Published Jul 2, 2014

PFI Board Approves “Marching Orders”: Our New Strategic Plan

By Teresa Opheim

“Thanks for keeping this organization member-driven and farmer-led.”

–Member comment on the PFI member survey

 On June 25th, the PFI Board of Directors approved a Strategic Plan for July 2014-June 2017. The phrase “strategic plan” may seem a little dry, but it actually is an exciting process that is our primary way of keeping Practical Farmers member-driven and farmer-led.

The Practical Farmers Strategic Plan includes the major feedback you gave us in your member surveys:

  • More networking! The annual conference, field days and farminars are very important to you–and you want more. Also: More than half of you members are new—we want to keep you. We responded in the Strategic Plan with a commitment to hold socials in 15 mini-regions annually. We already are getting a start with “Map of My Kingdom” performances and socials this fall (Sept 7th in Decorah, Sept 25th in Chariton and Sept 28th in Red Oak).
  • Your farm goals are extremely varied, but many of your primary goals center around profitability. Our strategies include more sharing of financial and production information, including actual case studies of enterprise and whole farm profitability.
  • 27 percent of PFI members have been farming 10 years or less. We plan to continue our major focus on beginning farmers, including expanding mentoring and networking opportunities.
  • 48% of you nonfarmers say you would like to purchase more locally, 24% want to “invest” in farmers. We plan to offer more opportunities for you to help.
  • We will not change what works well! We will continue strong with on-farm research and demonstration, our popular annual conference, and more.

Kate Edwards, a member of the Strategic Directions Committee, in front of fellow member Dick Schwab’s round barn.

Here are some of the bold measurements we want to reach by 2017:

Goal 1: Practical Farmers builds community in Iowaand beyond

  • 80 percent of you will report you have formed friendships, businesses or other relationships through PFI
  • 90 percent of you will have participated in PFI programs
  • PFI membership tops 5,000; 75 percent of members renew each year

Goal 2: Farmers arestewardsof our natural resources

  • 50 percent of you farmers increase their use of cover crops
  • 70 percent of you farmers report that participation in PFI has helped you improve stewardship
  • 40 percent of you increase your renewable energy/conservation

 Goal 3: Farmers, farmsand food systems areviable

  • 65 percent of you farmers and all graduates of our Savings Incentive Program improve profitability/efficiency
  • 75 percent of you farmers make progress on your desired percentage of farm income
  • 40 percent of you report your association with PFI has helped you begin transition planning

More measurement goals and the strategies that will help us get there are in the full strategic plan, which is on our website at

Thank you to the following who served with me on the Strategic Directions Committee over the past six months: Sarah Carlson, Kate Edwards, Tom Frantzen, Helen Gunderson, Gail Hickenbottom, Cheryl Hopkins, Drake Larson, Tim Landgraf, Dan Wilson and Sally Worley. And thank you to the full Board and staff, who guided the development of the plan.