Published Dec 27, 2019

the Practical Farmer: Winter 2019

Early PFI members

A Lifetime of Learning

Ron and Maria Rosmann reflect on PFI’s early years, impact and the future.


The Birds and the Trees

At Lucky Star Farm, Susan Young is integrating poultry and silvopasture.

Carolina Meat Conference

Lessons learned from a gathering focused on pasture-raised meat.


A Practice With Potential

With the right setup, saturated buffers can provide significant water quality benefits.


Managing Weeds in Vegetable Production

Farmers share their strategies and frustrations with this perennial challenge.

Field Crops

Clear Goals Are Key to Cover Crop Success

Five PFI members share their reasons for using cover crops, as well as their goals and experiences.

Farm Transfer

Conserving a Farm’s Legacy

Conservation easements can protect landowners’ farm visions while opening the door for the next generation.

Beginning Farmers

Identifying and Supporting Beginning Farmers

An infographic of key data from PFI’s most recent beginning farmer survey highlights the demographic profile of beginning farmers in our network and some of their main obstacles to starting a farm.

New PFI Logo

An Evolving Story

A look back at past PFI logos captures the changes and growth that have culminated in our most recent visual rebrand.

PFI News

New Faces and Roles at PFI

Meet the newest editions to the Practical Farmers’ team.

Phoebe Eichhorst 2

Phoebe Eichhorst – Americorps Member

Phoebe joined PFI in September as a member of Green Iowa AmeriCorps. She graduated from the University of North Dakota in spring 2019 with a triple degree in geography, interdisciplinary studies and honors, with undergraduate research focused on rural food accessibility in North Dakota.

Phoebe’s duties at PFI range from using geographic information systems to create maps that allow farmers to connect with one another to supporting the communications team on video shoots and at field days. She is excited to learn from the farmers who produce the food we eat through the many events PFI hosts.

Although she spent the last four years on the “tundra” of North Dakota, Phoebe grew up on the plains of Nebraska. Her love of the outdoors and peoples’ connection to the land came from summer camping trips with her family, from the Grand Tetons to the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior. She has always loved stepping out of her comfort zone and trying new things. While at UND, she interned as a weather team broadcast journalist, led recruitment for study abroad programs and worked as a barista.

Phoebe has always been an avid traveler. She spent five months living on the coast of Norway and has watched boats move through the Panama Canal. In her free time, you can find her at a coffee shop trying to learn new languages and planning her next international adventure – one that hopefully involves scuba diving.

Monserrat Ingiguez 10 9 2019

Monserrat RIñiguez – Latino Outreach Contractor

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Monserrat received what she describes as her “post-secondary education” at the Labor Community Strategy Center, a Los Angeles-based think tank and “act tank” that works to build regional, national and international movements. At the center, she learned grassroots community organizing while participating in protests, rallies and hunger strikes in support of low-income, working class communities of color.

Since relocating to Iowa in 2011, she founded a community-driven platform for language arts expression called Soapbox Speakeasy; and served in the Public Allies AmeriCorps program as the school district equity specialist at the Des Moines Public School District. She also served as the intake officer for the Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission, where she also developed and facilitated numerous strategic dialogues for the department’s Bridging the Gap project and Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Subcommittee. Monserrat was recently named executive director of the Latina Leadership Initiative of Greater Des Moines.

Monserrat sees Latino outreach with PFI as a way to promote and expand farming opportunities to a community that has been historically exploited by the industry and excluded from ownership. As the population of Latinos in Iowa continues to grow, Monserrat is curious to explore ways this community can integrate into Iowa’s agricultural industry beyond labor, and expand entrepreneurial ventures that also cultivate, nurture and protect cultural customs. Over the past 20 years in particular, Iowa’s demographics have been shifting and increasing in diversity, and we have to meet that trend across all sectors, from workforce to crops.

