I N T H I S I S S U E
1-5^ Winter Workshops
5^ Winter Workshops Listing
6^ Shared Visions
6^ Networking Meeting Jan. 3
7^ Community Groups Timeline
7^ Two New Projects Approved
7^ Observations about Groups
8^ CHARM Group
- Irene Frantzen
9^ Farms Forever County Bounty
- Kathy Dice
10^ New Partnerships Reviewed
- Rick Exner
11^ Veggie Farmers Weed Control
- Mark Runquist
12^ Notes and Notices
- Skills Needed at Workshops
- Women's Gathering Date Changed
- Mississippi Pollution
- NSAS on the Web
- Hay Price Sources
- Salatin in Audubon
- Brix and Leafhoppers
13^ Take Stock PFI Fund-raiser
14^ PFI Sustainable Projects 1997
14^ Membership Update
- Rick Exner
17^ Rollin' the Cob
18^ Using Study Circles
- Heidi Carter
19^ Freedom to Farm Enviro. Effects
- Rick Exner
20^ Warm-Season Grass Utilization
- Rick Exner
21^ IFGC Annual Meeting Report
- Rick Exner
22^ Prairie Rebirth through Grazing
- David Zahrt
24^ Smoking Then, Pesticides Now
- Kamyar Enshayan
26^ Footprints of a Grass Farmer
- Tom Frantzen
27^ From the Kitchen
- Marj Stonecypher
28^ Correspondence to the PFI Board
29^ PFI Membership Application and Renewal Form
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1^ LAURA'S LEAN BEEF FOUNDER WILL KEYNOTE
WINTER WORKSHOPS JAN. 4, IN AMES
When Laura Freeman returned to her family's seventh-generation
Kentucky farm in 1982, she probably had no idea that 14 years
later she would be president of an enterprise doing $30 million
in sales annually. She went home to Winchester, Kentucky, to
continue in the family cattle business after graduating from Yale
University and working as a journalist. Things began to change
for Freeman when she began paying more attention to her own food.
"Like many dieters, I cut back on red meat," she said. "That
didn't seem quite right, since I was raising beef cattle."
Freeman's research into cattle breeds and feeding methods led to
Laura's Lean Beefr.
Laura Freeman will be the keynote speaker January 4, in Ames, at
the Practical Farmers of Iowa annual meeting. Her message is
entitled Sustainable Family Farming. Marketing is a theme that
will run through Freeman's presentation and other sessions as
well. This year's meeting will include workshops, producer
posters, a Friday night dance, and even foods grown and marketed
by Iowa farmers.
About 50 "lean and light" beef companies were founded in the
1980s. Laura's Lean Beef is one of the few of those to survive.
Freeman credits the "all natural" approach. "Instead of
artificially creating beef that was lower in fat by adding water
and salt or even seaweed and other fillers, we experimented with
'gourmet' cattle breeds like Limousin, Simmental, and Charolais
and looked at feeding practices to produce beef that was
"We also became interested in the bigger issue of sustainable
farming versus industrial cattle-raising methods. As a family
farmer, it bothered me to see agriculture moving to bigger and
bigger industrial-farm operations. I became concerned about the
widespread use of antibiotics and growth hormones. And the more
I studied the subject, the more convinced I became that natural
farming methods, not chemicals, were the best way to farm."
In Freeman's home state of Kentucky, farmers are increasingly
looking for economically viable alternatives to tobacco. Freeman
believes lean beef offers opportunities for tobacco farmers to
produce a health-positive product and operate profitably. She
has been instrumental in the Kentucky-based Community Farm
Alliance's efforts to replace tobacco with alternative crops
ranging from cattle to organic cotton. She is also involved
nationally in the natural foods consumer movement and is an
active board member of the organization Mothers and Others for a
Livable Planet. Laura's Lean Beef steaks and roasts were the
first red meat products approved by the American Heart
Association's Food Certification Program.
Today, the company has a staff of 45, including three regional
cattle buyers working with a network of more than 100 farms in
the Midwest and Southeast. Freeman maintains that the family
farm is still at the heart of the company's operation. "We
realize that it's more expensive for farmers to produce cattle to
our specifications, so we pay a premium over market price," she
said. "Quality, not quantity, is the key to economic survival
for America's family farms." And although Laura's Lean Beef
products are now in over 1,300 stores, the heart of the marketing
remains direct communication with consumers. "We started our
marketing list in 1985," said Freeman. "Today it contains over
Bill Burrows Brings Holistic Management Perspective
Bill Burrows teaches at Shasta College, in Redding California
and, with his wife Kay, runs a 3,500-acre cattle and game ranch.
He brings a holistic management outlook to both teaching and
ranching. Burrows has made a student-run farm known as the
Holistic Resource Laboratory into a working classroom for
teaching principles of Holistic Resource Management.
But Burrows says a holistic approach can apply to more than
grazing systems. Holistic management in its broadest sense is a
planning tool that has applications in education, business, and
other areas of life. It is a way for people to discover what
they really want to accomplish and then develop ways to reach
Bill Burrows' visit to Ames will focus on the holistic management
planning process. On Friday, Jan. 3, he will meet with a group
of Iowa State students and teachers who are interested in
developing a student farm to teach principles of sustainable
agriculture. Friday evening, Burrows will be at the Ames
Starlite Best Western for informal discussions with PFI members
about HRM. On Saturday, Jan. 4, at the PFI meeting, Bill Burrows
will lead a workshop titled Marketing your Quality of Life Goals.
The workshop will provide people an excellent opportunity to
"walk through" ideas (like marketing) in terms of their core
values and resources.
Kansas Flint Hills Ranchers Create a Market for Grass-Fed Beef
A group of Kansas Flint Hills ranchers has taken the next step in
marketing - they have formed the Tallgrass Prairie Producers
Co-op to find strength in numbers. Their product is lean,
tender, grass-finished beef, which the cooperative markets as
Tallgrass BeefT. Representatives from the co-op will share
Earl Wright is the co-op's market coordinator. Annie Wilson is
chairperson of the co-op and ranches with her husband. She is a
former lawyer and teacher and now staffs the beef co-op office in
her home. They have learned that as important as issues of
quality, consistency, and supply are, the foundation is the
people in the group and how they work together. Keeping the
personal "chemistry" good and making the most of personality
differences are key to success. Earl and Annie will discuss
these topics with PFI members at the winter meeting.
Farming Systems Also on the Program
The concept of "system" is heard more and more in agricultural
circles, from Holistic Resource Management to the "whole-farm
planning" of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Producers are interested in systems because the farm is the
meeting place of all the components - livestock, crops,
environment, family, and economy - that make it a system. Yet
systems are the most difficult things to evaluate. The PFI
winter meeting will present two outstanding examples of projects
in the Midwest that are attempting to do just that.
The Biological, Social, and Financial Monitoring Team consists of
southeast Minnesota farmers and scientists from the University of
Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the
Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and other agencies. The
project was initiated by producers through the Land Stewardship
Project with the goal of discovering the indicators - biological,
social and financial - of sustainability. In other words, they
wanted to answer the question, "How do we know if we're
The team is studying everything from soil to stream quality and
bird counts. The first published findings come from agricultural
economist Richard Levins, with Monitoring Sustainable Agriculture
with Conventional Financial Data. Levins proposes four easily
calculated indicators that, in addition to farm profits, give a
good reading of a farm's sustainability. He will describe this
approach, and team member Mike Rupprecht will provide examples
from his own farm. Mike operates a 250-acre diversified farm
near Lewiston, Minnesota. He grazes a cow-calf beef herd, while
most other producers in the project are dairy farming.
Soil Quality, Systems Research
Studying farming systems is a real challenge. There are so many
factors, so many interactions to consider. And to do research on
systems, you have to get out of the laboratory and work with the
producers who know those systems from the inside. The Midwest
has at least two ambitious "systems research" projects going on:
the Biomonitoring Project (described above) and the Illinois Soil
Quality Initiative (see PFI spring, 1996 newsletter).
Representatives from these two efforts will sit down together in
a workshop to describe how they are approaching systems research
and to discuss related topics with PFI members.
Pre-Register for Youth Activities
Youth activities are being coordinated by Robert (Barney)
Bahrenfuse. Parents planning to bring children must pre-register
their children by contacting Barney ahead of time at 515-236-4566
or returning the form below. There will be a $5-per-child charge
payable to Barney at the meeting to cover activity expenses.
Bring a Poster!
Producer posters were one of the most popular parts of the annual
meeting last year. Again the call goes out to any and all, young
and old. Bring a poster and join the PFI cooperators and
Sustainable Projects participants on the walls! Pre-register
your poster by calling the PFI coordinators at 515-294-1923 or
returning the form below by Dec. 25. You will receive a simple
guide sheet for designing and constructing your poster.
