Meet the Keynote Speaker: Donna Pearson McClish
Donna is founder and CEO of Common Ground Mobile Market and Mobile Food hub based in Wichita, Kansas. The mission of Common Ground is “All are fed. No one is hungry!” She is a multi-generational urban farmer. Donna holds a Bachelor of Science in human resources management and services from Friends University and a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction from Southwestern College of Professional Studies.
Rachel and Alec Amundson
Rachel and Alec operate Green Country Farms in Mitchell County, Iowa, where they raise corn, soybeans and rye. The Amundsons use cover crops and no-till and have been relay cropping since 2018.
Meaghan is the central Iowa field agronomist and field specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Her expertise includes cover crops, weed biology and management, corn and soybean management and integrated pest management.
Nathan Anderson owns and operates Bobolink Prairie Farms near Aurelia, Iowa, raising corn, soybeans, cattle, small grains and hay. Nathan and family have worked to grow their cattle herd while improving grazing management and incorporating cover crops through on-farm research. Nathan is also a PFI board member.
Mollie is a licensed realtor, accredited land manager and sustainability director with Peoples Company. Mollie manages and consults on farms across Iowa and oversees sustainability initiatives within Peoples Company with a focus on in-field and edge-of-field conservation.
Barney farms with his wife, Suzanne Castello, and 14-year-old son on land near Grinnell, Iowa. Rotationally grazing for over a decade, they are moving to regenerative farming and have started grass-finishing as well. The learning curve continues each year, but listening to the land and animals helps them grow and gives them new ideas.
Growing up on his parent’s organic dairy in Decorah, Iowa, Tom Beard always knew he wanted to farm. He built upon this farming experience in college, where he studied agriculture. Tom keeps busy caring for cattle, sheep and pigs. In 2021, he and his wife, Maren, were named Iowa Conservation Farmers of the Year for their region.
Jill runs Blue Gate Farm with her husband, Sean Skeehan. They steward 40 acres of family land in southern Marion County, Iowa, where they raise Certified Naturally Grown produce, hay and alpacas, marketing through CSA and VegEmail custom sales.
Sam and his wife, Danielle, raise corn, soybeans and small grains with Sam’s family on a 2,000-acre operation in Ida County, Iowa. They use cover crops, no-till and strip-till to work toward their goals of improving soil health, conservation, nutrient management and water quality and creating habitat.
Jean Bertrand Contina
Jean is research director for the Rodale Institute’s Midwest Organic Center located in Marion, Iowa. Jean received a doctorate from University of Idaho in 2019 followed by postdoctoral research with Oregon State University. At the Midwest Organic Center, he oversees research at Etzel Sugar Grove Farm and other projects, including how food crops can be used to extend corn and soybean rotations.
Carmen & Maja Black
Sisters Carmen and Maja own and operate SunDog Farm and Local Harvest CSA near Solon, Iowa. On the diversified operation, they raise vegetables for 200 families and graze a small flock of sheep. They also conduct on-farm research through PFI’s Cooperators’ Program. Carmen is a current PFI board member.
Jacob lives with his wife, Lindsay, and their four children on an acreage outside Hubbard, Iowa. Last year, the couple used PFI’s Find A Farmer program to rent their first farm. Jacob and Lindsay maintain full-time careers and are actively engaged with Lindsay’s family farm in Hardin and Wright counties.
Nancy is a sixth-generation farm owner who is actively working to bring young farmers to her Illinois farmland. Throughout her career, Nancy was a pioneer for women in agriculture. Her roles spanned topics and the globe, from ISU Extension and Outreach, to agricultural development in post-Soviet Ukraine and Russia, to multiple roles at the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service in seven countries.
Dayna (she/her) runs Nettle Valley Farm in Spring Grove, Minnesota. With help from her husband, Nick Nguyen (he/him), Dayna finishes about 75-80 pigs each year on diverse, pollinator-oriented annual and perennial pastures using a barn-plus-pasture hybrid model. Nettle Valley Farm also has an incubator farm program, pastured egg layers and seasonal brush goats.
Kristten raises pigs, poultry and a few head of cattle at Uncle G’s Farm in Ogden, Iowa, with her husband, Garin. They were new to farming when they moved out to the country seven years ago, but they both knew they wanted to raise livestock on a small scale. Since then, they have tried lots of things, endured lots of failures and learned as they went along.
