2023 Farminar Series
Farminars are Practical Farmers’ version of a webinar – a farmer-led webinar! These 90-minute, online presentations are FREE for everyone, and recordings are archived on PFI’s YouTube channel. We encourage attendees to come with questions for the chat box!
Farminars are held on Tuesdays, from Noon to 1:30 p.m. Central standard time from January to March.
Jan. 10: “Hidden Gems … Lesser-Known State-Funded Conservation Cost-Share Programs” – Doug Ruopp & Stephen Riggins
Take a deeper dive into the state-funded cost-share programs that are available through your local U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center. Discover which practices are available, and learn about cost-share rates and guidelines for each. Stephen and Doug will particularly explore lesser-known programs, such as Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP), Iowa Financial Incentive Program (IFIP) and the Water Quality Initiative (WQI), which are all funded by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
- Doug Ruopp grew up on a farm in Marshall County, Iowa, and spent 18 years working as a conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Today, he serves as a district conservationist with the USDA. He and his wife, LeighAnn are raising a herd of cows on their Marshalltown, Iowa, farm. They have three beloved dogs: Keystone, Lola and Penny.
- Steve Riggins and his wife, Crystal, have been farming since 2014. The Riggins farm comprises 200 acres of conventional row crops. Steve and Crystal are in the process of converting the farm into pasture lands and organic production. Steve also teaches graphic design at Des Moines Area Community College.
Jan. 17: “Creating Healthy Spaces for Pollinators to Thrive: Protecting Pollinator Habitat From Pesticides” – Emily May & Karin Jokela
With growing interest in planting pollinator habitat, how can farmers and other land managers make sure the habitat is protected from pesticides used in nearby crops? Emily and Karin both work with Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and will share some of the key pesticide risks to pollinators. They will also discuss practical solutions for creating healthy pollinator habitat that is protected from pesticide drift and contamination. This farminar will highlight case studies and lessons learned from different types of habitat plantings, including prairie strips, on Midwestern farms.
- Emily May is a pollinator conservation specialist with Xerces Society. She received a master’s degree in entomology from Michigan State University and has studied pollinator habitat restoration, bee nesting habits and the effects of pest management practices on wild bee communities. Since 2015, her work with Xerces has focused on supporting crop pollinators by creating habitat and protecting bees and other beneficial insects from pesticides.
- Karin Jokela is a farm bill pollinator conservation planner for Xerces Society. She provides pollinator-related technical support and training to NRCS field office conservation planners and farmers, primarily in southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
Jan. 31: “Creating Space for Pollinator and Beneficial Insect Habitat on Small Urban Farms” – Stefanie Steele & Akello Karamoko
As more people take an active role in urban food production and local food sovereignty, urban farming spaces are increasing in many cities. Alongside food production, small urban farms and community gardens are valuable locations for adding native habitat pockets, strips, hedgerows and pollinator gardens. These habitats can be designed to offer a wide array of benefits, from helping wildlife, crop pollination and pest control to benefitting water quality, stormwater management and community.
Join us as we discuss the role of pollinators in urban landscapes and see examples of projects to add native habitat in these spaces. You will also learn techniques you can use on your small urban farm or community garden to boost native biodiversity.
- Stefanie Steele works for Xerces Society as the pollinator conservation specialist for urban and small farms. She works primarily with underserved communities in the Detroit, Michigan, area, providing technical assistance, planning and education on how to incorporate pollinator and other beneficial invertebrate habitat into urban agricultural areas and community gardens.
- Akello Karamoko is the farmer manager at Keep Growing Detroit, an urban farm and non-profit in Detroit, Michigan, where he also heads the organization’s native plant nursery. Keep Growing Detroit focuses on cultivating a food sovereign city where the majority of fruits and vegetables consumed are grown by residents within the city’s limits.