Friday Night Community Dance!
In some parts of the Midwest, the Friday night dance is still a
tradition. The Pretty Good Band will bring back those two-steps,
waltzes, contras and schottisches with gusto. Come with your
family! Come unattached! Caller Lonna Nachtigal will teach every
5^ WINTER WORKSHOPS LISTING
Kansas Flint Hills Ranchers Create a Market for Grass-Fed Beef:
Earl Wright and Annie Wilson of the Tallgrass Prairie Producers
Co-op, Ron Rosmann moderator
You have taken the first steps - you produce a good product, you
have begun some direct sales. But certain doors seem closed
because you don't have the volume, consistent supply, or
facilities to reach more consumers. Is cooperation with other
producers the answer? What does it take to keep people working
together? Producers in Kansas formed the Tallgrass Prairie
Producers Co-op to market grass-finished beef in 1995. Market
coordinator Earl Wright and farmer Annie Wilson will tell what
they have learned.
Monitoring Sustainable Agriculture with Conventional Financial
Data: Dick Levins, Mike Rupprecht, Doug Alert moderator
A farmer-scientist project known as the Biomonitoring Team is
studying how to measure sustainability in southeast Minnesota.
Team member and agricultural economist Dick Levins has summarized
his work with the project in Monitoring Sustainable Agriculture
with Conventional Financial Data, which lays out four simple
indicators that, along with profits, provide a reading on an
operation's sustainability. Levins will describe his approach
and Mike Rupprecht, a beef producer and team member from near
Lewiston, will provide examples from his own farm.
Marketing Your Quality of Life Goals: Bill Burrows, Steve Weis &
Tom Frantzen moderators
Confused by all this talk about what farmers must do or must not
do as we enter the 21st Century? How do you find the path that's
right for you? Bill Burrows, a teacher and Holistic Management
educator from Redding California, helps people choose actions
that realize their fundamental values. What's the market value
of your quality of life?
New Co-ops, New Possibilities: Larry Kallem
Iowa law recently authorized cooperatives organized in new ways.
The change is expected to stimulate value-added processing and
other cooperative ventures. What does this mean to PFI members?
Larry Kallem is executive director of the Iowa Institute for
Cooperatives and is involved with producers around the state who
are considering the new options. Larry will describe what has
been done in states that have had the law longer than Iowa, and
he will lead discussion of its potential here.
CSAs and Direct Marketing:
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs are a great
way to make community-based connections between farmers and
consumers. Representatives of several Iowa CSAs and a new effort
to assist CSAs in Iowa will share lessons and offer tips to
anyone who might want to start a CSA for their community.
Systems Research - What Is It, and How Do You Do It?: Michelle
Wander and Allen Williams (Illinois Soil Quality Initiative),
Mike Rupprecht and Jay Dorsey (Biomonitoring Team), Don Davidson
OK, you know how to run a replicated, on-farm trial evaluating
specific farming practices. How do you get answers to questions
on a higher level of complexity? Farmers and scientists from two
systems research projects in the Midwest will talk about the
challenges and rewards and discuss with PFI members why systems
approaches are needed.
Fools Rush In - Running a Value-Added, Farm-Based Business: Laura
Freeman, Laura Krouse, Jane Woodhouse, Susan Zacharakis-Jutz,
Are you looking around your farm and wondering about ways to add
value to what you produce? How does someone decide what's the
right product based on their resources, location, skills, and
personality? These rural entrepreneurs will share their
experiences, tell what keeps them going, and describe the effects
on families and friends.
What's Ahead for Practical Farmers of Iowa? PFI Executive Vice
President Richard Thompson, PFI Shared Visions Director Gary
PFI is in its twelfth year. Its history of steady growth and
evolution includes eleven years of the newsletter, ten years of
on-farm research, three years of community-based groups, national
awards and recognition for the organization's collaboration with
Iowa State University. PFI is now at a crossroads, with present
sources of funding expiring. Learn what the PFI Board, staff,
and individual members are doing to address the situation, how
you will be affected, and how you may help.
Alternative Hog Production Systems: Colin Wilson, Homer Showman,
Vic Madsen moderator
In 1996, Iowa farmers were reminded that there's more than one
way to raise a pig! In February, ISU hosted a very successful
producer meeting on alternative hog production systems. All
year, low-investment hoophouse finishing units have been
springing up around the state. In August, Colin and Dan Wilson
and their families inaugurated the first unit in Iowa designed
for Swedish-style hog production. Homer Showman finishes about
3,000 hogs per year in six hoophouse structures. He also raises
hogs in total confinement and in Cargill units. Homer keeps
close track of feed use, and he has figures comparing feed
efficiency in the deep-bedded hoop system and his other
Registration for Children's Activities and Posters (Return
by Dec. 25, please print)
City _________________________ State ______
Zip ______________ Phone ____________________
Children's Activities: ______ no. children X $5.00 per child
(Bring along with your kids.) =_$_________
name(s) and ages of children:
Posters: ______ yes, I will bring a poster. Topic:
Return this form to: PFI, 2104 Agronomy, Iowa State University,
Ames, IA 50011.
For more information call: Rick Exner or Gary Huber (515)
6^ SHARED VISIONS
Annual Group Networking Meeting Set for Jan. 3rd
The agenda for the Jan. 3rd networking meeting of groups involved
in Shared Visions is set (see below) and invitations have been
sent. All group members are welcome to attend.
This meeting will be an opportunity for groups to learn from each
other and two people we've lined up to help. One of these is
Peter Reese of Elko, MN. Reese was employed in marketing and
advertising in the Twin Cities before he began farming. He has
since been involved in various entrepreneurial activities,
including the creation of a lean pork product called ChopShop
Premium Pork. He consults widely with various organizations and
is a highly recommended speaker. He has also written several
books, including "The Agri-Preneur's Prosperity Manual: How to
Survive and Profit in the New Economy and Rediscover the Joy of
The other person is Clair Hein, a community development
consultant from Waterloo with over twenty-five years experience
helping groups achieve their goals. Clair helped design a method
to help groups be productive that is based on something known as
the Human Action Model. This model can help groups identify
areas needing attention as they work to set goals and carry out
actions to achieve their hopes and dreams.
Group members are encouraged to return the registration forms
they received in the mail if they plan to attend. Members should
also plan to stay over for the PFI winter conference and
workshops the next day.
6^ Agenda, Shared Visions Group Networking Meeting
January 3, 1997
Starlite Best Western - Ames, Iowa
9:00-10:00 amRegistration/Poster Set-up
10:00-10:30 amWelcome, Introduction of Group
Members, Overview of Day
10:30-11:30 amKeynote: Sustaining Action
for Ag-Based Entrepreneurship - Peter Reese
11:30-12:30 pmSustaining Impact: Building on
Your Effectiveness, Renewing Your Vision - Peter Reese
1:15-1:45 pmIntroductions of Group Posters -
1:45-2:30 pmGroup Poster Session - Celebrating Success
2:30-5:00 pmSustaining Leadership for
Community Groups - Clair Hein
5:00-7:30 pmBreak/Dinner on Your Own
7:30 -10:30 pmEntertainment and Community Dance
- The Pretty Good Band (Traditional American Music)
7^ Community Groups Timeline
Given that with current funding, Shared Visions as it now exists
will end in 1997, groups involved need to be aware of some dates.
February 15, 1997 -Project Reports and Final Project
March 1, 1997 - Decisions on Final Project Appli-cations
June 30, 1997 - End of Full Staff Support from Shared
Summer 1997 - Group-to-Group Networking Possibilities
November 30, 1997 - Final Project Reports Due
December 31, 1997 - Scheduled End of Shared Visions
7^ Two New Group Projects Approved
The Cattle-Feeders Community Alliance from Pocahontas County and
Total Resource Management Services from Carroll County had new
projects approved for funding this fall, bringing the total
number of approved projects to twenty-one. The total amount of
funding received so far by all groups for projects is $41,851.
The Cattle-Feeders received $2,775 to develop a model
cattle-feeding program. The basic concept of the project is to
create a network among cow-calf producers, cattle-feeders,
lenders, packers, and investors to produce superior quality beef
and share the benefits of this quality among the participants.
Total Resource Management Services received $3,750 to examine
whether manure brokering is a feasible, cost-effective, and
environmentally-sound system for using this source of nutrients
for local crop production.
As a condition for approval, the group will also design and
conduct an education program on alternative hog production
systems such as hoop house structures, Swedish-style farrowing
facilities, and pasture-based systems for rearing and raising
hogs. Funds for this educational effort will come from project
funds the group has yet to access.
7^ Some Observations about Groups Involved in Shared Visions
Sixteen groups have been involved. Five existed prior to
Shared Visions and eleven formed as a result of Shared Visions.
