Practical Farmers of Iowa announces 2016 fall farminar series

No matter the farm enterprise, wintertime allows farmers a chance to reflect on the previous year and consider adjustments to improve their operation the following year. In order to support farmers’ efforts to continually improve, Practical Farmers of Iowa offers a free webinar series – called “farminars” – featuring practical knowledge on a range of topics for row crop, livestock and fruit and vegetable producers.

Beginning on Nov. 15 and continuing every Tuesday through Dec. 20, each farminar focuses on a unique production or business management topic. All presentations are led by an experienced farmer or subject-matter expert, and attendees are able to ask questions in real time using a chatbox while they listen and watch a slideshow. Farminars start at 7 p.m. CST on Tuesday evenings and last 90 minutes.

The first farminar of the season will be led by Jill Beebout of Blue Gate Farm in Marion County, who raises Certified Naturally Grown produce, laying hens, honey bees, hay and alpacas with her husband, Sean Skeehan. Jill’s farminar, “Growing in High Tunnels: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” will cover her experience growing produce in a high tunnel (or “hoop house”) – including her successes and failures for others to learn from. She will share the findings from Practical Farmers of Iowa high tunnel research projects she has participated in, as well as the costs of constructing a high tunnel.

Additional farminar topics this season include two presentations on cover crops. One will feature farmers’ experiences using cover crops as a forage source for livestock, including chopping and baling cover crops; the other will describe multiple on-farm research projects looking at various seeding methods and termination dates. Other topics will cover the Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Stewardship Program; tips on tax preparation for your farm; and maintaining a farm-life balance for fruit and vegetable growers. The full farminar schedule, including titles, descriptions and speaker bios, is appended at the bottom of this release.

To participate: Go to, click the “Join in” button and sign in as a “Guest.” A schedule for all upcoming farminars and an archive to view over one hundred past farminars are also available at this link.

An additional schedule for Practical Farmers’ winter farminar series, taking place January through March 2017, will be released in December.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2016 fall farminars are made possible with funding from Ceres Trust, Farm Service Agency, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Water Quality Initiative, McKnight Foundation and Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit
2016 Fall Farminar Line-up
1. Nov. 15 – “Growing in High Tunnels: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” – Jill Beebout

After more than 10 years of high tunnel production, Jill Beebout of Blue Gate Farm has made mistakes, celebrated successes and collected lots of data. Jill will share her experiences, the numbers, and her best and worst high tunnel ideas – or as she says, “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
· Jill Beebout farms at Blue Gate Farm with her husband, Sean Skeehan. They steward 40 acres of family land in southern Marion County, where they raise Certified Naturally Grown produce, laying hens, honey bees, hay and alpacas; their marketing is done primarily through their CSA and farmers market.

2. Nov. 22 – “Conservation Stewardship Program: Major Changes and Sign-Up Process” – Dave Brommel, Larette Kolbe
The USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program is the largest conservation program in the U.S. with 70 million acres of productive agricultural and forest land enrolled. The program – intended to help producers improve soil and water quality and wildlife habitat on their farmland through technical and financial assistance – will implement a range of updates beginning with the fall 2016 enrollment period. Tune in to hear Iowa’s CSP coordinator detail the major changes, and a district conservationist walk through the sign-up process.
· Dave Brommel has worked with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for over 28 years, and currently serves as Iowa’s Conservation Stewardship Program coordinator. Prior to his time with the NRCS Dave has worked as an agronomist and crop consultant.
· Larrette Kolbe works with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service as a district conservationist in both Pocahontas and Buena Vista counties. She provides technical assistance to farmers raising corn, soybeans, hogs, turkeys and cattle.

