Published Feb 4, 2021

the Practical Farmer: Winter 2020

On the cover:

Workshop attendees construct the endwall of a high tunnel at Laura Krouse’s farm during the high tunnel build at her Mount Vernon, Iowa, farm on Oct. 11, 2020.

From the Executive Director

Count Blessings


Finding Opportunities for Habitat

Chris Henning uses precision ag, and close collaboration with her tenant, to take marginal acres out of production.

Expanding Our Community

Coming Together to Welcome Everyone

PFI is working to be more inclusive by creating relationships and building trust with Latino Iowans who farm or aspire to farm.

Cooperators’ Program

Cooperative Research Builds Community

Five farmers share how they first connected with the Cooperators’ Program, how it has benefitted them and why they remain so committed to on-farm research.

Strategic Plan

Staying Focused on Community in Our Strategic Planning

As we developed our new strategic plan, strengthening and expanding PFI’s community was a top priority.


Building Community and High Tunnels After the Derecho

In the aftermath of the storm, the PFI community rallied at three high tunnel builds in October to help members who lost these critical farm structures.

Integrated Crops & Livestock

Crop-Livestock Integration: Three Ideas

Read about three tiers of integration, each delivering a suite of benefits to the farms and farmers.

Early PFI Members

Coming Together Since 1985

PFI co-founders Dick and Sharon Thompson helped model PFI’s core values.

Beginning Farmers

Hatching Farms and Community

Nettle Valley Farm’s incubator farm program offers a lower-risk way for beginning farmers to start farming.

Member Book Review

Review of: “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth”

PFI News

Two PFI Staff Author Chapter in New Book by the SWCS

In December, the Soil and Water Conservation Society published a new book – “Soil and Water Conservation: A Celebration of 75 Years” – exploring the conservation progress made since the SWCS was founded in 1945, and the future of conservation in an age of climate change and more dire pressures on Earth’s natural resources. Sarah Carlson, PFI’s strategic initiatives director (at right in the photo), and Alisha Bower, our operations director, co-authored Chapter 28, “Marketing Conservation Agronomy: Cover Crops from Two Practitioners’ Points of View.”

Here is a brief excerpt from the opening of their chapter:

Alisha Bower and Sarah Carlson at EPA grant ceremony in August 2019 photo by PFI e1608309936646“Our work as professionals at Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) is focused on the intersection of conservation and agronomy. We tackle the forbidden, tricky space of pushing the dominant cropping system to do better, for example focusing on practices in the field like cover crops, managed grazing and diverse crop rotation. PFI exists to advocate on the behalf of agriculture as a solution to many of our natural resource and conservation challenges. The recent history of cover crop adoption in Iowa shows a similar change in message from conservation professionals over time toward a more agroecological focus that can impact natural resource stewardship at scale.”

A hard copy of the book is available to purchase for $25, or for free as a downloadable ebook, from

New Gifts for New Lifetime Members

Lifetime member charcuterie boardsSince creating a lifetime membership option in 2012, 124 individuals and families have signed up, gaining full member benefits for life – as well as an end to all renewal notices. Until recently, these members received a thank-you gift in the form of a PFI-branded half-gallon crock from Red Wing Stoneware Co. Now, newbies to the lifetime member club will be receiving handmade charcuterie boards. These beautiful and functional boards were created by the Iowa City-based company Krafka Kraft, which used spalted maple engraved with PFI’s new logo and the words “Lifetime Member.”

These boards represent our lifetime members in so many ways: they are practical, thoughtfully sourced, well-deserved and no two are the same. Please consider becoming a lifetime member today.

Watch the Virtual Cover Crop Boot Camp Online

If you were unable to attend our 2020 virtual cover crop boot camp in December, or want to revisit a few of the sessions, we recorded the entire event. . The two-day workshop explored how cover crops boost soil health, improve weed control and provide grazing opportunities. Sessions focused on field fitness, initial adjustments for weed control, linking the forage chain, measuring soil improvement, long-term success with weed suppression and innovative ways to graze. Videos of each session are available here.

2021 Winter Farminar Season

Mark your calendars for the kick-off of our winter farminar series on January 26!

The weekly, evening webinar series will occur Tuesday nights from 7-8:30 p.m. CST, and is free for anyone with an internet connection. Farmers and subject-matter experts provide insights and reflections on a variety of production, conservation and business management approaches with ample time for live Q&A.

This coming season’s topics will include presentations on interseeding 60-inch corn, contract grazing, grazing cover crops, pasture-finishing pigs, high tunnel storm protection and maintenance, habitat, working lands conservation and farm transfer.

Check out the 2021 farminar lineup

PFI’s Community Connections Committee is Here for You

This past year has been difficult for many people, and for many different reasons. Whatever the challenge you’re facing, we want Practical Famers of Iowa to be a community you can turn to. To help facilitate this community support, we’ve formed a committee of members who are available for anyone who would like to chat.

If you could benefit from social support, and would like to connect with another PFI member, please let us know (scroll to “Connect with PFI” and fill out the form there). A committee member will then reach out to you for a confidential, one-on-one phone call.

View Missed Field Days Online

Did you miss a virtual field day this summer or autumn that you wanted to see? All events have been recorded, and there are a few different ways to view them:

Wide Range of Merchandise Options in PFI’s Online Store

PFI water bottleYellow Don't Farm Naked shirtHave you visited PFI’s online store lately? We now have 25 items available to purchase, ranging from shirts and hats in a variety of colors, to travel mugs and masks, to stickers and onesies, to water bottles – and more. The store also features T-shirts with our newly redesigned Don’t Farm Naked logo, designed by Sarah Krumm, PFI’s graphic design and photography coordinator. The new shirts are available in mustard yellow and light grey.

Some of the other shirts in the store represent older designs that have been phased out, and sizing may be limited.