All five pre-existing groups and seven of the eleven new
groups had focuses before becoming involved. Only four groups
did not have focuses when they became involved.
Of the 192 members of the fourteen groups currently involved,
49% are farmers and 51% are non-farmers. (Pie chart available
for download as "Occupatn.tif" graphics file.)
8^ Shared Visions - Charm Group
by Irene Frantzen
Our CHARM group appreciated the opportunity of meeting and
working with Roland Kroos from Montana, who is an educated
trainer in Holistic Management.
For two days in September, we gained useful information in a
Our first session night we listed our objectives of the group.
comfortable use of testing guidelines
understanding better how we can help each other
how to integrate planning with whole corporations
how to use financial planning sheets
how to get to holistic goal
how much profit is reasonable? accomplishable?
how do we balance, integrate planning for profit with
landscape part of goal?
develop a mutual understanding of financial planning process
we don't plan or like to, how do we do it?
get comfortable with work load
how do we plan for profit with new enterprise?
positive ways to assist each other
We also discussed testing guidelines.
Our second day, we hit it hard and worked on financial planning.
Roland helped our group get on track, and after a 2-day session
with him, it helped us realize we need to address some other
concerns within our group. We need to work on personal
development, communication skills, and time management. This
will help us face other challenges, and be more useful to one
Individually we need to keep working on our financial records,
while as a team, we need to work on ideas, principles, and
9^ Farms Forever's County Bounty
by Kathy Dice
At a December 1995 meeting of Farms Forever, member Shawn
Dettmann made a suggestion that we publish a brochure listing
where people could get a side of beef, fresh eggs or vegetables
locally. This suggestion turned into the County Bounty
The directory was meant to connect local gardeners, farmers,
ranchers, and craft people with possible customers. The brochure
fit neatly into the group's long term goal of setting of a
brokerage to help local people sell their products and the short
term goal of publicizing the group and increasing its membership.
The Shared Visions Program granted up to $915 for the project,
and by February we were sending out news releases to the public.
The news media did a few follow up stories, commenting that it
sounded like a neat project, but response from people wishing to
place a free ad was dismal.
We delayed deadlines for placing ads to April 30, and by early
May we had 17 producers/crafters listed (5 of whom were group
members). We encountered more delays as we tried to get the
layout "bi-color photo ready" for the printer and choose an
But at long last the directory, the beautiful, very professional
looking directory, was ready for distribution in early June.
Members chipped in by distributing it to banks, libraries, beauty
parlors, etc. as news releases were sent out informing the public
where to look for it and what to expect.
We received constant comments such as "What a great idea!," "How
helpful," and "I didn't know we had so many different products in
this area." A map of the county showing producers' locations and
an index listing what items were available all added to its
But it didn't seem to increase the customer base for our
advertisers at all. An informal survey of people listed showed
they believed they received two or less calls as a result of the
brochure two months after it was first distributed. To say the
least the group was disappointed about the response and plans for
a '97 version are on hold.
The group will be reprinting the brochure in its entirety in a
full page ad in a local paper that has county wide distribution.
We hope this will generate a little more interest. We will also
do a more formal phone survey to find the satisfaction and
interest level of producers who participated this past year.
One thing for sure, this project has truly helped our group
realized the scope of our goal for a brokerage service in this
area. We are currently reevaluating that goal.
10^ NEW PARTNERSHIPS FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE -- A REVIEW
If you are find yourself suffering from cabin fever this winter,
check out this little book from the PFI library. New
Partnerships for Sustainable Agriculture, just published by the
World Resources Institute, will give you the equivalent of a
four-continent sustainable agriculture study tour - without the
mosquitos. A little bit of the territory may look familiar,
because Practical Farmers of Iowa is one of the book's nine case
studies. PFI member Jeff Olson, Mt. Pleasant, traveled to
Washington, D.C. in September for ceremonies marking the book's
publication. (For more on PFI's work with the project, see the
Fall, 1995 newsletter.)
Editor Ann Thrupp has pulled together the essentials of
successful sustainable agriculture around the world. These are,
in a nutshell:
* Agro-ecological principles applied to pest, soil, and crop
* People-centered approach, with hands-on participation of
farmers and communities, not passive reception of information
* Partnerships among institutions (e.g., PFI and ISU);
* Policy and political support for alternative practices.
As the book states, "Participatory approaches and collaborative
teamwork have been fundamental to implementing sustainable
The nine case studies form the greater part of this book. You
can read how communities have organized in the African country of
Kenya to trap the tsetse fly, which transmits sleeping sickness
to people and livestock. You can learn how sustainable
agriculture fits in an overall program of grassroots,
community-based empowerment in the Philippines, both in
church-based and government programs. You can read how farmers
and scientists are working together in California and Iowa to
develop profitable farming alternatives. These case studies are
not all sugar coated, either. They lay out the obstacles and
shortcomings as well as the strengths. A critical reader will
appreciate the "reality check."
New Partnerships for a Sustainable Agriculture, Lori Ann Thrupp
(editor), World Resources Institute, 1996, 136 pp.
11^ "CUT 'EM, CHAR 'EM, OR COVER 'EM"
Mark Runquist, Melbourne
(Editor's note: Mark is the bold volunteer who stepped forward
when we needed somebody to keep track of the PFI libraries around
the state. If you would like to see what's in the PFI libraries,
see last spring's newsletter or contact Mark at 515-482-3185,
2860 Knapp Ave., Melbourne, IA, 50162.)
If you like to tinker and experiment and like to see what others
have come up with, the PFI Library has a new video that shows
nine farmers and their weed control machines. Some machines cut
the weeds off, others bury the weeds, some burn the weeds, and
others use a combination of these methods.
Vegetable Farmers and Their Weed-Control Machines shows nine New
England vegetable farmers demonstrating their cultivation set
ups. Most of the farmers raise from 20-60 acres of vegetables,
some certified organic, others not organic, but still wanting to
reduce the amount of herbicides they use.
The video shows on-farm talks with the farmers about their
operation, soil types, and kinds of equipment, and a
demonstration as well. There's footage on traditional sweeps and
basket weeders along with custom built flame weeders and other
cultivators designed for special uses like weeding near the edges
of plantings done in black plastic.
It's a great survey of cultivation techniques and an example of
the variations of equipment needed for different crops, soil
types and weather that make each farm unique in its
weed-destroying needs and solutions. Even though all outdoor
vegetation is long gone and dead, you know all those weed seeds
are nestled comfortably in the soil, just waiting for the warm
springtime rains and sunshine. It's a good time of year to start
thinking about making emergence as uncomfortable as possible for
them next spring.
12^ NOTES AND NOTICES
Your Skills Needed at the Winter Workshops
If you are good working with kids, or you own a camcorder and
would be willing to videotape a workshop or two at the winter
meeting, then you are needed! Members are also needed to help
with registration, arranging for local food at the meeting, the
producer poster session, and other events. If you would like to
lend a hand, please contact Cindy Madsen, at 712-563-3044.
Date Changed for PFI Women's Gathering
The date for the next winter women's gathering has been changed
to the weekend of March 1-2, 1997. More information will be
announced at the PFI annual meeting, Jan. 3-4.
Mississippi River Named Most Polluted
(Editors' note: The following article appeared in the fall, 1996
newsletter of the Mississippi River Basin Alliance.)
In a report released in September, the Mississippi River ranks
first in the nation as the most polluted river. Of the 1.5
billion pounds of toxics reported discharged directly to all U.S.
waters between 1990 and 1994, close to half (702 hundred million
pounds) went directly into the Mississippi. The report,
Dishonorable Discharge, also used U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) data to estimate, for the first time, untreated
toxic discharges through sewage treatment plants (STPs). It
assigned an additional 79 million pounds (1) of toxics entering
the Mississippi River after going through STPs.
(1) This figure is based on an EPA estimate that 25% of all
toxic discharges to STPs pass through untreated.
The report is the first waterway-by-waterway and toxin-by-toxin
analysis of data from the federal Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).
The TRI is an industry-generated estimate of facility discharges
and only requires reporting for 5% of all chemicals (340 out of
over 73,000 used commercially in the U.S.) The report was
authored by the Environmental Working Group and the U.S. Public
Interest Research Group, two Washington-based environmental
advocacy groups. Despite the high levels of toxic pollution
recorded by the TRI, over 90% of dischargers are exempt from
reporting. Exempt facilities include sewage treatment plants,
mines, utilities and municipal incinerators.
NSAS on the Web
The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society now has a site on
the Worldwide Web. You can find the NSAS newsletter and
calendar, descriptions of the groups participating in the IMPACT
Project, listings of sustainable ag resources, and more. Turn
your browser to http://www.netins.net/showcase/nsas/ and you will
see the welcoming screen below.
