Speakers

Speakers

Keynote Speaker

James will talk about his farming life, as recounted in his New York Times bestselling memoir “The Shepherd’s Life.” James is a passionate advocate for heritage breeds of sheep, cattle and crops, and farming in the tried-and-tested older ways that have roots in his landscape dating back 4,000 to 5,000 years. He shepherds in the mountains in the north of England.

He lives and works on the farm his father and grandfather farmed before him, in a landscape his family has worked for over six centuries. The farm is largely permanent pasture and hay meadows, on which he specializes in raising high-value breeding stock: native Herdwick and Swaledale sheep, and a British cattle breed called Blue Greys.

James will share what it’s like to farm using old ways in the modern world, both the challenges and opportunities. He’ll discuss how traditional ways provide many of the answers we need for a farming future in which antibiotics, wormers, pesticides, herbicides and oil may all be reduced in effectiveness or are in scarce supply. 

“The future we have been sold doesn’t work,” James wrote in an article. “Applying the principles of the factory floor to the natural world just doesn’t work. Farming is more than a business. Food is more than a commodity. Land is more than a mineral resource.”

James is a bestselling author, published in 20 countries. He has written for newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, and he shares details of farm life daily with 100,000 Twitter followers (@herdyshepherd1) – perhaps, the most-followed farming account in the world.

Sessions: The Shepherd’s Life: Soil, Sheep Dogs and Social Media
Q&A With James Rebanks

Other Guest Speakers

Tyson Allchin grows mushrooms year-round on his farm, Allchin Acres, near Columbus Junction. He primarily sells oyster mushrooms to grocery stores and restaurants, but has also grown lion’s mane, shiitake and pioppino. Tyson also prepares and sells inoculated fruiting blocks to other growers.

Session: Indoor Mushroom Production and Marketing

Mark Bader is the owner and president of Free Choice Enterprises, Ltd., a family-owned and -operated business that has catered to the needs of the livestock industry in the U.S. and internationally for over 60 years. His holistic approach to livestock nutrition focuses on natural supplementation of established feed programs that allow the animal to decide what it needs to thrive. Mark was raised farming cattle, and he and his wife, Janna, currently raise beef on their farm in Potosi, Wisconsin.

Sessions:
The Practical Science of Farming

Part I Farming the Sun: The Ecology of Chemical Energy

Part II Solar-Powered Livestock: From Plants to Animals

Dr. Gwyn Beattie is professor of bacteriology at ISU. Her teaching and research is focused on the genomics and ecology of plant-associated bacteria, with current projects focusing on the influence of microbial communities on plant water use efficiency and the factors enabling bacterial pathogens to use light and environmental stress signals to colonize leaves.

Session: Short Course section - How Microbes Influence Plant Growth & Productivity

Jill Beebout farms at Blue Gate Farm with her husband, Sean Skeehan. They steward 40 acres of family land near Chariton, where they raise Certified Naturally Grown produce, laying hens, honey bees, hay and alpacas; their marketing is done primarily through their CSA and farmers markets.

Session: Foraging for Market: Morels and Greens

Amy Beller is the registered apprenticeship program coordinator for Iowa Workforce Development. Amy works with a team of business service members across the state to provide business information about creating and registering their Registered Apprenticeship Programs with the U.S. Department of Labor. She also assists job seekers who are interested in becoming a Registered Apprentice.

Session: Q&A: Hiring Migrant and Seasonal Workers and Year-Round Employees

Keith Berns combines 20 years of no-till farming with 10 years of teaching about agriculture and computers. In addition to no-tilling 2,500 acres of irrigated and dryland corn, soybeans, rye, triticale, peas, sunflowers and buckwheat in south-central Nebraska, he also co-owns and operates Green Cover Seed, one of the major cover crop seed providers and educators in the U.S. Through Green Cover Seed, Keith has experimented with over 100 different cover crop types and hundreds of mixes planted into various situations and has learned a great deal about cover crop growth, nitrogen fixation, moisture usage and use of of cover crops by grazers. Keith also developed the SmartMix Calculator, a widely used cover crop selection tool.

