DeCook Ranch field day will focus on managing prairie with bison and fire – July 28, near Lovilia

For Release: July 17, 2015

LOVILIA, Iowa — For many people, farmland and wild land are mutually exclusive concepts – but not for rancher Mike DeCook. Mike raises bison and cattle at DeCook Ranch, and also actively works to protect and restore native prairie, pollinator habitat and open space. He believes that nature is an ally, not an adversary, of profitable production agriculture.

“We fuse wildness with agriculture,” Mike says. “It’s ecological agriculture. A big goal of ours is to try to incorporate our love of natural, open spaces with our management and ecological restoration. We don’t use a lot of manmade structures, equipment or off-farm inputs – which is a lot more economical. It’s amazing when you work with nature and don’t fight it, how nature helps to create a symbiotic relationship with agriculture.”

One way Mike works to fuse farming and ecology is by interseeding prairie plants into his pastures, and using bison and patch-burn grazing to mimic Iowa’s historical natural processes. He will share his experience with these management strategies at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day he is hosting on Tuesday, July 28, from 1-4 p.m., near Lovilia. The field day will take place just east of the intersection of 545th Avenue and 105th Street, about 7 miles west of Lovilia

The event – “Managing Prairie with Bison and Fire” – is free to attend, and is sponsored by Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Attendees will learn about Mike’s operation, which includes year-round bison grazing and custom cattle grazing. Guests will also hear how Mike uses a variety of management practices – such as interseeding native prairie species into cool-season pastures, protecting land with conservation easements and patch-burn grazing – to promote grazing and wildlife, including more habitat for pollinators, on his farm.

“With the patch-burn grazing, I pick a different pasture every year to burn,” Mike says. “I also think about where we have fuel – the previous year’s dead pasture patch – and where we need to suppress the existing vegetation to promote the prairie.”

The field day will also feature researchers and prairie experts, who will discuss prairie management, prairie on working lands, the benefits of prairies, pollinators and more. Speakers will include Matt O’Neal and Lisa Schulte-Moore, with Iowa State University; Elizabeth Hill, with the Center for Prairie Studies at Grinnell College; and Joe McGovern, with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

Directions: From Attica, head south on County Road G76 for 1.5 miles. Turn left on Van Buren Drive for 200 yards, then turn right on 170th Street for 2.5 miles. After passing a covered bridge, you’ll come to a T intersection (Co Rd H16); turn left. In one-eighth of a mile, you’ll see a brown barn on the left side of the road. (Note, those who use GPS systems can use these coordinates: 41°09’16.8″N 93°00’31.6″W)

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 field day season features 40 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available online at practicalfarmers.org, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2015 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union in partnership with Town and Country Insurance and Hastings Mutual Insurance; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Crosse Seed; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Pro-Soil Ag Solutions; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.

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Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit http://practicalfarmers.org.

Contact:

Mike DeCook | DeCook Ranch | (641) 946-7226 | [email protected]

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | [email protected]