Feb. 7: “Thinking Through Cover Crops: How to Set Goals, Design Optimal Seed Mixes and Minimize Costs” – Thomas Björkman
Cover crop mixes can help farmers add diversity or achieve specific on-farm goals like cover crop grazing, weed control or improved soil fertility. But if these mixes are created without identified cover crop goals in mind, mixes with many species can simply feel like an additional expense without clear benefit. This farminar will discuss how to tailor your summer or fall cover crop mix and match your on-farm goals while keeping costs in check.
- Thomas Björkman is a professor in Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science, based at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York. His work primarily revolves around cover crops in vegetable systems, vegetable physiology and production. Though originally developed for vegetables, Thomas’ guide to cover crops for New York growers, and his system of cover crop goal-setting and selection, is directly transferable to row crops systems in the Midwest.
Feb. 14: “Magic Tarping Ride: Perspectives on a System for Soil Quality, Weed Control and More on Vegetable Farms” – Hannah Breckbill & Ryan Maher
On many small vegetable farms, tarping can be close to magic. This practice to control weeds and improve soil quality makes tarps a multifunctional – and increasingly indispensable – tool for vegetable farmers around the country. Join us as farmer Hannah Breckbill, who has practiced tarping for a couple of years, leads us on an exploration of tarping practices, tips and techniques with Ryan Maher of Cornell University’s Small Farms Program.
Hannah Breckbill has been farming since 2009 and started Humble Hands Harvest in Decorah, Iowa, in 2013. In 2018, Emily Fagan joined as a partner. The farm sells primarily at farmers markets and through a CSA. Hannah and Emily are developing a perennial polyculture system and incorporating livestock.
Ryan Maher joined the Small Farms Program at Cornell University in 2013 to support vegetable farmers in building soil health on their farms. He is interested in how farmers use reduced tillage, cover cropping, crop rotations and other practices to protect and promote productive, biologically active soil. Ryan has worked on vegetable farms in Oregon and Massachusetts as well as with the USDA in Minnesota, where he coordinated research on nutrient cycling in perennial forage crops to help farmers reduce nitrogen fertilizer inputs using legumes in crop rotations.
Feb. 21: “Pricing Pastured Poultry” – Ben Grimes, Anna Hankins & Shae Pesek
In between producing a top-quality poultry product and marketing it to customers, farmers must complete a crucial step: setting the price. This number represents all the time, work and money you put into raising your bird. Deciding on an equitable value while remaining accessible to customers can be daunting. In this farminar, experienced farmer Ben Grimes discusses the practicalities and considerations of pricing with beginning farmers Anna Hankins and Shae Pesek.
- Ben Grimes has been in the pastured poultry business since 2013 on his North Carolina farm, Dawnbreaker Farms. Since then, he has raised, processed and sold 50,000 birds through retail and wholesale channels. In 2020, he started Carolina Pastures, a collective of local pasture-based meat farmers, to scale and aggregate products to make a larger impact on the food system.
- Shae Pesek and Anna Hankins are co-owners of Over the Moon Farm & Flowers LLC, a diversified direct-to-consumer farm in Delaware County, Iowa. Shae and Anna grow seasonal cut flowers, and produce chicken, duck, turkey, pork and beef. Since 2019, Anna and Shae have been serving their community through the CSA model and a la carte sales through their online farm store, as well as developing wholesale clients for their products.
Feb. 28: “Bison, Beef and Tribal Food Sovereignty” – Jayme Murray
The history and culture of the Lakota people are intrinsically intertwined with bison. In this farminar, Jayme Murray will discuss the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s work to develop food security on the Cheyenne River Reservation by purchasing a state-inspected facility to process the Tribe’s beef and bison. He’ll discuss the challenges of getting the meat into local grocery stores and schools, as well as successes, community reception and the importance of food sovereignty.
- Jayme Murray is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and is a sixth-generation cow-calf rancher on the Cheyenne River Reservation. Jayme works as the CEO of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Buffalo Authority Corporation, where he oversees the operations and management of a 1,200-head bison herd, a 200-head beef cattle herd and West Side Meats, the corporation’s state-inspected processing facility in Mobridge, South Dakota.
