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PFI 2012 fall farminar series begins Nov. 7

By Staff | Oct 21, 2012

AMES (PFI) – As harvest winds down and the growing season nears its end, it’s a good time to take stock of crop and animal performance, challenges and management strategies and start making plans for next year. It’s also the perfect time to brush up on skills and focus on professional development.

Practical Farmers of Iowa has developed a free autumn online seminar series in an effort to help farmers learn from other farmers without having to travel.

The interactive webinars, called fall farminars, will be live each Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., from Nov. 6 through Dec. 18.

Enterprises span livestock, vegetable and row crop production. Any computer with an Internet connection may be used to participate.

Farminars are led by farmers, and many are presented in a “fish-bowl” format where attendees listen as an experienced farmer answers a beginning farmer’s questions. To participate or see upcoming farminars, go to www.practicalfarmers.org/farminar. All archived farminars and audio podcasts of past farminars are also available at this link.

Topics featured will include: labor law for hired laborers; retail meat sales; producing fresh greens; planning grazing in drought; poultry enterprise budgets; equipment for the beginning crop or livestock farm; and pricing and marketing produce.

Alisa Marshall, of Newton, watched her first farminar last spring. “Farminars are educational, full of great information and presented in a conversational format,” Marshall said. “It’s great to learn from someone’s experiences.

“Farminars are like great talk radio tailored to an audience with sustainable farming interests.”

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2012 Fall Farminars are made possible with funding from the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture; USDA Risk Management Agency; USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant Program through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship; Cedar Tree Foundation; Ag Ventures Alliance; John Deere; and Clif Bar.

The 2012 farminar line-up includes:

  • Nov. 6 – “Farmers as employers: legal responsibilities,” Jan Libbey and Tim Landgraf, and Michael Staebell of the U.S. Department of Labor

Learn farmers’ legal responsibilities for hiring farm employees. Two farmers will share their farm labor employment scenarios and ask questions of a Labor Department director, who will also summarize Iowa farm labor laws. Libbey and Landgraf grow 8 acres of vegetables at One Step at a Time Gardens near Kanawha. They have hired 36 employees since 2003, and also have experience offering on-farm housing to employees. Staebell is district director of the USDL’s Wage and Hour Division for the Des Moines District Office. He helps businesses understand and comply with labor laws.

  • Nov. 13 – “Profitable direct-to-consumer meat and dairy opportunities,” with Terri Lawton and Cheryl Hopkins. Learn more strategies to market one’s own meat and dairy products directly to families in local communities. Lawton enhanced the viability of her family’s 11th generation, 25-acre farm in Foxboro, Mass., by switching from selling milk to wholesale commodity markets to marketing specialized milk and meat directly to consumers. Beginning with licensed raw milk sales from the farm in April 2006, her business, Oak Knoll Ayrshires Real Milk, expanded to sell beef, veal and cheese on and off the farm. Hopkins and her husband operate Frog Hollow Farm, a 30-acre farm near Walker. They raise goats and poultry on pasture and recently added a multi-species orchard and vegetable crops.
  • Nov. 20 – “Production in high tunnels: Salad greens, microgreens and more,” with Paul and Alison Wiediger and Sara Hanson. Learn how to grow higher quality salad greens and microgreens in a season-extending high tunnel. The Wiedigera operate Au Naturel Farm in Smiths Grove, Ken., and grow a wide array of vegetables from May through October, many types of leaf lettuces and gourmet salad greens from October through June and raise free-range eggs all year. Hanson, of Prairie Sky Farm, is a beginning farmer near Wesley. She recently installed a high tunnel and started growing produce for local grocers and wholesale markets in her north-central Iowa community.
  • Nov. 27 – “Drought recovery grazing: Ideas to get through the winter and plan for a resilient farm,” with Jay Jung and Dan Specht. Are you keeping livestock through the drought? Hear from an experienced farmer on how to get through the winter and plan for next year. Learn how to build resilient soils with managed grazing and more. Jung started Jung Poultry Farm from scratch near Colwell on rented land, raising and selling broilers in 2011. He added bred ewes and his first row crops to the operation in 2012. He aspires to create niche enterprises as a pathway to success, and to change the perception in his area that one must cultivate at least 500 acres to be a real farmer. Specht, of Prairie Quest Farms in McGregor, has farmed and grazed livestock for more than 42 years on the rugged hills of northeast Iowa. He grazes livestock on 500 acres of pasture, and puts up hay from about 100 acres of land each year. He has been experimenting with certified organic, open-pollinated seed corn on about 3 acres.
  • Dec. 4 – “Poultry enterprise budgets: Know your expenses and keep your profits,” with Patrick Standley, Matt Russell and Karla Hanson. Learn how to price poultry to ensure profits return to the farm. Russell and Patrick Standley operate Coyote Run Farm in Lacona. They raise horses, mules, beef, specialty crops and poultry on the 110-acre farm. They have a flock of 250 Gold Star laying hens that live on pasture most of the year, and occasionally raise a limited number of heritage turkeys. Hanson lives with her husband and six children on a small farm near Monona. She raises a flock of free-range chickens and has recently started to build her sheep flock with some foundation ewes. She plans to install a greenhouse and raise and sell specialty produce at her local farmers market.
  • Dec. 11 – “Beginning a crop and livestock farm: Equipment,” with Brian Bagge and Jeff Olson. Are you wondering if you should buy that planter for your crops or the ripper for primary tillage? Hear perspectives from farmers about what equipment a beginner should own to make profits on a beginning farm. Olson, of Winfield, grew up farming crops and raising livestock. He has extensive experience with equipment for farming systems of all kinds, from the moldboard plow to strip-tillage. Bagge, of Worthington, is a beginning farmer growing his dairy herd and sheep flock, in the hope of someday farming full-time. In the meantime, he supplements his income with custom farming and an off-farm job.
  • Dec. 18 – “Pricing and marketing produce at farm stands and wholesale to grocers,” with Atina Diffley. Learn how to price and better market your produce to increase retail and wholesale revenue. Diffley, of Farmington, operated Gardens of Eagan with her husband for more than three decades, leading the pricing and marketing duties of the farm. Their business supplied several cooperative grocers in the Twin Cities with seasonal, local, certified organic produce.

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