Sally Worley

Executive Director

Sally Worley joined Practical Farmers of Iowa staff in the fall of 2007, after being a member of the organization for a few years.  She became the executive director February 1, 2016. Before that Sally worked in multiple positions at Practical Farmers, including: communications director, next generation and horticulture director, deputy director and operations director.

Sally works to ensure Practical Farmers is farmer-led and maintains its big tent, welcoming everyone into the organization. She oversees PFI’s staffing, programming, finances and programming, and is the primary liaison with the board of directors.

A native of Northeast Iowa, Sally graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in horticulture and environmental studies in 2001. Prior to working at Practical Farmers of Iowa, Sally directed the agriculture-based vocational program for people with autism at The Homestead near Pleasant Hill for four years. Sally has also started up a landscape maintenance program for a local landscape company, managed a crew of landscapers in Boise, Idaho, and apprenticed on an upstate New York organic vegetable farm.

Sally lives in Grimes, Iowa, with her husband Chris and three children. She is an avid fiction reader, enjoys live music, cooking for houseguests, gardening, traveling and spending time outdoors.


Blog posts

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s annual silent auction at our annual conference is gearing up to be a great one due to member generosity.

Here is a sneak peek at some of the items we are excited about:

Fishing Sunset Resort
Sunset Resort

Three-night stay for two at the Sunset Resort on the Ash River Trail near Lake Kabetogama in northern Minnesota. If you want to go relax in beautiful Northern Minnesota, but have more than two in tow, no problem! The resort owner will put the full credit ($340) toward another cabin. Donated by John Goraczkowski

piggy (1)

Half a hog, to be picked up from Story City Locker: This hog comes with a tale. The Dial family found this lost weaned pig wandering in a field they were working last April. They raised him on grass and vegetables and fruit from their gardens, including aronia berries. He was never given antibiotics or GMO feed. Say the Dials: “This special pig has lived a wonderful ‘real pig’ life.” Hog donated by the Gertrude, Gary and Ursula Dial;  processing donated by Ty and Bobbie Gustafson 

Loyas bnb
loyas breakfast

Gift basket including a one-night stay at Loya’s Little House Bread and Breakfast  near Ames. Basket also includes homemade jam, which will give the winner of the prize a sneak preview of the delicious breakfast that is offered as part of the accommodations. Donated by Dean and Denise Biechler

simply the greatest life

Featherman apron, Featherman broiler cone and Featherman $50 gift certificate. Donated by David Schafer David is also donating two books he has authored, Just the Greatest Life, and Simply the Greatest Life. As always, there will be many unique and interesting agriculture-related books available at the auction.

$50 gift certificate to Red Fern Farm, 5 pounds of chestnut seed mix good for zone 5a and south, 5 pounds of Qing chestnut seed, good for the southern half of Iowa, and a gift basket of wine, jam, chestnuts and persimmons. Donated by Kathy Dice and Tom Wahl 

…And much more! Bring your wallet so you can bid on these great items. Please note: You must be present to win! 

Do you want to donate to the silent auction? Please email [email protected]

wedding tractors

In addition to the silent auction, Helen Gunderson has donated some very nice calendars that capture rural Iowa, urban gardening, and cats. These will be at Practical Farmers of Iowa’s merchandise table during the conference.

Proceeds from the auction and calendar sales will help us fulfill our mission of strengthening farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing.

Earlier this month I attended Iowa Environmental Council’s annual conference. This year’s theme was ECOnomics. During one session, speakers talked about the benefits and challenges of trying to make a living that sustains land, water, families and rural communities.

Seth Watkins

One speaker was Practical Farmers member Seth Watkins. Seth is the fourth generation farming his family’s 1846-founded heritage farm near Clarinda. Seth operates a 600-head cow-calf enterprise, raises hay and corn for cattle feed, and implements a multitude of conservation practices.

Seth started his presentation with: “Can farmers make a living while caring for their land, soil and water? Yes, absolutely. I am a farmer. I get money from the government. You all contributed to that. At the very least, I owe you clean water and healthy soil.” Continue reading

As a farmer-led organization Practical Farmers strives to have farmers represent at least 70% of our membership. We welcome everyone, and relish our friends of farmers members (I am a friend of farmers member).

However, having a large percent of farmers as members assures our work is indeed farmer-led. We are proud to report, as of the end of our fiscal year, 74% of our members are either farmers or aspiring farmers (67% farmers, 7% aspiring farmers). Who are these farmers and what do they grow? This group is diverse! Farmers in the network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and much more. Practices range from conventional to organic, with many iterations of conservation and farm efficiencies employed. These farmers are hard to categorize, and this heterogeneity makes the network strong.

Thank you, farmers, for being part of Practical Farmers of Iowa. Your involvement is what makes us effective and credible!

Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband, Photo Courtesy of The Land Connection

Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband – photo courtesy of The Land Connection

Wes Jarrell, Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, Champaign, IL, member since 1993: “We joined [Practical Farmers] because it’s an exceptional place to hear what other farmers are doing, all sizes, management styles, production systems, in a constructive way.  Lots of perspectives aired.”


Many farm conservation practices are proven to protect soil while reducing both the amount of inputs needed and reduce nutrient runoff. However, these conservation practices come with unknowns to those curious about adding them to their farm systems. What are the costs? risks? At Conservation District of Iowa’s annual conference, Practical Farmers of Iowa sponsored a panel where three member farmers (all soil and water commissioners) shared their experiences with the audience in a Myth Busters Panel to debunk commonly perceived downfalls of conservation practices. 

Rick Juchems

Rick Juchems

Rick Juchems raises 470 acres of corn and soybeans, and finishes 5,000 hogs annually at his farm in northeast Iowa near Plainfield. Rick started using cover crops in 2003 and now raises cover crops on all his crop acres. Rick spoke about his experience with cover crops on his farm. Rick’s PowerPoint

Rick started his presentation by defining cover crops: “Cover crops are a living crop grown after harvesting a cash crop—cereal rye, oats, wheat…anything that will turn green in fall and protect the soil.”

Rick talked about benefits he is seeing on his farm, including: reduced wind and water erosion; reduced nutrient runoff; reduced fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide rates and costs; increased organic matter and soil health; and weed suppression.

Rick said, “I’m growing bacteria and earthworms and producing a healthier soil. Turkey, quail, and pheasants are returning to my farm. I can now hear pheasants cackle in the morning and evening, which hasn’t happened for a long time.”

Continue reading

Or $50, $110…whatever annual membership dues you provide Practical Farmers each year.

We do rely on membership income to reach budgetary goals. Reaching these goals provides us funding to be farmer-directed and provide programming relevant to our members and their needs.

However, membership in Practical Farmers of Iowa provides us much more than fiscal support. I get excited each time I see a new member, often googling farm or business names (such as new members St. Andrews Holy Carp Fertilizer) to find out what new expertise and observations they are going to bring to the PFI network.

Here are reasons some of our board members would like to see more Practical Farmers members: Continue reading

Wendy started our circle of introductions after we ate a bountiful meal. She shared our cooperator's program tradition having all tell fellow attendees what they were curious about.

Wendy started our circle of introductions after we ate a bountiful meal. She shared our cooperator’s program tradition having all tell fellow attendees what they were curious about. Photo courtesy of Steve Strasheim.

Last Sunday the Worley kids and I were able to go to board vice-president Wendy Johnson, her husband Johnny Rafkin and their daughter Vivienne’s social they held on their JOIA Food Farm near Charles City. About 40 people came together this beautiful Sunday afternoon to share food and conversation.

Wendy said during her introduction: “We like to host socials to bring people together to realize PFI’s mission, vision and values of building community and celebrating agriculture. We are a farmer-led, member-led organization and feel it’s important for members to get together, get to know one another and build community. Socials are also a way to grow membership and celebrate agricultural diversity, stewardship and ecology.” Continue reading

Photo courtesy of James Worrell

Photo courtesy of James Worrell – For more photos from the event and from Iowa taken by James Worrell, visit


One hundred thirty people joined together July 16 at Danamere Farms in Carlisle to celebrate Rob and Susan Fleming’s hard work that earned them Practical Farmers’ 2016 Farmland Owner Award. The goals of this award are two-fold:

To recognize those PFI farmland owner members who work to sustain farm businesses, long-term soil productivity, environmental quality and vibrant rural communities, including helping the next generation start farming.

To call attention to the need for greater landowner partnerships with farmers. Any non-operator landowner – which is someone who owns land but does not labor on that land – is eligible.

Alex Congera, Rob Fleming and Aaron White

Alex Congera, Rob Fleming and Aaron White

For more on the Flemings receiving this award click here.

For past recipients click here.

The afternoon was what you hope for a summer event: warm but not hot, a slight breeze with blue skies and fluffy clouds. The afternoon started with self-guided tours of Danamere Farms that wonderfully illustrated why the board of directors chose the Flemings for this year’s award recipients. Continue reading

The Future of Family Farms: Practical Farmers’ Legacy Letters Project will be available late summer 2016. To preorder the book, see:

Advanced kudos for the book have been coming in. Jim Habana Hafner, Executive Director at Land for Good, says “PFI and its members are an inspiration! They remind us all that family, community, and stewardship are at the heart of farming. Their stories are a call to action to everyone who ‘belongs to the land:’ start the conversation about your farm’s legacy today. The future of rural communities and regional food systems may depend on it.” Continue reading

Guest post from PFI board president Mark Peterson


My wife Melanie and I just completed a two-day road trip that circled a good share of Iowa. We are currently hunting for a newer combine and locally there isn’t much to choose from. We took a swing into Nebraska and entered back into Iowa at Onawa. From there we drove 175 up to US 20. We followed 20 across to Independence, where we spent the night. After a stop in the Ryan area we decided to change it up from my usual hard driving get-there-quick style. We angled home trying to take as many county roads as possible.

