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.
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.
This week on On-Farm is Deb Finch of Finch Livestock. Deb farms with her husband Eric near Marshalltown in east-central Iowa, where they raise meat goats for direct to consumer sales. They began raising goats a little more than 15 years ago. On the show, I talk with Deb about all things goats – from feed to fencing to health to markets, and her upcoming field day.
One of the biggest problems goat owners face is that the animals are highly susceptible to parasites. In the past, when goat owners had problems with parasites, they treated them by administering de-wormer to the entire herd. But Deb and many other goat farmers have moved toward only treating animals they know to be infected, largely in an effort slow resistance to de-wormers. Using the FAMACHA test and doing fecal eggs counts are two ways that goat owners can use to determine which animals need to be dewormed.
On June 27, Deb and Eric will host a two-part event on their farm that will cover those and many other topics. The morning portion — a pre-field day workshop — will be led by Dr. Paul Plummer, a veterinarian at Iowa State University (and goat owner). He will lead a two-hour, hands-on FAMACHA training. The FAMACHA test allows goat owners to assess parasite loads by examining goats’ eyelids. The field day will begin after lunch, where Dr. Plummer will give a lesson on parasite management, and Deb will talk about all different aspects of raising goats while leading a tour of her pastures.
Stay tuned to Practical News each week for new episodes! You can find out more information about On-Farm at practicalfarmers.org/podcasts.
This week on On-Farm, T.D. Holub of Coggon in eastern Iowa. T.D. and his fiancée, Sarah Gericke, grow fruits and vegetables for farmers’ markets, restaurants, grocery stores and for a 100-person CSA. On the show, I talk to T.D. about his upcoming field day – on June 9, “Tractors and Tools with T.D.” – focusing on some of the farm machinery he’s purchased over the past few years for the vegetable operation. Included: a water wheel transplanter, a Williams tool bar system, an Allis Chalmers G tractor, a homemade walk-in cooler and more. Also, we talk about whole food and health, selling “weird” vegetables and coming back to the family farm.
To learn more about T.D. and Sarah, check out their website, Garden Oasis Farm. Stay tuned to Practical News each week for new episodes! You can find out more information about On-Farm at practicalfarmers.org/podcasts.
“On-Farm: Conversations with Practical Farmers” is a new podcast from Practical Farmers of Iowa. Each week, I’ll interview a different farmer. We’ll hear from new and experienced; young and old; small and large; horticulture, livestock and row-crop farmers. We’ll talk with farmers about the issues most relevant to the farming community: the nitty gritty of growing and raising all sorts of plants and animals; on-farm research; protecting and improving soil and water quality; farm profitability; the challenges facing beginning farmers; building community in rural areas; and of course, food.
And… the first episode is up! Our first guest on the podcast is long-time PFI member Jill Beebout. Jill owns and operates Blue Gate Farm near Chariton in south-central Iowa with her partner Sean Skeehan. They raise fruits and vegetables for a small CSA (community supported agriculture) and also sell their produce at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market. In addition, they produce free-range eggs, raw honey, alpaca fiber and handspun yarn.
Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher (coming soon)
On this episode, Jill talks about her upcoming field day about two-wheeled tractors (find out more about the field day here), the history of Blue Gate Farm, vegetable production, the roots of the Farm Crawl, being a female boss in farming, PFI’s Labor4Learning program, and her alpacas. Continue reading
The first season of Rotationally Raised has come to a close. We hope you learned a lot about production, and that you’ve decided that small grains could work on your farm. That said, in this episode, we shift the focus a bit to include the bigger picture. Members of Practical Farmers of Iowa want to grow small grains again because they’re good for the farm, good for rural communities and good for our food system as a whole. In this final episode of the first season of Rotationally Raised, we explore how diversified crop rotation could play a big role in making the agricultural supply chain – that provides us all with food, feed, fuel and fiber – more sustainable.
For farmers that grow small grains, the harvest is just the beginning. After harvesting the crop in July, the possibilities for cover crops to plant on that ground are endless. “The world is your oyster,” says Jon Bakehouse of Hastings. Because you can seed cover crops as early as July 1, there’s plenty of time for those plants to soak up the long, hot days.
Cover crops like radishes and turnips – which, in most years, would not provide much benefit planted in late fall between corn and soybeans – have time to develop large tubers and bust up compaction layers. There’s also time for legumes to fix plenty of nitrogen and forages to put on plenty of biomass. This gives livestock farmers the option to rest perennial pastures in order to graze them later in the fall or stockpile for winter, cutting back on hay costs. In this week’s episode, we talk with farmers who plant multi-species cover crop mixes in the summer for their cattle to graze.
Time was when oats were included in the diet of nearly every single farm animal (aside from maybe the dogs and cats) raised in the state of Iowa. Cattle, dairy cows, horses, chickens, pigs and sheep all ate oats (and other small grains) at various stages of their lives. That time has now past, of course, on most farms. But for many farmers, small grains still make up an important component of the livestock feed ration. On this week’s episode, we hear from several members around the state about how they include small grains in their livestock feed.
We recorded a handful of presentations at last month’s annual conference, and now they’re available on our YouTube channel. We’ll have a handful more posted in the coming weeks. You can find the PDFs of these presentations on our annual conference multimedia page.
Keynote – “Pass It On” – PFI members Susan Jutz of Iowa City, Dan Wilson of Paullina and Vic Madsen of Audubon give advice to younger farmers, and share stories from their years of farming experience.
Marketing can be challenging for any crop, especially when commodity prices are low. But for small grains, the number of elevators that will even have bids out for most small grains is limited. Because Iowa farmers recognize the benefits of adding a third crop to their farm, they are finding both traditional markets and on-farm uses for the crops. On this week’s episode, PFI farmers talk about those challenges and opportunities marketing small grains.
Because the markets for small grains require that farmers produce good yields, but also good grain quality, storage is particularly important. Fortunately, most farmers that raise corn and soybeans usually have the equipment and facilities on their farm to keep small grains in good condition after harvest. In this episode, PFI members share some of their experiences with small grains handling, cleaning and storage.
When it comes to small grains, Iowa farmers have many different opinions on the best time and method to harvest the crops. Unlike with corn and soybeans, there’s a choice to be made: should you swath/windrow or directly combine the small grains standing? Depending on the year, weather conditions and the equipment available on-farm, this may be a choice, or only one of the two options may be available. In this episode of Rotationally Raised, PFI members weigh in on this, as well as harvest timing and how to fine-tune your combine to more efficiently harvest small grains.