Another Internet Resource - Hay Prices
ISU forages specialist Steve Barnhart passed along this
information about hay prices. The Internet address
http://www.iol.ie/~jrd/hay gives a state-by-state rundown of hay
prices compiled my Morgan Research, in Kansas. You can even get
hay prices in Australia. We found the Iowa information was
limited to some Shelby County prices. Minnesota, Wisconsin, and
Missouri were slim pickin's too, but the Nebraska page contained
prices from all over that state. Morgan Research also makes
available the weekly USDA and state hay market reports, which
give a more comprehensive picture of hay prices and availability.
If you have hay to sell or want to buy, you can also call the Hay
Hotline of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land
Stewardship, at 1-800-383-5079.
Salatin in Audubon
Joel Salatin, grazing expert and direct marketing entrepreneur,
will be in Audubon, Iowa, the evening of Thursday, Feb. 13,
sponsored by the Audubon County Rural Action project. For more
information, contact Donna Bauer, 712-563-2742.
Leaf Sap Brix and Leafhoppers in Vineyards
The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is a
California-based organization that funds research on alternative
and organic farming methods, including one project proposed by
two PFI members. The fall, 1996 newsletter of the OFRF contains
a report by a Dr. Mark Mayse on a California study that compared
plant Brix levels to leafhopper populations on grapes. Brix
refers to the scale used to measure the sugar content of plant
tissue, typically the sap. Iowa is a long way from California,
and grapes largely disappeared from this state in the 1950s,
thanks to 2,4-D. But the idea of a connection between Brix and
bugs is one that you occasionally hear in the Midwest. The
theory is that sucking insects will avoid, or even be killed by,
plants with high sap sugar content.
In the study, the first to systematically test this relationship,
the theory did not stand up. In eight site-years (four vineyards
over two years), there were two responses that, although erratic,
were consistent with the expected relationship of
low-Brix-high-leafhoppers and high-Brix-low-leafhoppers. In the
other six cases the opposite trend was suggested or the
relationship was neutral. The article concludes that the
evidence did not support a relationship between plant sugar
content and infestation levels of leafhoppers. The OFRF can be
contacted at P.O. Box 440, Santa Cruz, CA, 95061 (408-426-6606).
13^ PFI "TAKE STOCK" - FUND-RAISING THAT'S DELICIOUS!
You may be aware that PFI is thinking about financial
sustainability. There is now a functioning Finance Committee,
and one of its first projects is called Take Stock in PFI. The
committee is pursuing several projects and feel it is important
that some of these give PFI members the opportunity to contribute
to fund-raising in a way that is fun and meaningful. The
brochure describing Take Stock was mailed along with this
Take Stock gives both farming and nonfarming PFI members a way to
help PFI while strengthening the connections between consumers
and producers. The concept is simple and based on successful
fund-raisers in Audubon County. If you are a consumer, you can
sponsor, or "donate" the funds to buy a feeder pig or calf for
another PFI member to raise. If you're a farming member, you can
agree to raise one of these donated animals, contributing the
feed and other costs, with the sale proceeds going to Practical
Farmers of Iowa. The program also gives consumers a chance to
know where their food comes from. In many cases, consumers can
arrange with producers to "purchase back" the packaged meat of
their donated animal from a local locker. Even members living in
town can put top-quality, Iowa-grown meat on the table and
support PFI too!
Farmers who have no livestock at all can still take part by
donating the value of a few bushels of grain to PFI. This
concept was used by the Audubon County Hospital Foundation. The
hospital's brochure pointed out that for farmers on accrual
accounting, a significant tax saving could be realized if
ownership of the grain were transferred directly to the hospital.
PFI is not pursuing that approach for the moment, but will supply
information if you would like to talk it over with your financial
Vic Madsen (712-563-3044) and Ted Bauer (712-563-4084), two PFI
members from Audubon, have agreed to coordinate Take Stock. They
will send follow-up letters to anyone who wishes to take part.
Information is also available from the PFI coordinators
14^ PFI SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS IS FOR YOU!
While you're dreaming by the fire this winter, remember PFI.
Sustainable Projects is a program established by Practical
Farmers of Iowa to help Iowans turn dreams into action. The
program makes small grants to Iowans with ideas - ideas for
projects, educational efforts, on-farm trials, and so on. About
the only thing off limits in the program is major input and
equipment purchases (see guidelines on the application form,
Sustainable Projects will accept proposals until Feb. 1, 1997.
(You won't get a reminder before then, so put this application
form somewhere handy!) A committee of PFI members and ISU
collaborators will review these proposals and determine by early
March which ones will be accepted. Since 1990, Sustainable
Projects has approved 41 project proposals from Iowans.
SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS 1997 PROPOSAL FORM
Sustainable Projects is designed to help citizens of Iowa carry
out activities that focus on agriculture and the environment.
Sustainable agriculture has been described as preserving the soil
and water resources as well as the people involved in
agriculture. What could a Sustainable Project be? Maybe you
want to undertake an on-farm trial like those used by the farmer
cooperators in Practical Farmers of Iowa. Maybe you would like
to create a specific program for the local school or FFA that
teaches about the relationship of farming to the environment.
Perhaps you are part of a group that needs some support to have
an educational booth at the county fair. Maybe you could use
some funding to bring your community leaders together on a
related issue. Be creative!
Proposals for up to several hundred dollars will be accepted.
(PFI cooperators, for example, receive up to $400 for an on-farm
trial.) It is legitimate to include in the proposal payment for
your own time. Itemize labor and other costs in the budget you
submit. Large equipment purchases will not be funded; however,
equipment leasing may be used in proposals to defray equipment
In return for funding your Sustainable Project, we ask that you
agree to share both the results and the process that you went
through carrying out the project. That will help us to build on
past experience and share the successes of the program. A
credible "feedback," or reporting plan is one of the criteria on
which proposals will be evaluated! Plan on sharing your project
with a poster or display at the PFI annual meeting.
Projects will be chosen by a committee consisting of PFI members
and board representatives, the PFI coordinators, and
representatives of ISU and the Leopold Center for Sustainable
Agriculture. Proposals for 1997 are due by Feb. 1. Committee
decisions will be announced in early March. Project
reimbursement will be made upon receipt of a final report.
Please return this proposal form to: Practical Farmers of Iowa,
2104 Agronomy Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011.
Please print or type. Use additional paper if needed.
Please include an itemized budget.
Name of Project
Please describe the problem that this project will address and
why there is a need for the project.
Please describe what you will do in the planned project. Be
How will you communicate to the public about the project? What
kind of reporting to Sustainable Projects will you carry out?
What is the amount of money you need to carry out the proposed
project? Please itemize.
14^ MID-YEAR MEMBERSHIP UPDATE
This is the day after Thanksgiving, and I and an ISU student
employee are processing PFI membership renewals. It's too early
to let you know how the fall membership drive is going, but I
thought some readers might like to know where we stand at the
beginning of winter. This is a "mid-year" report, because we are
between our high and low membership seasons. You see, in March
we always lose some people who did not respond to the membership
Figure 1 shows membership before and after that drop-off for the
past several years (Graphic available for download as
"Figure1.tif"). Right now there are 526 members of PFI. If
we have a good winter meeting (and we will!), many members will
renew when they attend, and quite a few new people will join by
attending. We try to make it easy for you to renew, and your
board member will even contact you if all else fails. I
apologize for the confusion on the membership forms this fall.
People who need to renew received forms that said "Please pay
$0." If the accompanying letter (and follow-up card) said you
need to renew, you do need to renew. The form should have said
"$20," because that's the new cost of one year's membership. The
PFI Board of Directors recently increased the membership to
$20/year and $50/three years in order to cover the cost of
printing and mailing your newsletter, field day guide, member
directory, and other direct benefits.
We occasionally have requests for the county-by-county
membership. Figure 2 is the PFI membership map as of today
(Graphic available for downloading as "Figure2.tif"). Use
this along with your 1996 PFI Directory to locate other members
with particular skills and interests. If you are the only PFI
member in your county, you may be feeling a little lonely. On
the plus side, there are now only nine Iowa counties without a
single person who is a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa. If
you could use some extra newsletters to interest others in this
organization, please contact us at 2104 Agronomy Hall, ISU, Ames,
17^ ROLLIN' THE COB
Our cob rollers met again by conference call to prepare for this
newsletter. Margaret Smith farms near Hampton with her husband
Doug Alert, and she's the Extension director for Hardin County.
Tom Frantzen and his wife Irene farm near Alta Vista, in
northeast Iowa. Ron Rosmann farms with his wife Maria near
Harlan, in western Iowa, and Roger Schlitter works with Farm
Credit Services in Osage.
