Horticulture Sessions

With interest growing for Iowa fruit and vegetable production, the number of Practical Farmers members who raise these crops is increasing, too. We have several sessions for fruit and vegetable producers from all arrays of production styles. Come learn from other farmers how to make your farm more profitable and diverse. Some session topics at our annual conference include enterprise budgeting, weed management machinery, packhouse design and use, marketing, mushroom production and a commercial apple orcharding short course. Plus, attend the conference for networking opportunities with other knowledgeable, like-minded farmers.

Commercial Apple Orcharding Short Course

During this short course, commercial apple orchardists from around the Midwest will gather to discuss their experiences, challenges and ideas for their orchards. Presentations from growers will cover topics from orchard design and packhouses, to disease and pest management, to understory care for young trees. The course will also include a session on hard cider production, complete with a tasting of hard ciders from several orchards and cideries. If you’re serious about apples, this course is for you!

Orchard Design

Mike Malik , Steve Louis

Whether starting from scratch or expanding an existing orchard, many factors influence orchard design – and it’s important to get it right the first time.

Hard Cider Production and Management

Paul Rasch and Sara GoeringBenji DealDeirdre Birmingham

Three different Iowa hard cider producers will share an overview of how they approach hard cider production, from apple varieties and orchard management to blending. A panel discussion and hard cider tasting will follow.

Packhouse Design

Steve Louis

A late-summer orchard fire destroyed Oakwood Fruit Farm’s 2010 season. A silver lining, however, was that the time off allowed Steve to travel to other orchards during apple harvest, observing their practices and gathering ideas for the re-build of his packing facility. During this session, Steve will share what he learned, what they built and what improvements could still be made.

Understory Management

Steve LouisMichael Phillips

While we’re watching the trees, how are the plants and processes on and below the ground affecting our orchard’s success? Steve will share his experience managing the understory and fertility of mature and newly planted orchards. Michael, an expert in holistic orcharding and the soil food web, will share his on-farm practices, which may provide new ideas easily integrated to more conventional orchards.

Spray Program

Paul Rasch and Sara Goering

Iowa apple growers have to manage a wide variety of pests and diseases in order to minimize damages and maximize harvests. Implementing an effective spray program takes planning and careful monitoring throughout the year. Hear from experienced growers about the management plan and tools they use to ensure a good harvest.

Other Horticulture Sessions

Adding Value to Your Farm

Rebecca Graff and Tom Ruggieri

Tom Ruggieri and Rebecca Graff of Fair Share Farm have created a sustainability plan to ensure the longevity of their farm operation. This plan covers the future of their CSA, including scaling it down over time. It also includes strategies to expand their value-added fermented food enterprise. This session will cover their sustainability plan and provide details on how they are expanding fermentation on their farm.

Business and Balance at Miss Effie’s Flowers and Garden Stuff

Cathy Lafrenz

Over the last 16 years, Cathy has built a country oasis for her U-pick flower customers while also finding time to manage the farm store (mostly stocked with her own homemade goods and crafts) and host on-farm classes. During this session, Cathy will share her experiences, both successes and challenges, and provide guidance for those interested in running multiple on-farm enterprises.

Cauliflower Production

T.D. HolubRebecca Graff and Tom Ruggieri

Cauliflower is a long-season crop, susceptible to heat and sun. Can we grow them well in Iowa? Join T.D., Rebecca and Tom for an in-depth discussion of cauliflower production. They will each share the details of how they have produced and stored cauliflower on their farms, their successes and ongoing challenges.

Conduct and Neighborliness in Markets and Product Innovation

Jill Beebout, Jan LibbeyRebecca Graff and Tom Ruggieri

In an increasingly congested and connected local foods market, where is the line between smart business and stealing business? How do we build allies instead of competition across the street at farmers markets? Join farmers Jan Libbey, Jill Beebout, Tom Ruggieri and Rebecca Graff as they discuss successes and challenges in living these questions, and how both beginning and experienced farmers can approach these questions for their own businesses.

Eggplant Production

Dr. Ajay NairRebecca Graff and Tom Ruggieri

Eggplant. The elusive nightshade sister is often overshadowed by boisterous tomatoes and peppers. When are they ready to harvest? How can you maximize your yield per plant? Join Ajay, Rebecca and Tom for an in-depth discussion of eggplant production as they share the details of their growing methods, favorite varieties and pest pressures.

Enterprise Budgets for Vegetable Production

Scott ThellmanEmily Fagan

After starting, transplanting, watering, weeding, harvesting, washing, packing and working five hours at the farmers market, you’ve sold some tomatoes for $3 per pound. Did you make any money? Emily and Scott have both done extensive enterprise budgets for the crops on their farms. In this session, they’ll share their enterprise budgets and the processes they used – in the field and on the computer – to find their bottom lines (and improve them!).

