Published Sep 20, 2019

the Practical Farmer: Autumn 2019


Executive Director Note

PFI Farmers’ Enduring Curiosity is Leading Change


Graze More Instead of Owning More

Unique grazing businesses benefit beginning farmers and the land.


Growing Kids on Vegetable Farms

Two PFI families share their experiences juggling raising a family while farming in order to build fulfilling lives.


Speaking Up for Soil Health

Nathan Anderson shares how preparing his testimony on soil health was a community effort.

Small Grains

Re-Growing the Small-Grains Economy

PFI has been engaging farmers and companies to get more small grains on the landscape – with new efforts planned for the future.

Early PFI Members

Farming for a Sustainable Future

Long-time PFI member Paul Mugge values research and stewardship on his farm.

Field Day Photo Highlights

View the digital photo gallery

Cover Crops

Using Science & On-Farm Research to Investigate Cover Crops in Iowa

Over the past three years, nearly 60% of PFI on-farm research has involved cover crops. The results are adding to evidence about the benefits of cover crops and the managment practices that can lead to success.

Farmland Owner Legacy Award

Conserving Through Collaboration

Lee Tesdell works closely with his farm tenants to protect soil, water and wildlife habitat.

Beginning Farmers

A Focus on Community

Turkey River Farm has built direct markets around relationships with rural Clayton County customers.


Measuring Conservation on the Farm

PFI members share why and how they monitor on-farm conservation efforts.

Farm Transfer

Enlisting Professionals in Farm Transfer

For the Wangsness family, seeking advice from bankers, lawyers, tax pros and other experts was the next step in the process.

Member Book Review

Dave Campbell reviews John Bobbe’s book, “Marketing Organic Grain: A Farmer’s Guide”

PFI News

PFI Receives $936,000 for Water Quality from EPA

Grant will fund work on water quality, habitat and environmental education

Practical Farmers of Iowa has received a $935,788 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that will fund work to improve water quality, habitat and environmental education.

PFI receives EPA grant

Alisha Bower (center-left), PFI’s strategic initiatives manager, and Sarah Carlson, PFI strategic initiatives director, pose with staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, other Iowa-based grant recipients and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig (green shirt) during a ceremony at the Iowa State Fair.

PFI’s project – “Roots for Water Quality: A Farmer-to-Farmer Model for a Sustainable Mississippi Basin” – was one of three Iowa-based projects to receive funding through EPA’s Farmer to Farmer Cooperative Agreement. A ceremony honoring the Iowa recipients took place on Aug. 14 during the Iowa State Fair.

During the three-year course of the project, Practical Farmers will:

  • work with farmers to accelerate adoption of cover crops
  • double the number of farmers capable of acting as “cover crop champions” by offering training so these farmers can educate and mentor other farmers
  • lower barriers to implementing cover crops
  • contribute to a 5% improvement in water quality on sites with cover crops

“Practical Farmers of Iowa is ready to increase the use of cover crops in Iowa to tackle our water quality issues,” says Sarah Carlson, PFI’s strategic initiatives director.

“Through farmer-to-farmer learning, PFI has proven that cover crops are an essential tool of the agronomic toolbox to manage weeds and reduce soil erosion, while improving water quality in a corn and soybean rotation.”

Rebecca Clay Joins PFI Staff

Rebecca ClayRebecca Clay is the newest addition to the Practical Farmers of Iowa team. In July 2019, she joined the staff as a strategic initiatives assistant and will supports the strategic initiatives team by consulting farmers on cover crops, collecting and managing data from on-farm trials and quantifying the sustainability of various cropping systems. She looks forward to continuing to learn from the farmers with whom she works.

Rebecca hails from Le Mars, Iowa. She developed an interest in soil and the plants, people and societies it sustains while working in her family garden, visiting her uncles’ cattle farm and reading about global food issues. She graduated from Iowa State University in 2016 with bachelor’s degrees in agronomy and global resource systems, with a minor in Spanish. During her undergraduate studies, Rebecca was fortunate to travel to and work alongside farmers in Uganda, Ghana, Ecuador, Guatemala and, closer to home, Iowa and Nebraska. She has assisted several research projects ranging in topics from soil science to rural sociology.

Rebecca is returning to Ames after spending two years working with smallholder farmers in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. As a Peace Corps volunteer, she worked with community members to diversify diets through production of nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, nuts, mushrooms and vegetables. She also worked to diversify field cropping systems with cover crops and under-used grains.

Rebecca lives for sharing good food and drink with friends and family and exploring the landscape on her bicycle. She is looking forward to getting involved in the greater Ames community.

Read more about Rebecca

Sign Up for PFI’s 2020 Small-Grains Cost-Share

Farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin are invited to apply for cost-share on small grains that will be harvested in 2020 and followed by a legume-containing cover crop. Small grains include barley, oats, rye, triticale or wheat.

A legume cover crop could be under- or co-seeded clover or alfalfa, or a summer-planted cover that includes hairy vetch or field peas.

Practical Farmers of Iowa will pay $25 per acre in cost-share on up to 100 acres per farmer for this combination of a main crop and cover crop on either conventional acres or those transitioning to organic. Certified organic acres are not eligible.

Acres are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Reserve your acres

Apply for the Next Round of SIP

Applications are now open for the Savings Incentive Program class of 2021! Getting a start in farming can be difficult, and sometimes you need a little guidance to keep you on track.

The Savings Incentive Program was created to help beginners establish viable, sustainable farm businesses. The program was structured with input from beginning farmers and direction from established farmers.

To be eligible, applicants must:

  • Either be farming on their own now and have farmed for five or fewer years, or have some experience working for a farm business
  • Reside in Iowa or farm in the state
  • Be a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa

Applications are due by Friday, Oct. 11.

Get Ready for Fall Farminars

Autumn is now here, and that means it’s almost the time for our fall farminar series to return. The first farminar of the season will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. Central time. These online events will happen live each Tuesday night from 7-8:30 p.m. through Dec. 17, and resume again in January.

Farminars are interactive, farmer-led online presentations that cover a range of row crop, livestock and horticulture issues. The series is free and easy to access. Tune in anywhere you have an internet connection, listen as a farmer or business expert presents over a slideshow and ask questions in real-time using a chatbox.

The full lineup of speakers and descriptions will be available on our website in October at To participate in a live farminar (or watch a recording), visit the same link and click the “Join In” button.

check out the farminar archive

Manage Your PFI Account Online

As a PFI member or supporter, you are now able to manage your own account on our website. If you haven’t yet created your online account, doing so will enable you to:

  • Register or RSVP for events
  • Join or renew your membership
  • View your past donation and membership activities
  • Donate
  • Update your contact information

If you are a current or past PFI member – or have had any monetary transaction with us in the past several years – you already have an account and can now create a login to access it. You can set your login information and access your account anytime through the new “Login” button in the upper-right corner of our website.

Log in here

Questions? Contact us at (515) 232-5661 or email Steve Carlson ( or Debra Boekholder (

Upcoming Events

October 6, 2019
825 Abbe Hills Road Mt. Vernon 52314 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
November 10, 2019
5085 Meredith Drive Des Moines 50310 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM