Published Jan 3, 2022

Spreading the Word About Practical Farming

By Sally Worley

There are so many talented people within PFI’s membership, including gifted authors. Since last December, at least three members have published books, a fourth has a book in production that will come out next spring – and I’m sure other members published books over the past year that I haven’t yet learned about.

Salley Worley and Beth Hoffman

Sally Worley (left) and Beth Hoffman at an October 2021 reading of Beth’s recently published book, “Bet the Farm,” held at Beaverdale Books in Beaverdale, Iowa.

In October 2021, Beth Hoffman of Lovilia, Iowa, published “Bet the Farm.” Levi Lyle of Keota, Iowa, published two books in 2021: “So God Made a Farmer: A Retrospective on The Living Words of Paul Harvey by an Organic Farmer,” released in September, and “Ice Sage: Living and Loving the Land,” published in November. And in spring 2022, Angela Tedesco of Johnston, Iowa, will publish “Finding Turtle Farm: My Twenty-Acre Adventure in Community Supported Agriculture.”

Prior to coming to Iowa to farm, Beth was a professor, as well as a journalist who reported on food and farming. In “Bet the Farm,” she shares the realities she and her husband, John Hogeland, have faced in their beginning years as farmers. She describes fundamental difficulties – including family dynamics, economics of farming and lack of sufficient infrastructure for regional food and farm systems – and explores ways to create a more judicious farm landscape in Iowa.

”So God Made a Farmer” is on my winter to-be-read list. Tom Wahl, of Red Fern Farm, says of the book: “Levi exposes the fundamental flaws in our system of modern, industrialized agriculture and lays out a regenerative vision for the future of agriculture.” “Ice Sage” is a book of poetry that ponders pathways of land stewardship.

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of “Finding Turtle Farm.” Angela, a CSA pioneer in Iowa, conveys her journey from graduate school to a second career as an organic farmer. She shares information, wit and stories that capture why farming is about so much more than growing food. And she illustrates the importance of being connected to your food and the farmers who grow it.

Angela includes an excerpt from PFI’s 2002 annual report in her book that clarifies why “Practical” is part of PFI’s name. I laughed when I read this because it’s a question I get a lot. Angela writes:

It’s so obvious, so provocative, but so curious: why are we the practical farmers of Iowa? Why not the innovative, or sustainable, or holistic farmers of Iowa? Or as was recently proposed: the romantic farmers of Iowa. And who has not been asked: is there such a thing as an impractical farmer of Iowa?

Consider: A farming system that requires a tractor so large and complicated a farmer can’t fix it, a globalized food system that doesn’t benefit farmers, a state that feeds the world but not itself.

Perhaps they are the greatest dangers of our time: vision without practicality – efficiency without common sense.

Imagine drawing on the wisdom of farmers and the needs of the land when we: design farming systems, create new food supply chains, consider new farm policies. Perhaps being practical means: remembering the land when we are in the laboratory, remembering the consumer when we are in the field, remembering the farmer when we are in the grocery store.

Each of these PFI member-authors draw on the wisdom of farmers and the needs of the land as they spell out how we practically build resilient farms.

I am excited to hear from and talk with many of you savvy members at our conference, “Facing the Horizon,” Jan. 21-22 in Ames. This conference will reverberate with practical ideas that inspire, energize and transform – and, as always, are farmer-led. See ppages 10-11 ages 10-11 for more details.

I hope to see you there so we can work together to create healthier food, farms and communities.

Sally Signature