Randall joined ISU in 2017, becoming the institution’s first bee extension specialist in over 70 years. In his role, he coordinates bee research, manages the university’s apiary, lectures and develops outreach programming for beekeepers, farmers and landowners.
Margaret rejoined PFI’s team as the livestock viability manager in 2022. She has held a range of positions in the farming realm, particularly those focusing on grazing livestock, soil and natural resource management, and agriculture education and tourism. She and her husband raise a variety of livestock (but mostly goats) on Storm Dancer Farm near Kansas City, Missouri.
Dean operates a 35-colony apiary in central Iowa. He has grown his operation to provide honey in several forms (whipped, comb) and wax products. His store, Sweet Endeavors Honey, was an award winner finalist in the “Best New Local Store” category by Cityview’s Best of Des Moines for 2022.
Wil and his family steward Organic Compound, a 40-acre regenerative farm in Faribault, Minnesota. Wil is a co-owner of the Tree-Range chicken brand and is the developer of regenpoultry.com, a website dedicated to training people how to grow a regenerative farming business with regenerative poultry production.
Mike farms in Blairstown, Iowa, where he grows corn and soybeans, and plants green into rye covers. Mike has been no-till for nearly a decade and has planted cover crops for the last five years. Mike precision-plants cover crops and has used cover crops to reduce his nitrogen rates.
Emery farms near ISU’s Southeast Research and Demonstration Farm in rural Crawfordsville, Iowa, where he raises corn, soybeans and small grains using practices such as no-till, cover crops and reduced inputs. Emery has participated in PFI’s Cooperators’ Program and enjoys trying new things. He is also a conservation agronomist with Heartland Co-op covering eastern Iowa, where he works with farmers and landowners on projects that benefit soil health, wildlife and water quality.
Josh is the Iowa precision agriculture and conservation specialist for Pheasants Forever. Raised on a farm in Winnebago County, Iowa, Josh collaborates with producers, retailers, crop advisors, lenders and others to implement precision conservation and help farmers become profitable and successful.
Wade is a sixth-generation farmer in Marshall County, Iowa, who operates Glenwood Century Farm, a diversified crop and livestock operation focused on raising cover crop seed. Wade also owns Dooley Ag Stewardship Inc., offering custom cover crop seeding services and seed.
Stacy operates Dresow Family Farm with her husband, Kevin, in Lonsdale, Minnesota. They raise white and colored Cormo and Cormo crossbred fine-fleeced sheep for their squishy, soft fiber qualities. They also raise Hereford cattle, laying hens, Idaho Pasture Pigs, an angora rabbit, dogs, a cat, horses and a small herd of free-range children.
Mike serves as the Tribal historic preservation department head for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana, and has been a leader in climate change work for over a decade. He has received the White House Champion of Change award and the Climate Leadership Award for Natural Resources.
Liz runs Dancing the Land Farm, a small family farm on Dakota and Ojibwe lands in central Minnesota, with her husband and their young daughter. Since 2012, they have been rehabilitating former row crop ground and raising produce, flowers, medicinal herbs, wool and mohair, chickens and quails for eggs and heritage meats. The farm markets through a CSA, multiple market locations and by supplying local restaurants and co-ops.
Philip is a beekeeper in Lynnville, Iowa. He started with two bee colonies in 1980 that grew into nearly 2,000 colonies in 2021. What started as a fun hobby for his family became a full-time career over 25 years. Today, Philip and his family produce and sell honey and beeswax to over 70 regional stores. They produce 100,000 pounds of honey per year, making them one of the largest honey producers in Iowa. Every spring, Philip rents his hives for pollination services all across the U.S.
Lydia joined the PFI staff in summer 2020. As the field crops viability manager, she oversees cost-share and business development projects that empower farmers to grow more cover crops and small grains in extended rotations.
Suzan is the executive director of the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust, which is dedicated to permanently protecting land for ecological table food farming. SILT reduces or removes land debt from a farmer’s equation, creating a more resilient farm economy for those who grow food.
Rob and his wife, Tammy, operate Genuine Faux Farm, a CSA, produce and poultry operation near Tripoli, Iowa. Since launching the farm in 2005, Rob has been an inquisitive farmer, testing products and concepts on his own and through PFI’s Cooperators’ Program. Rob also works as an Iowa communications associate with the Pesticide Action Network.
Dan is the commercial vegetable and specialty crop specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. Prior to this role, Dan spent more than 12 years managing vegetable farms in Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa. He brings a wealth of practical knowledge and vision to commercial horticulture in Iowa.