Harvest was not completely over, and the weather was closing in.
Nevertheless, they took the time to roll a few cobs with each
other. Unfortunately, after our call, Roger Schlitter
experienced a family event that prevented him from putting pen to
paper for this issue.
(Editors' note: What the heck is "Rollin' the Cob?" Ron Rosmann
says that's when someone comes into the yard and a discussion
gets going. While you're talking, maybe you've got one foot up
on the bumper of the pickup, or you're tossing sticks for the
dog. If there are a few corncobs lying around, you may
absentmindedly toe them about during the conversation. And that,
says Ron, is "rollin' the cob.")
Our four Rollin' the Cob contributors would like to remind you
that their mailboxes are just waiting for your letter. In the
mean time, they came up with these two items.
"How are you approaching planning for 1997 and beyond?"
Tom: Our family utilizes Holistic Management. Each year we
create a plan for the farm that we hope will produce the quality
of life that we desire. Attention is given to see that our
activities don't conflict with our values.
Ron: Because we are such believers in diversity in our business,
our farm plan has agendas on many different fronts for next year.
First of all, we need to complete our farm shop that we started
in September. As of Nov. 15th, it still needs lights, paint,
heat, work benches, shelves, moving, deciding what to keep and
what not to and many other little details. It will be a pleasure
to work on that in a warm environment this winter. Getting the
basketball hoop and the ping pong table in working order will be
near the top of the list. On the livestock side, we are
cooperatively looking at the feasibility of marketing beef
organically through our Heartland Organic Marketing Coop. We
recently bought four Berkshire boars and plan on participating in
the black pork program that Farmland Industries offers. If that
works, perhaps it is possible to market organic "black" pork in
the future? Next year, we will be watching the Wilson brothers
in N.W. Iowa and the Wallace Research Farm near Atlantic to see
how the Swedish system of farrowing is working for them. Our
farrowing facility is 17 years old and is need of some remodeling
Everyone in our family wants to farrow differently than we are
now. Grazing continues to be the most fun and rewarding, I feel.
We have 81 cows to calve next spring. We are seriously
considering some "grazing corn" next year to help finish our
steers on. I think we have enough to keep us going for another
year. Never a dull moment!
Margaret: We are going to make time this winter to practice the
planning tools we learned in a Holistic Resource Management (HRM)
training course we took 3 years ago. We are continuing our plans
to improve nutrient cycling on our farm (keeping more nutrients
at home) and to increase net income. We will spend time
re-analyzing our calve-to-finish beef enterprise, now that we
have reached animal numbers that fit our land base and crop
rotation. We are also planning to evaluate adding another
enterprise. Nothing exotic - we will be weighing the pros and
cons of finishing pigs, possibly in hoop houses. The 'cons'
that immediately come to mind are the erratic availability of
feeder pigs and the challenge of baling cornstalks on ridged
ground. One thing leads to another - do we need to farrow pigs?
- modify our tillage system? The HRM testing guidelines should
help us sort out options and prioritize changes.
"Communicating within the family is important. How do you
respond to the challenge of communicating in your family?"
Tom: With 2 teens and an 8-year-old in the house, communication
is really needed. The most important part of communication is
learning to develop good listening skills. You can learn a lot
Ron: The need for good communication seems to be ever on the
increase in our family. Our three boys are now 10, 13, and 15
and in three different schools. Maria works part-time off the
farm. All of us have many duties and activities that we are
involved with. Just knowing where everyone is going to be on any
particular day is a challenge we don't always succeed at! One
thing we insist on without question is to have everyone eating
breakfast together. Supper is nearly always eaten together
unless sometimes because of farming, meeting or school
activities. Meals are important to us as time to talk about what
is going to happen today and how things went that particular day.
Sometimes we feel it is important to have a more detailed
discussion about a particular situation. We often do this on
Sunday evenings and we call them "family meetings". These have
worked quite well in discussing and resolving conflicts.
Margaret: Doug and I have been married 2_ years. It's clear that
we haven't yet reached the ultimate in communication - when I can
start a sentence and he can finish it. Actually, we don't aspire
to mind-reading, but to clear and open exchanges of ideas and
feelings. One of my most valuable self-reminders is "don't
assume he knows what I'm thinking, or can figure out from several
semi-related thoughts where my mind is going." After all, humans
have the ability to speak; why not use it to our best advantage?
This is a challenge for the strong, silent types. Right now, we
need to concentrate more time and effort toward improving our
communication. We have set aside one morning a week to sit down
and do our farm and life planning. Do freshly baked popovers
enhance communication? We'll let you know.
18^ USING STUDY CIRCLES FOR SUSTAINABLE AG TRAINING
Heidi Carter, Lincoln, NE
(Editors' note: This article about study groups appeared on
SANET, the sustainable agriculture discussion group on the
Internet, and we reprint it with permission. The Center for
Sustainable Agricultural Systems (CSAS) in the Institute of
Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is an interdisciplinary center formed in
1991 for the purpose of bringing together people and resources to
promote an agriculture that is efficient, competitive,
profitable, environmentally and socially sustainable for the
indefinite future. To be added to the newsletter mailing list,
or for questions or comments, contact the newsletter editor, Pam
Murray, Coordinator, Center for Sustainable Agricultural Systems,
PO Box 830949, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0949,
402-472-2056, fax -4104, e-mail: email@example.com.)
A dozen people are comfortably seated around a meeting room, one
speaking, several leaning forward anxious to jump into the
conversation, one skimming an article as if searching for a
rebuttal, and others listening attentively. This scene is a study
circle in action.
Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, coordinator for the Sustainable
Agriculture Professional Development Program with the University
of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service, read about study
circles several years ago. She and other members of the state
planning team thought it would be a good model for interaction.
Their goals for using the technique are to provide training for
Extension educators and other agricultural specialists and to
invigorate sustainable agriculture groups.
In December 1995, consultant Dr. Duane Dale conducted a two-day
training session for farmers and representatives from federal and
state agencies and nonprofit organizations. These facilitators
left with initial plans for starting study circles in their own
"Right now we have seven study circles," remarked
Cavanaugh-Grant. "Each one decides on the schedule and what
topics will be covered. Some groups view the study circle as a
mechanism to talk and share ideas, and others use it as a
platform for action."
This flexibility is one of the strengths of the study circle
method. Since every group's situation is unique, organizers adapt
the basic format to the needs and goals of their community. For
Shannon Allen of the Christian County Soil and Water Conservation
District in central Illinois, the purpose of their first meeting
was to start a dialog between farmers and town dwellers on the
definition of sustainable agriculture. For the next meeting,
participants want to explore how agriculture affects the
surrounding community. "In the future, we may narrow our focus.
It all depends on who attends," considered Allen. "It is a good
way to communicate without intimidation or trying to prove a
In northern Illinois, the sustainable agriculture organization
served as a base for the Advocates of Practical Farming. Mike
Richolson, with the DeKalb County Natural Resources Conservation
Service, and Joel Rissman, who operates an organic farm in the
area, are co-facilitators. The study circle has met three times
and discussed using cover crops after wheat, composting and
fertilizer value from municipal lawn waste, and sustainable
practices in conventional systems. "We have tried to widen the
audience to include farm managers and conventional farmers,"
Richolson commented. "Several farmers will be using practices
reviewed in the sessions."
Louis Reuschel, a member of the Western Illinois Sustainable
Agriculture Society, worked with Extension to recruit people for
two study circles. Topics have ranged from the present and future
structure of agriculture to global positioning and zoning. One
group invited area legislators to examine the impact of politics
on agriculture. "Facilitators are the secret to successful study
circles," explained Reuschel. "They must focus the group on the
subject and at the same time be effective at letting individuals
express themselves. Some people are shy, while others are
outspoken. It is a challenge to the facilitator to balance it
19^ ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF FREEDOM TO FARM PREDICTED
The September issue of Iowa Ag Review contained an article by ISU
economist Bruce Babcock reporting on a study predicting
environmental outcomes of the Federal Agricultural Improvement
and Reform Act ("Freedom to Farm") of 1996. Iowa Ag Review is a
newsletter of the ISU Center for Agricultural and Rural
Development (CARD). The study, entitled Resource and
Agricultural Policy Systems 1996: Agricultural and Environmental
Outlook, covered the Upper Midwest, from Arkansas to North Dakota
and east to Ohio. Using as a starting point the National
Resources Inventory (NRI) of the USDA, it examined five
environmental indicators: wind and water erosion,
nitrate-nitrogen lost to surface water and leaching, and soil
organic carbon (related to soil organic matter).