Sessions: Carbonomics
Using the SmartMix Calculator to Develop Good Cover Crop Mixes

Carmen Black operates SunDog Farm and Local Harvest CSA near Solon. She raises vegetables for 200 families, and a small flock of sheep. She began participating in 2015, and has now completed four projects.

Session: Learning From On-Farm Research: Horticulture

Jack Boyer and his wife, Marion, are lifetime members of Practical Farmers of Iowa. They raise corn, seed corn, soybeans, cereal rye and cover crops near Reinbeck. Jack joined the Cooperators’ Program in 2014, focusing primarily on optimizing his farm’s cover crops.

Session: Learning From On-Farm Research: Field Crops

Dr. Lee Burras is a professor of agronomy at Iowa State University (ISU). He is interested in soil formation and soil productivity. Much of his recent work has examined the changes in soil profiles resulting from long-term agriculture in Iowa. 

Session: Short Course: The Soils of Iowa

Dr. Cindy Cambardella is a soil scientist with USDA-Agriculture Research Service (ARS) at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, and associate professor of soil science at ISU. Her research interests include understanding how changes in land use and agricultural management impact soil health through effects on carbon accumulation and partitioning in soil; nitrogen-use efficiency; soil microbial activity and metabolic function; and the formation and stabilization of soil aggregates. Session: Alternative Strategies for Building Soil Health and Enhancing Ecosystems
Bruce and Connie Carney are lifetime members of Practical Farmers of Iowa. They operate a diversified, pastured livestock farm near Maxwell, specializing in grass-finished beef. Bruce joined the Cooperators’ Program in 2009, focusing on optimizing forage production and animal gains. Bruce is currently researching cover crop grazing for soil health and grazing for bird habitat.

Session: Short Course section - Alternative Strategies for Building Soil Health & Enhancing Ecosystems

Jordan Clasen operates Grade A Gardens on 10 acres of rented certified organic land. Jordan markets his vegetables, eggs and specialty crops through a CSA and the Downtown Farmers’ Market in Des Moines.

Session: Non-Traditional Methods of Accessing Capital

Tom Cory grew up 3 miles from his home in rural Elkhart. He purchased a farm from his relatives in 1980 just before the farm crisis. His family lives on a Century Farm and their grazing farm is also a Century Farm. Tom taught high school agriculture for many years and Mary home schools their children. 

Session: Balancing Quality of Life and Direct-Marketing by Crunching Numbers

Kent Creager is a regional program Director for Nationwide’s Land As Your Legacy program.

Session: Leaving Your Legacy

Rachel Dahl, a former farm kid, specializes in estate and farm transition planning for Hellmuth & Johnson law firm in Minneapolis.

Session: Estate Planning With Farming and Non-Farming Heirs

Mark Doudlah raises corn, soybeans and wheat on Doudlah Farms, a certified organic farm near Cooksville, Wisconsin. He is currently the fourth generation to farm his family’s land. Mark and his wife, Lucy, have an organic cropping system on 1,750 acres using cover crops. He has integrated 15-inch row spacing in all crops with controlled traffic tram lanes. He was also an early adopter of one-pass no-till and minimum-tillage systems.

Sessions: Doudlah Farms Organics: Why and How We Transitioned to Organic

Cover Crops and Crop Rotations in Organic Systems Without Livestock

Andrew Dunham and his wife, Melissa, operate Grinnell Heritage Farm in Grinnell. He is a fifth-generation farmer, raising 25 acres of organic vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Session: Growing Better Brussels Sprouts

Melissa Dunham and her husband, Andrew, operate Grinnell Heritage Farm in Grinnell. Together they raise 25 acres of certified organic vegetables, herbs and fruit.

Session: Non-Traditional Methods of Accessing Capital

Kate Edwards is a CSA farmer near Iowa City, growing food for 200 families each week of the growing season. Kate is entering her eighth year of farming.

Session: Land Access: Pitfalls and Potential

Kamyar Enshayan was a 2008 recipient of PFI’s Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award; he directs the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy & Environmental Education, and has been a voice for better care of the land we share in Iowa.

