Published Dec 20, 2016

2016 Cooperators’ Meeting Recap

By Stefan Gailans
Word cloud depicting the range of topics PFI farmer-cooperators researched in 2016.

Word cloud depicting the range of topics PFI farmer-cooperators researched in 2016.

In 2016, 76 farmer-researchers conducted 109 trials on farms across the state spanning the field crops, livestock, and horticulture program areas. On Dec. 8-9, 2016, 70 farmers gathered in Ames at the Cooperators’ Meeting to discuss completed on-farm research projects and design new experiments. The Cooperators’ Program is the epitome of what PFI is all about: Farmer-led investigation and information sharing.

Jack Boyer welcomed everyone and delivered the meeting’s opening remarks:

I believe that the diversity of the PFI members is one of its strengths which makes it successful. That diversity is: diversity of age; enterprise diversity; diversity of operation size. All of this diversity comes with a common purpose: To learn, by discussion and research; to share, by field days, webinars, research reports and one-on-on conversations; to dream for the future, a future with more sustainable farms.

Carmen Black and Nathan Anderson gave the keynote address after dinner on Dec. 8. Carmen and Nathan come from the “next generation” of farmer-researchers within PFI’s ranks. Both of them shared remarks on why they value the efforts put forth by past farmer-researchers in PFI’s Cooperators’ Program and why they plan pursue on-farm research on their own farms into the future.

I’ve found on-farm research to be valuable not only because of the specific things I’ve learned… but because of the general mindset of problem solving. And so when faced with something going wrong and feeling bad about it, it’s really helpful to try and identify what is actually going wrong and think about “well, okay, next year I could set it up this way to see if this would work better.” -Carmen Black

I’m curious what our farm would look like if it weren’t for PFI. I wonder what our state would look like without an organization like PFI, without peers who believe there is a better process or method, that what we do now can’t be changed and improved for a better future for us all. Those are a couple questions I don’t want the answers to. -Nathan Anderson

The meeting concluded on Dec. 9 with Tammy Faux evoking the novelist J.R.R. Tolkein and PFI co-founder Dick Thompson in a call to action for 2017:

Hold your ground,  Protect your ground!  Farmers of Iowa, Row Crop, Grazer and Hort.  I see in your eyes that same passion for farm and soil that inspires me.  A day may come when the courage of farmers fails, when we forsake our passion for sustainable, well managed farms and break all bonds with our history of smart farming, but that is not this day.  An hour of weeds, pests and disease, a day of intense pressure to conform, to “go along”, when the age of “thinking farmers” on diverse farms come crashing down.  But, it is NOT this day!  This day we research!  By all the you hold dear for the good of this earth, I bid you, RESEARCH and LEARN, Farmers of the Land!

The Cooperators’ Meeting is an actual WORKING meeting. Over the course of two days the attendees discuss research findings from the previous year, determine knowledge gaps and develop new project ideas for the coming year. Read about project findings from 2016 and previous years on our Research Reports page. Below are project ideas generated by the attendees at this year’s meeting. Look for some of these to show up in future research reports!

Field crops project ideas generated:

  • Successful Strategies for Growing Corn After Cover Crops: Termination Dates & N Rates
  • Alternatives to Cereal Cover Crops Ahead of Corn
  • Cover Crops Between Soybeans and Oats
  • Interseeding Cover Crops into Corn at V4
  • Cover Crops and Hog Manure Application
  • Roller-Crimping Cover Crops Ahead of Soybeans for Weed Control
  • Tea Bag Soil Health Index: Green vs. Rooibos Tea Decomposition Rates
  • Relay- vs. Double-Cropping Cereal Rye and Soybeans
  • Self-Seeding Cover Crops in Soybeans
  • Soybean Row-Width When Planted into Living Cover Crop
  • Plowed vs. Sprayed Cover Crop Ahead of Soybeans
  • Best Practices for Small Grains & Extending Crop Rotations
  • Frost-seeded vs. Summer-seeded Legumes the Year Before Corn
  • Companion Cropping Soybeans+Barley

Livestock project ideas generated:

  • Grazing Effects on Soil Health in CRP and Cover Crop Fields
  • Grazed Pastures and Pollinators: Can Properly Managed Pastures Support Pollinator Habitat?
  • Grazing to Renovate Wetlands and Target Invasive Species
  • Meat Quality of Grass-Fed Animals, Particularly Omega-3 and -6 Fatty Acids
  • Efficacy of Natural Dewormers or Natural Supplements
  • Parasite Loads When Grazing in Cover Crop Fields

Horticulture project ideas generated:

  • Summer Lettuce Trial
  • Bush Cherry Variety Trial
  • Keeping the Soil Covered: Small-Scale No-Till Lettuce
  • Sheep Grazing Cover Crops for Better Brassica Yields
  • Long Purple Carrots in Leaf Mulch
  • Year 2 Broccoli Variety Trial
  • Pollinator Strips
  • Enterprise Budgets
  • Foliar Sprays for Black Rot
  • Living Oat Mulch for Garlic
  • High Tunnel Tomato Variety Trial
  • Sweet Potato Scurf Control

View photos from the recent meeting and previous meetings at the Cooperators’ Meeting webpage.