Midwest briefs: Farmer blocked at market over gay marriage views

Wisconsin State Farmer


Four-generation farm added to Centennial Farms in Illinois 

 Richard Wood's farm is the same one purchased by his great-grandfather, worked by his grandfather and father, and now recognized as a Centennial Farm by the fourth generation. 

Wood owns the farm with his sister, Sallie Flesner of Carterville. The Quincy Herald-Whig reports it recently joined more than 9,500 Centennial Farms in Illinois. 

The Illinois Department of Agriculture program recognizes farms held by the same family for a century. 

Wood says he wanted his forebears recognized. He says they held the land for the next generation through two world wars and the Great Depression. Wood says, "To me, that's quite an accomplishment." 

Great-grandfather George bought the farm's first 60 acres in 1905 and added 60 in 1917. 

Loraine is 270 miles (435 km) southwest of Chicago. 


Farmer blocked at market over gay marriage seeks court order 

A Michigan city is defending a decision to keep an apple grower away from its outdoor market because of his views on gay marriage. 

East Lansing urged a judge Monday to reject an injunction that would force the city to bring Stephen Tennes back to the market. 

Tennes has said he won't allow gay couples to get married at his Eaton County farm, which is a popular place for weddings. In response, East Lansing didn't invite him to sell fruit this year. 

East Lansing says vendors must follow its civil rights ordinance, which bars discrimination. Tennes filed a lawsuit in May, saying his rights to free speech and religion are being violated. 

In a court filing, East Lansing says it's responding to Tennes' conduct, not his speech. 


Groups petition Iowa to improve animal farm permit process 

A citizen activist group and an environmental organization have filed a petition asking the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to improve the state's livestock farm permit process. 

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch say the permit system established 15 years ago fails to give local officials enough control over where large hog, cattle and chicken farms locate. 

The petition filed July 18 asks the DNR for several changes to the master matrix system including stricter pollution requirements and increased distance requirements from schools, homes, waterways and wells. 

County officials say permits they reject are nearly always approved by a state governor-appointed board. DNR records show only 2 percent of applications have been denied. 

Iowa has 9,000 large-scale animal farms producing 22 billion gallons of manure a year. 


Powerful storms cause damage, flooding in Midwest

Several hundred people evacuated their homes early July 20 in the small western Wisconsin community of Arcadia as heavy rain sent a creek over its banks. 

The waterlogged city was among those affected by more widespread storm damage and flooding in Wisconsin and Minnesota that closed roads and triggered mudslides.

Thunderstorms in Iowa produced a possible tornado that caused heavy damage to buildings in a city near the Mississippi River. 

In Wisconsin, several hundred people in the Trempealeau County city of Arcadia voluntarily evacuated flooded neighborhoods and the downtown area starting about 2:30 a.m., Mayor Robert Reichwein told The Associated Press. The evacuation included the overnight shift at Ashley Furniture, a major manufacturer in Arcadia, a city of 2,900 people about 45 miles (73 kilometers) north of La Crosse. 

Reichwein said Turton Creek overflowed its banks, also flooding the city's main thoroughfare, Highway 95. The Red Cross set up a shelter at a church for evacuees. 

Elsewhere in Wisconsin, a mudslide closed part of Highway 95 near Fountain City. Numerous roads in Vernon and Buffalo counties were also affected by flooding. 

In northern Iowa, powerful storms damaged homes, buildings and crop fields. The National Weather Service said wind gusts to 75 mph and heavy rain were reported Wednesday evening in several locations, and a tornado was reported 2 miles (3 kilometers) west-southwest of Fort Atkinson. No injuries were reported. 

In Minnesota, officials say mudslides or flooding have made parts of some highways impassable, including Interstate 90 and Highways 16, 26 and 61 in Winona and Houston counties. Forecasters say up to 7 inches (18 centimeters) of rain fell overnight. 


MDA grants help increase healthy food access

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) awarded more than $165,000 in grants to 10 food hub projects that will help Minnesotans gain access to locally grown and raised foods.  

The competitive Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Food Hub Grants were awarded to food hubs and other alternative community-based food distribution businesses throughout the state of Minnesota.  

Awardees will use AGRI Food Hub Grant funds to develop their business plans, conduct feasibility studies, or create marketing plans; other projects will use funds to purchase equipment, or make physical improvements to their businesses that will allow them to purchase, process and distribute more Minnesota agricultural products. 

Increasing healthy food access for Minnesotans in all parts of the state remains a priority for Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith.  

“More than 1.6 million Minnesotans live in a food desert, or more than one mile from a grocery store in urban areas or ten miles in rural areas,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “These grants issued by the Agriculture Department will help reduce these disparities across the state, and help more Minnesotans access nutritious, affordable food options.” 

Jim Gehrke has led efforts to complete business planning for a proposed food hub for the City of Crookston. AGRI Food Hub Grant funds will continue Gehrke’s work to examine the feasibility of a food hub in that area, where about 90 percent of farmers surveyed voiced interest in selling more locally grown produce to a food hub. The proposed Crookston food hub would also work with schools and other institutions to help distribute Minnesota agricultural products.  

“There’s a lot of excitement in finding a way to bring healthier, locally grown produce and food into schools, and we’re feeding the next generation” said Gehrke. “That should be a high priority for us. If we’re able to do that and bring quality produce into the schools at a low cost, then everybody wins because that leads to economic opportunities and expansion in regions that may otherwise be struggling to grow.” 

Other projects will use AGRI Food Hub Grants to purchase equipment.

The Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) will use funds to purchase and install the cooling system for its cold storage space in a proposed aggregation, packing, and cooling facility. The facility will be built on HAFA’s 155-acre educational farm in Dakota County. HAFA projects that the new facility could boost current food hub sales by more than 80 percent, offering fresh, Minnesota grown produce to roughly 200,000 residents.