Session: Better Food, Farm and Conservation Policies Through Involvement 

Jack Erisman transitioned 2,000 acres into organic production “cold turkey” in 1990. While some might question this method, these are now certified organic acres of food-grade corn, soy and edible beans, as well as oats and seed rye. The farm, near Pana and Assumption, Illinois, has permanent and rotational pastures for 100-plus brood cows and forage-finish beef in a closed herd. Companion seeding, no-till systems and building soil are the practices driving the experiments.

Session: Organic No-till: Soil Health and Regeneration vs. Short-Term Returns and Weeds

Rob Faux and his wife, Tammy, operate Genuine Faux Farm, a small-scale CSA and poultry operation near Tripoli. Since 2009, Rob and Tammy have completed 16 research projects with Practical Farmers.

Session: Learning From On-Farm Research: Horticulture

Meghan Filbert is Practical Farmers’ livestock coordinator. She manages the on-farm livestock research trials and is responsible for planning all the livestock programs – field days, conference sessions and workshops.

Session: Learning From On-Farm Research: Livestock

Sarah Foltz Jordan works as the Xerces Society pollinator conservation specialist for the Great Lakes Region. Based in Minnesota, Sarah also farms organic fruits and vegetables, and is an avid mushroom and plant forager.

Session: Foraging for Market: Morels and Greens

Using Habitat to Increase Beneficial Insects on Fruit and Vegetable Farms

Tom and Irene Frantzen are lifetime members of Practical Farmers of Iowa and have been conducting on-farm research since 1988. They operate an organic crop and livestock farm near New Hampton. The Frantzens have conducted trials to reduce inputs, increase crop yields and feed pigs alternative rations. Tom is currently researching pelleting small grains and feeding hybrid rye instead of corn.

Session: Learning From On-Farm Research: Livestock

Alan Franzluebbers is a research ecologist with USDA-ARS in Raleigh, North Carolina, and professor at North Carolina State University. Recent areas of research are in multi-species cover cropping, agroforestry, integrated crop-livestock systems, nitrogen management and conservation-tillage cropping. Sessions: Soil Health and Grazing – Can They Coexist? -- Soil-Test Biological Activity – A Tool for Soil Health Assessment
Susan Futrell has spent over 30 years working in sustainable food distribution, including more than a decade with apple growers in the Northeast as marketing director for non-profit Red Tomato. Her new book “Good Apples: Behind Every Bite,” digs into the apple industry to better understand how we as citizens and consumers can sustain the farms that provide food for our communities.

Session: Short Course section

Soil-Test Biological Activity

A Tool for Soil Health Assessment

Soil Health and Grazing – Can They Coexist?

Stefan Gailans is Practical Farmers’ research and field crops director. His primary responsibility is to manage the Cooperators’ Program. He also plans field days, conference sessions and workshops for Practical Farmers’ field crops program.

Session: Learning From On-Farm Research: Field Crops

Tony Gallo is a senior physical therapist at Grinnell Regional Medical Center, where he has practiced since 1988. In addition to injury recovery and orthopedic care, he specializes in athletic performance and sports medicine.

Sessions: Physical Strengthening, Recovery and Injury Prevention for Vegetable Farmers

Q&A: Strengthening and Recovery With Tony Gallo

Melissa Garcia is the monitor advocate for the state of Iowa. She works with a team of outreach specialists across the state to supply migrant and seasonal farm workers with information about available employment inside and outside of agriculture. She works with agricultural employers in all stages of the hiring process to fill their seasonal workforce needs.

Session: Q&A: Hiring Migrant and Seasonal Workers and Year-Round Employees

Rachel Gilker earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in agronomy and soil science at the University of Maryland after serving in the Peace Corps in Niger. She spent more than a decade conducting on-farm research with and offering technical assistance to grass farmers in Maryland and Vermont. In 2013, Rachel and Kathy Voth began publishing “On Pasture,” a weekly online magazine. The publication translates research and experience into practices that graziers can implement immediately.

Sessions: Separating Science From Pseudoscience

Q&A with Kathy Voth and Rachel Gilker

Gary Guthrie, “The Carrot King,” has farmed fresh vegetables at Growing Harmony Farm near Nevada for more than 20 years. A lifetime member of Practical Farmers of Iowa, he has been active in hosting conservation- and production-focused field days. Gary works with his tenant, Danny Harrison, to care for his rented farmland.

