Published Jan 31, 2018

Practical Farmers of Iowa begins 2018 winter farminar series

By Tamsyn Jones

Topics include pollinator habitat, planter technology and niche pork, among others

For Release: January 31, 2018

AMES, Iowa – Practical Farmers of Iowa will offer nine new topics as part of its long-running Tuesday night webinar series, known as farminars, thus continuing its farmer-to-farmer education through the winter. Farminars offer practical knowledge for beginning and experienced farmers raising row crops, livestock, fruits and vegetables, and are free for anyone with an internet connection to participate.

Farminars are held every Tuesday at 7 p.m., and each focuses on a unique production or business management topic. All presentations are led by a farmer or subject-matter expert, and attendees are able to ask questions in real-time using a chatbox while they listen and watch a slideshow.

Topics covered in the farminar series range from technical issues for the advanced grower – such as the March 6 presentation “Planter Technology for Cash Crops Planted Into Cover Crops” – to introductory topics for beginning farmers. For instance, beginning farmers Caleb and Jacqueline Shinn are slated to lead a farminar on Feb. 27 about their experience finding affordable insurance coverage for their young livestock farm.

The couple raise beef cattle, pastured poultry and eggs at L4 Farms near Osceola, and they have struggled to find insurance coverage that fits their farm – a common challenge for beginning farmers. Joining them for the presentation is Rodney Sebastian from the USDA Risk Management Agency, who will discuss current insurance programs and risk assessment tools the Shinns could consider.

The Shinns are lifetime members of Practical Farmers of Iowa and say they have benefitted from hearing other beginning and advanced farmers’ experiences and are happy to share theirs. “It has been great learning from so many people on the farminars. We wanted to be able share our experience as beginning farmers trying to find options to mitigate our insurance risk, yet keep costs down.”

Other farminar topics this season include using permaculture design at the farm scale; growing woody ornamentals to sell as cut flowers; beginning farmer barriers and strategies; red clover as a preferred cover crop; native habitat restoration for pollinators; getting started with niche pork; and direct meat marketing.

To participate: Go to and click the “Join in” button and select to sign in as “Guest.” A schedule for all upcoming farminars – as well as the recordings for 144 past farminars – is also available at this link.

Practical Farmers’ 2018 winter farminars are made possible with funding from Cedar Tree, Ceres Trust, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Practical Farmers of Iowa works to equip farmers to build resilient farms and communities. Our values include: welcoming everyone; farmers leading the exchance of experience and knowledge; curiosity, creativity, collaboration and community; and resilient farms now and for future generations. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit

2018 Winter Farminar Line-Up

1).   Jan. 9 – “Using Permaculture Design and Farming Solo” – Clare Hintz

Want to learn about farming small, as a solo operator? Using permaculture principles on a farm scale? Farming in the winter? Meet Clare Hintz, the owner of Elsewhere Farm in Herbster, Wisconsin. She’ll highlight the features of her small, diversified farm that make it a successful business, a thriving ecology and creative work.

  • Clare Hintzruns Elsewhere Farm, a production permaculture farm near the south shore of Lake Superior in Herbster, Wisconsin. The farm features over 700 perennial fruit and nut trees interplanted on 5 acres; market gardens; rare-breed livestock; and a winter and summer CSA. Clare recently finished a position as coordinator for the Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association. She is also part of the teacher’s guild of the Permaculture Research Institute in Minneapolis and is editor of the Journal of Sustainability Education.

2).   Jan. 16 – “Dive Into Growing Woodies as Cut Flowers” – Rachael Ackerman

At Blue Sky Flower Farm near Elko-New Market, Minnesota, Jon and Rachael Ackerman specialize in growing standard and unique varieties of woody ornamental plants. The Ackermans launched their farm in 2010 and grow approximately 2 acres of cut flowers and “woodies” for wholesale to local garden centers, landscape companies, florists and at the Twin Cities Flower Exchange (a local wholesale flower market). Hear tips and techniques from Rachael on how to add woodies to your farm, including information on propagation, varieties, growing, challenges, investment, social media and more.

  • Rachael Ackerman started Blue Sky Flower Farm with her husband, Jon, near 2010 in an old cow pasture on Jon’s family’s Brown Swiss dairy farm near Hutchinson, Minnesota. They now raise cut flowers and several varieties of woodies, mostly dogwoods and willows, on a farm near Elko-New Market, Minnesota. Rachael has a Bachelor of Science in horticulture from the University of Minnesota and has been working in the industry for 20 years, including several years at Bailey Nurseries in St. Paul, Minnesota.

