Practical Farmers of Iowa invites farmers who graze livestock, or hope to graze livestock, to participate in new farmer-led grazing groups that PFI is forming across the state.
For many farmers, networking with peers is the preferred way to learn about different production strategies or solutions to farming challenges. While many resources exist in Iowa to help connect farmers to one another, not as many are targeted specifically at farmers who graze livestock.
The new grazing groups aim to address this need for more peer-to-peer grazing support. Participating is free, and farmers do not need to be PFI members to join.
“Our members have shared feedback asking us to initiate these grazing groups, so they can learn from each other on a regional basis,” says Meghan Filbert, livestock program manager for PFI. “These groups will provide networking opportunities for graziers who want to connect with other like-minded farmers and may not realize there are others in their area doing what they’re doing.”
The first gatherings will take place in May and June, each hosted by a farmer, and will run from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Dinner will also be provided at each. The group will take a pasture walk together, and discuss spring grazing management on lush pastures, first-cut hay, summer annuals and more.
Part of the agenda will also include identifying a farmer-leader for the group who will take over coordination of future gatherings. To sign up, visit the grazing groups page on PFI’s website and click the RSVP button for the specific event of interest.
One group, the South Central Iowa Grazing Group, existed before PFI started working to create grazing groups statewide. It already has an established group leader and structure. The graziers agreed to open their group to others so more knowledge can be shared.
“Sometimes you begin wondering if what you’re doing is worthwhile or paying off,” says Andy Welch, the leader of the south-central group who operates Welch Family Farms near Grant City, Mo. “But being around people doing similar things really keeps me motivated, and I hope our effort will help keep others inspired as well.”
The inaugural gathering of each grazing group will take place on the following dates:
May 9. South Central Iowa Grazing Group; hosted by Chad Hensley; Big Creek Farms, 200 E. 10th St., Lamoni; RSVP by May 6
May 16. Southeast Iowa Grazing Group; hosted by Tim Diers; Rainbow Farms, 2126 Watercress Blvd., Lockridge; RSVP by May 13
May 22. Northwest Iowa Grazing Group; hosted by Robert Alexander, 5086 Lily Ave., Remsen; RSVP by May 20
May 23. Central Iowa Grazing Group; hosted by Bruce Carney, Carney Family Farms, 13602 NE 96th St., Maxwell; RSVP by May 20
May 30. Eastern Iowa Grazing Group; hosted by Doug Darrow, Rapid Creek Ranch, 3727 Calkins Ave. SW, Oxford; RSVP by May 27
June 9. Northeast Iowa Grazing Group; hosted by Wendy Johnson & Johnny Rafkin, Joia Food Farm, 2038 March Ave., Charles City; RSVP by June 6
After these first gatherings, the hope is each grazing group will become a self-sustaining entity, with group members deciding how often to meet, topics to cover and other logistical details.
PFI will continue providing support as needed and will be available to help coordinate and finance special resources, such as bringing in speakers requested by group members. For questions about the grazing groups, contact Meghan Filbert at 515-232-5661 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The grazing groups are made possible by funding from Cedar Tree Foundation.