Sessions: Developing Relationships to Implement Conservation on Rented Cropland

Landowners: Are Weed-Free Fields the Best Your Farm Can Be?

Danny Harrison started farming in 1976 on his family operation near Nevada. He raises corn, hard red winter wheat and soybeans. Danny has years of experience in no-till production and started using cover crops about five years ago. He rents land from his neighbor, Gary Guthrie. 

Session: Developing Relationships to Implement Conservation on Rented Cropland

Rick Hartmann runs Small Potatoes Farm, a certified organic vegetable farm near Minburn, with his wife, Stacy. From 2004 until 2017, they raised vegetables, primarily marketed through a successful CSA in the Ames-Des Moines corridor. Rick also works as an inspector for various accredited organic certifying agencies.

Session: Non-Traditional Methods of Accessing Capital

Bob Hartzler is an agronomy professor at ISU. His primary responsibilities are weed science extension and teaching. A native of Indiana, Dr. Hartzler has been with ISU Extension since 1982.
Session: Off-Target Movement: Can Herbicides Be Kept in Place?

Bonnie and Vance Haugen are PFI members from Springside Farm in Canton, Minnesota.

Session: Estate Planning With Farming and Non-Farming Heirs

Mike Helland operates a Heritage Farm in Huxley that has been in his family since 1861. He has no-tilled beans for 23 years, one-tills his corn and integrates livestock on the farm. Last year he raised 500 acres of cereal rye for pasture and hay for cattle.

Sessions: Developing Relationships to Implement Conservation on Rented Cropland 

Landowners: Are Weed-Free Fields the Best Your Farm Can Be?

Chad Hensley and his wife, Katie, raise cut flowers on 1.5 acres. They specialize in heirloom, open-pollinated and specialty crops. In 2016, they added beef cattle to their farm located near Lamoni.

Session: Traditional Methods of Accessing Capital

Mitchell Hora is a southeast Iowa farmer and a recent graduate of Iowa State University.  He started Continuum Ag in the fall of 2015 as a consulting and data management company, focused on soil health.  Today, Continuum Ag works with farmers, consultants and agribusinesses around the world to advance sustainable agriculture by quantifying and improving soil health.

Session: Soil Health: Continuous Testing, Continual Learning

Whilden Hughes works on his family’s parallel production (organic and conventional) farm in Rock County, Wisconsin. He and his family grow corn, soybeans, wheat, rye, oats, vegetable crops, sweet corn, green beans, lima beans and other specialty crops for niche markets. In addition to his love for farming, he is also passionate about being a good steward of the land and learning about new technologies for the farm.

Session: Pragmatic Approaches to Sustainability and Profitability

Brandi Janssen is a researcher and advocate for local food systems, as well as the director of Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH). She is the author of “Making Local Food Work: The Challenges and Opportunities of Today's Small Farmers,” a book that uncovers the complex realities of building a healthy local food system.

Session: Iowa Author Panel: Reviving Culture in Agriculture

Angela and Jason Johnson own and operate Lucky George Farm near Derby, a diversified livestock farm specializing in the conservation of Large Black pigs and other British-breed livestock. The Johnsons are the only American members of the British Pig Association and have extensive hands-on experience raising livestock guardian dogs for low-impact farmers across the U.S. Dogs born at Lucky George Farm now live on farms across the U.S., and throughout their home state of Iowa.

Session: Livestock Guard Dogs 101

Anna Johnson is a policy program associate at the Center for Rural Affairs, where she empowers farmers and rural community members to play an active role in shaping policy issues related to farming and conservation.

Session: Better Food, Farm and Conservation Policies Through Involvement

Emma and Marcus Johnson own and operate Buffalo Ridge Orchard in Central City, with Emma's parents, Mary and Vernon Zahradnik. The 80-acre farm has 5 acres of diversified vegetables and 13 acres of orchard, including 3,600 apple trees consisting of 50 new and classic varieties.

