Registration is open for Practical Farmers’ 2017 annual conference

Practical Farmers of Iowa is now accepting registrations for its 2017 annual conference, “Pass It On,” which will take place January 20-21 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building, on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. All are welcome to attend. Register online at

This year’s theme celebrates the impact of farmer-to-farmer learning on farmers’ confidence to explore new or different farming practices, and their ability to improve farm profitability and land stewardship. Attendees will learn from their farming peers about different approaches to conserving money and soil; growing and marketing a range of crops; keeping good-quality financial and production records, accessing land and capital and more.

The conference, which attracted over 900 farmers, researchers and supporters last year, features more sessions than in the past to give attendees more learning opportunities. Conference highlights include:
• A keynote address by three renowned Iowa farmers: Susan Jutz, of Solon; Vic Madsen, of Audubon; and Dan Wilson, of Paullina. These long-time Practical Farmers members, and guiding stars, are all past presidents of Practical Farmers’ board of directors and recipients of PFI’s Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award. During the keynote, Susan, Vic and Dan, who together represent the diverse range of farm enterprises Iowa is capable of sustaining, will each share words of wisdom from their decades of farming experience, including three insights they feel are most important to pass on.
• Forty-two sessions on topics that span the agricultural spectrum, from production to marketing, farm transfer to business planning. Attendees can learn how to vertically integrate livestock production, roller-crimp cover crops, start farming in a high tunnel, grow small grains profitably, pay for end-of-life care without losing the family farm, be profitable in a no-till system, farm with a deep-winter greenhouse, conserve traditional-breed pigs and more. Some sessions are geared to non-farmers looking to have an active role in their food and farming system, and beginners looking to establish successful farm businesses.
• Eight networking and interactive sessions, set up as either Q&As or roundtables, where attendees will have a chance to engage more deeply on topics of interest, ask detailed questions of experts or meet with others who share similar interests.
• Three pre-conference short courses: “Scaling Up Pastured Poultry”, “Conserving $$ and Soil”, and “Production, Processing and Marketing of Alternative Berry Crops.” All three courses run Thursday, January 19 from 1-7 p.m. and continue January 20 from 8-11:30 a.m., at the Scheman Building.
• Presentation of PFI’s 2016 Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award
• Many opportunities to network and build relationships with other farmers, researchers, consumers and sponsors, including at several regional breakfast meetings on Saturday morning, where guests can meet others from their part of Iowa (or out of state).

Registration: Those who pre-register by January 12 will save $10 per day. Special rates are also available for students and PFI members. Register online at, or contact Erica Andorf: or (515) 232-5661.

Friday Sessions:
• A Decade of Cover Crops Research
• Lessons Learned: First 5 Years of Farming
• Insects and Soil Health
• Business Nuts & Bolts for Transition to Organic Production
• Farm Financial Record Keeping and Planning
• Profitable Vertical Integration of Livestock: Production, Processing and Marketing (two-part session)
• Getting Started in Your First High Tunnel
• Keeping the Farm and Paying for End-of-Life Care
• Lessons Learned: First 10 Years of Farming
• Organic Weed Control
• High Profits With a No-Till Farming System
• Profitably Managing Your Market Mix

Saturday Sessions:
• Cover Crops 201
• Building Soil Fertility on a Vegetable Farm
• Managing Weeds More Successfully
• The Natural Medicine Chest for Livestock Health and Wellness
• Deep Winter Greenhouse at Lida Farm
• Saving Bacon: The Conservation of Traditional-Breed Pigs
• Transferring the Farm: Lessons from the Past
• Pollinator Conservation and Risk Assessment
• Feed-Formulating Alternatives to Corn and Soy
• Intercropping for Multiple Goals in a Vegetable System
• Cut Flowers for Beginners
• When Am I Ready to Access Business Capital?
• Improving Family Communications
• Cover Crops and Conservation on Rented Ground
• Growing Profitable Small Grains in Iowa
• Forage-Fed Pigs
• Planning for the Next Generation
• Digging Carrot Production: Lessons from the Carrot King
• Lady Boss Panel: Hiring and Managing Employees
• Business Plan Vetting
• Record Keeping for Organic Vegetable Production
• Growing High-Yield Organic Corn
• Grazing Cover Crops
• Expanding Markets and Creating Identity at Hansen’s Dairy
• Non-Farmers: Learn How to Become Farmer Advocates!
• Roller-Crimping Cover Crops
• Building Relationships to Access Land
• Water Quality Monitoring
• Goat Production for Ethnic Markets
• Cut Flowers for the Experienced Grower
• Introduction to Cover Crops for Vegetables
• Improving Understanding Between Specialty Crop Farmers and Pesticide Applicators

Networking Sessions:
• Hobby Farmer Meet-Up
• Q&A With Will Harris
• Giant Ragweed Roundtable
• Local Foods Roundtable
• Q&A With Jonathan Lundgren
• Nut Production and Marketing Q&A
• Farm Transfer Roundtable
• Ridge-Till Roundtable

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2017 annual conference is supported by several major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Organic & Natural Meats; Grain Millers; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy and Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Rimol Greenhouse Systems; and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.