For farmers and non-farmers alike, the start of a new year is a time to reflect, re-evaluate and resolve to make changes. Have you been thinking of diversifying your farm with oats or small grains, changing your pricing structures, obtaining specialty crop insurance or expanding into new markets? Tune in to Practical Farmers of Iowa's 2015 fall farminar series to learn about these topics – and more – and come away armed with insights and inspiration to make the changes you seek this year.
This free webinar series is offered each winter to help farmers learn about business and production issues that matter to them from the convenience of their homes. The interactive webinars – called farminars – occur each Tuesday from 7-8:30 p.m. CST, starting Jan. 13 through March 31. They are led by farmers, are open to everyone and allow participants to ask questions of presenters in real-time. Any computer with an Internet connection may be used to participate.
To participate: Go to practicalfarmers.org/farminar, click the link to connect and sign in as "Guest." All upcoming farminars, as well as archives of past farminars, are also available at this link.
PFI farminars cover topics of interest to all kinds of farmers
The Farminars this season will cover topics of interest to farmers of all enterprises, including: Whole Farm Revenue Protection, a new crop insurance product; retaining customers in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) businesses; adding small grains to a crop rotation; custom grazing with goats; creating a viable small-scale vegetable farm; selecting and growing oats; working with cereal rye; effectively marketing fresh produce; how to make meat pricing decisions; differences between two specialty crop insurance options; preventing and responding to pesticide drift; and implications for farmers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
The first Farminar of 2015 was January 13. "Whole Farm Revenue Protection" gave an overview of this new crop insurance product, which is tailored to diversified crop and livestock producers. Available to Iowa producers for the first time in 2015, Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) will provide higher levels of coverage and lower premium costs than previous incarnations. In this farminar, ag economist Jeff Schahczenski and beginning farmer Tony Thompson explored WFRP's benefits and challenges.
PFI's 2015 winter farminars are made possible with funding from Cedar Tree Foundation, Ceres Trust, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, National Resources Conservation Service, McKnight Foundation and Walton Family Foundation.
Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers that seeks to strengthen farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call (515) 232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.
Here's the 2015 winter farminar line-up from PFI
1) Jan. 13 – "Whole Farm Revenue Protection" with Jeff Schahczenski and Tony Thompson. Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) is a new type of crop insurance product being piloted by the USDA Risk Management Agency. Available to Iowa producers for the first time in 2015, WFRP will provide higher levels of coverage and lower premium costs than the previous whole farm crop insurance products. Agricultural economist Jeff Schahczenski, with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), will review WFRP, outlining its benefits and its more challenging aspects, and beginning farmer Tony Thompson will provide farmer questions and insights.
Jeff Schahczenski, an agricultural economist, is the agriculture policy and funding research director for NCAT. He is the author of "Crop Insurance Options for Specialty, Diversified, and Organic Farmers "by NCAT-ATTRA (2012).
Tony Thompson is a beginning farmer operating an expanding CSA on his family's century farm near Elkhart, Iowa. Tony serves on the boards of the Iowa Farmers Union and Iowa Food Co-op.
2) Jan. 20 – "Scale and Profitability: The Right Fit for Two Vegetable Farms" with Dan Guenthner and Mike Racette. Seasoned CSA farmers Dan Guenthner and Mike Racette from Wisconsin talked about the process of piecing together the infrastructure needed for a viable small farming operation. Both Dan and Mike have over 20 years of experience running a CSA, and discussed the chronology their farms went through to get where they are today.
Dan Guenthner is an outspoken advocate for small-scale sustainable farming. Along with his family, he owns and operates Common Harvest Farm in Osceola, Wisc. 2014 marked his 25th year of CSA farming.
Mike Racette has been farming since 1992, running a 145-member CSA at Spring Hill Community Farm near Prairie Farm, Wisc., east of the Twin Cities. He farms with his wife, Patty Wright, and their three children.
3) Jan. 27 – "Customer Retention for CSAs" with Pat Mulvey and Ben Saunders.
Using data from research conducted with CSA customers, tune in to hear 10 reasons why people stay with their CSA and 10 reasons why they leave. Expert Pat Mulvey will talk about how to keep your customers happy, and WabiSabi Farm's Ben Saunders will talk about retention successes and struggles with his CSA in Granger, Iowa.
Patricia Mulvey owns Local Thyme, an online seasonal menu planning service based in Madison, Wisc., and is a personal chef with years of experience planning menus and cooking from CSA boxes and farmers markets. As the chef for Fair Share CSA Coalition, Pat contributes to the growth of sustainable food systems through Local Thyme and her culinary publishing work.
Ben Saunders operates WabiSabi Farm near Granger, Iowa, which will enter its third year of production in 2015. Ben offers a 150-member CSA, and is continually exploring ways to diversify into other markets, as well as adapt the CSA program to better fit both the members and the farmer.
