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TUNE IN: Practical Farmers free webinars will offer practical farming knowledge on different topics every Tuesday.

Practical Farmers begins fall farminar series Nov. 14

Topics include crimping cover crops, marketing vegetables and farm transfer.

By Steve Carlson

Practical Farmers of Iowa takes its farmer-to-farmer education format online with the fall farminar series, beginning Nov. 14 and continuing each Tuesday night through the end of the year. The popular free webinar series offers practical knowledge for row crop, livestock, and fruit and vegetable farmers.

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.

The first farminar of the season features Jim and LeeAnn Van Der Pol and their experience transferring management and ownership of their farm and pasture-raised meat business to their children. Trying to be fair to off-farm heirs along with the children and grandchildren who work on the farm is a delicate balance.

“Josh and Cindy have been here a long time, and we are trying to reward them for the effort they have put into the farm,” says Jim. “Two years ago, we made Josh and Cindy 60% owners of the LLP, which we are using to edge ourselves out of the farming operation. Our plan is to keep passing over shares until we have a minor share or are out.”

Together with farm transition attorney Rachel Dahl, they’ll offer suggestions to help maintain both family health and business health through a farm transition.

Other farminar topics this season include managing a profitable marketing mix for fruit and vegetable growers, terminating cover crops using a roller-crimper, growing specialty cut flowers and integrating cattle to make cover crops profitable.

To participate, follow these directions
Go to and click the “Join in” button and select to sign in as “Guest.” A schedule for all upcoming farminars, as well as the recordings for 138 past farminars, is also available at this link.

An additional farminar schedule for Practical Farmers’ winter farminar series that takes place January through March 2018 will be released in December.

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

PFI strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. The organization’s values include welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in the network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more.

2017 lineup
The itinerary for the fall farminar follows:

• Nov. 14, “Farm Transfer Planning for the Next Generation.” Farmers Jim and LeeAnn Van Der Pol are in their 60s and ready to decrease their roles in the family farm and meat business. How are they turning over management and ownership to their son and daughter-in-law? Transfer must allow the older generation to be out of the way of the ambitions of the younger ones, while respecting the feelings of the older generation regarding the equity and business they have put their lives into building. Feelings are as important as dollars. Family, good health and unity depend on it. Join the Van Der Pols and farm transition attorney Rachel Dahl to learn how they're navigating these issues.

• Nov. 21, “Achieving Profitability with Fruits and Vegetables.” An important step in building a successful farm business is to take time and analyze the profitability of each of your marketing channels. The end of the growing season is a good time to calculate the net return for each sales outlet and make decisions for the following year. Experienced farmer and educator Ryan Pesch will share some tips for evaluating your farm's market channels, and he'll help beginning farmer Natasha Hegmann think about her sales outlets after her first two growing seasons.

Nov. 28, “Three Experiences with Roller-Crimping Cover Crops.” Roller-crimping as a method for terminating cover crops in organic and no-till farms in Iowa is gaining interest, but many questions still remain about best management practices. In this farminar, three Iowa farmers will share their experiences using a roller crimper in their respective organic operations. Scott Shriver and Francis Thicke will focus on cereal rye going into soybeans, and Billy Sammons will share his experience with hairy vetch going into corn.

Dec. 5, “Grow Flowers that Sell: Top 10 Sellers at Brightflower Farm.” Growing specialty cut flowers can be profitable in wholesale markets. Learn some of the most profitable varieties and products sold at Brightflower Farm, a small cut-flower farm in Stockton, Ill. Jeanie McKewan, owner and founder of Brightflower Farm, will share top selections, growing methods and tips on production systems to help boost sales and profits in your cut flower operation.

• Dec. 12, “Integrating Livestock and Cover Crops for Profit in Kansas.” Have you ever heard of "graze cropping”? John Stigge, a farmer from northeast Kansas, owns Stigge & Sons farm, a 2,000-acre no-till, cover crop and beef cattle operation. John is an advanced cover crop grazier, and in lieu of planting a field for grain production, John plants cover crops and puts cattle out to graze for a whole production year or longer. John and his son Ian will discuss how their integrated crop and cattle system has improved soil health, productivity and profitability.

• Dec. 19, “Integrating Livestock and Cover Crops for Profit in Nebraska.” How much is the grazing from cover crops worth? Mary Drewnoski, University of Nebraska-Lincoln beef systems specialist, and Nebraska farmer Lane Meyer will discuss on-farm research results of grazing cover crops. Data will be presented on dry matter digestibility (energy) and crude protein content of different cover crop forages, average daily gains of growing calves, the amount of grazing cover crops provide, and the economics.

Carlson is a program associate with Practical Farmers of Iowa in Ames.



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