Babcock's article acknowledged that the outcomes are not obvious
because of contradictory influences brought to bear by the
regulatory changes. For example, the old legislation both
restricted and encouraged production of program crops, so what
will be the net effect of removing those rules? Like all of us,
economists make assumptions about things like future cost of
production, demand, etc. Unlike most of us, economists translate
these assumptions into numbers they can feed into a computer
program that will integrate all those factors and predict general
trends. Prediction may really be too strong a term. This
"linear programming" is at its best when used to discover what
are the consequences of a set of assumptions - all other things
Interestingly, some study predictions changed at different
geographical scales. In the 12-state region as a whole, water
erosion was forecast to increase about 4 percent, while in the
Cornbelt states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri, water
erosion was expected to increase less than 2 percent on average.
The key phrase is "on average," because in areas like western and
southern Iowa, water erosion was predicted to jump by 10-40
percent. Wind erosion was predicted to increase 2 percent in the
Northern Plains due to increased use of summer fallow, but it was
expected to decline elsewhere in the region. These conclusions
were based in part on predictions about the adoption of no-till,
use of crop rotations, and the retention of Conservation Reserve
Program (CRP) acres.
While predicting an increase in acres of corn and soybeans, and
winter wheat (mostly in the Northern Plains and the Lake States),
the authors of the study also see more crops raised in rotation,
especially the corn-soybean rotation (adoption of which they
expect will further encourage growth of no-till). While they
projected a 15 percent increase in nitrogen fertilizer use, these
researchers were unwilling to predict an increase in nitrate
nitrogen losses. Their models suggested that the fertilizer
increase will come on those soils whose productive potential will
allow crops to make use of the nutrient. The study predicts an
actual increase in soil carbon, based on increased use of no-till
and continuation of the Conservation Compliance requirements
farmers must meet to receive their fixed government payments.
For additional information on the study Raps 1996: Agricultural
and Environmental Outlook, contact Bruce Babcock at 515-294-5764,
the Worldwide Web.
20^ RESEARCH ON MAKING THE MOST OF WARM-SEASON GRASS
Many Iowa farmers have seeded warm-season grasses, either for
grazing or for CRP acres. As acres begin to come out of CRP,
producers face decisions on how to get income from those fields.
PFI member Steve Reinart recently consulted on an ISU grazing
study that showed warm season grasses are much more productive if
they are managed right. The research, funded by the Leopold
Center, was led by ISU agronomist Ron George and took place on
the Castana Research Farm from 1993 through 1995.
But what is the "right" management? It is common knowledge that
these native species are slow starters in the spring, and that
they grow best in the kind of heat that puts bluegrass and brome
to sleep. Think about the warm season grass pastures you have
seen. Does the word "stemmy" come to mind? Selective grazing
may mask the situation for awhile, but a warm-season grass
pasture's aftermath appearance often reveals that the forage was
not used to its full potential.
Many producers, especially those not using management-intensive
grazing, wait until the cool season grasses quit in the summer
before turning the livestock into warm season grass. This study
showed that isn't the way to get the most out of these native
species. Using either switchgrass (Cave-in-Rock variety) or big
bluestem (Roundtree variety), researchers grazed fall-born steers
either "continuously" (early July into August) or "rotationally."
Rotational grazing consisted of two weeks of (continuous) grazing
in June followed by four weeks of rest and then a second grazing
period extending into August.
Figure 3 shows rate of gain and carrying capacity in steer-days
per acre for the two grazing methods and the two kinds of grass
(Graphic available for downloading as "Figure3.tif"). The
so-called rotational grazing amounted to 18 percent greater rate
of gain in big bluestem and 30 percent more gain when grazing
switchgrass. This system was rotational in the sense that the
steers only grazed the same area for a few weeks at a time rather
than for two months straight. Ron George points out that
producers using a true, paddock-based rotational grazing would
likely experience performance beyond these levels. But even
farmers who do not use intensive management would benefit from
this timing sequence.
The brief, June grazing caught the warm season grasses at a
highly palatable stage, and it set them back enough that they
were again right for grazing when the stock returned in late
July. The ISU researchers suspect that an even longer rest (5-6
weeks) would increase productivity and forage quality even
further and that the resulting improvement in stand and growth
would also minimize invasion by weeds and cool season grasses.
Steve Reinart says he understands why ISU studied just one grass
species at a time, and he says the study was especially valuable
to the producer who doesn't intensively manage grazing. On his
own farm, however, he likes to see the warm season and cool
season grasses mixed together. With paddock rotation Steve
avoids the regrazing of new grass shoots that took place even in
the "rotated grazing" of the Castana study. Reinart believes
intensive rotation allows his stock to graze whatever is growing
in a given season without weakening those plants.
If you would like to discuss this research with the authors,
contact Ron George (515-294-2143) or Steve Reinart
21^ IOWA FORAGE AND GRASSLANDS COUNCIL ANNUAL MEETING
- A REPORT
PFI member Steve Reinart phoned in this rundown on the IFGC
annual meeting November 26. Attendance was a little over 100,
and the meeting included a tasting session for grass-fed beef,
pork and chicken. Steve, who runs a grass-based beef and seed
stock operation near Carroll, had a few choice words for the Des
Moines traffic as he arrived late at the Airport Holiday Inn
conference. He joined the meeting in time for a breakout session
with a four-person panel that included PFI member Connie
Tjelmeland, from McCallsburg, who "grazes" chickens.
Another panel member was PFI member Dan Wilson, who is part of a
family operation that pasture-farrows 200 litters. Dan said it
is especially beneficial for the sows to have good grass during
the period after farrowing when they don't come to the feeders.
The Wilsons have also addressed problems of forage winter kill
with an equal-parts mix of rape, sudangrass, ryegrass, and field
Also on the panel was Fred Martz, from the University of Missouri
Forage Systems Research Center, at Linneus. He reported a study
comparing gain and kill data for different levels of grain
supplementation to grazing beef. In this study raw gain was
increased with grain supplementation. On the other hand, there
was no yellowing of the fat with higher proportions of forage in
the diet. (Steve is interested to hear what the Tallgrass
Prairie Producers Co-op has to say about carcass quality of
grass-finished beef at the PFI winter meeting.)
The speaker who made the greatest impression on Steve was Dave
Pratt, of Ranching for Profit, an organization that holds
training schools that Steve describes as "HRM with more economic
emphasis." Pratt stated that management-intensive grazing isn't
going to work unless you get in synch with nature. He threw out
questions like "When is the grass best? When do you calve?" "If
we opened the gates and everyone left the Midwest for 100 years,
what would people find when they returned?" Pratt's point, said
Reinart, was that not only would succession change the plant
community, but the livestock that remained would probably be
smaller animals, and the breeding season would be tighter and
better synchronized with the growth of plants.
In the scale of things, that scenario may not be as far-fetched
as it seems, said Pratt. Not that people will go away, but some
of the economic conditions today are products of energy and other
resources that are finite indeed. Steve Reinart says this talk
really got him thinking. He is also reading The Last Ranch, by
Sam Bingham, which raises similar questions about agriculture and
ecology. Steve says he came away from Dave Pratt's talk with a
positive feeling that he can make some changes in his own
operation to work more closely with nature.
22^ MIG FIELD DAY SHOWS PRAIRIE REBIRTH
David Zahrt, Turin
Thirty eight people attended a Field Day held at Reese Homestead,
on September 10, 1996. Our Century Farm is located 1 mile north
of Turin and straddles a boundary that separates the loess hills
from the Little Sioux River bottomland. In March, 1995, I
applied for a grant to set up management-intensive grazing (MIG)
in the 150 acres of loess hills included in the Homestead. These
hills have been under continuous grazing for the past 50 years.
I proposed the project to the North Central Region of Sustainable
Agriculture Research and Education (SARE). SARE granted us
supplemental funds to share the cost of initiating the project.
The tour began on the bottomland. We planted reed canary grass
on a portion of the crop land that is often subject to standing
water. This year the field adjacent to it was planted to corn in
late May, replanted to corn in early June, and lost to standing
water in July. I turned to canary grass because it is a cool
season grass that withstands wet conditions, and it performs
better than cool season grasses during hot weather. I judged
that we have ideal conditions for canary grass. If we can
establish the grass we might be able to improve our crop harvest
average. Currently I estimate that I can harvest a row crop from
the bottomland 3 out of 5 years. With the land in grass I
project that I could harvest a crop from the land 19 out of 20
years, and with management-intensive grazing, I would let the
cattle do the harvesting of the canary grass.
Our field day participants observed and compared pictures of the
farmstead taken in 1916, and 1993. The pictures were taken
standing on the bottomland, facing east toward the hills. The
first picture, taken in 1916, shows the hills virtually nude.
