Published Feb 4, 2020

Small-grains conference set for March 4-5, in Springfield, Illinois

By Tamsyn Jones


Alisha Bower | Strategic Initiatives Manager | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |

Tamsyn Jones | Editor & Outreach Coordinator | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Registration is open for Practical Farmers of Iowa’s fourth annual small-grains conference, “Rotationally Raised: Making Small Grains Work,” which will take place March 4-5 at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre (700 E Adams St.) in Springfield, Illinois.

Previously held in August each year, the event has been moved to March to better accommodate farmers’ fieldwork schedules.

The two-day conference starts at noon on Wednesday, March 4, and will feature 12 breakout sessions exploring a range of topics, from soil health and ryelage as a feed source for dairy cattle to integrating animals with a small-grains operation, selling wheat to milling markets, Midwestern grain value chains and more.

Attendees will hear from a mix of farmers, industry representatives and university scientists who will share practical insights and strategies for working with small grains in a variety of contexts.

Practical Farmers is expanding its work to several states throughout the Midwest, including Illinois, due to a Conservation Innovation Grant awarded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service in 2018. The grant funds programming to help farmers add small grains and green-manure legume cover crops to their farming systems.

Registration and lodging: Registration is required for this conference. Pre-registration online or by phone ends on Friday, Feb. 28 Walk-ins are welcome to attend and can register at the door. Registration is free for Practical Farmers of Iowa members or $40 for non-members.

The cost includes lunch both days and appetizers at the buyers reception on Wednesday. Register online at, or call (515) 232-5661.

A block of rooms is being held for Practical Farmers of Iowa at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre for the night of March 4. To reserve a room in this block, you must book by Feb. 12. Call (217) 789-1530 and press 1 for reservations.

Conference schedule: The conference starts at noon on Wednesday with lunch and a plenary by Rick Clark, a fifth-generation farmer whose family operation spans 7,000 acres. One-third of the farm is in a three-year rotation with corn, soybeans and wheat. Another third is in a four-year rotation of corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa for a dairy.

In his talk – “Profitability of Building Soil Health: Diverse Crop Rotations, No-Till and Cover Crops” – Rick will share how his farm and his pockets have remained profitable throughout efforts to regenerate his soil.

Two blocks of breakout sessions will follow, from 1:20-4 p.m., followed by a networking reception from 4-5:30 p.m. Sessions resume at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 5.

The conference will conclude with lunch and a closing plenary from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. by agroecologist Jennifer Blesh, assistant professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability and the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative at the University of Michigan.

Jennifer’s talk, “Learning From Farmers: Diversifying Crop Rotations to Make Farms More Resilient,” will explore the unintended consequences of current agricultural landscapes and highlight how an ecological approach to agriculture can help transform cropping systems to be more resilient.

Full conference details – including the complete list of session titles and speakers – are available on Practical Farmers’ small grains conference webpage. For questions, contact Hannah Grosspietsch at (515) 232-5661 or

The 2020 small grains conference is sponsored by Albert Lea Seed; American Farmland Trust; Association of Illinois Soil & Water Conservation Districts; Deer Creek Seed; Farmland Solutions, LLC.; Grain Millers; Illinois Nutrient Research & Education Council; Illinois Stewardship Alliance; Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership; La Crosse Seed; Midwest Grass & Forage; Illinois SARE; Oatly; ProHarvest Seeds; and Saddle Butte Ag Inc.

Register today!


Practical Farmers of Iowa works to equip farmers to build resilient farms and communities. Our values include: welcoming everyone; farmers leading the exchange of experience and knowledge; curiosity, creativity, collaboration and community; resilient farms now and for future generations; and stewardship of land and resources. To learn more, visit