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Online campaign aims to restore sustainable food program

FERGUS FALLS - With the abrupt suspension of the innovative Sustainable Food Production diploma program at Minnesota State Community and Technical College at Fergus Falls, consumers, farmers, students and educators have launched Stand For Food, a social media campaign to raise awareness of the need for educating the next wave of sustainable food producers.

It can be found online at

"Students, graduates, faculty and friends of the program were stunned when the administration announced that the program would be mothballed," said Dr. Sue Wika, a rural sociologist and sustainable farmer who co-founded the Sustainable Food Production program, in a news release.

Funded by a small grant from the Unitarian Universalist church, the campaign has set up a Facebook page - - administered by program graduates and friends, who have set up Twitter and Tumblr accounts as well.

"A one-year diploma program at an affordable public community and technical college was the right fit for many people interested in working in sustainable ag," Wika said in the release. "Several private farm groups run wonderful beginning farmer programs, and the University of Minnesota offers some coursework in sustainable ag. Unfortunately, now there's no middle ground for intensive, hands-on training in sustainable livestock and cropping systems."

In Minnesota, demand for local and sustainable food is rising. In 2004, eight community-supported agriculture farms operated in the state; in 2013, at least 100 farms supply weekly shares of vegetables to subscribers. More than 150 farmers markets operate across the state, while customers flock to food co-ops and local food restaurants.

The Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota temporarily has taken the Sustainable Food Production program under its umbrella. Stand for Food and its allies continue to seek permanent institutional berth.

- Staff reports