Published Apr 22, 2021

the Practical Farmer: Spring 2021

From the Executive Director

Connecting From Home

Field Crops

The Journey to an On-Farm Research Project: A Student’s Tale

When Gina Nicols returned to Iowa State University to pursue a doctoral program, she sought out a research project to undertake in her spare time that could let her work with and benefit PFI farmers.

Land Acknowledgments

Reflecting on History to Create Resilient Paths Forward

Members are increasingly acknowledging Iowa’s original Indigenous occupants in their interactions with the public.

Strategic Plan

Vision and Action

Read an overview of our new strategic plan, which runs from 2021 through 2023, and how we worked to imbue it with a good dose of vision paired with action.

Local Foods Policy

A Promising Partnership

State funding for farm-to-school efforts can build vital markets for locally grown food while benefiting farmers, schools and children.

Beginning Farmers

SIP Class of 2022

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

Farmer Stories

Connection Through Story

Read the heartwarming, humorous and moving stories of farming, connection and remembrance that six PFI members shared live during our 2021 virtual annual conference.

Sustainable Ag Achievement Award

Farming for the Long Haul

A commitment to soil health and mentoring others has defined the farming ethos of Paul Ackley and his late wife, Nancy.


Butchery Start-Ups Respond to Demand

Two new custom meat processing plants showcase innovation and provide critical services.

اقرأ هذا المقال باللغة العربية

Cooperators’ Program

New Mission, Vision and Guiding Principles

To more formally express the ethos that has guided on-farm research at PFI since our founding, the Cooperators’ Program staff worked on crafting a mission, vision and guiding principles for this flagship program.

Member Book Review

Review of: “In the Shadow of Green Man: My Journey from Poverty and Hunger to Food Security and Hope”

PFI News

Jacqueline Venner Senske Joins PFI Staff as New Horticulture Coordinator

Jacqueline Venner Senske Headshot 3.2.2021Jacqueline Venner Senske joined the Practical Farmers of Iowa staff in February. As horticulture coordinator, she works with PFI staff, farmers and members to host farmer-led educational events and develop networks in the PFI community for farmers growing horticulture crops, including fruits and vegetables, nuts, cut flowers, berries and orchard crops.

Raised on a breeding beef farm in west-central Iowa, Jacqueline developed a deep love of the land and an appreciation of what makes rural culture and production agriculture special. After completing a bachelor’s degree in horticulture at Iowa State University, she went on to the Longwood Graduate Program at the University of Delaware, earning a Master of Science in public horticulture administration and completing a thesis titled “Developing Ornamental Horticulture at Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa.”

Though her path has been winding, Jacqueline’s career has common themes: community, education, sometimes food and horticulture. This reflects her passion for facilitating experiences that enable people to connect with one another in beautiful places, particularly through work with public gardens.

Her work has included roles with Zingermen’s Delicatessen, Matthaei Botanical Garden and Nichols Arboretum, Old House Gardens Heirloom Bulbs and Project Grow Community Gardens, all in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, the 7th Street Public Market and a range of small, local, food-based businesses in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area; and, most recently, Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa.
When she can, Jacqueline loves to travel (her country list so far includes Ukraine, Canada, England, Greece, France, Scotland and Brazil); find, prepare and consume local foods; explore and share nature; haunt secondhand and vintage shops; and reconnect on her family’s farm. She enjoys small-town life with her husband, three kids and two cats.

Lara Schenck is PFI’s New Strategic Initiatves Manager

Lara Schenck Headshot 3.3.2021Lara Schenck joined the PFI staff in March as the strategic initiatives manager. She supports the strategic initiatives team by leading grant management and reporting, and managing small grains and cover crop programs, budgets and staff. She also provides guidance to farmers through articles, blog posts, newsletters and public presentations.

Lara graduated from Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri, in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy. Her interest in soils and environmental science led her to pursue a master’s degree in soil science at Iowa State University, which she obtained in 2015. Lara worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service as a soil conservationist and resource conservationist in Iowa and Nebraska, helping farmers adopt and expand sustainable conservation practices.

Lara grew up in southwest Iowa on her 440-acre family farm, which she co-manages with her brother. In her free time, she enjoys horseback riding, traveling, reading and painting.

Get Ready for (Modified) Field Days!

We’ve all shared in the past year’s long, strange and challenging journey of isolation, distance and sacrifice, with gatherings postponed, rituals upended and connection confined to screens.

As we start to see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, PFI is planning a series of small, energizing, in-person “Catching Up” gatherings on farms across Iowa this summer. The line-up will expand on a rolling basis throughout the summer as more pop-up, local events are organized.
To keep these gatherings small (and safe, with COVID-19 still around!) – and to help connect people to the events and topics they’re most interested in – attendance is by invitation only.

Learn more about how this modified field day season will work, and let us know your interests by filling out the form at