Tamsyn Jones

Outreach and Publications Coordinator

Tamsyn Jones joined PFI in March 2012 as the new Strategic Communications and Policy Associate. She is responsible for writing and distributing press releases, media relations, occasional feature stories, helping with PFI’s blog and social media presence and coordinating visits to PFI member farms. She also assists with PFI’s policy efforts by helping members share their views in the media and become more involved in policy efforts, and publicizing the work of PFI staff and members in policy areas.

Before coming to PFI, Tamsyn spent two years working at Iowa State University as the communications specialist for ISU’s Corn and Soybean Initiative. Before that she wrote about agricultural issues for University of Missouri Extension. She received her B.S. in technical writing, with a strong focus in ecology, from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and her M.A. in journalism from University of Missouri, where she majored in environmental journalism and worked as a teaching assistant in the Agricultural Journalism program.

She then spent a year as a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar in Tasmania, where she worked to foster international peace and understanding and studied journalism at the University of Tasmania. While there, she made efforts to learn about the state’s unique agricultural industry – and got to try her hand at shearing some Merino sheep.

Tamsyn grew up in Pittsburgh, PA as the first “off-the-farm” generation. Her father grew up on a mixed dairy farm in New York’s Catskill Mountains, close to where her aunt currently owns a sheep farm, and she’s been intrigued to learn how her ancestors were among the first apple farmers in Maine. She and her husband, Chris, are very interested in small-scale, sustainable farming and dream of someday starting a small goat and vegetable farm on his sixth-generation family farm in rural east-central Missouri.

In her spare time, Tamsyn loves playing Irish fiddle and tin whistle, swimming, reading medieval literature and going on hiking and camping trips with Chris and their two cats (who love their nature leash walks and car trips).

Blog posts

Terry Troxel
Iowana Farm
Member since 2012
Crescent, IA

At Iowana Farm, located on her grandfather’s farmland snuggled in the Loess Hills, Terry raises 3 acres of certified organic heirloom vegetables for a CSA; the Village Pointe and Rockbrook Village farmers markets in Omaha; several restaurants; and wholesale.

Terry and her late husband, Chuck, moved back to Iowa from California in 2007 and started Iowana Farm. The 66-acre farm features 20 acres of land under cultivation – the 3 acres in certified organic vegetables and the rest in alfalfa hay. The farm’s fields are surrounded by oak savanna and grasslands.

In addition to annual crops — some grown in one of Terry’s three high tunnels — the farm also has some perennial crops.

Terry hosted a Practical Farmers field day in 2014, presented at PFI’s 2017 annual conference and is part of Practical Farmers’ on-farm research Cooperators’ Program.

Her farm is a busy place, with employees, volunteers, friends and family at work and enjoying each other’s company.

Learn more about Terry:

Brad Law and family -- wife Megan and boys Gentry, Porter and Sawyer

Brad Law and family
(From left to right: sons Gentry, Porter and baby Sawyer; Megan and Brad)
Law Farms LLC
Members since 2015

King City, MO

Brad Law is one of Practical Farmers’ out-of-state members. He farms with his wife, Megan, and their three boys (Gentry, 6; Porter, 3; and Sawyer, born Jan. 7, 2017) at Law Farms LLC, their 300-acre farm near King City, Missouri, in the northwestern part of the state.

The family grows corn, soybeans, winter wheat and some farmers market produce. “For the produce, we are growing white and yellow popcorn; bi-color, non-GMO sweet corn; strawberries; peppers; tomatoes; and a variety of other items,” Brad says.

“This spring we are embarking on a new addition with a 26-by-96-foot high tunnel, which will be a new learning experience. We have also ordered 2,000 ever-berry strawberry plants to expand our strawberry production to beyond what our boys can eat.” Continue reading

Thank you to everyone who came to our 2017 annual conference! It’s always wonderful to see so many familiar and new faces each year.

With so many members coming from all across Iowa (and beyond!), it’s also a perfect opportunity to capture more photos of the many faces that make up Practical Farmers of Iowa.

In this week’s member spotlight, we continue our theme of featuring some of the PFI members who helped make this year’s conference another great success.

Michael Christl
Member since 2015
Des Moines, IA

Michael is an aspiring farmer who grew up in the state of Nevada and has been living in the Des Moines area for the past couple of years. He learned about Practical Farmers of Iowa while attending the 2015 Fall Farm Cruise featuring Practical Farmers member farms, such as The Berry Patch, Cory Family Farm and Seven Pines Farm in the Polk and Story county areas.

Michael currently works as market coordinator for Drake Neighborhood Farmers Market — but he is interested in grass-fed and niche livestock.