3. Nov. 29 – “Tax Preparation for Your Farm” – Matt Russell and Kristine Tidgren
Feeling overwhelmed when it comes to filing taxes for your farm? Tax preparation should begin with proper record keeping to ensure you have the necessary information for filing when the time comes. It’s important to know what sort of tax records you need to keep, how key tax provisions impact you and how the Schedule F works, among other things. Hear tips on how to best navigate this process from farmer and Drake University Resilient Agriculture Coordinator Matt Russell, and attorney and agricultural tax specialist Kristine Tidgren.
· Matt Russell is resilient agriculture coordinator at the Drake University Agricultural Law Center. He farms with his husband, Patrick Standley. They grow produce, eggs and beef on their 110-acre Coyote Run Farm in rural Lacona. They sell directly to customers in central Iowa, use multiple federal and state farm programs and hire a professional to help them prepare their taxes for the greatest benefit to their farm.
· Kristine Tidgren is the assistant director for the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University, where she analyzes legal developments impacting producers and practitioners. She writes numerous articles on current agricultural law issues, teaches an agricultural law class to undergraduate students and is a frequent speaker on agricultural and tax law topics. She grew up on a farm in west-central Iowa.

4. Dec. 6 – “Graze and Bale: Cover Crops as Forage” – James Holz and Bill Frederick
In addition to providing a variety of environmental benefits, cover crops on a crop-livestock farm offer economic returns when used as a forage source. James Holz and Bill Frederick have a combined 12 years of experience growing cover crops and operate Iowa Cover Crop, a custom cover crop application business. James will share his experiences with chopping and baling covers, while Bill will discuss cover crop grazing strategies.
·      James Holz is a feedlot and rowcrop producer from Grand Junction, who grows cover crops and rye which he harvests for ryelage to feed his cattle. Along with Bill Frederick, James runs Iowa Cover Crop, a custom cover crop application business.
· Bill Frederick runs an integrated crop and livestock operation with his family near Jefferson, and is chairman of the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District. Bill uses cover crops to lengthen the grazing season for his cow-calf operation.

5. Dec. 13 – “Getting More from Cover Crops” – Jack Boyer and Mike Castellano
Farmer Jack Boyer will share the results of on-farm research trials he has been conducting in an effort to “get more” from his cover crops, including his trial delaying cover crop termination until the day of soybean planting. Iowa State University agronomy researcher Michael Castellano will join Jack to discuss similar research trials he has conducted.
·      Jack Boyer grows corn, seed corn and soybeans at J Boyer Farms near Reinbeck, Iowa, where he has been participating in on-farm research projects to successfully integrate cover crops. His projects include experimenting with interseeding different varieties of cover crops into standing corn in the spring and fall, as well as different cover crop termination dates prior to growing soybeans.
· Michael Castellano is an associate professor in the department of agronomy at Iowa State University. His research focuses on biogeochemical cycling and transport within the soil as it extends to the atmosphere and subsoil, with particular interest in minimizing nitrogen limitation on crop production while maximizing nitrogen retention.

6. Dec. 20 – “Farm-Life Balance for CSA Farmers” – Kristen Kordet and Kate Edwards
Operating a farm under the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model can be physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. Just like in any career, it’s important to find a healthy work-life balance – but for a farmer, that’s easier said than done. Learn from Kate Edwards of Wild Woods Farm near Iowa City about the challenges she has encountered, and from Kristen Kordet of Blue Moon Community Farm near Madison, Wisconsin, about the strategies she has used to strike a balance.
· Kate Edwards runs Wild Woods Farm. She is in her seventh year of farming and sells the majority of her harvest through a CSA. Kate is interested in continuous improvement and is curious about the unique challenges women face in the lady boss farming world. She seeks to balance product and customer service excellence with life balance, and will focus her inquiry with Kristin on management strategies to improve life balance.
· Kristen Kordet farms at Blue Moon Community Farm, a 6-acre market farm serving CSA and farmers market customers in the Madison area. While she lives on the farm with her husband and son, Kristen is a solo farm owner and primary manager, using a crew of assistant managers and employees seasonally.  After 12 years in business, Kristen feels Blue Moon has achieved a “sweet spot” in size and scale for her lifestyle.