard, director of marketing and sales.  “Also, our distributor in Chicago has helped us break into new markets in Chicago from cafe chains downtown, to Google Headquarters, to parfaits in the book stores throughout O'Hare Airport.”

Country View Dairy been crafting quality yogurt in their on-farm processing plant for five years and they are looking forward to sharing their products at Feast! again this year.

Country View Dairy, located between West Union and Hawkeye, Iowa has been growing. After three years in business, Country View was using about 7,000 pounds of milk for processing yogurt four days a week. This year they are averaging about 15,000 pounds of yogurt production per week with a staff of ten (half of those are family).


During the past year they added a second pasteurizer, enabling them to make two batches of yogurt at once, and they are in the process of adding a second filler machine which will increase production. This past spring they completed an addition onto the plant including a much larger walk-in cooler to accommodate pallets, a larger incubation room, a loading dock, storage space and new office.

The Rapsons have not only been increasing the quantity of their production, their quality remains high as well. “Over the last year we have won the Iowa Venture Award, second place ribbon in the American Cheese Society competition in the flavored, cultured milk category (they won with theirAronia Blackberry Greek yogurt, the only Aronia yogurt in the United States) held in Des Moines this year, and we also swept all the ribbons in the yogurt category at the Iowa State Fair,” said Howard.

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Mama Stoen's: Gluten Free Products Everyone Will Love

Mama Stoen’s started when Christine Stoen was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in August of 2009. Celiac Disease causes damage to the lining of the small intestinal wall and prevents proper absorption of important nutrients the body needs. This diagnosis forced Christine to change to a gluten-free diet. Later that month, the Stoen’s youngest daughter, Gracie, was also diagnosed with Celiac Disease. After six years of trying different recipes, she finally created gluten-free recipes that she and her family love. Now the recipes have become a line of gluten-free products that taste every bit as good as gluten-containing foods but without the gluten, corn and nuts.


Mama Stoen’s offers a variety of baking mixes including angel food cake, chocolate cake, cornbread, brownie,  banana bread, cookie, bread, carrot cake, pizza crust, and pancake or waffle mix that do not make you sacrifice the taste and textures.

“Our family really likes the pizza crust mix because it tastes like a regular pizza,” shared Christine. “You can’t even tell that it is gluten-free!”


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Fizzeology Taps Ancient Wisdom to Offer Healthy Probiotics

Did you know that fermentation is one of the hottest food trends?Faith Anacker

Fermentation is just as much art as science, and for Faith Anacker, it’s the perfect blend to allow her creativity to intersect with the fruitful harvests of Wisconsin’s driftless region.

Fizzeology Foods is the craft fermentation business that she operates out of Viroqua’s Food Enterprise Center, but Anacker (aka “Dr. Fizz”) is frequently out and about. Her passion for fermented foods leads her all over our region as she looks for opportunities to educate consumers on the techniques and benefits of fermentation. Anacker has offered a series of classes with UW-Richland Center Extension that she hopes to reestablish, and most recently she appeared at Fermentation Fest in Reedsburg, Wisconsin.  

Anacker advises folks to “Go Fermental!” She reminds us that fermented foods are found in all cultures around the world and are a true representation of ancient wisdom. If you need a good Fermentation 101, Anacker can tell that story faster than you can track down the dozens of books on the subject. 

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Dairy Done Right

In 2011, two families from Allamakee County in Northeast Iowa decided the time was right to enter the local food market with dairy products made with milk from their own farms.

Five years later, WW Homestead Dairy is a growing brand in Northeast Iowa, Southeast Minnesota, and Southwest Wisconsin.  


WW Homestead Dairy is owned by Tom Weighner, Paul Weighner, and Tom Walleser. Between the three of them they have over 90 years of experience in the dairy industry. “We work hard to produce dairy products that are natural, have great flavor and taste, and are as fresh as possible,” say the WW Homestead Dairy owners.

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