Ryan Gibbs, of Worthington, Iowa, raises feeder-to-finish cattle, pigs, corn, soybeans, rye, buckwheat and cover crop seed. He is also a cover crop seed dealer for Iowa Cover Crop. For three years, Ryan has been 100% no-till and in 2022, most of his fields were certified regenerative. As part of his commitment to land stewardship, Ryan is working to decrease his use of herbicide and liquid salt fertilizer.
Global Greens Farm
Global Greens Farm is an 8.5-acre incubator farm located in West Des Moines, Iowa. The program, run by Lutheran Services in Iowa, provides farmers who came to Iowa as refugees with land access, business development assistance, technical support and continued support for program graduates who go on to rent farms in the Des Moines metro area. Speakers for this session will be selected at a December workshop sponsored by Global Greens.
Liz grows organic vegetables for CSA, farmers markets and wholesale accounts at Happy Hollow Farm in Moniteau County, Missouri. MOSES (now Marbleseed) recognized Liz with the 2021 MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year award for her work raising outstanding organic vegetables while expanding the borders of organic food through her CSA and market stand, her community-building efforts and her engagement with other farmers.
Jordan loved to farm as a child and channeled that passion into apprenticing with Joel Salatin, starting his own farm and coaching aspiring farmers. He and his wife own and operate J&L Green Farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, raising animals ethically, entirely on pasture and forest, and in harmony with nature. They currently offer pasture-raised poultry, forest-fed pork and grass-fed and grass-finished beef.
Steven is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology at ISU. His group’s research focuses on soil biogeochemical processes in managed and natural ecosystems.
Mike is a retired veterinarian who has loved farming since childhood. Mike bought his first farm in 2001 and has used cover crops and no-till since 2008. He custom-hires to farm his land, located north of Winterset, Iowa, but drills all the cover crops himself. Mike is interested in soil health and makes connections between animal health, soil and water.
Dean and Judy Henry
Dean and Judy realized a dream by establishing the Berry Patch Farm in the early 1970s. Together with their son Mike, they raise strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, currants, blueberries, apples and pumpkins, and manage five greenhouses. Berry Patch produce is available at markets, through local CSAs and on the farm through U-pick or picked to order, and their production practices include integrated pest management, organic and conventional. An on-farm kitchen enables them to offer snacks, pies, jams, honey, maple syrup and more. They are the recipients of PFI’s 2023 Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award.
Tommy is the rural organizer and educator for Iowa Farmers Union. In his role, he works to elevate the voices of experienced Iowa producers to the forefront of local, state and federal conversations about agricultural policy. He is also the co-owner of Grinnell Farm To Table and a commissioner with the Poweshiek County Soil and Water Conservation District.
John moved back to Lovilia, Iowa, from California with his wife, Beth Hoffman, to take over the family farm. John and Beth are transitioning the farm’s 540 acres to a grass-fed cattle and goat operation. They use rotational grazing practices and are adding native forages to their system.
Jamie and his family operate Rolling Meadows Farm in Bellevue, Iowa, raising Red Devon cattle for grass-finishing and as seed stock. Jamie pays close attention to cattle genetics and is trained in linear measurement, which helps to produce tender, high-quality beef. He uses regenerative grazing practices to benefit both the livestock and the land.
Cody is the co-owner of Branded Bison. Working in the agriculture industry for most of his life, he has been designing and building buffalo facilities for the past five years. He is also the sales manager for the 2W Livestock Equipment.
Paul farms in Aurora, Nebraska, with his son, James, raising popcorn, oats, mustard, soybeans, winter wheat and hairy vetch. Their acres have been certified organic since 1987, and over the years they have put a lot of thought into non-chemical weed management strategies like flame weeding and homemade mulching equipment.
Laura has served as director of the Tallgrass Prairie Center at University of Northern Iowa since 2013. She received a bachelors degree in biology from Grinnell College and a doctorate in plant ecology from Cornell University. Laura has been a UNI biology faculty member since 1993, teaching courses in conservation biology, applied ecology and environmental studies.
Wendy Johnson and Johnny Rafkin own Joia Food & Fiber Farm, a regenerative, diversified organic farm producing humanely raised meat, eggs and fiber near Charles City, Iowa. Wendy is on PFI’s board of directors and served as board president from 2019 to 2021.
