Through our Horticulture Program, Practical Farmers facilitates farmer-led research, demonstration and educational events based on priorities identified by fruit and vegetable farmers.

With interest growing for Iowa fruit and vegetable production, the number of Practical Farmers members who raise these crops is increasing, too. These farmers are interested in learning from each other to create profitable, diverse farms. Current priorities for horticulture farmers include business and enterprise development, improving production, pricing and marketing, community supported agriculture and season extension. In addition, these farmers have identified pesticide drift and pollinator health as significant issues they would like Practical Farmers to address.

The lastest on horticulture

Produce Safety Cost-Share

Our goal is to open more markets for more farmers.

We provide cost-share to help farmers pay for on-farm food safety improvements that enable them to meet the food safety requirements of more markets.

Learn more about produce safety cost-share here

Programs to support your beginning farmer business needs

Savings Incentive Program

The Savings Incentive Program (SIP) is a two-year program that supports beginning and aspiring farmers in creating successful farm businesses. SIP offers:

  • Targeted learning and networking opportunities, with guidance from experienced farmer mentors
  • Support setting goals and creating a business plan
  • Matching funds up to $2,400 saved by participants during the program

When starting a farm, you are in charge of everything from production to business management. The Savings Incentive Program is designed to help you stay accountable to your goals and to creating a business plan. Over two years, you will increase your network and invest your savings into an account; PFI will match your savings when you complete the program requirements.

This program is ideal for aspiring and beginning farmers who are planning to get started farming or have been farming for fewer than seven years.

Learn more about the Savings Incentive Program

Farm Business Coaching Program

Farm Business Coaching Program is a 14-month program aimed at helping you strengthen your established businesses through in-depth expert consultations. The process begins with a farm business assessment to identify areas of opportunity.

Following the assessment, you are paired with a specialized consultant to help you take action on the key recommendations, which may range from upgrading financial record-keeping systems to improving your farm’s web presence and more.

This program is designed for farm businesses that directly market their products, including those that sell produce or meat products directly to consumers or to wholesale markets.

This program is not ideal for farm businesses that are marketing commodity crops through channels such as brokers or grain cooperatives.

Learn more about the Farm Business Coaching Progarm

If you would like to apply to both programs, you can indicate that on your application. However, you may not concurrently enroll in both programs. The selection committee will consider your application for both programs in the review process.

Vegetable Yield and Production Data

PFI’s Farmer to Farmer Data website serves several purposes.
1. It allows farmers and researchers to anonymously (or openly) share their yield data and production data with one another;
2. Provides an open-access, downloadable dataset of vegetable yields for farmers and researchers;
3. Gives PFI an easier way to share our collection of yield data, done through our Cooperators’ Program, with the public.

We encourage you to share your yield information through this website in the spirit of farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing. For more information about the Farmer to Farmer Vegetable Yield and Production Data website, contact Liz Kolbe at liz.kolbe@practicalfarmers.org

Farmer to Farmer Vegetable Yield and Production Data Website

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Looking for a CSA near you? Look here!

Local Foods Page

CSA Retention Study

Low retention rates for a farm’s CSA is concerning for the farmer, but attrition happens for a variety of reasons. Three PFI member CSA farms asked Practical Farmers to conduct a third-party survey of non-renewing members to investigate why they haven’t returned.

Full Report     Raw Survey Results     Survey Comments

CSA Mini-School and Workshop Retreats

Every few years Practical Farmers’ member farms with CSAs (in interested in starting one) are invited to the CSA Workshop. Read about the 2016 and 2013 events, below.

2016 CSA Workshop     2013 Mini-School Summary

Farm Financials, Business Planning and Management

Practical Farmers members are committed to sharing information, practices and plans with other farmers to help create more financially sustainable fruit and vegetable farms in Iowa.

Whole Farm Financial Project

PFI farmers are providing a rare snapshot of yearly farm financials, including profit-loss and balance sheets, to better inform beginning farmers. The 2013 and 2014 reports are below; the 4 year report  (2013-2016) is in progress

2013 Whole Farm Financial Report

2014 Whole Farm Financial Report

Pesticide Drift

Practical Farmers’ members identify pesticide drift as a critical issue facing horticulture farmers. PFI’s work on pesticide drift intends to expand the visibility of and conversation surrounding pesticide drift in Iowa while serving as an information hub for farmers.

Click here to view pesticide drift resources

Production and Sales

Scaling Up Report

Based on buyer and grower feedback, this report outlines strategies to overcome barriers to maintaining and growing a wholesale market for fruits and vegetables.

Scaling Up Report

Farmers Market Goal Workbook

This workbook corresponds to the article “Set goals to improve your farmers market sales” in the Spring 2012 edition of the Practical Farmer.

Farmers Market Goal Workbook

Yield Data Collection

In 2013, Practical Farmers of Iowa started a yield data collection project to: 1. Create Iowa-specific production histories; 2. Provide data to lenders for risk analysis; 3. Provide data to public and private insurance agencies to improve fruit and vegetable insurance options.

Season Extension

Coolers and Storage

Click here to see more about coolers and Coolbots on the Energy page.

High Tunnel Build Workshops

Every few years Practical Farmers of Iowa teams up with a farmer and a high tunnel expert to run a high tunnel build workshop, where attendees get hands-on experience building a high tunnel from squaring the site to hanging to doors. The most recent build workshop was in September 2016, hosted by Sara Hanson and Bob Pearson, and led by Adam Montri.

Summary and Videos


Contact Information

For more information about on-farm horticulture research or horticulture programming: contact Jacqueline Venner Senske at jacqueline.venner.senske@practicalfarmers.org.