Cooperators’ Meeting

The Cooperators’ Meeting is a two-day event where our farmer members gather to discuss past research and plan on-farm research for the following year.

Like our annual conference, our Cooperators’ Meeting is an annual event rooted in the Practical Farmers ethos of farmers generating independent solutions to on-farm challenges through farmer-led on-farm research and demonstration projects — and then sharing that knowledge freely with other farmers. Cooperators’ share results of recently finished projects at the meeting.  The Cooperators’ Meeting is the central place to ask new questions for future projects and set research priorities. The cooperators’ Meeting process allows PFI staff to respond directly to farmers’ needs with practical projects that help farmers improve their profitability, environmental impact and community.

Unlike our annual conference, however, participants in our Cooperators’ Program must be members of Practical Farmers of Iowa. All farmer members are welcome to become participants, suggest research projects they are interested in conducting and join their peers to help decide the roster of on-farm research Practical Farmers will carry out over the coming year. The two-day-long event is punctuated by a dinner open to all members (not just research participants), during which the annual Master Researcher Award is presented to a member who has conducted 20 or more on-farm research trials and hosted at least five Practical Farmers field days to share knowledge gained over the years.

The Cooperators’ Program is the epitome of what PFI is all about: Farmer-led investigation and information sharing. In 2016, 76 farmer-researchers conducted 109 trials on farms across the state spanning the field crops, livestock, and horticulture program areas. On Dec. 8-9, 70 farmers gathered in Ames to discuss completed on-farm research projects and design new experiments.

 

Project ideas developed at the 2016 meeting:

  • Successful Strategies for Growing Corn After Cover Crops: Termination Dates & N Rates
  • Alternatives to Cereal Cover Crops Ahead of Corn
  • Cover Crops Between Soybeans and Oats
  • Interseeding Cover Crops into Corn at V4
  • Cover Crops and Hog Manure Application
  • Roller-Crimping Cover Crops Ahead of Soybeans for Weed Control
  • Tea Bag Soil Health Index: Green vs. Rooibos Tea Decomposition Rates
  • Relay- vs. Double-Cropping Cereal Rye and Soybeans
  • Self-Seeding Cover Crops in Soybeans
  • Soybean Row-Width When Planted into Living Cover Crop
  • Plowed vs. Sprayed Cover Crop Ahead of Soybeans
  • Best Practices for Small Grains & Extending Crop Rotations
  • Frost-seeded vs. Summer-seeded Legumes the Year Before Corn
  • Companion Cropping Soybeans+Barley
  • Grazing Effects on Soil Health in CRP and Cover Crop Fields
  • Grazed Pastures and Pollinators: Can Properly Managed Pastures Support Pollinator Habitat?
  • Grazing to Renovate Wetlands and Target Invasive Species
  • Meat Quality of Grass-Fed Animals, Particularly Omega-3 and -6 Fatty Acids
  • Efficacy of Natural Dewormers or Natural Supplements
  • Parasite Loads When Grazing in Cover Crop Fields
  • Summer Lettuce Trial
  • Bush Cherry Variety Trial
  • Keeping the Soil Covered: Small-Scale No-Till Lettuce
  • Sheep Grazing Cover Crops for Better Brassica Yields
  • Long Purple Carrots in Leaf Mulch
  • Year 2 Broccoli Variety Trial
  • Pollinator Strips
  • Enterprise Budgets
  • Foliar Sprays for Black Rot
  • Living Oat Mulch for Garlic
  • High Tunnel Tomato Variety Trial
  • Sweet Potato Scurf Control

In 2015, 63 farmers took part in 35 research projects across the state. Over 50 PFI members gathered on December 10 and 11, 2015 in Ames to learn from previous on-farm research and demonstration projects and to determine the focus for new projects for the coming year. PFI holds the Cooperators’ Meeting annually to ensure that the group’s on-farm research and demonstration efforts are focused on priorities and topics identified by the farmers themselves.

Among the new project ideas proposed by members at this year’s Cooperators’ Meeting were:

  • Cereal rye cover crop termination date ahead of corn planting (10-14 days before planting vs. day-of planting)
  • Cereal rye cover crop termination a few days after soybean planting to reap potential weed control of resulting mulch
  • Interseeding cover crops at V4 corn stage (evaluating a rapeseed-clover-annual ryegrass mix to see which species, if any, can survive)
  • Fungicide trial with cereal rye seed production to increase yield, test weight and resulting seed germination
  • Green manure cover crops after small grain to replace purchased N for corn
  • Alternative free choice minerals for goats
  • Reducing woody invasive species in timber pastures: comparing chemical and mechanical methods to goats
  • Finishing hogs on 100% small grains ration
  • Corn-free and soy-free rations for niche pork
  • Apple cider vinegar supplementation for feeder pigs, continued
  • Evaluate annual plant species for pollinator habitat
  • Living mulch in cucumbers & peppers
  • Summer broccoli variety trial
  • Determinate tomato variety trial in high tunnel
  • Double-dug beds with clover cover
  • Cornstalk mulch with foliar feed in butternut squash & tomatoes

Practical Farmers of Iowa members gathered on December 8 and 9, 2014 in Ames to learn from previous on-farm research and demonstration projects and to determine the focus for new projects for the coming year. Among the research priorities identified by members at this year’s Cooperators’ Meeting were: small grains production, variety trials for various horticultural and field crops, cover crops,  feed and mineral trials, and integrating livestock with agroforestry. Now these farmers are poised to follow through with projects designed to provide answers to their research questions. View the complete list of research priority areas.

PFI holds a Cooperators’ Meeting annually to ensure that the group’s on-farm research and demonstration efforts are focused on farmers’ wants and needs. There were 54 individuals who registered and attended this annual planning event.


Practical Farmers of Iowa members gathered on December 5 and 6, 2013 in Ames to learn from previous on-farm research and demonstration projects and to determine the focus for new projects for this coming year. Among the research priorities identified by members at this year’s Cooperators’ Meeting were: performance of neonicotinoidtreated and non-neonicotinoid-treated seed, effect of prairie habitat on the diversity and abundance of pollinators in vegetable crops, and economic opportunities and barriers in poultry production. View the complete list of project ideas. Now these farmers are poised to follow through with projects designed to provide answers to their research questions.

PFI holds a Cooperators’ Meeting annually to ensure that the group’s on-farm research and demonstration efforts are focused on farmers’ wants and needs. There were 65 individuals who registered and attended this annual planning event. In addition, about 55 researchers joined for the Cooperators’ Meeting Dinner on Thursday night during which a special tribute was held to the late Dick Thompson, co-founder of PFI, and Rick Exner was presented with this year’s Master Researcher Award.