Practical Farmers of Iowa announces the organization's new spring 2011 lineup of online farming seminars called "Farminars." Topics covered this spring include managing farm labor, building wholesale relationships, making grass-based livestock systems more profitable, increasing profits and customer satisfaction through brokering and improving recordkeeping practices. To register and participate in the Farminars, visit www.practicalfarmers.org/farminar.
Farmers have asked for farmer-led learning opportunities that will easily fit into their schedules, according to PFI's "Next Generation" director, Sally Worley. Any computer with an Internet connection can be used to participate in a Farminar. Live Farminars are offered on Tuesday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Three of the six Farminars being offered this spring provide a "Fish Bowl" view of a beginning farmer learning from a more experienced farmer. Participants can ask additional questions not covered by the beginner at any time throughout the Farminar. Two Farminars feature farmer experts, and one Farminar will feature both a farmer expert and local foods purchaser.
Farmer Theresa Gould of Island Lake, Illinois, appreciates the Farminar opportunities: "It's great that we can participate from the comfort of our home. These online sessions provide us with good, useful ideas and knowledge, and I enjoy hearing and seeing how other farmers are making a profit."
Practical Farmers of Iowa's 2011 lineup of "Spring Farminars"
Tuesday, March 1 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., "Managing Farm Labor" with Eric Franzenburg and Morgan Hoenig. Experienced farmer Eric Franzenburg of Pheasant Run Farm produces corn, soybeans, swine, meat poultry, flowers and high value herbs, near Van Horne, Iowa. This diverse farm requires the helping hands of many skilled laborers to succeed. Eric will be coaching beginner Morgan Hoenig of Mogo Organics, who began a CSA in 2009.
Now in her third year of horticulture production near Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Morgan plans to hire her first paid laborers in 2011. You can learn along with Morgan as Eric shares his experiences managing farm employees. You will gain information on hiring employees, employment forms, and labor regulations.
Tuesday, March 8 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., "Building Wholesale Relationships" with Mike Krogh and Derek Roller. Farmers, do you want to sell your products to wholesale outlets like grocery stores and restaurants? Grocers and chefs, are you interested in offering more local fare? In this online session, you'll hear from both sides of the transaction to learn how to build strong wholesale relationships that are beneficial to both parties.
Discover how New Pioneer's local produce program manager, Mike Krogh, works with farmers to stock stores with local produce. New Pioneer is Iowa City's natural food cooperative and has a mission to serve the needs of its members and to stimulate local agricultural production of natural and organic foods by providing a market for such foods.
You'll also learn from Derek Roller, who operates Echollective Farm near Iowa City. For 10 years Echollective has grown vegetables, herbs, flowers and hay. Derek markets products to New Pioneer Coop, to Iowa City restaurants, to the Iowa City downtown farmers' market and through a community supported agriculture program.
Tuesday, March 15 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., "CSA Members as Partners" with Elizabeth Henderson. Community supported agriculture fosters a relationship between farmers and their customers in which customers have a keen interest in their food system. By taking a partnership role, your member customers can help you increase productivity and profits. Hear from Elizabeth Henderson how to better integrate members into your CSA through core groups, work hours, distribution and farm events.
Elizabeth Henderson farms at Peacework Farm in Wayne County, NY, and has been producing organically grown vegetables for the fresh market for almost 30 years. She is a founding member of the Northeast Organic Farming Association in Massachusetts, has been on the Board of Directors of NOFA-NY since 1989 and represents NOFA in national discussions of organic standards and on the Steering Committee of the Agricultural Justice Project. She has received numerous awards and honors, and is an accomplished author. Most notably she wrote Sharing the Harvest, a mainstay resource for CSA farmers.
Tuesday, March 22 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., "Profitable Grass-based Livestock Systems" with Cody Holmes, along with Torray and Erin Wilson.
Thirty-seven year veteran rancher and author Cody Holmes will teach Torray and Erin Wilson how to plan for a profitable grazing system, how to work smarter with animals, how to track sales and costs, and how to maintain profit with grass–based livestock. Cody's philosophy recognizes that a holistic systems approach can be used successfully in all aspects of ranching and home life by incorporating two critical components: planning and decision-making. Cody and his wife, Dawnnell, along with their daughter, Taylor, manage 450 cow/calf pairs, 300 sheep, 70 hogs, 1,500 poultry and 12 dairy cows on 1,000 acres in southern Missouri. They also operate a retail meat sales home delivery service.
Torray grew up on the farm where they currently live near Paulina in northwest Iowa. Erin grew up on a dairy farm in northeast Iowa. They practice holistic management while grazing beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep and help with a family niche pork operation that includes pasture farrowing. Their chickens are sold locally through a farmers' market; pork is sold on contract with Niman Ranch; and lamb is split between direct market sales and ethnic markets through a sale barn.
Tuesday, March 29 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., "Brokering Tips" with Nick Wallace and Ryan Marquardt. Demand for local products is on the rise. Selling other farmers' products has great potential for expanding the profitability of your direct sales while helping other farmers expand their sales. Get some great advice from Nick Wallace on maintaining fairness, transparency and accountability when brokering products for other farmers.
Nick and his father Steve raise mixed livestock near Keystone, Iowa, on more than 80 acres of high-quality forages. Their farm business, Wallace Farms, sells its own products as well as products raised by other farmers direct to consumers in cities around Iowa and in Chicago. Nick will be coaching Ryan Marquardt, who farms with his wife Janice on 40 acres near Reasnor, Iowa. Their farm, Wild Rose Pastures, sells specialty "pasture-raised" products including eggs, broiler chickens and turkeys through their farm website, and through the Iowa Food Cooperative and also at Picket Fence Creamery events. They are just beginning to sell products from other farmers.
Tuesday, April 5 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., "Keeping Good Records on a Vegetable Farm" with Linda Halley. Managing records for a diverse vegetable operation can be tedious, but good records equal better production and profit potential. Linda Halley will outline how she manages her production and financial recordkeeping systems.
Linda has been growing organic produce since 1989, owning or managing farms in Wisconsin, California and Minnesota. She also enjoys being an author and educator on wide ranging farm topics. Currently she manages the Gardens of Eagan Organic Farm for the Wedge Food Co-op of Minneapolis and serves as President of the board of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service and the Organic Field School President.
Missed a Farminar? That's no problem. You can still tune-in. All Farminars are archived and available for viewing at www.practicalfarmers.org/farminar.
PFI's Spring 2011 Farminars are made possible with funding from Farm Aid, and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Grant # 2010-49400-21843.
Practical Farmers of Iowa includes a diverse group of farmers and friends of farmers. Corn, soybeans, beef cattle and hay are the top enterprises for PFI farmers, although many have a variety of other operations, including fruits and vegetables. PFI's programming stresses farmer-to-farmer networking through research and demonstration, field days, conferences, and more. For more information, call 515-232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.