March 7: “Diversified Crop Rotations in an Organic System” – Jacob Landis
In this farminar, Illinois organic farmer Jacob Landis will share his experience with crop rotations, including alfalfa, field peas and sunflowers, both as single crops and double crops. You’ll learn more about how these crops fit within Jacob’s operation, the way cover crops can fit into diverse rotations and the influence of variable weather conditions. Jacob will also share what he’s learned about integrating diversified crop rotations into his organic system.
- Jacob Landis farms with his family near Sterling, Illinois, where they grow corn, soy, wheat, sunflowers, field peas, alfalfa and occasionally oats. The family milks about 60 dairy cows and raises the dairy steers for beef. The organic farm includes about 1,000 acres (including pasture and hay) where Jacob and his family trial different on-farm practices like double cropping, no-till organic farming and farming with biological inputs to see what works best with their operation.
March 14: “Navigating Iowa’s New Cottage Food Law: A Farmer-Focused Q&A” – Julie Kraling & Kurt Rueber
In 2022, the state of Iowa passed a new law expanding opportunities for unlicensed home-based food businesses, often referred to as “cottage foods.” The reform renamed the state’s two cottage-food categories, and reflects a nationwide trend toward deregulating home-processed food sold by producers. So what does this mean for farmers who grow produce and want to process it for sale? Join state regulatory experts Julie Kraling and Kurt Reuber from Iowa’s Department of Inspections & Appeals to learn what the law means for home-based food business. Julie and Kurt want to ensure everyone leaves with all their questions answered, so come prepared for a robust Q&A!
- Julie Kraling is the retail food program lead at Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals. She has nearly 20 years of professional experience with food safety and retail, expertise that gives her unique working insight into translating policy into practice.
- Kurt Rueber is an environmental specialist with the Food and Consumer Safety Bureau, which is a part of the Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals. Part of Kurt’s role is working with markets and vendors on understanding Iowa’s food and consumer safety laws.
March 21: “Integrated Crop-Livestock Grazing” – Heath Hoppes
In 2022, PFI launched a grazing cost-share pilot program to promote regenerative grazing practices. Join us to learn from inaugural cost-share recipient Heath Hoppes of Hidden Hollow Farm. He’ll talk about rotationally grazing his permanent pasture and cover crops, as well as how he used the cost-share to expand his grazing practices and grow his production to include other species.
- Heath Hoppes started farming in 2015. A Navy veteran and pilot, his passion for local food and self-sufficient living led to his founding Hidden Hollow Farm near Council Bluffs, Iowa. Heath regeneratively raises beef, poultry and pork, as well as organic small grains, soybeans and hay. He farms with his wife, Katie, and their two sons.
March 28: “Corn and Soybean Basics for Landowners” – Meredith Nunnikhoven, Mollie Aronowitz & Morgan Jennings
This farminar is for landowners who lease their ground – and anyone who wants to know the basics of corn and soybean production. We’ll begin with an overview of soil types, planting and harvesting strategies and equipment used. Then we’ll launch into a Q&A session: What’s a corn suitability rating? What exactly happens at the Farm Service Agency office? If cover crops are good for my soil health, why doesn’t my tenant want to plant them? Come with all of your questions; we’re here to help you learn!
- In 2018, Meredith Nunnikhoven established Barnswallow Flowers near Oskaloosa, Iowa. Following a career in the film industry, Meredith came home to re-engage with the family farm in a way that feeds her passions, reflects her environmental ethics and exercises her artistic creativity in a way that’s supported by strategic thinking.
- Mollie Aronowitz 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.
- Morgan Jennings is a field crops viability coordinator at Practical Farmers of Iowa. A forage enthusiast, Morgan assists farmers with thinking through diversified crop rotations and helping them adopt cover crops through PFI’s cover crop cost-share program.