Lisa grew up in Lake Mills, Iowa, on her family’s corn and soybean farm and now farms with her husband, Alex, and his family near Traer, Iowa. She and Alex rotationally graze cattle and goats on perennial pasture and cover crops, and they produce grass and alfalfa hay to sell. They also are involved with the family’s no-till and strip-till corn and soybean crops. Off the farm, Lisa is an inside sales manager for Agoro Carbon.
In his role with the University of Wisconsin’s Food Finance Institute, Andy Larson works with small-business owners, including farmers. He loves to get to know his clients in-depth and provide critical consulting in areas key to farm financial and organizational health. Andy’s areas of expertise include strategic farm business and marketing planning; farm financial statements and projections; agricultural credit and loan structure; loan guarantees and credit enhancements; farm succession and intergenerational transition; and grantsmanship.
Adam began raising goats in 2014 and has since started two businesses, Iowa Kiko Goats and Blue Collar Goatscaping. Adam also works for Red Earth Gardens, the Meskwaki Nation farm located in Tama, Iowa.
Ruth is a certified professional agronomist, an Iowa certified crop advisor and a conservation agronomist with Heartland Co-op. She works directly with farmers to implement in-field and edge-of-field conservation practices to benefit soil health, water quality and wildlife.
Alice is a hard worker with diverse talents. In addition to founding and operating Mustard Seed Community Farm near Ames, Iowa, she works part-time at Wheatsfield Cooperative, plays old-time fiddle and teaches pottery classes at the Workspace. Alice has lived in several Catholic Worker houses in her lifetime and she holds a long-time passion for farming as well.
Kate raises certified organic pastured pork, chicken and turkeys at Okoboji Organics, her certified organic farm in Okoboji, Iowa. Kate is also executive director of the Organic Farmers Association, which advocates for organic farmers nationwide.
Alyona is a veterinary diagnostic pathologist at the ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. She previously ran a small flock of Katahdin sheep and currently raises Boer goats, and has a particular interest in small ruminant pathology and diagnostics.
Amber farms with her family at Fork Tail Farm, a vegetable, fruit and poultry farm near Avoca, Iowa. Amber also serves as project director of Avoca Main Street, whose mission is to promote, preserve and enhance the downtown district as an economic, cultural and social center of the community. Amber is also one of PFI’s Iowa farmland navigators.
Ajay is an assistant professor at Iowa State University working on sustainable vegetable production. His lab focuses on developing strategies that enhance crop production, soil health and profitability in vegetable cropping systems in Iowa.
Stennie currently leases 30 acres in Turin, Iowa, where she raises sheep and continues to create a diversified landscape that is beneficial to the sheep, to wildlife on the land and to the land itself.
Kevin is the owner of Flavor Country Farms, a chef-inspired produce operation nestled in the Loess Hills of western Iowa. Flavor Country Farms grows seasonal produce with a focus on year-round indoor production of gourmet mushrooms and microgreens. While restaurants are the farm’s main source of revenue, Kevin also markets to grocery stores, CSAs, co-ops and farmers markets.
Matt is a professor at ISU whose goal is to develop pest management programs that are economically and environmentally sustainable. His lab explores how conservation practices and pesticide use impact the abundance and diversity of beneficial insects.
Sam Oschwald Tilton
Sam is a horticulture instructor at Lakeshore Technical College near Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He has a background in vegetable farming and a masters degree from Michigan State University with a focus on precision weeding tools. Sam has designed weeding machines for KULT-Kress and visited farms throughout Europe and the U.S., and he organizes the Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Day.
Monika is a central Iowa native who was once a social worker and is now an accidental first-generation farmer. She is committed to social justice and equity in our food system, and lives and farms in Des Moines’ River Bend neighborhood where she and her husband raise their three children. Monika is also one of PFI’s Iowa farmland navigators.
James farms with his wife and sons near Knoxville, Iowa. They raise 1,000 sheep, 400 stock cows and organic and conventional crops. In 2022, Jim received an Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award and was recognized as Iowa Soil Conservation Farmer of the Year for Region 6. Jim has farmed with an easement since 2016.
Allen is chief agronomy officer for BioStar, responsible for the sales and distribution of the company’s OMRI-listed organic liquid fertilizer, SuperSix. Allen has worked with fellow farmers at Midwestern Bio-Ag and has a decade of experience in crop fertility and organic farming production. He holds a bachelors degree in soils from the University of Wisconsin and has expertise in managing large organic farms and serving as a trusted crop consultant.
Zanen is the Tribal lands program manager for the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes. Along with working for the Tribes, he is a fourth-generation Montana rancher and a co-owner of Branded Bison.
Anne and Landon Plagge
Anne and Landon operate Plagge Farms near Latimer, Iowa. Together with family, they raise corn, soybeans, oats, rye and hogs, and use cover crops and no-till on all their acres. They started a cover crop business in 2020 and hope their example can help others in their area adopt cover crops.
Ellen is a farm consultant and workshop leader. She draws on her 35 years of biological vegetable farming experience to help growers around the country achieve more satisfaction and better profitability from their farm businesses. Ellen was co-owner of Potomac Vegetable Farms in Virginia and is a co-author of the book “Start Your Farm: The Authoritative Guide to Becoming a Sustainable 21st Century Farm.”
Molly has been growing food, flowers and community since 2013. She grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, and now leads CSA and market management for Echollective Farm, as well as the farm’s cut flowers. Beyond Echollective, Molly enjoys supporting farm to school and food equity programs. She hopes to encourage more people to center racial and social equity in their ideas about the food system. In the words of Dolores Huerta, “Sí se puede!”
Brandon is the lead scientist for perennial legumes at the Land Institute, and currently resides in Lindsborg, Kansas. In 2012, he graduated with a bachelors degree in biology from Nebraska Wesleyan University, and in 2016 he earned a doctorate in plant breeding and plant genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Kyle Schnell operates a diversified farm near Newton, Iowa, that includes alfalfa, rye, soybeans, corn, oats, buckwheat, cattle and poultry, along with a mix of organic and conventional acres and, for the past four years, use of no-till. He also operates a cover crop seed business and in 2020 participated in PFI’s cover crop business accelerator program.
Amanda & Knute Severson
Amanda and her husband, Knute, own and operate Grand View Beef near Clarion, Iowa. They use intensive rotational grazing to raise 100% grass-fed beef and sell directly to consumers through their website, farmers markets and wholesale partnerships. Amanda is responsible for the farm’s marketing, sales, finances and shipping program.
Julia Shanks, owner of Julia Shanks Food Consulting, works with food-focused businesses to help them reach financial sustainability. Her company helps businesses streamline operations and maximize profits by using numbers to plan, measure and adapt. Whether writing business plans or developing new menus, her business works with clients to ensure success.
Carissa is the director of land stewardship for Whiterock Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust that stewards 5,500 acres of cropland, pasture, native habitat and 40 miles of trails near Coon Rapids, Iowa. In 2021, Whiterock launched a conservation easement program focusing on soil health.
Aaron is the founder of Goats On The Go, a national network of targeted grazing service providers who use goats and sheep to sustainably manage vegetation for their customers. The business now licenses a growing portfolio of brands, offering training and support to others while building a community of entrepreneurs who seek to operate profitable farms no matter their entry point or size.
Laura is a passionate foodie who started farming to feed her family the highest quality food possible. Along with her husband and two daughters, she raises organic-fed and pastured heritage pork and poultry at Mossycup Farms near Clear Lake, Iowa. She sells lard soaps and other value-added products through an on-farm store, local grocery stores and restaurants.
Erin Van Waus
Erin is Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation’s conservation easement director. INHF is a nonprofit conservation organization that works with private landowners and public agencies to protect and restore Iowa’s land, water and wildlife.
Karen earned a Juris Doctor at Drake University, a masters degree in plant breeding at Cornell University and a bachelors degree in agronomy at Iowa State University. She and her husband, Warren, practice law together and help manage the family farm near Stuart, Iowa.
Michael farms with his family near Washington, Iowa, growing corn, soybeans, cereal rye, hogs and cattle. The Vittetoes use no-till, cover crops and hog manure on their row crop acres. Through his pasture-based cattle operation, Long Creek Pastures, Michael practices regenerative grazing and direct-markets beef. The family conducts numerous on-farm trials each year to determine how they can best steward their land and profitability.
Tom Wahl and Kathy Dice
Tom and Kathy launched Red Fern Farm, near Wapello, in 1986 and now grow over 75 species of common and not-so-common fruits and nuts. They are dedicated to educating consumers and growers, researching fruit and nut trees and shrubs, and practicing perennial polyculture at their farm. In addition to their forest-farm products available through U-pick, they raise hair sheep, which they rotate throughout their farm. Tom and Kathy are lifetime members of PFI and recipients of PFI’s 2015 Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award.
Harold is a grain farmer and the owner of both Janie’s Farm and Janie’s Mill. Alongside his family and other team members, Harold grows and processes grains for sale into a variety of markets in the Midwest and beyond.