Through PFI’s Labor4Learning program, Michael was hired by Cory Family Farm, where he worked as a trainee for most of 2016. Michael said that working for the Cory family was “an invaluable experience, and they’ll continue to be [his] mentors forever.” Continue reading

Thank you to everyone who came to our 2017 annual conference! It’s always wonderful to see so many familiar and new faces each year.

With so many members coming from all across Iowa (and beyond!), it’s also a perfect opportunity to capture more photos of the many faces that make up Practical Farmers of Iowa.

In this week’s member spotlight, we continue our theme of featuring some of the PFI members who helped make this year’s conference another great success.

Jerry Peckumn (right)
Peckumn Farm
Member since 2004
Jefferson, IA

Jerry farms with his sons near Jefferson, raising row crops, cover crops and hay on about 1,900 acres. He cuts hay on part of the farm, leaving the rest for wildlife, and also maintains several areas of native prairie and forage species.

Jerry uses many conservation techniques to protect his soils and water resources on his farm, and is a vocal advocate for protecting Iowa’s soil and water quality.

In addition to serving as board president for Iowa Rivers Revival (read more about his activity with IRR here), he has participated in several Washington D.C. fly-ins organized by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (of which Practical Farmers is a member) to advocate for effective federal agriculture and conservation policies.

In 2015, Jerry received the Center for Rural Affairs’ Citizen Award for his efforts to advance policies that benefit farm families and rural communities.

With his son, Tom, Jerry also owns Peckumn Real Estate, which specializes in both residential and farmland sales.

In 2012, Jerry helped lead a PFI farminar on tax preparation for farmers. Click here to listen to or download the audio of that farminar — just in time for tax season!

John and Beverly Gilbert, of Iowa Falls, are the recipients of the 2017 Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award from Practical Farmers of Iowa. The award is granted each year to an individual or couple that has shown exemplary commitment to sustainable agriculture, generously shared their knowledge with others and been influential in efforts to foster vibrant communities, diverse farms and healthy food.

The award was presented to John and Beverly on Friday, Jan. 20, during Practical Farmers’ 2017 annual conference. Each shared comments with the audience upon accepting the award. What follows are John’s remarks. To learn more about the Gilberts and why they were chosen for the award, click here.

Beverly and John Gilbert accepting the 2017 PFI Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award

Beverly and John Gilbert each shared remarks with the audience upon accepting the 2017 PFI Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award.

“What Sustains Us” — by John Gilbert

There are those who say sustainability has been so co-opted it no longer has much meaning, and while I often concur, this is one situation where it still has real meaning. What makes this recognition a real honor is the members who make PFI the organization it is. The sustainability award has meaning because for more than 30 years, the members of this organization have always walked the walk. Thank you.

I’d like to take a couple minutes to talk about an aspect of sustainability that’s not well recognized. That is, what is there about what we do, about how we do it and why we do it that sustains us…that keeps us going through good times, and especially the not so good times? And I’m mainly talking about what sustains us beyond the physical. Whether you want to consider it emotional or psychological or spiritual, is not as important as realizing those of us in sustainable agriculture have something that much of society is lacking, and which many people – on some level –  are seeking. Continue reading

Thank you to everyone who came to our 2017 annual conference! It’s always wonderful to see so many familiar and new faces each year.

With so many members coming from all across Iowa (and beyond!), it’s also a perfect opportunity to capture more photos of the many faces that make up Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Over the coming weeks, as we all savor and reflect on the lessons learned, fun had, and friendships forged or rekindled during PFI’s 2017 annual conference, we’d like to spotlight some of the PFI members who helped make this year’s conference another great success.

Members since 2001 Perry, IA

Robert and Carol Smith
Members since 2001
Perry, IA

Robert and Carol are long-time friends-of-farmer members, now retired from their previous professions (Robert as a machinist and Carol as an educator and extension director), who are actively engaged with local foods as both home gardeners (and food preservers) and in local food efforts within their community.

The couple subscribes to a CSA (they used to belong to PFI member Angela Tedesco’s Turtle Farm CSA until she retired from farming in 2012). They spearhead a local cooperative buying effort to source sustainably harvested seafood (once offered through Angela’s CSA, but Robert and Carol took on the effort when she retired). About 10 years ago, they also started – and are still active with – Growing for Food and Profit, a group for those interested in growing food or supporting locally grown foods. Continue reading

Passing on knowledge from farmer to farmer works because farmers are credible to each other. Supporting this farmer-led model is what we strive to do at Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Our 2017 annual conference, “Pass It On” (Jan. 201-21 – learn more here), celebrates this model and the impact of farmer-to-farmer learning on farmers’ confidence to explore new or different farming practices, and their ability improve farm profitability and land stewardship.

As we prepare for the conference, we’d like to introduce you to some of the PFI farmers you can learn from during conference sessions.