Monserrat currently serves as vice chair of the board of directors for the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence; on the Iowa attorney general’s Crime Victim’s Assistance Division’s Language Access and Cultural Competency Advisory Group; and on the Polk County Justice Immigrant Child Welfare Committee. She also teaches a community-wide traditional folkloric dance group, Nuestra Danza Sin Fronteras.

Maggie NortonMaggie Norton – Farmer Outreach Coordinator

Maggie joined PFI in 2019 and leads the farmer-to-farmer speaking and outreach program. With help from staff, Maggie seeks out and encourages emerging farmer-leaders to take a more active role in peer learning, outreach and media opportunities.

She provides farmers with resources, support and coaching to help them become more effective and confident storytellers and educators. Her role also includes management of the annual farminar series.

Before joining the PFI staff, Maggie completed her Master of Science in rural sociology and sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University. Her research included extensive interviews with agricultural stakeholders in northwest Iowa to explore diverse perspectives on groundwater scarcity and management. She is a proponent of collaborative and participatory natural resource management and believes that a broad exchange of knowledge, lived experiences and values are critical to building resilient agricultural systems and communities.

Originally from northeastern Pennsylvania, Maggie received her undergraduate education in earth and soil sciences at the Pennsylvania State University. She enjoys trips to the Keystone State to see family and loves traveling the world with her partner, Marshall. She also likes spending time in her flower beds during the sunny months and snowboarding during the snowy season.

Exploring Emotional Intelligence

PFI’s fall staff retreat focused on how to foster connection and self-awareness

In early September, PFI staff gathered at the Newton Arboretum & Botanical Gardens for our annual fall saff retreat. At Practical Farmers of Iowa, we are surrounded by members who, through their curiosity and innovation, are raising awareness across the Midwest about sustainable agricultural practices – and creating change.

Inspired by our member-leaders, the PFI team gathered for a full-day retreat aimed at raising our own awareness, and looking for ways to better connect with one another and better serve our PFI community.

To guide us through this exploration, we brought in Kari Knutson, from Knutson Speaks, based in Denver, Colorado. With honesty, humility and a large dose of humor, Kari facilitated an introspective journey that explored the concept of emotional intelligence and how we can apply it in our personal and professional lives.

According to Kari, emotional intelligence (also known as EQ) “isn’t one thing; it’s a culmination of ideas. EQ means cultivating the ability to perceive, evaluate, manage and control emotions, cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs, read and appropriately respond to the social cues of others, delay gratification and control impulses.”

Why did we decide to focus our staff retreat on this topic? From a PFI perspective, emotional intelligence promotes:

  • Being present in both our personal and professional lives
  • Understanding how our voice and actions impact us and those around us
  • Knowing what we are motivated for and acting on it

Kari reminds us that we are in a relationship with everyone. How we perceive ourselves is a foundation for how we perceive and interact with others. While emotional intelligence is a big topic, staff all left the retreat with meaningful takeaways, and enthusiasm for how we can each apply EQ in our work and interactions at PFI.

Mark Your Calendars for 2019 Winter Farminars

The first farminar starts Tuesday, Jan. 7

The first farminar of the winter series will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. Central time, and will explore an incubator farm model to support beginning farmers. Farminars are live events that occur each Tuesday night from 7 – 8:30 p.m. The winter series runs through March 24 and includes the following lineup of topics and speakers:

  • Incubator Farm Program: Our First Season Together | Jan. 7 – Dayna Burtness, Heidi Eger, Bailey Lutz
  • Winter Greens Production and Packing | Jan. 14 – Mike Bollinger, Katie Prochaska
  • Organic Pest Control in Vegetable Crops | Jan. 21 – Jennifer Glenister
  • Flowers: Marketing, Sales and Pricing | Jan. 28 – Gretel Adams
  • Organic Weed Management on a Vegetable Farm | Feb. 4 – T.D. Holub, Andrew Dunham
  • Cereal Rye for Weed Management | Feb. 11 – Gina Nichols, Sam Bennett
  • Habitat Support Programs for the Rusty Patch Bumblebee | Feb. 18 – Gregg Pattison
  • Switching From Cows to Pigs for Faster Returns | Feb. 25 – Marissa Waldo, Andrew Waldo, Phil Kramer
  • Livestock and Cover Crops as a Solution to Climate Change | March 3 – Monte Bottens
  • Trusts and Succession Planning | March 10 – Travis Benson, Amy Williams
  • Marketing Pork | March 17 – Russ Kremer
  • All About Asparagus | March 24 – TBD

Farminars are interactive, farmer-led online presentations that cover a range of row crop, livestock, farm transfer 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.