Hiring Contract, H2A and Migrant Farm Labor

Melissa GarciaEric FranzenburgJavier Nevarez

For many farms, migrant and seasonal farm workers are an essential labor force. During this session, Javier will share his experience with running a farm labor contract business. Eric will discuss the process of hiring and housing H2A workers on his farm. Melissa will provide an overview of the rules and regulations specific to Iowa. This session will be relevant for field crop, fruit, vegetable and livestock farmers.

Identifying Disease in Vegetable Crops

Dr. Ajay NairDr. Lina Rodriguez-Salamanca

Mildew, blotches, wilting, curling, discoloration – what is going on in our vegetable fields? Join Lina and Ajay for an interactive session that will include discussion of ways to manage vegetable crop diseases and identify herbicide injury. The team will also discuss what we know, and don’t know, about the role of nutrients in disease management.

Installing Prairie Habitat: Starting With Seedlings

Sarah Foltz JordanJon Judson

During this session, Sarah and Jon will discuss how to grow and integrate native plant seedlings, including seed collection and sourcing, plant selection, seedling propagation, habitat placement and weed control. Sarah will also discuss benefits of on-farm habitat for insects and other wildlife. Jon will provide additional insight on site design and long-term management from his extensive experience reconstructing prairies in Iowa.

Managing a Farm With Diverse Crops and Markets

Scott Thellman

Stacked enterprises add diversity and resilience to a farm’s bottom line. Juniper Hill Farms’ production list spans conventional corn along with winter squash, organic wheat and spinach – plus a local vegetable and hay brokering and distribution business. Learn how all these crops and enterprises fit together. Scott will explain how the skills and implementation tools carry from one crop to others, and you will leave with some ideas for how to diversify your own farm’s offerings.

Managing Seasonal Employees on a Vegetable Farm

Laura Frerichs

Operating a vegetable farm often takes more labor than the farmer can provide. Seasonal employees can help solve this labor shortage – but they also add cost and complexity to the operation. Efficiently managing employees requires organization, time, development of farm systems and excellent communication and people skills. Laura will share how she and her husband manage Loon Organics’ seasonal workers and handful of work-share volunteers. They will also give tips on hiring, interviewing and employee retention.

Mushroom Production, Drying and Marketing

Steve Gabriel

Cultivating shiitake outdoors on logs, and oyster mushrooms indoors, can be a fun and profitable addition to your CSA offerings and farm sales. Learn from Steve how to properly cultivate these mushrooms from inoculation to management to sales. He will also discuss marketing both fresh and dried mushrooms, and the potential for profitability at multiple scales.

Packhouse Design and Use

Scott Thellman

In the past year, Juniper Hill Farms has expanded from its original 10-by-10-foot CoolBot room and 12-by-4-foot wash room – perfect for a smaller farm – to a much needed 4,000-square-foot packhouse in what used to be a hay and equipment storage barn. The new packhouse features walk-in cold storage and freezers, wash lines and single-phase-to-three-phase inverters (all the good stuff!). Scott will discuss the design and function of both systems during this session.

Storage Onion Production

Dan FilliusKate Edwards

Onions can be a diverse storage crop that creates loyal customers. Onions can also be frustratingly weedy and susceptible to disease. Join Kate Edwards and Dan Fillius for an in-depth discussion of onion production, and hear how they produce and store onions on their farms.

Updates From PFI’s Horticulture Program

Liz Kolbe

What does PFI have for fruit and vegetable farmers? Or flower farmers, orchardists, nut growers or any other specialty crop? During this session, Liz will give an update on the horticulture program at Practical Farmers of Iowa. Topics will include farmer-led research (including the Whole Farm Financial Report), recent and upcoming workshops and events, and insights into how PFI horticulture programming is shaped. Conversation, ideas and questions are welcome!

Vegetable Seed-Saving as a Business Enterprise

Beth and Nathan Corymb

Beth and Nathan’s seed-saving passion led them through Seed Savers Exchange, Sativa Biodynamic Seed (Switzerland), Bingenheim Biodynamic Seed (Germany) and Turtle Tree Biodynamic Seed – which they founded in New York state. During this session, they will discuss what plant-family characteristics should be considered; why population size and isolation are necessary to maintain true-to-type open-pollinated varieties; and how seed-growing can complement CSA, market or processing enterprises.

Weed Management and Machinery for Vegetable Production

Scott Thellman

Though weed management at Juniper Hill Farms is far from perfect, the farmers there are improving their practices every year, and are open to sharing their journey with other farmers. During this session, Scott will discuss the farm’s weed management systems and practices for organic and conventional vegetable crops; the machinery the farmers like (and don’t like); and specific situations of weed management successes, failures and next steps.


Contact Maggie at (515) 232-5661, or maggie@practicalfarmers.org.