Research and Media Coordinator
Nick joined PFI in December of 2014. He writes about PFI members and issues important to them in the ag media, primarily focusing on diversified crop rotations, cover crops and integrated crop/livestock systems; and assists with all aspects of the Cooperators’ Program. He also produces PFI’s videos and manages the YouTube channel, and hosts and produces On-Farm: Conversations with Practical Farmers, PFI’s podcast.
He grew up in rural southeast Iowa, outside of Wapello. He has a BA degree from the University of Iowa in 2008, where he majored in Journalism and English, and an MS degree from Iowa State University in 2011, where he majored in Sustainable Agriculture. His research interests focused on soil erosion, water quality, and the use of conservation practices.
From 2012-2013, Nick worked for a non-profit organization in rural Ecuador, where he worked with farmers, interns, and volunteers on rural community development projects. Before joining PFI, Nick worked as the kitchen manager at Cafe Beaudelaire in Ames.
We have the second video presentation up from last month’s conference – “Rotationally Raised: Making Small Grains Work”. This presentation is by South Dakota farmer Lee Brockmueller, who presented about how small grains benefit his crops, bottom line and livestock. His presentations cover all the basics of raising both winter wheat and oats, from variety selection all the way through harvest and marketing.
In case you missed our the video of the conference we released, of Dr. Pete Lammers of University of Wisconsin-Platteville talking about feeding small grains to livestock, here it is:
You can find PDFs of all of the presentations on our small grains page.
Did you know that PFI has a podcast?
Our first season just wrapped up – our first podcast is called On-Farm: Conversations with Practical Farmers – and we have 17 episodes available. Basically, these episodes are a 45 min – 1 hour conversation between me and a PFI member. This year, we focused on people who hosted field days, so if you missed a field day that you wish you hadn’t missed, you might be able to find a pretty in-depth conversation with the host on the podcast.
How to Listen to Podcasts
For the final episode of the first season of On-Farm, we visited the farm of Maria and Ron Rosmann of Rosmann Family Farms near Harlan. The Rosmanns have been instrumental in many of the most important agricultural movements of the last 30 years: They were pioneers in organic livestock and row crops, and were among the core of farm families that helped Practical Farmers of Iowa get off the ground in the mid 1980s.
On today’s show, we’ll talk about the history of their farm, their upcoming field day on September 9th, organic row crop and hog production, and the next generation – all three of their sons are working in agriculture, two of them on the family farm. You can check out a short video about their upcoming field day: https://youtu.be/zFtYCY2Ut7k – or learn more in this press release.
This week on the show, we have Jamie Hostetler of Rolling Meadows. Jamie farms with his family near Bellevue in eastern Iowa, where they raise 100% grass-fed beef and sell Red Devon cattle for seed stock. In 2010, shortly after moving to the area, they seeded row crop ground down to pasture and have been practicing high-density grazing to regenerate the soil and produce gourmet-quality, grass-finished beef.
On September 16, the Hostetlers will be hosting a field day on their farm focused on all things grass-fed beef production. They’ll talk production, from grass-efficient genetics, interseeding annuals to perennial pastures, and rotational grazing, all the way to market – what a grass finished animal looks like when its ready for market. On today’s show, we’ll talk all things regenerative grazing and grass-fed beef.
This week on the show, we have Earl Canfield of Dunkerton in northeast Iowa. Earl farms with his wife Jane and their four children. Their children represent the sixth generation of the Canfield family to be on the land since the mid-1860s, for which they received a Heritage Farm Award at the Iowa State Fair in 2016. The Canfields are making a transition from growing strictly corn and soybeans for commodity markets to growing and direct marketing a diverse mixture of value-added products, including whole grains, mixed feeds, produce and eggs.
On September 7th, they’ll be hosting a field day on their farm focused on all the things that it takes to grow and market oats and hay in Iowa. In addition, the Canfield Family has spent the last two years relearning how to grow small grains in Iowa. They have researched machinery, production strategies and varieties, in addition to seeking potential market streams. One opportunity is to direct-market small grains to small-scale livestock owners as either whole grains or as part of complete mixed feeds. We’ll talk about that and more on this week’s show.
If you haven’t gotten your Summer 2017 issue of the Practical Farmer, our quarterly newsletter, it should be arriving in the mail soon. In it, you’ll find a couple articles about food. One is authored by former PFI staffer and chef Tomoko Ogawa (it’s a fascinating update on her culinary adventures in Japan and Spain since leaving PFI 3 years ago). The other is an article I wrote “Cooking Adventurously to Support Local Food and Farmers” after talking to members Jamie Hostetler (cattle farmer), Jordan Clasen (veggie grower) and Bobby and Ty Gustafson (meat locker owners).
