2019 Winter Farminar Series

Farminars are held every Tuesday at 7 p.m. CST, each focusing on a unique production or business management topic. All presentations are led by an experienced farmer or subject-matter expert, and attendees are able to ask questions in real time using a chat box while they listen and watch a slideshow. The presentations are free for anyone with an internet connection.

To participate in a live farminar, visit practicalfarmers.org/farminars.


Jan. 8 – “Installing and Maintaining Prairie Strips” – Tim Youngquist, Seth Watkins

Research has shown that by converting just 10 percent of a crop field to diverse native perennials, farmers and farmland owners can reduce the amount of soil leaving their fields by 90 percent and the amount of nitrogen leaving their fields through surface runoff by up to 85 percent. The Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) project is working to demonstrate these benefits to landowners. Two members of the STRIPS team will share how to establish and maintain prairie strips on farmland, from both the technician and farmer perspectives.

  • Tim Youngquist is the farmer liaison for Iowa State University’s STRIPS project, where he helps farmers and landowners around the state design, install and maintain prairie strips. Tim grew up on a century farm near Kiron, which he is now helping to manage with the goal of keeping the land productive and healthy.
  • Seth Watkins runs his family’s heritage farm near Clarinda, where they have a cow-calf enterprise and raise hay and corn for feed. Seth has implemented a wide variety of conservation practices on the farm, and is a participant in ISU’s STRIPS project.

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Jan. 15 – “Diversifying Rations for Pastured Pigs” – John Arbuckle

How can farmers reduce the amount of grain fed to their pigs? John Arbuckle conducted on-farm trials in northern Missouri that he hopes will show farmers the potential of reducing grain rations and grazing pigs on forage. During his trials, he fed pastured pigs different grain-rationed diets to evaluate their costs and benefits, and will share his findings in this farminar.

  • John Arbuckle and his wife, Holly, raise non-GMO, pasture-based pigs using regenerative practices at Singing Prairie Farms, now located in New Castle, Maine. Rotational grazing on permanent pastures is the foundation for their ecological agriculture system. From their farm, John and his family manage and operate their pork snack stick company, Roam Snack Sticks, LLC.

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Jan. 22 – “Electric Fence and Stock Water Systems for Permanent or Temporary Pasture” – Galen Gerrish

Whether you are grazing 1 acre or 10,000, modern electric fencing and stock watering systems have given producers the flexibility to take their livestock to the most unusual of places – and these systems contribute to a growing trend of not owning any land at all. Additionally, grazing as a restorative land service is becoming more popular. Mobile infrastructure lets imaginative graziers reap profits while contributing to ecological restoration. In this farminar, explore the electric fence and stock water systems used to manage forage resources in these arrangements.

  • Galen Gerrish grew up learning about pasture and livestock on the Gerrish farm in Missouri, where the family took a worn-out, marginal crop farm and converted it to a highly productive grass farm. As part of handling product sales for Idaho-based American GrazingLands Services LLC, Galen regularly provides advice on grazing cell design, product use and selection.

Jan. 29 – “Regenerative Grazing Technology” – Erin Kiley, Andy Welch

Managing pasture and herd health in a rotational grazing system requires detailed data collection and an organized management system to use and interpret that data. In recent years, new technology has become available to help graziers with this. Erin Kiley will discuss what information graziers should be tracking, and how the app PastureMap is addressing these needs. Grazier Andy Welch will join Erin to share his limited experience with PastureMap and learn from Erin how it can benefit his operation.

  • Erin Kiley oversees rancher success with PastureMap, an online livestock management and grazing software program. She is also the holistic planning and livestock manager at Farmland LP.
  • Andy Welch operates Welch Family Farms in Grant City, Missouri, where he practices rotational grazing with the goal of regenerating his land to better handle weather extremes. Andy started rotationally grazing in 1995, and currently grazes year-round, moving his 65 cows on a daily basis.