Lori and Tim Diebel

Tim and Lori Diebel
Taproot Garden
Members since 2010
Norwalk, IA

Tim and Lori raise produce, chickens and bees at Taproot Garden, their 10-acre farm established in 2011. The farm features several wooded acres, along with 3 acres of recently planted native prairie grasses and pollinator wildflowers – funded through prairie restoration grants from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

As part of their commitment to using sustainable practices on their land, Tim and Lori obtained Certified Naturally Grown status for both their vegetables and eggs, and they employ rain barrels and a 26-panel photovoltaic solar system.

Tim is originally from West Texas, and worked for 30 years as a parish pastor. Lori grew up in Iowa and worked as a teacher and educator for many years until her retirement in 2014.

On their website, Tim and Lori write that the name of their farm, “Taproot Garden,” was: “inspired by that sturdy, anchoring root of some plants – like carrots and dandelions – that reaches deep into the soil for nourishment, strength and durability, and from which all other growth emerges. Pursuing a similar deep and nourishing strength, we planted ourselves into this beautiful setting of living soil and fertile imagination.” Continue reading

Jeanie McKewan

Jeanie McKewan of Brightflower Farm

Interest in locally raised cut flowers is a growing trend nationally, and within Iowa. More PFI farmers have started expressing interest in learning how to grow flowers to tap into this market (and for other reasons), and we’re pleased to be able to bring experienced cut flower farmer Jeanie McKewan to our 2017 annual conference this year (“Pass It On,” Jan. 20-21, in Ames).

Jeanie has been raising cut flowers at Brightflower Farm near Stockton, Illinois, since 2006. She grows cut flowers on about 2 acres on her farm, as well as on some rented land just over the Wisconsin border. Flowers are grown in an open field, in high tunnels and in raised-bed containers. Jeanie’s farm is located in zone 5 (of the USDA plant hardiness rating scale). Thus, her production starts in minimally heated houses over the winter in order to begin sales in late March, and sales last into November with decorative branches and succulents.

I chatted with Jeanie to learn a bit more about growing cut flowers, their challenges and how they might differ from vegetable production.

(Note: Jeanie is teaching two sessions on cut flower production — one geared specifically to those just starting out with cut flowers, and another for experienced flower growers — at this year’s conference, so be sure to attend if you want to learn more! Get full details in our conference brochure, or register for the conference here.) Continue reading

Passing on knowledge from farmer to farmer works because farmers are credible to each other. Supporting this farmer-led model is what we strive to do at Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Our 2017 annual conference, “Pass It On” (Jan. 201-21 – learn more here), celebrates this model and the impact of farmer-to-farmer learning on farmers’ confidence to explore new or different farming practices, and their ability improve farm profitability and land stewardship.

As we prepare for the conference, we’d like to introduce you to some of the PFI farmers you can learn from during conference sessions.

Darren Fehr

Darren Fehr
Member since 2013
Mallard, IA

Darren Fehr farms with his wife, Nora, and their five children. Together, they farm 1,000 acres of certified organic corn, soybeans, oats, peas and alfalfa, as well as edible beans like kidney and black bean.

Darren started farming in 1994. In 1998, he started farming a piece of ground that was coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Someone recommended that he try planting organic soybeans, which at the time were $25 per bushel (whereas conventional corn was at about $3 per bushel).

“At that stage in my farming career, we were starting with really nothing – we didn’t have much of a land base – so it did open up the opportunity to create more value per acre of land, instead of trying to find more land. And then, after that, [farming organically] became more of a personal challenge.”

Continue reading

Will Harris

Will Harris is one of the featured speakers at Practical Farmers’ 2017 annual conference — and we’re very excited that he’s able to join us! He and his family operate White Oak Pastures, a nearly 1,300-acre farm near Bluffton, Georgia that has been in the Harris family for six generations (the sixth generation was just born on the farm to one of Will’s daughters in early December).

In 1995, Will started transforming White Oak Pastures from an industrial cattle farm to a grass-based, multi-species operation built on core philosophies of respect for both livestock and land. First, he stopped feeding his cattle grain and ceased using antibiotics and hormone implants. A few years later he eliminated chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Will then built a USDA-inspected beef abattoir on the farm, diversified his livestock, and added vegetable and egg production to the farm.

Today, White Oak Pastures is a profitable, vertically integrated operation featuring cattle, sheep, hogs, goats and five poultry species that employs over 130 people — and has helped revive the local community of Bluffton. White Oak Pastures also bears the distinction of being the only farm in the U.S. that has both red and white meat abattoirs on site. Livestock are rotated through the farm’s pastures in the Serengeti Plains Rotational Grazing Model, and all animals are hand-butchered on the farm in USDA-inspected, zero-waste facilities that run on solar energy.

Continue reading