Coordinated by the NCR-SARE Alumni Organization, the term "NCR-SARE Hero" recognizes the leadership, vision, contributions, and impact that certain people have made in the field of sustainable agriculture in the region.
As a dairy farmer, sheep farmer, educator, husband, and father Jim Stordahl wore many hats throughout his life, many of which contributed to his uncanny ability to be a helpful and down-to-earth advocate for sustainable and organic farming. As a young man, Stordahl studied agronomy and ruminant nutrition, and earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in the subjects. In 1996, he was busy running his family’s dairy operation when he had an opportunity to fill in for an extension educator who was on maternity leave in McIntosh County Minnesota. People noted his friendly demeanor and extensive knowledge, and later, he was offered a permanent job with extension; he took that job and continued to work as an extension agent in Clay, Polk, and Clearwater Counties in northwest Minnesota for 21 years until he retired in 2016.
During those 21 years, he interacted with SARE as a grantee and advisor, and advanced concepts of sustainability to farmers throughout northwest Minnesota. In addition to being an NCR-SARE grant recipient and participant, Stordahl served on the Minnesota SARE Advisory Committee for eight years, bringing his diversified expertise to the table. That expertise also made Stordahl a valued member of the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture Board of Directors from 2002-2008, and earned him awards such as the Outstanding Agricultural Mentor Award from the Minnesota District 11 Agri-Women and the Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society 2011 Friend of the Farmer Award (photo of that award, upper left).
A respected educator and contributor, Stordahl was a featured speaker at events such as the Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society annual conference and the Minnesota Organic Conference, and he was sought out by many journalists for his expertise as they covered ag-related stories throughout northwest Minnesota. Jim Stordahl died in March 2017 from cancer. The University of Minnesota created Extension Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Endowment in memory of Jim Stordahl. Funds raised for the endowment will be used by farmers and Extension educators to investigate producer-led organic research projects, and scholarships also will be available for farmers to attend state and organic conferences. Questions regarding this endowment can be directed to Nancy Frosaker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701-212-2471. Gifts can be sent to University of Minnesota Extension Development, 9 Coffey Hall, 1420 Eckles Ave, Saint Paul, MN, 55108.
Leaders in sustainable agriculture offered tributes as Stordahl was nominated and selected to receive this recognition, including:
- "I have had the pleasure of working with Jim Stordahl on many occasions. He has been a tireless worker in support of organic and sustainable agriculture. His up-beat and willing attitude along with his good sense of humor was always refreshing. I especially appreciated that he was always willing to take on yet another on-farm research project. Jim has definitely 'raised the bar' for all of us. - Lynn Brakke, organic farmer
- “Jim Stordahl was well known and highly respected throughout Minnesota and the North Central region as a champion of sustainable agriculture. Jim excelled at problem solving, and he led by example with his solid, quiet influence and wisdom. Many in Extension—and agriculture in general—saw Jim as a mentor. His legacy continues today in those who learned from Jim.” - Mike Schmitt, associate dean, University of Minnesota Extension
- "Jim was valued as a knowledgeable, respected member of the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA.) HIs enthusiastic demeanor and thoughtful insights were appreciated by all who had the chance to interact with him. Those of us fortunate to know him miss him dearly." - Helene Murray, executive director, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
- "I had the pleasure of working with Jim over the course of 20 years. He was a great guy and fantastic educator. He was a member of OCIA and was always willing to help others get started in organics. He had an amazing ability to connect with people. He would call me at times to let me know he had “another person” interested in farming organic and that of course meant he was willing to help this person along. Jim was appreciated by so many in his community and was instrumental in advocating for Non-GMO and organic production. As an Extension educator Jim was committed to his work and had a love for organic farming. OCIA MN #1 is proud that Jim chose OCIA to be his certifier." - Lorri Ann Hartel, chapter administrator, Organic Crop Improvement Association
The NCR-SARE Hero Recognition honors individuals who 1) have provided service to NCR-SARE or national SARE, 2) have shown leadership in sustainable agriculture locally and regionally, and 3) have made lasting impacts to sustainability in the North Central region.
NCR-SARE is one of four regional offices that run the SARE program, a nationwide grants and education program to advance sustainable innovation to American agriculture. Since 1988, NCR-SARE has helped advance farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program. The program, part of USDA's National Institute for Food and Agriculture, funds projects and conducts outreach designed to improve agricultural systems.