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Prairie City News

Practical Farmers of Iowa announces winter farminar series

Conservation tillage systems for vegetable production, cover crops and grazing systems featured

AMES — Practical Farmers of Iowa will continue its online learning series – called “farminars” – for the 10th winter season in a row with a presentation on adding prairie strips to farmland. The webinar series features practical knowledge shared by farmers and experts on a wide range of topics for row crop, livestock and fruit and vegetable growers.

Held at 7 p.m. every Tuesday, 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 chat box while they listen and watch a slideshow. The presentations are free for anyone with an internet connection.

Some farminars feature a single farmer or farm couple presenting, while others feature a beginning farmer paired with an expert. For instance, the Feb. 5 presentation, “No-Till Vegetable Production,” is led by experienced farmers Elizabeth and Paul Kaiser, who will speak about their no-till vegetable operation based in Sonoma County, California. Elizabeth and Paul will share details on their field preparation, crop rotation, nursery management, nutrient cycle management and hedgerows, along with the pest and climactic benefits of these approaches.

The following week’s farminar Feb. 12 will explore a similar topic presented in the second format where a beginning farmer and an expert have a back-and-forth exchange. The farminar, “Ridge-Till Vegetable Production,” will be led by both beginning farmer Jordan Scheibel, and researcher Brian Caldwell from Cornell University. Jordan will share his plans to change the tillage system he uses on his farm near Grinnell, and Brian will share the findings from Cornell University’s Reduced Tillage Organic Vegetables Project and offer specific advice for Jordan’s farm. Jordan and the farminar attendees will be able to ask questions of Brian about ridge-till and other conservation tillage systems for vegetable production.

“My hope is that implementing ridge tillage can help me address long-standing issues on my farm, which have been exacerbated by recent changes in the climate,” explained Jordan. “I’m excited to have someone like Brian who has actually experimented with using ridge tillage for vegetables to help evaluate the viability of my approach and give me feedback.”

Other topics featured in the winter farminar series include installing prairie strips for row crops systems; a trio of grazing topics that include pastured pigs, infrastructure for rotational grazing and technology to help with regenerative grazing; precision-seeded cover crops; and planning for farmland succession.

To participate, visit the PFI website. A schedule for all upcoming farminars – as well as the recordings for 159 past farminars – is also available at this link.

To learn more, visit

2019 Winter Farminar Line-Up

Jan. 22 – “Electric Fence and Stock Water Systems for Permanent or Temporary Pasture” – Galen Gerrish

Whether you are grazing 1 acre or 10,000, modern electric fencing and stock watering systems have given producers the flexibility to take their livestock to the most unusual of places – and these systems contribute to a growing trend of not owning any land at all. Additionally, grazing as a restorative land service is becoming more popular. Mobile infrastructure lets imaginative graziers reap profits while contributing to ecological restoration. In this farminar, explore the electric fence and stock water systems used to manage forage resources in these arrangements.

Jan. 29 – “Regenerative Grazing Technology” – Erin Kiley, Andy Welch

Managing pasture and herd health in a rotational grazing system requires detailed data collection and an organized management system to use and interpret that data. In recent years, new technology has become available to help graziers with this. Erin Kiley will discuss what information graziers should be tracking, and how the app PastureMap is addressing these needs. Grazier Andy Welch will join Erin to share his limited experience with PastureMap and learn from Erin how it can benefit his operation.

Feb. 5 – “No-Till Vegetable Production” – Elizabeth and Paul Kaiser

Intensive, agroecological, no-till food production systems have dramatic functional benefits for our ecology, natural resources and communities. Elizabeth and Paul will discuss how they have implemented an intensive, no-till, hand-labor vegetable production system that is profitable while restoring soil carbon, soil biology and macro-ecology on their farm. Some of the topics they’ll cover include field preparation, crop rotation, nursery management, nutrient cycle management and hedgerows, as well as the pest and climactic benefits of these approaches.

Feb. 12 – “Ridge-Till Vegetable Production” – Brian Caldwell, Jordan Scheibel

Ridge tillage is a system used mainly in row crop production that allows for some cultivation while reducing soil erosion and improving soil quality. Beds are shaped into elevated ridges, and only the tops of the ridges are cultivated prior to planting. Many vegetable producers, such as Middle Way Farm’s Jordan Scheibel, want to gain the soil-building benefits of this conservation tillage practice on their farms. The complexity of a diverse vegetable farm, however, presents some challenges to using this type of tillage. 

Feb. 19 – “Precision-Seeded Cover Crops” – Jon Bakehouse, Michael Vittetoe

As cover crops are more widely adopted, many farmers are experimenting with planting methods to make the most use of their time and resources. Jon Bakehouse has experimented with special plates that let him use his planter to seed cereal rye on 15- and 30-inch rows. Michael Vittetoe has been experimenting with seeding cereal rye on 8-inch twin rows on 30-inch centers using a drill. Both farmers will share their thoughts on these seeding methods and what they plan to do in the future.

Feb. 26 – “Proper Planning for Farmland Succession” – Andrew Behnkendorf, Stephen and Crystal Riggins

Farmland transfer can be a stressful and difficult process without proper consideration and planning. Though every situation is different, early planning and communication in any transfer case can help solve problems before they arise. Join this farminar to hear from a professional planner about what issues need to be considered, and from Stephen and Crystal Riggins about their experience transferring their farm from the previous generation and to the next.

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