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Registration open for Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2013 conference

AMES — Practical Farmers of Iowa is now accepting registrations for its 2013 annual conference, “Soil and Soul,” which will take place Jan. 10-12 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. All are welcome to attend.

This year’s event celebrates the vital role soil plays in sustaining life. Through sessions and networking, attendees will learn how different farming systems and practices help build the soil and the communities of plants, animals and people who depend on the soil.

“I really like attending Practical Farmers of Iowa’s annual conference because it re-motivates me — and that’s what winter is all about,” said Ellen Walsh-Rosmann, who farms with her husband Daniel and his parents near Harlan, and will attend her fifth conference this year. “Then I can do some farm planning and implement new ideas. And this year with the drought, and last year with floods in western Iowa, we really learned how valuable soil is for retaining water, and how important it is to rebuild the soil.” 

The conference will feature keynote speaker Elaine Ingham, chief scientist at the Rodale Institute and a world-renowned microbiologist. For more than three decades, Ingham has helped thousands of individuals and companies improve their agricultural practices by gaining a deeper understanding of what soil health means. In 1996, Ingham founded Soil Foodweb, Inc., an international group of soil biology laboratories that analyzes soils for microbial life. The revelations about soil quality distilled through the efforts of her work and these labs have helped farmers all over the world grow more resilient crops.

Practical Farmers is offering three short course options this year: “Composting Done Right,” “Fearless Farm Finances” and “Tractors 101.” The composing and finance courses will both be held at the Scheman Building; the tractor course will be held at the ISU Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy Research Farm, between Ames and Boone. All three short courses run Thursday, Jan. 10 from 1-7 p.m. and continue Jan. 11 from 8 to 11:30 a.m. 

Twenty-four in-depth workshops will span topics ranging from precision agriculture, multi-species grazing and small grains to creating wildlife habitat, season extension and adding cover crops to corn and soybean systems. Most sessions are led by farmers. In addition, attendees will get to choose from among 10 Saturday morning breakfast sessions, as well as up to six in-depth “U-Pick” sessions organized around topics suggested by guests during conference registration.

Special rates are available for students and PFI members. Those who pre-register by Jan. 2 will save $10 per day. Register online at or by contacting Patrick Burke at or (515) 232-5661. 

Friday Workshops

• Leasing Land and Custom Grazing

• Making Organic Small Grains Profitable

• Profitability — and the Good Life — with Produce

• Smoothing the Path to Generational Transfer

• Lovin’ Local Foods

• A Whole-Farm Approach to Conservation for Corn and Soybeans

Saturday Workshops

• Willow Lake Farm: A Case Study in Conservation

• Organics: Latest Research, Market Update

• Mob Grazing

• Profitability through Simple Recordkeeping, Season Extension

• Compost Tea and Extract

• Iowa 2050: Pathways to a Sustainable Future

• Providing On-Farm Habitat

• High Tunnel Production: The Basics

• Beginners Talk with Experts: Livestock Enterprises

• Successful Strip-Till Management and Beyond

• Precision Farming and Organic Crops

• La Quercia and Artisan Delicacies

• Soils and Food: Discussion on the Keynote Address

• Cover Crops 101

• Succotash Swine

• Multi-Species Grazing

• You Built the Farm — Now Hire Good People!

• Growing Tasty Tomatoes

• U-Pick Sessions: To Be Determined

Saturday Breakfast Meeting Topics

• Health Insurance for Rural Iowans: How Should PFI Help?

• Value-Added Row Crops

• Vegetable/Meat/Dairy/Poultry Subscription Services

• Fruit/Vegetable Farmers: Want to Combine Supply Orders?

• How to Purchase Local Foods

• Beginning Farmers: Surviving and Thriving from the Start

• Practical Farmer’s On-Farm Energy Work: How to Keep Coolers and Freezers from Being Energy Hogs

• Breakfast with Greg Judy: Mob Grazing, Contract Grazing and More

• Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners: Plan Strategy for the Year; Learn How You Can Become a Commissioner

• Refugee Farmers’ Experiences in Iowa

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2013 annual conference is supported by several major sponsors, including AgVentures Alliance; Albert Lea Seed; Bio-Till; Calcium Products, Inc.; Iowa Farm Bureau Federation; Iroquois Valley Farms; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying, Inc.; the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University; and Maschio Gaspardo.

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