Full topic descriptions are coming soon! To participate in a live farminar (or watch a recording), visit the farminar page and click the “Join In” button.

Apply to Be a Labor4Learning Trainer

We are seeking experienced farmers who plan to hire an employee in 2020 to participate in our Labor4Learning program. Through the program, aspiring farmers get paid, on-farm job experience and training on how to run a farm business, and the trainers gain a motivated employee.

Applications will be accepted through Jan. 8 for the 2020 season, and selections will be made in early February. To be eligible, applicants must be PFI members who farm in Iowa. Learn more or apply at

Save the Date – Holistic Management Workshop

Joshua and Tara DukartPFI members: $200 per person, $300 per couple

Non-members: $300 per person, $450 per couple

Attendance is limited to 30 people.

This three-day workshop, taught by North Dakota ranchers Joshua and Tara Dukart, will take a deep-dive into the holistic management planning process used to make every day decisions. Holistic management believes in understanding our ecosystem as interconnected cycles to allow us to more effectively work with nature to improve the health of our land, animals, people, environment and finanaces.

Register by January 31!

Register for PFI’s 2020 Small Grains  Conference!

To make it easier for farmers to attend our annual small grains conference, we have moved the dates for the 2020 conference to March. Join us March 4-5 in Springfield, Illinois to learn about growing small grains, cover cropping and the benefits of an extended rotation. The conference will feature 12 breakout sessions on topics such as integrating animals with a small grains operation, marketing small grains, the agronomy behind growing small grains and more.

View full details

The cost is free for PFI members, $40 for non-members. A block of rooms is being held at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre for the nights of March 4-5 under Practical Farmers of Iowa. To book a room, visit the hotel’s website or call them at (217) 789-1530 and press 1 for reservations. Rooms will be held until Feb. 12.

For questions, contact Hannah Grosspietsch at or at (515) 232-5661.

Please Take the 2020 Member Survey!

Your responses help us understand and serve you better!

In December, we distributed our 2020 member survey and are asking all members – farmers and non-farmers, newer and long-time, Iowa residents and out-of-state – to please take it. This survey happens every three years and is one of our most important cyclical undertakings.

The data you share with us in the survey is critically important for us to understand who you are, what you’re doing and what direction you’re headed in. You’ll have the opportunity to tell us what PFI programming you enjoy, and what you’d like us to focus on in the future.
We will ask you questions about:

  • What PFI activities you have participated in
  • If and how you have benefited from PFI programming
  • Whether you farm, want to farm, own farmland or just like to support our work
  • What kinds of enterprises, production practices and conservation practices are on your farm
  • What your farm goals are
  • In what ways PFI can help you in the future

We have already sent a direct link to each of our members through an automated email from SurveyMonkey. Please check your email (including your spam folder!) to find your link to complete the survey.

Please make your voice heard, and help guide our farmer-led organization!

Questions about the survey? Please contact Steve Carlson at (515) 232-5661 or

Upcoming Events

January 16, 2020
Scheman Building, Iowa State Center, Ames, IA January 16, 1:00 PM – January 17, 11:30 AM
January 17, 2020
Scheman Building, Iowa State Center, Ames, IA January 17, 11:00 AM – January 18, 5:00 PM
February 11, 2020
Pilgrim Heights Retreat Center in Montour, IA February 11–13
March 4, 2020
Wyndham Springfield City Centre, 700 E Adams Street Springfield, IL 62701 March 4–5