**Jan. 23 – OFF**

3).   Jan. 30 – “Beginning Farmer Barriers and Strategies” – Jenny Quiner, Bill and Stacey Borrenpohl

Beginning farmers face a range of barriers to overcome when starting a successful farm business. Accessing startup capital and land, building a market, finding a balance between farm work and family life, and overcoming production challenges are among the many issues beginners have to navigate. Beginning vegetable farmer Jenny Quiner of Dogpatch Urban Gardens, and beginning livestock farmers Bill and Stacey Borrenpohl, will discuss the challenges they’ve faced as well as their strategies for overcoming them.

  • Jenny Quiner started Dogpatch Urban Gardens in the fall of 2015 with the help of her husband, Eric. They farm a small-scale market garden growing produce naturally with organic principles and sustainable methods on a quarter-acre within the Des Moines city limits.
  • Bill and Stacey Borrenpohl established Woven Strong Farm in 2010 in rural Jackson County. They raise beef, pork, meat goats and eggs for direct sale to both the greater Dubuque and Maquoketa areas.

4).   Feb. 6 – “Red Clover: Still the ‘Cadillac’ of Cover Crops” – Bill Deen

In many regions of North America, red clover has a long history of use as an underseeded cover crop in small-grain systems. While enthusiasm for cover crops is increasing, red clover use is in decline due to perceptions that other cover crop options are superior, and also concerns that red clover stands establish poorly. However, research consistently demonstrates that red clover is still the preferred cover crop for soil health, rotation effect and nitrogen contribution. When used in combination with winter wheat in a corn-soybean system, the impact on soil health and economics is profound. Based on 20-plus years of red clover experience, Bill Deen will describe how to estimate yield and nitrogen benefits of red clover, and will discuss recent research aimed at ensuring red clover stand uniformity when underseeded to either small grains or corn. 

  • Bill Deenis an associate professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph. He has internationally recognized knowledge of crop rotation, cover crops, tillage and field-based research techniques, and experience managing interdisciplinary research efforts based on long-term field trials. He has been involved in red clover research and extension for the past 20 years.

5).   Feb. 13 – “Using Natives to Create Pollinator Habitat: A Guide to Native Restoration” – Jessi Strinmoen, Dennis Pederson

Pollinators such as bees, butterflies and insects are critical to crop production and play a crucial role in our nation’s food supply. This farminar will provide a guide to restoring native prairie by offering recommendations for research and planning, site preparation, planting and management. This information is applicable whether you’re restoring many acres or considering a backyard project. Jessi and Dennis from Shooting Star Native Seeds will talk about how to choose a seed mix, how to eliminate weeds before you plant, what equipment is needed and the management practices needed for continued growth of your pollinator habitat.

  • Jessi Strinmoen serves as the marketing and human resources manager at Shooting Star Native Seeds, a full-service native seed company based in Spring Grove, Minnesota. Shooting Star grows more than 1,000 acres of native grasses, wildflowers, sedges and rushes using seed sourced from throughout the Midwest.
  • Dennis Pederson is a regional sales manager for Shooting Star Native Seeds for southwest Minnesota. In his previous role with Habitat Forever, Dennis was responsible for thousands of acres of upland habitat creation and improvement.

6).   Feb. 20 – “Getting Started with Niche Pork” – Alyssa Juergensen, Dan Wilson

Raising livestock for niche markets can be a profitable enterprise when implemented successfully and markets are established. One way to add a niche livestock enterprise to your farm is through working with a company like Niman Ranch, which organizes a network of small family farmers raising animals according to a specific set of standards. Hear from Alyssa Juergensen, a field agent with Niman Ranch, and farmer Dan Wilson about their protocols and how to get started raising livestock for Niman Ranch.

  • Alyssa Juergensen is the west=central Iowa field agent with Niman Ranch, located near Churdan. She has a degree in animal science from Iowa State University, and now recruits and supports Niman Ranch producers in all stages of their pork production.
  • Dan Wilson and his wife, Lorna, own and operate Seven W Farms near Paullina, where they farm with two of their sons and one of their daughters. Together, the family raises organic row crops, pastured pork and chickens, grass-fed lamb and beef, and free-range eggs. They have been raising pigs for Niman Ranch since 1998.

7).   Feb. 27 – “Managing Risk on a Young Livestock Farm” – Caleb and Jacqueline Shinn, Rodney Sebastian

Beginning livestock farmers Caleb and Jacqueline Shinn have struggled to find affordable insurance coverage for their farm business. The Shinns will share details about their farm and the process they’ve gone through as they evaluate their risk-management options. Rodney Sebastian, with USDA Risk Management Agency, will discuss current insurance programs and risk assessment tools the Shinns could consider.

