Published Jun 28, 2010

10 Good Reasons Environmentalists Should Support PFI

By Teresa Opheim

Practical Farmers of Iowa has many good partners in the conservation and environmental communities. Why should environmentalists support PFI? Here are 10 good reasons:

1. We have the leadership. Many PFI members serve in leadership positions—and bring their land stewardship principles with them. The current Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and his past and present challengers are all members of Practical Farmers of Iowa.

2. We’re the link between a variety of types of farmers. Many of our farmers are the early agricultural innovators in land stewardship—more cautious farmers follow their lead. In addition, we also have many conventional farmers in our membership who are important links to getting conventional farmers to make changes.

3. We’re effective at public policy. Practical Farmers of Iowa serves on the NRCS State Technical Committee and is active in a variety of policy arenas. We are cultivating our farmer policy committee to be public spokespeople for agricultural change.

4. We’re the Iowa leader on cover crops. We have 22 farmers conducting cover crop trials right now, with more coming on line. Conventional farmers are contacting us to participate. An estimated 200 will attend this summer’s PFI field days on cover crops.

5. We’re documenting effective farming practices that reduce flooding. In policy arenas, grazing systems and organic systems are being completely ignored when we know they are the most effective at slowing water runoff. Around the state, we’re conducting research that documents those systems’ resiliency.

6. We focus on grass-based production systems. We need an Iowa covered with grass-based farms. Practical Farmers of Iowa is the place where farmers get that strong production, economic, and environmental information on those systems.

7. We’re preparing Iowa to be more resilient in a changing climate. Members of Practical Farmers of Iowa are documenting their energy use and finding ways to reduce it. And we are working with them to make their farming systems more resilient and to decrease their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.

8. We have the momentum. Practical Farmers of Iowa is growing steadily in membership—14 percent in the last two years–in funding, and in influence. Our organization and our members are frequently featured in the media.

9. We’re training the new generation of farmers. Author Richard Heinberg writes that in a coming world of drastically reduced energy use, we are going to need up to 50 million more farmers to grow food locally. Practical Farmers of Iowa is training that new generation of farmers. PFI is teaching those new farmers to manage a component of their land as natural ecosystems (including native prairies, wetlands, and woodlands).

10. We will be here with a better way of farming for when the current system fails. The current system of corn and soybeans will fail eventually. When it does, Practical Farmers of Iowa and its farmers will be here with a more sustainable system to take its place.