Published May 21, 2015

Farmers are stewards of our natural resources

By Sally Worley

A couple of weeks ago, I summarized the steps Practical Farmers made in the first six months of our strategic plan to help build community in Iowa and beyond. In case you missed it, here is that summary.

This is what Practical Farmers’ has accomplished toward goal 2 of our 2014-2017 strategic plan, Farmers are stewards of our natural resources:

  • 200 events in 2014 featured farmers teaching farmers. The common vein of field days, conference workshops, farminars and other events offered through Practical Farmers is that these events feature farmers as the experts. Martha McFarland was one of our many field day hosts in 2014. She welcomed people to her farm to talk about energy conservation and grazing bison and cattle, among other topics.
  • 65 farmers conducted 40 projects to decrease external inputs, increase cover crops, or add third crops to rotations, quantifying ecological and economic results. Project ideas stem from farmers. Practical Farmers cooperators’ program helps them answer their questions through research and demonstrations. In 2014, Rick Juchems, Rob Davis, Darwin Pierce, Mark Pokorny, George Schaefer and Kelly Tobin participated in the sixth year of data collection for “Winter Cereal Rye Cover Crop Effect on Cash Crop Yield.” This long-term study has generated 46 data sets for this study, providing clear data on whether this cover crop negatively affects corn and soybean yields. In 42 of the 46 trials, cover crops had little or no negative effect on corn and soybean yield, and actually increased soybean yield in four trials.
  • Three farmers published information about responsible energy use (in addition to several sharing about on-farm energy at our conference). In our winter newsletter, Mark Runquist provided an update on the performance of his wind turbine after six years of operation.
  • 19 farmers received training to be cover crop experts; these farmers gave 69 presentations in 2014 and answered questions other farmers had over the phone. Jeremy Gustafson has mastered his presentation skills and delivered some excellent presentations detailing the benefits and practical applications of cover crops.
  • Policy committee and other members worked on targeted farm policy, including supporting Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Laura Krouse is one of our members who sits on the policy committee.

I can’t name an organization with more generous, dedicated and talented members than Practical Farmers of Iowa!