4) Feb. 3 – "Setting Up Fall and Spring Small Grain Production for Success" with Bill Frederick, Dusty Farnsworth and David Weisberger. Join experienced farmer Bill Frederick and beginning farmer Dustin Farnsworth as they share their experiences with growing small grains as part of the rotation on their Iowa farms. Small grains researcher David Weisberger will then share insights he gained from talking with organic oat producers across the state. This farminar will focus on the practical aspects of successful small grains: field preparation, plant populations and planter settings, stand assessment and harvest tactics.
Bill Frederick runs an integrated crop and livestock operation with his family near Jefferson, Iowa, and is chairman of the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District. Bill's experience with small grains includes producing oats, wheat and rye for both grain production and as fodder for livestock.
Dustin Farnsworth is a beginning farmer who recently made the move to his family's farm near Adel, Iowa. Dustin is building an integrated crop and livestock operation that includes row crops, small grains and forage in rotation, and he has recently added beef cattle and pastured pork production.
David Weisberger is a graduate student in Agronomy and Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University with a strong interest in organic small grain production. David's degree work includes working with organic oat farmers across Iowa to establish best management practices.
5) Feb. 10 – "Oats for Iowa: Variety Selection and Agronomic Production Tips" with Bruce Roskens and Darren Fehr. Iowa farmers have long grown oats for feed and food markets. Although oat acres have decreased dramatically since the 1960s, reduced corn and soybean prices have farmers looking to put oats back into the rotation because of their economic competitiveness. But what varieties and production methods are best for oats in 2015? Learn more about what oat varieties to select – including new varieties that are available – improved production methods, and agronomic decisions to ensure the best yields and quality.
Bruce Roskens is the director of crop sciences for Grain Millers, Inc. Bruce grew up on a family farm and has business experience that includes purchasing commodities and ingredients; mill feed sales; crop research and development; breeding program administration; grain milling; and grain quality education and development programs.
Darren Fehr farms near Plover, Iowa, with his wife, Nora, and their five children. Together, they farm 1,000 acres of certified organic corn, soybeans, oats, peas and alfalfa. Their farm was first certified in 1998.
6) Feb. 17 – "Cereal Rye: Stand Evaluation and Seed Selection" with Greg Roth and Tim Sieren. Learn management tactics critical to success with cereal rye. Greg Roth of Penn State University will discuss his experiences and research with rye, including new hybrid rye originally developed in Europe that is yielding well in U.S. trials. Iowa farmer Tim Sieren will share some of his experiences – both good and bad – growing cereal rye for seed. He will also discuss some of the equipment he uses for seeding, harvesting, storage and seed cleaning.
Greg Roth is a professor in the Department of Plant Science at Penn State University. As the extension grain crops specialist, he develops educational programs for extension agents, agribusiness groups and producers.
Tim Sieren runs a small, diversified family farm in southeast Iowa raising corn, soybeans, hogs, cattle and small grains. He added cereal rye into the cropping system as an additional source of forage for his cattle, and after seeing the soil benefits started using it as a cover crop between no-till soybeans and corn.
7) Feb. 24 – "Custom Grazing with Goats" with Lani Malmberg and Doug Bartels. Are you looking for a unique way to put your goats to work? This farminar will focus on contracts, fencing and water systems needed for custom grazing land that a farmer doesn't own. Expert grazier Lani Malmberg will draw on her 25-plus years of experience taking her goats to places in need of weed management, brush control, re-seeding, erosion or flood control, and restoration. Iowa farmer Doug Bartels will join Lani, and discuss his experience with custom-grazing goats in Iowa.
Lani Malmberg, owner of Ewe4ic Geological Services, uses goats in a controlled grazing environment to gradually and naturally remove weeds and return the land to a healthy, natural ecosystem. Lani wanders the meadows, hillsides and waterways of the West, pitting 1,500 cashmere goats against pockets of unwanted weeds that infest the landscape.
Doug Bartels has a small row crop farm in Calhoun County. In 2009, Doug bought his first herd of 18 mixed-breed meat goats and has been working to grow his custom grazing business. He currently has 36 goats and custom grazes about 30 acres composed mainly of neglected windbreaks and vacant acreages.
8) March 3 – "Marketing for your Farm" with Gene Gage, Tyler Magnuson and Caitie Caughey. Are you curious to learn different ways to get your fresh produce to market? Tune in to this farminar and hear from beginning CSA farmers Tyler Magnuson and Caitie Caughey, along with their farm advisor, Gene Gage. Tyler and Caitie are currently enrolled in PFI's Savings Incentive Program, where they are mentored by Gene on how to effectively market their fresh produce in southwestern Iowa.