Session: Managing a Young and Growing Orchard

Michael Kilpatrick and his brother, Philip, started Kilpatrick Family Farm in Middle Granville, New York, in 2005. They grew the farm to over 500 acres, with 15 acres in field vegetable production rotated on 50 tillable acres; 100 acres of pasture for layers, broilers and turkeys; and 350 acres of woodlot. Products were sold to a 250-member CSA, farmers markets, co-ops, restaurants, institutional buyers and wholesale. The farm pushed the boundaries in winter production and season extension, and created a highly profitable business model. In 2015, Michael and his family moved to Ohio, where Michael directs his passion for farming toward helping other farmers become more efficient, productive, sustainable and profitable. 

Sessions: Field Preparation, Cultivation and Fertility

Winter Vegetable Production

GAP, FSMA and Post-Harvest Handling for Food Safety 

Pack Shed and Post-Harvest Efficiency

Liz Kolbe is the horticulture coordinator for Practical Farmers of Iowa. Her work includes facilitating the fruit and vegetable research in the Cooperators’ Program, and planning field days, workshops and conference sessions.

Session: Learning From On-Farm Research: Horticulture

Laura Krouse manages 72 acres near Mt. Vernon where she grows vegetables, oats, hay and cover crops, and also operates Abbe Hills Farm CSA.

Session: Alternative Models and the Future of CSAs

Donald Lewis is a professor and extension entomologist with ISU. He is responsible for outreach education on insect pest management in fruits, vegetables, turfgrass, trees and shrubs, and households.

Session: Ecology and Management of Iowa’s Common Vegetable Insect Pests

Ryan Marquardt and his wife Janice own Wild Rose Pastures near Van Meter. They raise chicken, turkey, beef, and eggs for Central Iowa customers using sustainable practices.

Session: Livestock Insurance: Identifying Risks and Risk Management Tools

Marshall McDaniel is an assistant professor in soil-plant interactions at ISU. Soils and plants are in a give-and-take relationship with carbon and nutrients. The McDaniel Research Group studies how this relationship is affected by management and the environment to seek an understanding of what enhances soil-plant synergy, soil health and agroecosystem sustainability.

Session: Using Tea Bags to Assess Soil: A Low-Cost Approach?

Danelle Myer is the fifth generation to farm her family's land near Logan. At One Farm, Danelle raises vegetables for farmers markets, pop-up farm stands, online ordering, and restaurants and wholesale in Omaha and Des Moines. She also offers a mixed vegetable box customers can order weekly that she calls “One Box.”

Session: Alternative Models and the Future of CSAs

Ajay Nair is an assistant professor at ISU working on sustainable vegetable production.

Session: Growing Better Brussels Sprouts

Brett Olson is co-founder and creative director at Renewing the Countryside. His work focuses on local food systems, entrepreneurship and community development in rural areas. Brett helps design and develop programming on issues including farm transitions, farmland access, sustainable tourism and farm-to-table.

Session: Land Access: Pitfalls and Potential

Bob Owen, with his parents, Bill and Karen Owen, operate North Iowa Boar Stud in Riceville. Bob comes from a long line of swine breeders; his family started breeding Durocs in the 1930s. He's the owner of a 15-head purebred sow herd, and produces replacement breeding stock. Bob also works part-time for James Frantzen at Riverside Feeds.

Session: Swine Genetics Made Easy

Randy Peterson is a product specialist with Agco Corp. He focuses on Fendt and Massey Ferguson tractors, Sunflower tillage tools and White planters. Randy has been in the business almost 40 years servicing areas of Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa and southeast Minnesota.

Session: Making Your Planter Ready for Next Year

Alejandro Plastina is an assistant professor and extension economist at ISU. His area of specialization is agricultural production and technology, with an emphasis on farm business and financial management.

Session: An Economic Evaluation of Cover Crops in Midwestern Agriculture

Jenny Quiner started Dogpatch Urban Gardens in the fall of 2015 with the help of her husband, Eric. They farm a small-scale market garden growing produce naturally with organic principles and sustainable methods on a quarter-acre within the Des Moines city limits.

Session: Traditional Methods of Accessing Capital

Bob Recker grew up on a farm in eastern Iowa and worked as a product engineer at John Deere until his retirement in 2008. He formed Cedar Valley Innovation LLC to “pay back” the farmers of the world for supporting him and his family for 41 years at John Deere. He uses his own modified equipment to conduct test plots and experiments on commercial growers’ farms, with a focus on high-resolution yield data and heavy use of aerial and in-field imagery.