In my lifetime I have traveled a lot of these roads, but we traveled on many I never had the pleasure of driving before. Some of towns that we passed thru or close-by included Troy Mills, Walker, Garrison, and Clutier. From there we took a more traditional route of Hwy 30 to Ames. We returned to the county road system visiting Luther, Berkley, Rippey and Cooper, then down thru Stuart to somewhat more familiar roads, Hwys 92,71 and (old) 34 on home.

So what is the purpose of all these mumblings? Observations from the trip:

Near Ryan Iowa

Near Ryan Iowa

First of all, Iowa nice does still exist. As I was studying the map outside Troy Mills, a lady pulled up to see if we needed help with directions. Maybe it was the grey hair or the confused looks, but honestly we were checking to see if we would be able to continue to study the growing of grapes in Iowa on our way home. Ok Ok we were looking for wineries!

Secondly, driving thru Buchanan, Benton, and Tama counties we were surprised by the long and sometimes sharp slopes out in the fields. Along with this we were saddened to notice that lack of cover crops on so many of these acres. The same could be said about our drive on Friday both in Nebraska and then along Hwy 175 in Western Iowa. We are finding it hard to believe the number of cover crop acres supposedly planted based on our drive. Looking at the erosion in the fields there is plenty of room for improvement. We came upon a huge amount of dirt blowing Saturday morning, and then low and behold found a tilled naked soybean field.

Finally, on our last stop for the day, we got into a conversation with a woman, and it came out we were farmers. She asked what crops we grow, and of course I mentioned our small grains and other cover crops. The woman had an interest in the family farm, although her father still called the shots on rental. She expressed concern that their present tenant had so far refused to use cover crops, and she was trying to figure out how to change that. We did not come up with any stunning advice as to how to quickly change the situation as they were happy with the tenant otherwise, “We know he is a good farmer,” but it was obvious the desire for cover crops was there.

She did speak proudly of her brother-in-law who she described as a PFI member who uses rye and cover crop mixes to protect his acres. She also mentioned some of the things her father had done to enhance the soil and protect it in years past. I found it interesting that even though she has knowledge of all of this they are still using a tenant who is not protecting the soil.

All-in-all it appears to me we have much work to do moving forward. As you travel this great state of ours I ask you to remember to tell your story, (many of you have very interesting stories), be proud to be a PFI member, and help spread the word on what can be done. It appears to me we have a very long way to go.

Mark and Melanie with Christine, David Young's staffer

Mark and Melanie with Christie, David Young’s staffer

Guest Blog Post from PFI Board President Mark Peterson

Melanie and I were just in Washington DC at the invitation of National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition for their spring farmer fly-in. While we were there we were able to have meetings with several Iowa members of congress. Our main objective was to meet with Rep. David Young, and we were able to meet first with him. David is our representative for this part of Iowa (we live and farm in Southwest Iowa near Stanton). He and his ag staffer Christie Downey were very receptive to our requests, which were:

  1. Request Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education funding be raised from roughly $25 mil to $30 million, which is half of its authorized level of $60 million.
  2. No limits on Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and Regional Conservation Partnership Program funding.
  3. Ten million in funding for the Food Safety Outreach Program.
  4. Ten million in additional funding for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmer and Rancher Programs. This would restore that program to its previous level of $20 million.

After talking with David, I do believe he is on board with these funding requests and will support these requests.

Our next meeting was coffee with Joni Ernst and her ag staffer Devin Mogler, a farm boy from Lyons county. While she doesn’t hold any of the direct purse strings on these funds, I feel it is important to maintain contact with her so that we keep any influence that she has working for us. Once again she is supportive and will help as she can with these funds.

Mark and Melanie with Rep. Dave Loebsack

Mark and Melanie with Rep. Dave Loebsack

From there we went directly to a coffee co-sponsored by Young and Rep. Dave Loebsack. While at that coffee Dave Loebsack approached us mainly because of our Don’t Farm Naked shirts (there’s a story there!). He sat down with us at this coffee and gave us a good ten minutes to pitch our story to him and his ag staffer Mitch Adams. He  was very supportive of our requests and also of PFI in general. I really appreciate that he took that much time at a public coffee to visit just with us.

I felt that our time was well spent, but as they say,”The proof is in the pudding.” I encourage you to watch and listen to what is going on out there. Always take the time to write, email, or call your legislator on issues important to you. It was apparent that they do want to hear from their constituents.