Short Courses

Pre-conference short courses are offered each year as an opportunity to dive a little deeper into topics that interest our learning community. Four separate short courses are scheduled this year. Registration for the short course is priced per person; members are offered a discounted rate.  Short courses begin on Thursday at 1 p.m. and end on Friday at 11:30 a.m. in the Scheman Building at the Iowa State Center. Lunch prior to and dinner following Thursday’s course are not provided. Thursday evening is an ideal time to go out to dinner with fellow farmers.

For short course attendees only, we offer an optional box lunch you can purchase following the short course on Friday. Due to the short 1-hour break between the end of the short course and the start of the conference on Friday, many short course attendees find this option convenient.

Register for a short course

2020 Short Course Topics:

Organic weed control

Thursday 1 – 6:30 p.m.  | Friday 8 – 11:30 a.m. 

7 CEU credits approved

For experienced farmers and newcomers alike, managing weeds is one of the biggest production challenges in organic cropping systems. But don’t be deterred! Weeds can be controlled with a variety of tactics.

In this short course, you’ll learn from farmers and other professionals about a range of strategies, from equipment options and timing to using weed ecology, crop stages, soil conditions and even the weather as guides.

Mechanical Weed Control and Weed Ecology

Sam Hitchcock Tilton

Sam will highlight new and emerging machines on the market, as well as best-use strategies for your current equipment and options to tune up your cultivator – all in the context of how cultivation progresses. He will also talk about weed ecology and how to set the stage for successful weed management.

Equipment for Different Situations

Eric Madsen, Dean Schultes & Jaron Wilson

Managing weeds in an organic cropping system requires paying close attention to crop stages, weed stages, soil conditions and weather conditions. These factors will also inform which pieces of equipment are your best option for success at the time. Eric, Dean and Jaron will share how they select equipment for particular situations – and will encourage discussion from the audience.

Diversified Weed Control

Jack Geiger

Do you think successfully managing weeds in an organic system is too complicated or confusing? Jack Geiger argues anyone can learn the basic skills needed – and the tools already exist. All that’s necessary is a student willing to learn, and a focus on ideas rather than on purchasing inputs. Jack will share why successful organic weed control begins long before a seed is placed into soil. He’ll also explain why the conventional mindset of a surgically clean and uniform field is an illusion.

Electric Weeding

Tony and Merry Kroeger & Derek Shrock

The Weed Zapper is gaining attention as an effective, approved practice for managing weed escapes in organic systems. How does it work? How is it best used? And what are the safety concerns when using electricity for killing weeds? Derek Shrock, a farmer from northwest Illinois, will share his experience using the electric weeder for the past two years. You will also learn from Tony Kroeger, of Old School Manufacturing in Sedalia, Missouri, that manufactures The Weed Zapper.

Flame Weeding

Stevan Knezevic

Propane-fueled flame weeding is an approved method for weed control in organic cropping systems. In this session, Stevan Knezevic will discuss how flame weeding works; equipment and configurations; propane dosage at different weed growth stages; and crop tolerance to post-emergent flame weeding. Learn how flaming can be conducted safely to achieve good weed control and without having side effects on crop yield.

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Planning for farmland succession

Thursday 1-6:30 p.m. | Friday  8-11:30 a.m.

Rena Streigel

Planning for farm transfer can be complex and confusing. Not only can it be hard to find and prepare the next generation to lead, providing financial security and navigating legal and tax procedures can be overwhelming. But successful farm transfers do happen!

Thoughtful farm transfer is needed to help get beginning farmers on the land; preserve farm legacies and natural resources; and strengthen rural communities. Those who have successfully transferred their farms have done so by creating and implementing a succession plan. Creating a succession plan can help to protect a family’s farm and relationships, reduce uncertainty and let farm families control their destiny. It encourages family farm owners to plan for success and enjoy life.

This course will help you take the plunge into creating a farm succession plan in line with your values and farm goals. Rena Striegel, of Transition Point Business Advisors, will share insights into how to take inventory of your current situation, clarify family or partner roles and delegate authority.

You will leave the course with strategies to help you pass on your family’s legacy, and the confidence to seek succession solutions for your farm.

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Commercial apple orcharding

Thursday 1-6:30 p.m. | Friday 8-11:30 a.m.

6 CEU credits approved

During this short course, commercial apple growers from around the Midwest will gather to discuss their experiences, challenges and ideas for their orchards.

