Midwest Covers and Grains Conference

March 2, 2023 | Cedar Rapids, IA | Kirkwood Center

Registration | Location & Lodging | CCAs | Agenda | Sponsors

What was formerly the Small Grains Conference and the Cover Crop Boot Camp is now one event: the Midwest Covers and Grains Conference!

This regional Midwestern conference brings together farmers, supply chain buyers and researchers to promote successful farming with extended rotations and cover crops. The conference includes opportunities to network with small grains and cover crops buyers and sellers, and will have sessions for cover crop beginners and experienced practitioners. PFI’s Midwestern small grains network extends across five states including Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.


Pre-registration for the Midwest Covers & Grains Conference has closed. Walk-in registration will be available at the event. The Midwest Covers & Grains Conference is FREE for PFI members and $40 for non-members. Registration includes a continental breakfast and lunch at the conference.

Special Offer! If you attend the event as a non-member and decide you want to join Practical Farmers, you may do so by paying either an additional $10 for an individual membership or $20 for a Farm/Household membership.

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Location & Lodging

March 2, 2023

Kirkwood Center | 7725 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

See hotel options

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Things to Look Forward to:

  • Connecting with others curious to learn more about the benefits of small grains in rotation
  • Two plenary sessions, afternoon breakouts and ample time for networking with farmers, industry representatives and exhibitors
  • Conference meals and snacks sourced from PFI members and local businesses
  • A happy hour in the evening of March 1 at Lion Bridge Brewing starting at 6 p.m.

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Certified Crop Advisors

Earn CEU credits: We are excited to offer continuing education credits (CEUs) at all sessions this year. Earn CEUs in all four categories (nutrient management; soil & water management; crop management; and integrated pest management). All sessions will have 1.0 CEU credit approved.

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Conference Agenda

Sessions at a Glance

At a glance

Plenary Sessions

Seeding Success: Owning and Operating a Cover Crop Seed Business in Iowa

9-10 a.m.

As demand for cover crop seed grows across the Midwest, it’s important to know the role of cover crop seed businesses in making cover crop seed more accessible. Learn from Dean Sponheim about where his business started, where it is now and what it takes to grow and sell cover crop seed in the Midwest.

  • D. Sponheim Photo 2Dean Sponheim is co-owner of Sponheim Seeds and Services, based in Nora Springs, Iowa, which offers a one-stop shop for cover crop seed and seeding services since 2014. Dean contracts over 1,000 acres of rye and oat production with local farmers, which he cleans and deploys to airplanes, drills or interseeders.
Small Grains Growth and Development: Harnessing This Knowledge for Improved Management

10:15-11:15 a.m.

Thinking about adding small grains to your rotations? Have you recently started growing small grains but would like to know more? Get oriented with the agronomic essentials; learn about small grains physiology, growth and development; and learn how to identify growth stages that are key for management interventions.

  • Margaret SmithMargaret Smith is a forage agronomist for Albert Lea Seed, with previous experience working for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and as a teacher in the ISU Department of Agronomy. She and her husband, Doug Alert, operate Ash Grove Farm, a diversified, certified organic crop and livestock operation near Hampton, in Franklin County, Iowa, where they have grown oats, winter wheat, spring barley and rye on the farm.

Breakout Sessions

Growing & Selling Cover Crop Seed: It’s Not Hard … It’s Just Complicated!

1-2 p.m. | Ballroom A

Are you interested in growing and selling cover crop seed but you don’t know where to start? What’s allowed for “variety not stated” versus named varieties? What permits do you need? Make sure you’re on the right side of the law before you get started or brush up on what to know to legally sell cover crop seed in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Michael zabel headshotLifetime PFI member Mike Zabel operates and manages Zabel Seeds located in Plainview, Minnesota. The business grows and sells certified, registered and foundation classes of oats, barley, wheat, rye and hemp, and produces and packages soybeans for Stine Seed Company & Legacy Seeds. Mike also operates Prairie Ridge Farm, where he grows small grains like cereal rye and oats, as well as corn, soybeans, alfalfa and sweet corn.

Relay Cropping Rye and Barley With Soybeans

1-2 p.m. | Ballroom F

Want to harvest two crops back-to-back and keep living roots in the ground throughout the year? Relay cropping a small-grain with soybeans can provide a unique opportunity to do just that – but careful considerations are needed to make this system work. Come learn about planting, harvesting, benefits and challenges of relay cropping in this session.

Scott Wedemeier

Scott Wedemeier owns and operates a 911-acre family farm near Maynard, Iowa. Scott is the third generation to farm this land. The Wedemeiers raise organic corn, soybeans, oats and hay and have dairy cow, goat, pig and beef livestock enterprises. In 2019, Scott began growing oats for Seven Sundays as part of a supply chain pilot project with PFI.

Post-Harvest Handling for Cover Crop Seed and Added Value From Cover Crops

2:15-3-15 p.m. | Ballroom A

In this session, learn what equipment and on-farm infrastructure is essential for operating a cover crop seed business and how to glean added value from cover crops and small grains. Hear from speaker Amos Troester about post-harvest handling of cover crop seed, the equipment he uses and how he makes the most of cover crops in his diversified operation.

Image0Amos Troester and his wife, Tina, are fourth- and fifth-generation farmers who own and operate T-A Family Premium meats alongside their diversified livestock and row crop farm in northeastern Iowa. They grow corn, soybeans, cereal rye, oats and diverse covers and they raise cattle that they graze on covers and rotationally graze on pastures. Amos sells cover crop seed and cleans his own seed on-farm.

Small Grains Market Decisions

2:15-3:15 p.m. | Ballroom F

Jim CopherFarmers who grow small grains can sell them for seed, feed and food-grade uses. In this session, we’ll focus on feed and food-grade markets. Learn about market requirements, growing quality small grains and how to choose your market wisely.

Jim Copher works as a specialty grain originator for The DeLong Co., Inc. in both its organic and non-GMO programs. He trades truck, rail and barges across the Midwest covering both food- and feed-grade positions.

RichieRichie Breeggemann is an organic buyer for Grain Millers based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Grain Millers is a small-grain buyer with facilities in the Midwest including a mill in St. Ansgar, Iowa where they purchase both organic and conventional small grains, primarily oats.

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Panicle Level

ADM regenerations logo.revised La Crosse Seed Green Grain Millers, Inc Bio Till Horizontal RGB ALS logo Keystone CMYK Logo w addressWhite logo color background IFU Logo Transparent copy

Spikelet Level

Heartland Co-op

Midwest Grass & Forage

Green Cover

Iowa Crop Improvement Association

Millborn Seeds

Farm Rescue

Byron Seeds

Sponsorship Options & Form 

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Small Grains Conference & Cover Crop Boot Camp Archives

Read and watch content from past Small grains conferences

2021 Cover Crop BOot camp

2020 virtual cover crop boot camp

Event Questions

For questions, contact Taylor Hintch at (515) 232-5661 or taylor.hintch@practicalfarmers.org

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