Published Apr 10, 2020

the Practical Farmer: Spring 2020

Staying Safe and Connected as We Confront COVID-19 Together

As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to mount with dizzying speed, we want you to know that the staff and board of directors of Practical Farmers of Iowa are thinking about you and your safety – and we are committed to being here to support you in whatever way we can during this challenging time. Read the full update here.

From the Executive Director

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Policy & Conservation

Funding Conservation

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program are two federal programs that fund conservation on working lands.

Small Grains

Variety Selection is Key to Small-Grain Success

PFI research and partnerships are helping farmers make better decisions.


Crowdsourcing Vegetable Yields

A special PFI portal helps vegetable farmers share their production data – and fortify their management.

Cooperators’ Program

Honored for a Commitment to Research

Mark Quee and Bruce Carney receive PFI’s Master Researcher Award.

Early PFI Members

Inspired to Create Community

Rick Exner played a key role in PFI’s founding story, and its first 20 years.

Sustainable Ag Achievement Award

Farming for the Future

For Paul Mugge, on-farm research, conservation and a willingness to share his knowledge with others are hallmarks of his farming philosophy.

Photos from the 2020 Annual Conference

View the photos

Landowners & Grazing

Linking Livestock to Land

For non-operator landowners and tenants alike, adding livestock can be a win-win.

Farm Transfer

A Farm Transfer in Progress

For the Hjertaas family of Redvers, Canada, dialogue and shared values are guiding succession plans.

Beginning Farmers

SIP Class of 2021

Meet the newest class of participants in PFI’s Savings Incentive Program.

Member Book Review

Review of: “The Whole Okra: A Seed to Stem Celebration”

PFI News

Meet Our Next Gen Coordinator

DSC 0010Celize Christy – a familiar name to many of you from her work as PFI’s swine and poultry coordinator – is our new next generation coordinator. She officially started her new role at the end of March.

A native of Dallas, Texas, Celize obtained her bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University in 2016, majoring in animal science and global resource systems with a minor in Spanish.

She earned her master’s degree in rural sociology and international agriculutral development from Penn State University in 2018, and has been with PFI since June 2018. Learn more about Celize, and read her work, at

Join Our Team – We’re Hiring!

We are seeking a strategic initiatives coordinator who will:

  • help farmers effectively promote cover crops and small grains to their peers
  • conduct cover crop consultations with cost-share program participants and respond to farmer cover crop questions
  • coordinate field work and data collection
  • monitor grant deliverable progress
  • attend cover crop and small grains events in Iowa and the Midwest
  • write articles, blogs and other outreach on cover crops

The strategic initiatives team works creatively to build collaborative connections between the private and public sectors that accomplish the goals of our farmer members on the broader Iowa and Midwestern landscape.
Application materials are due by April 26. Visit for full details.

Apply for Cover Crop Cost-Share

Do you sell soybeans to the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Des Moines supply chain or corn directly to Cargill at Eddyville, Iowa? If so, you might be eligible for cost-share to help make cover crops work on your farm. Determine your eligibility by completing the application at, and we’ll let you know if you qualify.
Questions? Contact Chris Wilbeck at or (515) 232-5661.

Hannah Breckbill is a 2020 L4L trainerGet Farm Experience Through Labor4Learning

Several jobs are open in Iowa offering paid farm training

Are you looking to get paid, on-the-job training with experienced farmers in Iowa? Apply to one of several paid jobs now available through our Labor4Learning program. We created this program to help connect beginning farmers seeking employment with experienced PFI farmers who offer additional training in farm management and production skills.
These trainer farms are located across the state and represent a wide range of enterprises and production practices, including row crops, small grains, livestock, fruits, vegetables and more. The farms also vary greatly in their production practices.

Through Labor4Learning, you will be paid at least minimum wage and gain other benefits, including:

  • learning farm business development from an experienced PFI farmer
  • paid time off to attend a PFI event during the term of employment
  • a discount to our annual conference
  • opportunities to connect with other PFI trainees
  • a free PFI membership

To see the list of job openings and how to apply, visit

 Meet Our New and Re-Elected Board Members

Two new members join board, and three farmers re-elected

During our business meeting in January, held during our annual conference, PFI members voted to elect or re-elect five members to our 12-person board of directors.

Carmen BlackCarmen Black operates Sundog Farm and Local Harvest CSA near Solon. She farms with her sister, Maja, raising vegetables for 200 families and grazing a small flock of sheep. Carmen grew up near Solon, and returned to Iowa to farm after living out of state for a few years. She worked for Susan Jutz, founder of Local Harvest CSA, and purchased her farm (formerly known as ZJ Farm) and CSA business in 2016. “I’m excited to join the PFI board because I love the culture of curiosity fostered by PFI,” Carmen says. “I look forward to the opportunity to get to know more PFI members from throughout the state.”

Kristine LangKristine Lang is an extension scientist for the Rodale Institute Midwest Organic Center in Marion, which provides resources, technical support and localized research for farmers looking to implement or expand organic operations in the Midwest. Kristine recently earned her doctorate in horticulture and sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. She credits her PFI membership with improving her research, enhancing her professional and personal growth and helping her form important friendships. “I’m excited to serve on the Practical Farmers board because I know PFI members drive on-farm innovation and strengthen their local communities,” Kristine says.

With their election, Carmen began her first term on Practical Farmers’ board as a farmer at-large director and Kristine began her first term as a friend-of-farmer at-large director. The other board members on the docket were all re-elected to their current positions on the board.

Ann franzenburg 2Ann Franzenburg was re-elected to her third term as a farmer director for District 3 (Northeast Iowa). She and her husband Eric are lifetime PFI members who have owned and operated Pheasant Run Farm near Van Horne since 1994. Together, they run a diversified operation that includes conventional row crops; cut flowers; and certified organic fruit, vegetables and medicinal herbs.

Wendy JohnsonWendy Johnson was re-elected to her third term as a representative for District 2 (North Central Iowa). She also serves as board president. Wendy and her husband, Johnny Rafkin, own and operate Jóia Food Farm, a diverse organic grain and livestock farm near Charles City that includes pastures, organic grains, eggs, poultry, lamb and pork. Wendy also helps manage her family’s conventional corn and soybean farm.

Gayle OlsonGayle Olson was re-elected to her second term as a representative for District 5 (Southeast Iowa). She and her husband, Jeff, are lifetime members of PFI near Winfield. Their operation includes conventional and organic acres, and they grow a variety of row crops, small grains, alfalfa and beef cattle. Gayle also serves as the assistant to the director for Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH).

Practical Farmers board members serve in many capacities, from ensuring PFI is fiscally sound and our programs remain effective and farmer-focused, to providing leadership, advice and direction to staff.