Session: More Sunlight to Corn = Space for Cover, Companion and Cash Crops

Jordan Scheibel raises vegetables at Middle Way Farm in Grinnell. He sells through a traditional and a customizable CSA, at farmers markets and through Iowa Food Cooperative. He also offers limited wholesale items to a few Grinnell restaurants and grocery stores, and through FarmTable Delivery.

Session: Alternative Models and the Future of CSAs

Rodney Sebastian grew up on a farm near Spencer, Iowa and has worked with USDA for more than 30 years working for the Agricultural Marketing Service in Dairy Programs and the last 15 years with the Risk Management Agency.

Session: Livestock Insurance: Identifying Risks and Risk Management Tools

Joe Sellers is the livestock field specialist for ISU, specializing in beef production.

Session: Expanding Operations to Add Beef Cattle

Erik Sessions operates Patchwork Green Farm in Decorah, where he raises vegetables. He uses a market CSA, and also sells at farmers markets, to restaurants and through Oneota Co-op.

Session: Alternative Models and the Future of CSAs

Ashley Shafer is a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley and has more than a decade of charitable and estate planning experience.

Session: Leaving Your Legacy

Tim Sieren, and his wife, Ethel, run Green Iron Farms, a diversified crop and livestock farm near Keota. Since joining the Cooperators’ Program in 2013, Tim has been conducting trials on cover crops, green manures and small grains.

Session: Learning From On-Farm Research: Field Crops

Rena Striegel, of Transition Point Business Advisors, is an internationally recognized business coach and consultant with more than 20 years of experience working directly with farmers to identify and implement strategies that create growth and profitability. Rena grew up on a dairy and hog farm in What Cheer.

Sessions: Risk and Conflict in Family Farm Businesses

How to Talk to Your Family About Succession Planning

Joe Sutton is the sales and import manager at Sutton Agricultural Enterprises in Salinas, California. Joe and Sutton Ag have worked for years with European equipment manufacturers to bring cut - ting-edge farm equipment technology to the U.S. market.

Session: Innovations in Weed Control

Mary Swander is the poet laureate of Iowa, the artistic director of Swander Woman Productions and the executive director of AgArts, a non-profit designed to imagine and promote healthy food systems through the arts. Among her works is “Map of My Kingdom,” a play commissioned by Practical Farmers of Iowa that tackles the critical issue of land transition.

Session: Iowa Author Panel: Reviving Culture in Agriculture

Lee Tesdell farms near Slater on a Century Farm that has been in his family since 1884. On a small scale, he raises cross-bred sheep and layer hens. Lee participates in the Conservation Reserve Program, Regional Conservation Partnership Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. He rents his crop ground to Mike Helland.

Sessions: Developing Relationships to Implement Conservation on Rented Cropland

Landowners: Are Weed-Free Fields the Best Your Farm Can Be?

Rory Van Wyk grew up on a small, diverse livestock farm. He and his wife, Lynette, are working to teach daughters, Annika and Emma, to be good stewards of their 40 acres.

Session: Traditional Methods of Accessing Capital

Kathy Voth is best known for using animal behavior principles to develop a method of teaching cows (and other livestock) to eat weeds, reducing costs and increasing forage for farmers and ranchers. Her background includes 12 years with the Bureau of Land Management working with ranchers, university researchers and agency staff to develop solutions that help communities live sustainably in their environment. With Rachel Gilker, she publishes “On Pasture,” a weekly online grazing magazine serving 100,000 readers a month.

Sessions: Separating Science From Pseudoscience

Q&A with Kathy Voth and Rachel Gilker

Teaching Livestock to Eat Weeds

Matthew and Lori Wiese own and operate Heirloom Farm near Earlham. Since 2015, they have been raising vegetables for their CSA members, as well as producing eggs and broiler chickens that they sell directly to consumers.

Session: Expanding Operations to Add Beef Cattle

Dan and Lorna Wilson of Paulina, farm with two sons, one daughter and two daughters-in-law. They are previous winners of Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award.

Sessions: Risk and Conflict in Family Farm Businesses 

How to Talk to Your Family About Succession Planning