  • Caleb and Jacqueline Shinn raise beef cattle, pastured poultry and eggs at L4 Farms near Osceola. They are a part of Practical Farmers’ Savings Incentive Program to help expand their operation.
  • Rodney Sebastiangrew up on a farm near Spencer and has worked with USDA for more than 30 years. Before joining the Risk Management Agency 15 years ago, he worked with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in Dairy Programs.

8).   March 6 – “Planter Technology for Cash Crops in Cover Crops” – Robb Ewoldt, Jeremy Marsden

What is the return on investment of planter technology when it comes to planting cash crops following cover crops? Jeremy and Robb will discuss how they partnered to test current planter technology on a custom-built planter. Together, they have performed tests of hydraulic versus spring downforce, electric versus ground-driven, and row-shut-off versus no shut-off on almost 1,000 acres that include conventional tillage, no-till and cover crops. They will share the planter data as well as the harvest data so you can see the impact of each practice in order to calculate the ROI in your operation.

  • Robb Ewoldt farms 1,100 acres of row crops and hay near Davenport, and operates a cow-calf and hog operation. He is active with no-till and has been incorporating cover crops for nearly 10 years. Robb is the Iowa Soybean Association director in District 6.
  • Jeremy Marston has spent the last 15 years working with farmers and technology. He is chief operating officer of TruAcre Technology, which he helped create in 2014 to help farmers get the correct technology for their farm to make data-driven decisions. TruAcre is a dealer of multiple brands of technology, which helps them assist farmers no matter the brand of equipment.

9).   March 13 – “Direct Marketing at Seven Sons Farm” – Brooks Hitzfield

The Hitzfield family transitioned from almost losing the family farm in Roanoke, Indiana, to creating a profitable multi-species enterprise (beef, pork and poultry) that now services thousands of families across the Midwest. This discussion will focus on how Seven Sons Farms uses internet marketing strategies to engage its growing consumer outlet in the Midwest. Brooks will also leave you with three free tools that can help you to acquire customers in your sleep!

  • Brooks Hitzfield has been directly involved with the Seven Sons Farm’s direct-marketing efforts since 2014. With a particular passion for online strategies, he has played an important role in pushing annual e-commerce sales to 7-plus figures. Brooks is also highly involved with GrazeCart, a website solution built for small farms, and he enjoys sharing marketing tips with clients across North America.


Farminar Presenters by Community

Churdan, Iowa – Presenting on: Feb. 20

  • Alyssa Juergensenis the west-central Iowa field agent with Niman Ranch.

Davenport, Iowa – Presenting on: March 6

  • Robb Ewoldt farms 1,100 acres in row crops and hay, and operates a cow-calf and hog operation.

Des Moines, Iowa – Presenting on: Jan. 30

  • Jenny Quiner runs Dogpatch Urban Gardens, a small-scale market garden growing produce within the Des Moines city limit.

La Motte, Iowa – Presenting on: Jan. 30

  • Bill and Stacey Borrenpohl raise beef, pork, meat goats and eggs at Woven Strong Farm.

Muscatine, Iowa – Presenting on: March 6

  • Jeremy Marston is the chief operating officer of TruAcre Technology, helping farmers get the correct technology to make data-driven decisions.

Osceola, Iowa – Presenting on: Feb. 27

  • Caleb and Jacqueline Shinnraise beef cattle, pastured poultry and eggs at L4 Farms.

Paullina, Iowa – Presenting on: Feb. 20

  • Dan Wilson owns and operates Seven W Farm, where he and his family raise organic row crops, pastured pork and chickens, grass-fed lamb and beef, and free-range eggs.

Elko-New Market, Minnesota – Presenting on: Jan. 16

  • Rachael Ackerman specializes in growing standard and unique varieties of woody ornamental plants at Blue Sky Flower Farm.

Guelph, Ontario, Canada – Presenting on: Feb. 6

  • Bill Deenis an associate professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph.

Herbster, Wisconsin – Presenting on: Jan. 9

  • Clare Hintz runs Elsewhere Farm, a production permaculture farm near the south shore of Lake Superior.

Roanoke, Indiana – Presenting on: March 13

  • Brooks Hitzfield works with his family at Seven Sons Farm, a multi-species livestock farm serving thousands of families in the Midwest.

Spring Grove, Minnesota – Presenting on: Feb. 13

  • Dennis Pederson works for Shooting Star Native Seeds as a regional sales manager for southwest Minnesota.

Spring Grove, Minnesota – Presenting on: Feb. 13

  • Jessi Strinmoenserves as the marketing and human resourcesManager at Shooting Star Native Seeds, a full-service native-seed company.

St. Paul, Minnesota – Presenting on: Feb. 27

  • Rodney Sebastian works with the USDA’s Risk Management Agency.