There were no trees! The second picture taken in 1993 from the
same location, reveals that trees have invaded the hills. The
150 acres of hills, since pastured, are now approximately 75%
tree covered. That leaves approximately 40 acres that are
agriculturally manageable. These 40 acres are meadow-like
valleys. They have been seeded to brome and orchard grass.
Continuous grazing has taken its toll on those species, and
bluegrass now tends to dominate these meadows. Bluegrass
produces less forage than brome and orchard grasses.
As the tour continued into the hills, I explained how we divided
the pasture into paddocks and piped water over the hill to
relieve the cattle of the necessity of walking (in some cases
over a mile) to water. By providing water and restricting the
distance the cattle have to walk, we accomplish several things.
Because cattle are herd animals, the whole herd goes to water
when the 'boss' cow decides to go. Once they migrate to the
water tank, drinking becomes a social occasion. They all loaf
around, trampling out the vegetation and leaving their manure at
the water tank, rather than in the pasture where it will do some
good. If the water is provided closer to their grazing they are
inclined to come one by one to water while the rest of the herd,
within eyesight, continues to graze. The overall effect of this
is the cattle use more of the forage in the pasture. They use it
more efficiently, and they distribute their waste in the pasture
where it can fertilize new pasture.
The hill pasture is all classified by Farm Service Agency (FSA)
as Highly Erodible Land (HEL). We have split it into 9 paddocks,
and we confine the cattle to one paddock at a time. Thus
restricted, they are forced to eat what's there. This prevents
them from selectively grazing their favorite plants, and leaving
the remainder to become stemmy and unpalatable. This management
system also allows us to move the cattle immediately after they
have grazed the paddock down. By moving them, we give the
paddock a chance to recover fresh regrowth. The regrowth
replenishes nourishment to the roots, and produces very tender,
With a system of 9 paddocks, and the rental of additional
adjoining pasture, we are able to give every paddock a 25-30 day
rest. A rotation schedule depends on a number of variables: the
size of the paddock, the health and height of the forage, and the
weather conditions (heat and moisture). I am using, as a rule of
thumb, a 30 day rotation period. This year I have been able to
maintain the herd without supplemental feed. By creating
paddocks I have been able to exclude the cattle from some of the
hillsides that appear to be less productive than the valleys.
Continuous and heavy grazing of the hills has left them
vulnerable. Once grazed down, cool season grasses are unable to
replenish their root system and do not provide ground cover.
Mother Nature is quick to supply ground cover. She does it with
hemp, jimpson weed, burdock, buffalo burr, and more. With the
initiation of management-intensive grazing, there has been a
significant reduction of the invaders because the grass has a
rest period that allows it to establish ground cover, producing
strenuous competition for the weeds.
During the months of July and August, when the cool season
grasses tend to go dormant, the warm season grasses flourish. In
order to extend the cool season forage, we have over-seeded red
clover. The clover not only extends the grazing of cool season
grasses into July, but it also provides nitrogen to the soil.
The warm season grasses are native prairie grasses. They give
the hills their characteristic reddish-brown color in the fall.
When the hills were under continuous grazing it was common to
observe the cattle grazing the meadows during May and June, and
hillsides and tops in July and August. Even under the pressure
of continuous grazing, these grasses have maintained a foothold
on the slopes and crests of the hills. When the weather begins
to cool in September the cool season grasses give another spurt
of growth. Then the cattle move to the meadows again.
This year I have seen a recovery of the prairie grasses. Two
things have contributed to their recovery. The first is some
help from the Iowa Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. In
mid-July the Nature Conservancy sent 7 interns to spend 3 days
cutting cedars. They cleared approximately 5 acres of hill
pasture of cedars. By establishing paddocks I was able to rest
that section of the hills. Participants in the field day
observed recovery of little blue stem, big blue stem, indian
grass, and side oats grama. The recovery was evident because
these grasses were going to seed. This is something I have not
observed in 50 years (although 50 years ago I may not have known
what I was looking for).
Every day I am faced with the question of long-term
sustainability. The road over the hill to the pasture is cut
through a "pass." I note that over the past 50 years the road
level through the pass has dropped 5 feet. Previously the cattle
used this road continuously as their access to water. In doing
so they kept it free of vegetation. Now that water is provided
at the paddocks it may be possible to seed the roadway down to
vegetation that will help curb the erosion.
As I was making preparation for the field day I realized that the
tour would finish about supper time. So we cooked some supper
ahead of time. When the participants completed the tour my wife
and mother set the supper out on picnic tables. Conversation
about the pros and cons of management-intensive grazing continued
over the supper table. Rick Exner (PFI), with his guitar, and
Keith Fletcher (Nature Conservancy), with his fiddle, provided a
PS. I am going to do some research on the profitability of a
business that would chip cedars. If I could sell everything I
chip from my pastures and break even financially, I would be
ahead by the reclaimed pasture. I am also going to do some
research on the profitability of collecting and selling prairie
seeds. Those two enterprises would dovetail. And the prairie
pasture might be more profitable as seedbed than as pasture! If
I could get my system working smoothly, maybe I could get my
neighbors to pay me to chip the cedars in their hill pasture!
24^ SMOKING THEN, PESTICIDES NOW
by Kamyar Enshayan
Thirty years ago, many of us were at ease with smoking. It was
well accepted to smoke in buses, planes, public buildings, and
almost everywhere else. When guests arrived, you smoked. But
now, we have learned.
Similar to when smoking was the norm, we now live at a time when
our culture is at ease with pesticides. Pesticide commercials
assure us that all is safe if you "follow the label." And while
tobacco companies have been taken to task, questioning the wisdom
of pesticides is still taboo. I believe most journalists,
especially in agricultural regions, do not dig into this topic
because, at least in part, a critical look at pesticides might
imply they are criticizing farmers (even though many farmers say
they would reduce or eliminate their reliance on pesticides if
they had the choice). And most of us ordinary people have no
built-in intuition to assess the dangers pesticides pose to our
health and our environment.
People who raise serious questions about the long term
consequences to the biosphere are usually viewed as emotional and
"alarmists." But we all know that alarms have a purpose - to
wake us up, to caution us, and to remind us something is not
right. Remember "alarmists" like Rachel Carson, who warned us
In the process of encouraging our university to establish a
pesticide-free landscape policy, I have learned a few things
about pesticides that might interest other PFI members. Evidence
and the history of pesticide use suggest that the current laws,
rules and regulations are inadequate when it comes to protecting
our health against pesticides. Here are a few reasons why EPA
approval of a pesticide and following the label in applying it
does not make the situation entirely safe:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for
safety of pesticides that are on the market. But all health and
safety data for each pesticide are provided through the
manufacturer of that pesticide, and the EPA does not have the
resources for fully assessing the validity of much of those data
The Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) that I have seen for some
commonly use lawn pesticides contain very little or no
information on long-term human or environmental consequences.
For example, the MSDS did not mention that Dicamba is a toxin for
honey bees or that 2,4-D has been linked to non-Hodgkin's
lymphoma. The MSDS mentions LD50 (lethal dosage of a pesticide
that killed half of the rats), but it does not say anything about
the long-term exposure to much less than LD50 levels of the
When I compared EPA's fact sheets with the MSDS, I discovered
many items for which EPA fact sheets state, "incomplete
information," "existing data are inadequate," or "nonexistent."
No such statements appear on the MSDS. What is the movement and
final destination of the chemical in the environment? MSDS does
not mention that.
Many pesticides contain so called "inert ingredients" that are
often trade secrets. That means they are exempt from worker's
right-to-know laws. It turns out that the "inert" ingredients
are not as inert as they are assumed to be, and some people react
to them strongly.
There is an expanding list of pesticides that were thought to be
safe but are now banned or being banned. DDT, Chlordane, and
cyanazine to name a few. And many previously "safe tolerance
levels" are now known to be too high.
All "tolerance levels" for pesticides are calculated for
"average adults." But what are the "safe tolerance levels" for
infants, children and pregnant women who are physiologically
different from an average adult? The EPA is only now beginning
to think about that question. Have there been studies of
children's exposure to lawn chemicals and the consequences? Very
few and very crude. One recent study linked the use of lawn
pesticides with a fourfold increase in the risk of children
developing cancer of the connective tissue (soft tissue sarcoma
2. Another study found a two- to sixfold increase in childhood
brain cancer in homes where pesticides were used (for example,
lawn care chemicals, flea collars on pets, and insecticide
"Tolerance levels" have been calculated for each pesticide
separately. What if we are exposed to a combination of 6
different pesticides, as is often the case? Is there a synergy
among these chemicals that makes them more toxic to our bodies?
No one knows the answer. A recent paper in Science reported that
two pesticides, each with insignificant estrogen-like properties,
were a thousand times more estrogenic once combined 4. Some
estrogenic chemicals in the environment have been linked to
breast cancer and reproductive disorders 5,6.