Presentations will cover topics ranging from scouting and identifying pest damage to packhouse efficiency, alternative orchard crops to harvest management – plus you’ll get to participate in an apple varietal tasting session.

Network with other growers and be part of the growing apple orchard community in Iowa.

Diversifying With Chestnuts and Asian Pears

Tom Wahl

Chestnuts and Asian pears are not common in today’s orchards, but both are relatively easy to grow, delicious and marketable. Tom will provide a practical introduction to raising these two excellent crops, including planting and tree care, harvest and storage, markets and profitability.

Managing Diversity

Jimmy Thelen

Hear from Brightonwoods Orchard manager Jimmy Thelen about the production and marketing practices required to manage over 200 heirloom and traditional apple varieties. With this much diversity, Brightonwoods’ apples bloom over many weeks in the spring, with new varieties being harvested each week beginning in late July and lasting through November. Learn about the process for managing pests and diseases and staying on top of picking times, as well as packing, marketing and selling hundreds of apple varieties.

Apple Tasting: Antiques, Favorites and Best-Sellers

Growers and speakers attending the short course are invited to bring apples for the group to taste. Perhaps it’s something new to your orchard, a customer favorite, a unique heirloom or a variety you just like to grow. Bring it to share! To help us stay organized, please contact
Liz Kolbe at (515) 232-5661 or if you plan to bring apples for this session.

Scouting and Identifying Pest Damage

John Aue

John will share photos and tips on identifying apple pests based on the damage to fruit and foliage, and will share scouting and trapping strategies. He will also discuss the importance and indicators of tree health for long-term production.] John Aue is an independent orchard consultant with Threshold IPM Services, based in Richland Center, Wisconsin. For more than 30 years, John has worked as a pest management consultant for tree fruit growers. He also operates a potato farm with his son, marketing primarily at Dane County Farmers’ Market.

Packhouse Tours

Maury Wills, Jimmy Thelen and Emma & Marcus Johnson

A properly sized and designed packhouse is essential for efficient storage during and after harvest. During this session, three growers, each at a different scale and with different types of markets, will lead a virtual tour of their apple packhouses and farm stores.

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Growing pasture raised meat supply chains

Thursday 1-6:30 p.m. | Friday 8-11:30 a.m.

4.5 CEU credits approved

This short course is for livestock farmers who want to explore meat marketing options beyond selling direct to consumers. Jennifer Curtis, co-founder of Firsthand Foods – a local meat food hub in North Carolina – will share her 10-year journey in building a business that connects chefs and consumers with pasture-raised meat.

We’ll hear from farmers who have developed unique marketing models and professionals representing different parts of the meat supply chain in Iowa. Together, we will discuss the next steps necessary to grow Iowa’s pasture-raised meat market.

A Model for Transforming Our Food Supply

Jennifer Curtis

Firsthand Foods was founded in 2010 by Jennifer Curtis and Tina Prevatte Levy. Jennifer will share Firsthand Foods’ history, marketplace differences between North Carolina and Iowa, lessons learned from overcoming obstacles and all the pieces involved in creating a meat-focused food hub.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Farmer and the Food Hub

Jennifer Curtis

This session will tease out the responsibilities of both the farmers and the food hub. Jennifer will share her experience developing the meat supply, production protocols, systems of communication between herself and farmers, animal hauling schedules and logistics. We’ll learn about Firsthand Foods’ meat quality improvement program, which is needed to provide consistent product quality. We’ll also learn how farmers receive feedback on individual carcasses and whole animal usage.

The Butcher’s Perspective

Ty Gustafson

Meat processing is an integral piece of this puzzle. Ty Gustafson, co-owner of Story City Locker, will discuss the details of the new Cooperative Interstate Shipment program that will let Iowa farmers ship meat across state lines. He’ll also share his perspective on meat processors’ capacity to meet supply chain needs.

Iowa Farmers With Unique Marketing Models

Wendy Johnson and Johnny Rafkin & Nick Wallace

Wendy and Nick are livestock farmers with a knack for marketing. They’ll share their experience with online purchasing, buying clubs, meat CSAs, urban pickup locations and shipping direct to consumers. Both farmers have knowledge of market opportunities and ideas around how to grow supply chains.

Food Hubs in Iowa

Kayla Koether

Several food hubs exist in Iowa. Kayla will share the current status of food hub development, discuss the challenges of aggregation and distribution and share information about how farmers can partner with food hubs. She’ll also discuss how potential markets could tap into these existing supply chains.

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