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

Practical Farmers’ 2017 main field day season is almost upon us (our first event will take place this Sunday, May 21, at Blue Gate Farm).

Over the coming weeks, to help highlight some of the many farmer-led learning opportunities this growing season — and the farmers hosting them — we’ll be spotlighting many of the PFI farmers who are graciously giving their time to share their knowledge at these events.

Watch practicalfarmers.org and “Practical News,” our weekly email newsletter, for details and updates!

Fred Abels
K & A Acres Inc.
Member since 2004
Holland, IA

Fred Abels and his wife, Vicki, farm about 400 acres at K & A Acres Inc. Fred acquired the farm from his uncle in the late-1970s after working for other farmers for a few years. In addition to corn and soybeans, he has a cow-calf herd that he rotationally grazes.

He uses several conservation practices to protect his soil, local waterways and wildlife, including no-till, strip-till, cover crops, the Conservation Reserve Program and grass waterways, among others. Continue reading

Practical Farmers’ 2017 main field day season is almost upon us! Our first event will take place on Sunday, May 21, at Blue Gate Farm, operated by Jill Beebout and Sean Skeehan.

Over the coming weeks, to help highlight some of the many farmer-led learning opportunities this growing season — and the farmers hosting them — we’ll be spotlighting many of the PFI farmers who are graciously giving their time to share their knowledge at these events.

Watch practicalfarmers.org and “Practical News,” our weekly email newsletter, for details and updates!

Jill Beebout

Jill Beebout
Blue Gate Farm
Member since 2004
Chariton, IA

Jill Beebout farms at Blue Gate Farm with her husband, Sean Skeehan. They steward 40 acres of family land in southern Marion County, which has been in the Beebout family for generations, where they raise Certified Naturally Grown produce, laying hens, honey bees, hay and alpacas.

Their marketing is done primarily through their CSA and at farmers markets, including the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market.

Jill also makes homemade preserves from the produce she and Sean grow, and dyes and spins yarn from fibers sourced from their own alpacas as well as other wool sources.

Jill and Sean’s vision is to create an economically and ecologically self-sustaining homestead that provides an ongoing connection to the Beebout land for their family, guests and themselves. Continue reading

Bill and Betty Kimble
Members since 1989
Pella, IA

Bill and Betty Kimble raise vegetables, fruits and bees on their 40-acre farm near Pella. Berries have been central enterprises on the farm.

In the past, the Kimbles had up to 2 acres of land in strawberry and blueberry production, marketed both as U-pick and pre-pick.

They now have about a half-acre of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. “We cut things back to just what I can take care of,” Bill says. “I have some customers that pick up on the farm, and some at the Pella Farmers Market.”

Until a few years ago, the Kimbles also used to do some custom grazing on their land.

Bill served as a mentor to past Savings Incentive Program enrollee Matt Roe, of Terraceberry Farm, who was part of the SIP Class of 2015.

“I could tell Matt what not to do,” Bill says. “I failed at blueberries four times. Luckily, it was just three plants at a time. I never grew to the institutional, wholesale production scale – the scale as Matt is exploring. I couldn’t get consistency of supply, and never pursued it.

“We had been at various levels of production over 25 years, from an eighth of an acre to 2 acres of strawberries.”

In addition to farming, Bill used to work as a 6th-grade math and language arts teacher at Pella Christian Grade School. While he has retired from teaching, he and Betty continue to farm.

Their short-term goals include increasing income and profit. Their long-term goal is to continue farming for another 10 years.

Kerri and Todd Leach
Mammoth Hills Farm
Members since 2011
West Branch, IA

Kerri and Todd Leach raise registered Katahdin hair sheep; geese; chickens; and bees on 60 acres at Mammoth Hills Farm near West Branch. They also have an orchard, hoop house and raise mushrooms seasonally.

The sheep are the centerpiece of their farm, and are sold as meat via locker or on-farm processing, or as breeding stock. Both sheep and geese are 100 percent forage-based.

Kerri and Todd’s farm management philosophies and practices are rooted in permaculture, Holistic Management and biodynamic principles.

Their goal is “to build a food forest silvopasture combined with management-intensive grazing to grow grass-fed meat, forest crops and hoop house offerings to share with the public and feed our family.” Continue reading

Dennis and Cathy Carlson
Carlson Tree Farm
Members since 2014
Hampton, IA

Cathy and Dennis grow chemical-free trees and wheat on their 17-acre farm near Hampton. Their tree farm – Carlson Tree Farm – specializes in Christmas trees and related products, such as fresh wreaths.

The couple started Carlson Tree in the 1980s to generate extra family income. Dennis, who worked as a forester for Franklin County Conservation (when he retired in 2010, he served as director there), was able to apply his expertise to farming trees.

Today, the business remains a family endeavor. The couple’s three children – Michelle, Kelly and Ben – grew up with the business and still help. Michelle’s and Kelly’s husbands and children are also now part of the operation; and siblings, nieces and nephews and their children also help.

Cathy and Dennis raise about 4,000 trees – a mix of Scotch pine, white pine, white spruce, blue spruce and  Fraser firs – on a 10-year rotation, selling about 300 to 400 per year.

In addition to the tree farm, Cathy has for many years operated Cathy’s Country Cook’n, baking special-order wedding cakes, pies, cookies and breads, and teaching classes in bread-making.

The wheat she grows is used to make whole-wheat flour that she bags and sells either as grain for customers to grind, or pre-ground into flour.

Learn more about Cathy and Dennis in this 2014 article published in Agri News.

 

 

Greg Rebman
Rebman Farms
Member since 2015
Frederick, IL

Greg Rebman operates Rebman Farms near Frederick, Illinois, raising corn, soybeans, small grains and certified organic, rotationally grazed beef cattle on about 1,875 acres.

He uses cover crops on some of his farm’s row-crop acres – and is interested in transitioning more acres to cover crops as a means of providing “holistic fertility” on the farm and reducing synthetic fertilizer use.

Greg is also a regular reader of Practical Farmers’ on-farm research. When a new research report is published on PFI’s website, Greg is often one of the first to comment and get a conversation going with other farmers on one of our email discussion lists.

“I credit a lot of my own recent success to those conversations,” Greg says. “I would not have had the confidence in my 2016 rye enterprise had I not boned up on reports and contacted individual members on the discussion list to give me direction. We are expanding our cover crops and nitrogen ‘tweaking’ having been guided by some of the research done.”

In addition to farming, Greg offers a range of services for farmers and landowners through Rebman Farms, including creation of field and farm records; help analyzing and complying with government programs; development of crop and marketing plans; consulting services; and more.

The farm has been in the Rebman family for more than 100 years, and has been designated a Centennial Farm by the state of Illinois.

Learn more about Rebman Farms, its history and services, at www.rebmanfarms.com.

 

Josh Nelson (right)

Josh Nelson
Cardinal Prairie Farm
Member since 2012
Belmond, IA

Josh Nelson farms near Belmond with his father, two uncles and a cousin, growing corn, soybeans and pigs on the family’s main farm. Each family member rents or owns land individually, Josh explains, but “we all work jointly and own the equipment together.”

“This is my fifth year farming with them,” he adds. “Prior to that, I spent nearly a decade working as a journalist.”

Josh, the sixth generation to farm the family’s land, also independently operates Cardinal Prairie Farm on a portion of the land he rents, where he raises chemical-free produce on more than a half-acre – though he hopes to “slowly expand to a few acres” in the next few years. He also has a small herd of Highland cattle.

“The vegetable operation is chemical-free, which means I treat it as essentially organic once the plants sprout,” Josh says. Continue reading

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