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When it comes to farming practices and systems, there’s no single right way or approach. Iowa’s agricultural landscape is filled with a diverse coalition of farmers growing a range of crops and livestock using myriad approaches for equally diverse markets and customers.
Farmers truly are the experts on their unique farming systems.
Since 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa has been bringing farmers together to learn from and support one another. This culture of sharing has always been central to our work.
Today, we’re a diverse group of farmers, landowners, friends of farmers and other supporters in Iowa and beyond who believe that sharing knowledge can help us all build resilient farms and communities.
What we offer
To empower farmers to share their knowledge and experience, we coach our members in public speaking and help them tell compelling stories with confidence and clarity.
If you are planning an event, organizing a guest lecture, seeking a farming voice for a story or need to access farmer insights for any other reason, our farmer-leaders are ready to engage.
To connect with a PFI farmer speaker, contact Maggie Norton, PFI’s farmer outreach coordinator, at email@example.com or (515) 232-5661. Please provide basic background on the event or project, including topic, format, dates and location information.
Examples of Farmer Speakers
Brian Corkill and his father, Alan, farm corn and soybeans near Galva, Illinois using strip-till and no-till systems, along with cover crops. Brian started using cover crops to slow soil erosion and reverse soil compaction, and in the years since he has observed additional positive attributes of cover crops. One of which was increased corn yields without Brian increasing nitrogen rates since he began using cover crops, which he attributes to greater soil microbial activity and improved nitrogen retention from cover crops. Brian has also observed that cover crops help with weed suppression, especially with waterhemp. Brian excels in seeding cover crops quickly and at a low cost with an air seeder mounted on a vertical tillage tool. He has also experimented with planting his cash crop into a green cover crop.
Areas of expertise: economics of cover crops, quick-seeding cover crops, planting green
Jim Fitkin, alongside his wife Debbie, farms corn, soybeans and popcorn on a farm north of Cedar Falls, IA which has been in the Fitkin family for nearly 150 years. Jim has been using cover crops for over seven years—typically aerially applying rye cover crop seed and planting soybeans into a green, living cover crop. Jim also has experience with raising cereal rye for cover crop seed and oats for both seed and food-grade markets. In addition to cover crops, Jim uses reduced tillage practices.
Areas of expertise: raising and marketing popcorn, planting green, no-till, raising cover crop seed
Al Klein raises corn and soybeans near Freeburg, IL. He originally started using cover crops to prevent soil erosion and has since seen a myriad of other benefits such as weed control and improved soil health resulting in better water infiltration.
Al typically seeds cover crops using an airseeder. For soybeans, he ‘plants green’ and terminates the cover crop using a roller crimper. Al often plants early maturity soybeans so that he can seed a legume mix earlier in the fall.
Areas of expertise: legumes cover crops, roller-crimping, planting green
Adam Smith of Mount Pleasant, IA operates ABC&D Farms with his wife Brooke. Since both Adam and Brooke work off-farm, full-time jobs, they use time-saving practices on their cow-calf, row crop farm. Cover crops and no-till are two practices that save Adam time while providing on-farm conservation benefits. Adam explains, “instead of having to seed, cut, dry and bale hay, I can seed a cover crop and let the cattle process it for me. By transitioning to no-till, I save myself hours that I would have spent on tillage.” Adam is also experimenting with alfalfa as time and cost-saving practice—he is curious to see how much he can cut nitrogen rates.
Areas of expertise: grazing cover crops, extended rotation, transition to no-till
Seth Watkins stewards his family’s fourth generation farm near Clarinda, IA by using a multitude of conservation practices. On Seth’s Pinhook Farm, cattle and crops such as corn, soybeans, winter wheat, oats and alfalfa are raised, and cover crops are integral for both soil health and cattle feed. In his row crop fields, Seth has implemented no-till, terraces, and prairie strips. On highly erodible land, he has transitioned from row crops to pasture. In addition to his in-field conservation, Seth has set aside many acres for wildlife habitat.
Areas of expertise: edge-of-field conservation, water quality, water quality and human health, extended rotation, wildlife habitat