Gene Gage of Heartland Organics has a specialty farm and greenhouses near Crete, Neb., where he grows herbs and vegetables 365 days per year. He has marketed his products via farmers markets, CSAs, sales to stores and restaurants, and direct internet sales for nearly 30 years. He believes that his most valuable crop has always been the many interns and apprentices he has mentored.
Tyler Magnuson and Caitie Caughey grow vegetables, herbs, flowers and small fruits at Botna Burrow, their farm located in Hancock, Iowa; 2015 marks their second growing season. The couple markets their products through their CSA, other CSAs in the area, wholesale through Lone Tree Foods and to restaurants.
9) March 10 – "Meat Pricing" with Bobbie Gustafson and Tom Cory. Are you a livestock farmer who has struggled with the best way to price your meat so it's fair to you and your customers? This farminar is for you: Tune in and learn how to fairly price your meat cuts for direct or wholesale markets. Bobbie Gustafson, of Story City Locker, will share the factors she considers when making pricing decisions. Hear experienced livestock farmer Tom Cory share his insights and perspective as a producer.
Bobbie Gustafson and her husband Ty own and operate Story City Meat Locker, which they opened in October 2013. Their business depends primarily on custom and third-party processing, but also has a retail space featuring a deli counter and freezers for à la carte purchases. Bobbie and Ty's commitment to sustainable concepts extends beyond farming and the environment, and their processing fees account for factors such as the facility and a fair wage for their employees.
Tom Cory and his wife Mary have been direct-marketing grass-fed beef, lamb, pastured pork and poultry for 19 years at Cory Family Farm near Elkhart, Iowa. During this time they have learned – and continue to learn – new marketing skills by attending seminars, field days, workshops and various classes taught by marketing professionals. One key point they've learned is too many producers are "leaving money on the table" and not paying themselves for their efforts.
10) March 17 – "Head-to-Head: Comparing Two Insurance Options for Specialty Crop Farmers" with Kevin McClure, Mark Shilts and Emma Johnson. Are you a fruit or vegetable farmer who's been waiting for insurance options that might work for you? Two promising options are available in 2015: Non-Insured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) and Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP).NAP, offered by Farm Services Agency (FSA), now provides 100 percent crop loss payback, with choices of crop loss threshold – a major improvement of past years. WFRP, offered by USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA), is a new insurance program. Listen in as Kevin McClure of FSA and Mark Shilts of RMA work through costs and benefits of a sample farm. Then, hear Emma Johnson of Buffalo Ridge Orchard provide a farmer's perspective on how suitable these options will be for her family's orchard and produce.
Kevin McClure is chief program specialist at the Farm Services Agency state office for Iowa.
Mark Shilts is the Whole Farm Revenue Protection subject matter expert with the USDA Risk Management Agency in St. Paul, Minn. Mark grew up in rural Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul with a B.S. in Finance.
Emma Johnson and her husband, Marcus, farm with Emma's parents at Buffalo Ridge Orchard near Central City, Iowa, where they raise a variety of vegetables and manage an apple and pear orchard on 80 acres.
11) March 24 – "Pesticide Drift: Prevention and Response" with Andy and Melissa Dunham. perating an organic farm in Iowa can entail numerous challenges, not the least of which is pesticide drift. Andy and Melissa Dunham have experienced two episodes of spray drift at Grinnell Heritage Farm, a certified organic vegetable, hay and livestock farm they operate near Grinnell, Iowa. They will share the processes they have gone through to find out who is accountable and how to receive compensation for damages, as well as their strategies for preventing it from happening again.
Andy and Melissa Dunham run Grinnell Heritage Farm, raising certified organic vegetables, flowers and herbs. Andy is a fifth-generation Iowa farmer: The 80-acre farm, located northeast of Grinnell, has been in his family for 153 years and is counted among the oldest family farms in Iowa.
12) March31 – "Food Safety Modernization Act: Implications for Farmers" with Sophia Kruszewski and Chris Blanchard. Hear from Sophia Kruszewski, a policy expert at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, about what the Food Safety Modernization Act is and what its implementation will mean for farmers. Organic farmer and farm consultant Chris Blanchard will discuss details about who it will impact and how to comply with the new rules and regulations.
Sophia Kruszewski is a policy specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. She has a law degree from Vermont Law School and a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Michigan, and experience in both the renewable energy and agriculture and food systems arenas.
Chris Blanchard runs Flying Rutabaga Works consulting business offering workshops, writing and consulting throughout the country on farm business concepts, food safety, organic vegetable production and scaling-up. Before starting his consulting business, Chris managed Rock Spring Farm in northeast Iowa raising vegetables, herbs and greenhouse crops he marketed through a 200-member CSA, food stores and farmers markets.