Published Apr 23, 2014

“Continue to learn and be creative” and other PFI member goals

By Teresa Opheim

How does Practical Farmers hold it all together? How can we possible serve well a membership with such a diverse number of enterprises and farming systems? Many have asked me these questions.

Sometimes I even ask myself whether we can be effective with such a big tent. And then I saw the results from our just-completed member survey, and I know that our strategy works. 91 percent of those responding (265 responses) reported that we had been very helpful, helpful or somewhat helpful with their farm goals.


Close to half of members listed variations on profitability, efficiency and marketing as their first farm goal. “Sustainability” and “soil health, less erosion” were the next most common responses. I quoted some of the farm goals in a blog a couple weeks ago; here are some more, organized by how helpful members reported Practical Farmers was in helping them with their farm goals:

Practical Farmers was “Very Helpful”:

“Improve water quality and topsoil”

“Improve our profitability”

“Farm full-time”

“Increase organic matter as fast as I can”

“Build strong relationships with other farmers with similar operations”

“Have the ability to farm—I am part of the Savings Incentive Program”

“Find a way to add cover crops into our operation at a large scale to capture nutrients and keep them in our system”


Practical Farmers was “Helpful”:

“Increase our rotation from continuous corn to two years corn, one year soybeans to reduce field passes, commercial fertilizers”

“Focus on communicating well and establishing a good relationship with CSA members” [Community Supported Agriculture]

“Increase crop and animal diversity”

“Eliminate the use of crop insurance and government programs”

“Revitalize an existing pasture using legumes and more N rich sources”


Practical Farmers was “Somewhat Helpful”:

“Achieve long-term financial stability”

“Find a good source of labor”

“Have the farm pay for itself in two years”

“Develop strategies and improve practices to mitigate risk in volatile climate conditions”

“Allow a generational transfer to take place at an appropriate time”


Here are some responses where we were rated by members as “Not At All Helpful.” This tells us where we have work to do!

“Acquire more ground and quit my day job”

“Better marketing of crops”

“Finish critical capital improvements”

“Handing the farm on to our daughter and son-in-law”


These goals reflect the farming members at large. We will continue to tease out our member survey data, to find out if there are trends based on particular enterprises or farming systems.

I leave you with a few of my personal favorite goals listed in the Member Survey.

“Leave the land healthier than it was when I started” (PFI was “helpful”)

“Continue to learn and be creative to reduce our costs and improve profitability” (“helpful”)

“Grow novelty items for trendy restaurants at scarcity pricing” (PFI was “not at all helpful”)

“Stay sane throughout the season” (PFI was “very helpful”)

“To refine my ‘best practices’ to something worth sharing with others” (“very helpful”)