Feb. 5 – “No-Till Vegetable Production” – Elizabeth and Paul Kaiser

Intensive, agroecological, no-till food production systems have dramatic functional benefits for our ecology, natural resources and communities. Elizabeth and Paul will discuss how they have implemented an intensive, no-till, hand-labor vegetable production system that is profitable while restoring soil carbon, soil biology and macro-ecology on their farm. Some of the topics they’ll cover include field preparation, crop rotation, nursery management, nutrient cycle management and hedgerows, as well as the pest and climactic benefits of these approaches.

  • Elizabeth and Paul Kaiser own and operate Singing Frogs Farm, a no-till, ecologically beneficial, intensive vegetable farm in Sonoma County, California. Since launching the farm in 2007, the Kaisers have more than quadrupled the organic matter in their soil using regenerative farming techniques. They frequently share their farming knowledge and experience with other producers through workshops, farm tours and conferences.

Feb. 12 – “Ridge-Till Vegetable Production” – Brian Caldwell, Jordan Scheibel

Ridge tillage is a system used mainly in row crop production that allows for some cultivation while reducing soil erosion and improving soil quality. Beds are shaped into elevated ridges, and only the tops of the ridges are cultivated prior to planting. Many vegetable producers, such as Middle Way Farm’s Jordan Scheibel, want to gain the soil-building benefits of this conservation tillage practice on their farms. The complexity of a diverse vegetable farm, however, presents some challenges to using this type of tillage. Brian Caldwell managed a Cornell research project that trialed ridge-till systems for organic vegetable production. He will share with Jordan the best practices for adopting a conservation tillage system on his farm.

  • Jordan Scheibel runs Middle Way Farm just north of Grinnell on the Lacina family farm. 2018 was his sixth growing season as a solo farmer, and his third year farming full-time. Middle Way Farm grows about 2 acres of chemical-free vegetables sold primarily through Community Supported Agriculture shares and farmers markets from May through November.
  • Brian Caldwell is a researcher with Cornell University’s Reduced Tillage Organic Vegetables Project, and a former extension educator. Brian has been a partner in Hemlock Grove Farm growing certified organic fruit and vegetables since 1986.

Feb. 19 – “Precision-Seeded Cover Crops” – Jon Bakehouse, Michael Vittetoe

As cover crops are more widely adopted, many farmers are experimenting with planting methods to make the most use of their time and resources. Jon Bakehouse has experimented with special plates that let him use his planter to seed cereal rye on 15- and 30-inch rows. Michael Vittetoe has been experimenting with seeding cereal rye on 8-inch twin rows on 30-inch centers using a drill. Both farmers will share their thoughts on these seeding methods and what they plan to do in the future.

  • Jon Bakehouse and his wife, Tina, raise corn, soybeans, small grains, hay and a small cow-calf herd with Jon’s parents as the fifth generation on their family’s land in Hastings. They have been using cover crops and conducting on-farm research for more than five years.
  • Michael Vittetoe is part of a multi-generation family farm in Washington County raising corn, soybeans and hogs. They practice no-till, plant cover crops and participate in on-farm research to improve their practices and be good stewards of the land.

Feb. 26 – “Proper Planning for Farmland Succession” – Andrew Behnkendorf, Stephen and Crystal Riggins

Farmland transfer can be a stressful and difficult process without proper consideration and planning. Though every situation is different, early planning and communication in any transfer case can help solve problems before they arise. Join this farminar to hear from a professional planner about what issues need to be considered, and from Stephen and Crystal Riggins about their experience transferring their farm from the previous generation and to the next.

  • Andrew Behnkendorf is an investment advisor representative with Central Financial Group, where he works with an array of small business, family farms and individuals to guide them through the many questions of business succession and personal goals. He is a second-generation advisor following in the footsteps of his father, who has been helping families and businesses with succession planning since 1979.
  • Stephen and Crystal Riggins are starting a pasture-based cow-calf operation on their family farmland near Cambridge. They have a plan for transferring the farm ownership from Stephen’s mother, and are beginning to think about a plan for when they will transfer ownership to their children.

Missed a live farminar? More than 150 farminar recordings can be found in our archive here.