I wanted to know how friends of farmers could support farmers with their purchasing power. As a friend of farmer myself, what do farmers want me to eat? I get into some of their responses in my article, but a lot of it comes down to what’s good for the soil. The one caveat is that sometimes the vegetables and cuts of meat that farmers need to sell are ones that are a bit trickier to cook.
So I bought some grass-fed beef (helps support farmers who put more perennials on the landscape) and chose a cut of meat that usually just gets ground – beef short ribs (which I had never cooked before). Then, I chose a vegetable – fava beans – that Jordan told me is good for the soil due to its ability to fix nitrogen, and its root system. But, again, how do you cook a fava bean? You can read the results in my newsletter article, but I relied on my favorite food blog Serious Eats for guidance. I adapted these recipes to my own taste, and you can too.
Fava Beans (I really just took the fava bean part of this recipe and added lots of slow cooked garlic, a little honey, a little soy sauce, a little salt, and a little red wine vinegar).
Support your local farmer and have some fun in the kitchen!
This week on the show, we had Chris Teachout, who farms near Shenandoah in southwest Iowa with his wife Janenne. Chris is a fifth-generation farmer, and he and his family have been using conservation practices on their farm since the mid-80s. He raises corn, soybeans and small grains, and has been using no-till practices for over 20 years. Ultimately, his goal is to regenerate his soil with cover crops and biology. On this show, we talk with Chris about how he got started with cover crops, what soil health is, and what he hopes people will learn at his field day.
On August 29th, Chris will host a field day on his farm, where the soil scientist Jill Clapperton will speak about soil regeneration and soil health. The event is free for members of Practical Farmers of Iowa – you can find more information and RSVP at this link.
This week, On-Farm traveled to Lost Lake Farm, the farm of Kevin and Ranae Dietzel, to talk to Kevin while he made mozzarella cheese and cheese curds. Lost Lake Farm is a small, grass-fed cow dairy that produces artisanal cheese in an on-farm cheesery. The Dietzels operate the farm with low capital and a small herd. They focus on what they’re good at: grazing cattle and turning milk into a high-value product. Their cows are a mix of breeds, but are bred to Normande, a French breed known to produce milk for great cheese. The farm includes 80 acres of pasture and hay. Cattle are rotated through the pastures twice daily. On today’s show, we talk with Kevin about how they got started, the challenges of working long hours to make artisan cheese, how mozzarella is made, on-farm research, biodynamics, markets, and how the process of delicious cheese starts with healthy soil.
On August 14th, the Dietzels will lead a tour of their cheesery and milking facilities, which were constructed in 2016. Kevin and Ranae will discuss the challenges of starting a new business – from desiging and building facilities, to navigating regulations, to developing marketing and growth strategies, to managing scarce time and resources. During a pasture walk, Kevin will discuss his cattle genetics and breeding philosophy. We’ll also learn about stocking density, pasture residue and rest periods, see the Dietzels’ water and fence set-up, and talk about nutritional management for a grass-fed system. Kevin and Ranae will also discuss how biodynamic production practices influence the flavor of their cheeses.
You can watch this short video for a sneak peak of the field day or check out this news release.
“You’ve heard the song ‘Stuck in the Middle with You,’ that’s basically what I am,” says Craig Fleishman of Minburn. He hosted a field day on June 28 on his farm, Cardinal Farm. “I’m halfway between organic and industrial ag,” he says, “What I’m trying to do here is reach a balance between steel and herbicide. I’m trying to borrow a little bit from both sides. With this climate and these soils, I find it’s the best for what I’m trying to do. There’s enough tillage in the system to battle against resistant weeds and reduce the herbicide usage but there’s enough herbicide, so when we have rainy periods in June, we still have weed control – it bridges that gap.”
Craig uses a ridge-tillage system, and has been using it since 1981 after he read Ernie Behn’s book “More Profit with Less Tillage” and visited with Ernie. For more information on ridge-till, check out the “Ridge-Till Roundtable” session from the 2017 PFI conference.
This week on the show, we have Tyson Allchin of Allchin Acres near Columbus Junction. Tyson has spent much of the last 10 years of his life learning everything he can about mushroom cultivation. He’s grown a variety of different species of mushrooms, from oysters – which he says are the easiest to cultivate – to shiitake, to lion’s mane and many others. He says that mushrooms are relatively easy to grow if you learn a few basic things, and we discuss all of it – from preparing a substrate, to inoculation, to harvest, to eating – on this week’s show.
On August 8th, Tyson will be hosting a field day at his farm. In addition to touring his mushroom production building, he’ll show people where he grows microgreens and tour some of the land he rents to Chin refugees, who moved to Columbus Junction from their native country of Myanmar (also known as Burma).