Published Jan 28, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions about Practical Farmers

By Teresa Opheim
One of the outstanding PFI members: the Cory Family

One of the outstanding PFI members: the Cory Family

What are the most frequent questions you get about Practical Farmers? How do you respond? Here’s a short list of some of the questions I receive:

Where did the name “Practical” come from? When Dick and Sharon Thompson and Larry Kallem founded the organization in 1985, they “were looking for information that’s usable, information that can be applied,” Dick reports. “Maybe we should have named the group ‘usable’ rather than ‘practical’ farmers of Iowa.”

How many members do you have? The new numbers are in: 2,500!

Are your members all Iowans? Nope. About 12 percent of our members live outside the state, including 8 percent who live in the states that border Iowa. The website and our farminars are dramatically helping us increase our reach.

Where does your funding come from? The most important 16 percent comes from our individual supporters, because it gives us the most flexibility to do the programming that the members want. The rest comes from a mix of private foundation and state and government grants.

If I am not a member, am I “impractical”? This one is usually asked with a chuckle. I usually chuckle back. With all the useful information shared among members, it seems impractical to not be a member, don’t you think?

Aren’t you a group of ridge tillers … Organic producers … Vegetable producers … [add your favorite enterprise here]? Members of Practical Farmers have all kinds of systems. People frequently try to “pidgeon hole” us, but it is just not accurate to do so. If you need proof, check out our next Field Day guide for the wide range of enterprises we feature. Diversity is our strength.

Can I join if I’m not a farmer? We welcome “friends of farmers.” Suzan Erem, one of our friends of farmers, reports her family belongs “because we pick up a lot of great information about cover crops and other things we can do in our gardens…. We haven’t ruled out farming some day, even if it’s just a couple of acres and the farmers market.”

Is PFI political? Good heavens, it would be hard for this diverse group to decide on a political candidate or position on so many issues. Nor would we want to. We do, however, have a targeted and effective policy role that focuses on conservation and beginning farmer issues.

Do you have other Frequently Asked Questions about Practical Farmers? How do you respond? I would love to hear the questions you hear — and your answers!