There is mounting evidence linking pesticides to certain kinds
of cancers and to disruption of the immune, nervous and endocrine
systems in humans and wildlife 7,8,9.
When so little is known about the environmental and human health
consequences of pesticides (and what we do know is sobering), and
when large quantities of these pesticides are spread everywhere,
we are, by definition, experimental animals. (In 1994 alone,
48,500,000 pounds of some 30 pesticides were used in Iowa on corn
and soybeans alone 10. That does not include golf courses and
lawns, which use more pesticides per acre than farms). So, how
long will it take before we respond to the alarm?
1. Frontline. 1993. In our Children's Food. A PBS documentary
by Bill Moyers.
2. Leiss, J.K. and D.A. Savitz. 1995. Home pesticide Use and
Childhood Cancer: A Case-Control Study. American Journal of
Public Health, Vol. 85, No.2, pp. 249-252.
3. Davis, J.R., R.C. Brownson, R. Garcia, B.J. Bentz and A.
Turner. 1993. Family Pesticide Use and Childhood Brain Cancer.
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, Vol. 24,
4. Arnold, S.F., D.M. Koltz, B.M. Collins, P.M. Vonier, L.J.
Guilette Jr., and J.A. McLachlan. 1996. Synergistic Activation
of estrogen receptor with Combination of Environmental Chemicals.
Science, Vol. 272. June 7, 1996.
5. Davis, D.L. and H.L. Bradlow. 1995. Can Environmental
Estrogens Cause Breast Cancer? Scientific American, October 1995,
6. McLachlan, J.A. and S.F. Arnold. 1996. Environmental
Estrogens. American Scientist. Vol. 84, pp. 452-461,
7. Colborn, T. and C. Clement. 1992. Chemically-Induced
Alterations in Sexual and Functional Development: The
Wildlife/Human Connection. Advances in Modern Environmental
Toxicology, Volume XXI. Princeton Scientific Publication Company.
8. Zahm, S.H. and A. Blair. 1992. Pesticides and Non-Hodgkin's
Lymphoma. Cancer Research (suppl.) 52, 5485s-5488s.
9. Repetto, R. and S.S. Baliga. 1996. Pesticides and the Immune
System: The Public Health Risks. World Resources Institute,
10. Iowa Agricultural Statistics. 1995. Des Moines, Iowa
26^ FOOTPRINTS OF A GRASS FARMER
VISION, VALUES AND GOALS: Little Things That Mean A Lot!
Tom Frantzen, Alta Vista
"He lives by his values." "They have no vision." "Do they
discuss their goals?" Have you ever heard those phrases before?
These terms can influence our lives.
Vision is defined by Webster as imaginative insight or foresight.
Vision plays an important role in life. Parents need vision to
see through a child's behavior. "If he doesn't develop better
social skills, I can see that he will have trouble in school."
Vision also plays an important role in farm management. "I could
see how a shelterbelt row of trees would stop winter winds and
improve our farmstead."
A fine line exists between seeing how something could work ("Our
pigs will be content in a deeply bedded hoop building.") and
trying to predict the future. ("The price of land will go to
Mark Twain once said that prediction of the future is a subject
matter for fools! Or even more bluntly: a friend told me
recently, "There is a thin line between a vision and a
hallucination!" Vision or foresight plays a key role in good
Values define the basis for managing our lives. Webster defined
values as something you would hold in respect and admiration.
Values have a major influence in daily actions. How you dress,
what you do, even when you wake up in the morning, are
value-based decisions. Clearly defined values should influence
decision making. To be respected in public, you dress
appropriately. Good relationships with the people around you are
sustained by paying attention to what's important to those
Management actions that exemplify good land stewardship are
practiced by people who value natural resources. Everyone can
improve their lives with a periodic soul searching on what their
personal values are. Living tends to become drudgery after
personal values fall to second place.
Vision assists us in decision making. Values define what is
important to us. Goals are the essence of good management. All
three of these exercises - visioning, defining values, and goal
setting - are utilized in practicing Holistic Management.
This management philosophy utilizes a three part goal as its
centerpiece. Our family has followed these principles since
1992. A holistic 3 part goal begins with listing all of the
people involved in the operation. In our situation, this
includes Irene and me and our three children, age range from
8-16. Yearly, we write down what is important to us. This is an
exercise in defining values. It is not necessarily easy, but it
can be fun. We merge the individual responses into an inclusive
quality of life statement. Throughout the year, we can see if
our actions conflict with our values. This is a good method of
discovering and hopefully resolving brooding problems.
The second part is to list the means of production that will
support our values. Here, visioning is utilized. We are
basically a livestock operation that sells some cash grain.
Attempts to diversify are important. We try to keep an open
The three part goal is completed by describing the landscape
needed to sustain the forms of production that will produce our
quality of life. This exercise has resulted in many improvements
on our farm. We dug a pond and planted shelterbelts and wildlife
areas. A steady effort is made to improve both the appearance of
our farm and its operation.
Vision, values, and goals are important. Life without attention
to them tends to become structured monotony. To have a
sustainable agriculture, we need sustainable life-styles. Our
daily activities need to be compatible with our values.
27^ FROM THE KITCHEN
Marj Stonecypher, 1321 March Ave.
Floyd, IA 50435-8058
This has been quite a fall! My horses were not ready for the
cold rainy weather, no winter coat yet. They say when they get
their thick coat early, it is going to be a long, cold winter.
Last year we were done October 26 with harvest. It is now
November 5, and we have a couple of days of corn to harvest,
along with some other field work and yards to clean.
Tried a new chicken dish. Of course, I changed it from what the
recipe said, as I usually do.
1 envelope Lipton Secrets Savory Herb with Onion Soup Mix
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 to 3 teaspoon garlic
red wine vinegar
4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast patties
In a large, shallow baking dish arrange chicken in one layer.
Blend savory herb soup mix, water, oil and wine vinegar and pour
over chicken to coat well. Marinate in refrigerator at least one
hour or overnight... OR cover with aluminum foil, put in oven
and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes, then let set 15 more
minutes in the oven. (This way works when you are in the field)
Can broil or grill, turning once. Baste with marinade.
CREAM CHEESE PEANUT BARS
(This recipe was in winter of 1993/94. There was a request to
have it in again.)
1 yellow butter cake mix (chocolate is good too)
1/2 stick margarine or butter
Mix cake mixture and divide. Press half into bottom of greased 9
x 13" pan. Set other half aside for the top.
1 box (2 cups) powdered sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy
Mix filling and spread in pan over half of pressed cake. Top
with remaining half of cake.
1 to 2 cups finely chopped raw peanuts
Sprinkle on top of cake and filling.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes (no longer).
28^ CORRESPONDENCE TO THE BOARD
Correspondence to the PFI directors' addresses is always
welcome. Member contributions to the Practical Farmer are
also welcome and will be reviewed by the PFI board of
District 1 (Northwest): Paul Mugge, 6190 470th St.,
Sutherland, 51058. (712) 446-2414.
Colin Wilson, 5482 450th St., Paullina, 51046. (712)
District 2 (North Central): Doug Alert, PFI Vice President,
972 110th St., Hampton, IA 50441. (515) 456-4328.
Don Davidson, 18711 250th St., Grundy Center, 50638. (319)
District 3 (Northeast): Walter Ebert, RR 1, Box 104,
Plainfield, 50666. (319) 276-4444.
Dan Specht, RR 1, McGregor IA 52157. (319) 873-3873.
District 4 (Southwest): Robert Bahrenfus, 15365 S. 12th Ave.
E., Grinnell, IA 50112. (515) 236-4566.
Vic Madsen, 2186 Goldfinch Ave., Audubon, 50025. (712)
District 5 (Southeast): David Lubben, PFI President, 24539 Hwy
38, Monticello, IA 52310. (319) 465-4717.
Jeff Olson, 2273 140th St., Winfield, 52659. (319)
PFI Executive Vice President & Treasurer: Dick Thompson,
2035 190th St., Boone, 50036. (515) 432-1560.
Coordinators: Rick Exner, Gary Huber, Room 2104, Agronomy
Hall, ISU, Ames, Iowa, 50011. (515) 294-1923.
Public Relations Coordinator: Maria Vakulskas Rosmann, 1222
Ironwood Rd., Harlan, 51537. (712) 627-4653.
29^ PFI MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION AND RENEWAL FORM
Zip Code __________________________________________________
Phone # (________) ________________________________________
This is a:
Do you derive a significant part of your income directly
from farming in Iowa?
Individual or family membership: $20 for one year, $50 for
Please enclose check or money order payable to "Practical
Farmers of Iowa" and mail to:
Practical Farmers of Iowa
2035 190th St.
Boone, IA 50036-7423