I N T H I S I S S U E
1^ "Better Row to Hoe" Regional Study Released by
Northwest Area Foundation
2^ PFI Winter Meeting Draws 385
3 A Snapshot at Ten Years
(photos not included in online edition)
4^ Order Form for Meeting Videotapes
5^ Evaluations from the PFI Meeting
6^ Shared Visions
6^ Networking Conference
7^ Group Updates
8^ Promised Land
9^ Poweshiek CRP Survey Results
12^ Making Lists
_ Vic Madsen
17^ Notes and Notices
_ PFI Dues Due?
_ Board Elections
_ District Meetings
_ SARE Producer Grants
_ Burt Smith to Visit
_ Leopold Center Conference
_ Young Farmers Broadcasts
_ Biologicals Results
_ Grazing on the Internet
19^ Contracting Soybeans
20^ PFI Libraries Cooperate
20^ Ishmael: A Review
_ Dwight Ault
24^ 1994 On-farm Trial Results
25^ Banded Fertilizer
31^ Nitrogen Trials
33^ Corn Population Trials
35^ Tillage Trials
36^ Miscellaneous Trials
36^ Pasture vs. Feedlot
37^ Dairy Transition to Grazing
40^ Weed Management Trials
40^ Narrow Strip Intercropping
43^ Forage Quality and Returns
44^ Barley-Based Hog Ration
46^ Footprints of a Grass Farmer
Addressing the Weak Link, II
_ Tom Frantzen
47^ From the Kitchen
_ Marj Stonecypher
48^ PFI Membership Application Form
49^ PFI Board of Directors and Staff Listing
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1^ REGIONAL STUDY RELEASED BY NORTHWEST AREA FOUNDATION
Perhaps you caught something on television or in the newspaper
recently about a five-state study of sustainable agriculture. If it
sounded familiar, maybe that's because you were part of the study!
Along with ISU researchers, PFI participated in the project design and
analysis, and many PFI members responded to a questionnaire or agreed to
an interview or field observations. The last several issues of this
newsletter have discussed different parts of the results from Iowa.
Now the Northwest Area Foundation, which sponsored the study, has
gone public with the results. A thirty-second splash on TV may not seem
much payoff for a six-year effort. But the message was a positive one -
"sustainable farms can compete, can benefit rural economies, especially
on an even playing field."
And the press releases are only part of the Foundation's outreach
plans. With assistance from the Wallace Institute for Alternative
Agriculture, "listening sessions" have been held for congressional staff
in Washington. In addition, the full study results are just out in a
book, Planting the Future, published by Iowa State University Press
Mailed with this newsletter is the "executive summary" of the press
report, A Better Row to Hoe. This five-page synopsis gives the main
points of the 38-page report. (It may also give you the idea that
executives have a pretty short attention span.) The full report can be
obtained from PFI by checking the form on page 4. An earlier report,
Which Row to Hoe, based on the first phase of the study, is also
available without charge.
A Better Row to Hoe provides an overview from all the participating
states, while the articles in the PFI newsletter have focused solely on
Iowa. For those of you who fall somewhere between "executive" and
"reader," here are the headings from the report, along with a few
The Contradiction in American Agriculture.
Farmers were sorted from sustainable to conventional based on: 1)
reduction of inputs; 2) use of ecological practices; and 3) commitment
to those practices. "Ultimately, the contradiction between abundance
and deterioration must be resolved, either by the chaotic forces of
nature, or by the deliberate informed actions of people. Public policy
will, intentionally or otherwise, contribute to this resolution."
Farm Practices and Crop Yields: Does Good Farming Make a Difference?
On conventional farms in Iowa, 94 percent of cropland was in corn or
soybeans compared to only 61 percent on farms classified sustainable.
Twenty-five percent of the land on sustainable Minnesota farms was found
to be in non-crop uses like woodlands, pasture, and wetlands. The
corresponding figure on conventional farms was 7 percent. However,
there was no difference in the amount of CRP or terraced land on the
Farm Finance and Economic Performance: A Struggle to Compete.
The study took "snapshots," in 1989 and again in 1991. They reflect
changes in commodity prices. For example, livestock prices were fairly
high in 1989 but fell in 1991. Conventional farms tended to control
more financial assets than sustainable farms, were generally larger, and
had greater gross profits. However, in 1991, Iowa sustainable farms had
twice the net farm income per acre of conventional farms. But this was
before subtracting the greater wages for labor sustainable farmers paid
to themselves and their families. Sustainable practices actually
accounted for only a small part of the difference in profitability.
Livestock ownership was a stronger (negative) factor that year.
Labor and Management: Putting More In.
In Iowa, sustainable farms involve 22 percent more labor on average than
conventional farms, or 19 hours per week. This is largely due to
livestock operations. The good news is that labor is more evenly
distributed throughout the year on farms with livestock.
Community Interactions: Spending Less, but More Locally.
In Iowa, sustainable farmers spent $51.70 per acre on goods and services
purchased from farmers and local businesses. Conventional farmers spent
$31.40 per acre. In spite of greater labor requirements, sustainable
farm families participate in farm, civic, and church organizations just
as much as conventional farm families.
The Adoption of Sustainable Agriculture: Meeting the Challenge.
Sustainable producers tend to farm less land but are more likely to own
it than conventional farmers. Concerns for the environment and family
health were often the most important reasons given for the adoption of
sustainable practices. Concerns experienced in the transition to
sustainable practices included weeds, crop yields, profitability, and
labor/management demands. Only the last remained a concern for those
who actually changed to more sustainable practices. Two-thirds of Iowa
sustainable farmers said they were more satisfied than before they
adopted sustainable practices.
Insights on Sustainable Agriculture.
In 1991, conventional farms generally performed better than sustainable
farms. But the top one-third of sustainable farmers did very well.
Management may be key. Some farmers using sustainable methods may lack
the information or skills to thrive in a competitive environment.
The Sustainable Choice.
Sixty-four percent of Iowa conventional farmland was planted to crops
that receive government price support. Only 45 percent of sustainable
farmland was planted to subsidized crops. The Northwest Area Foundation
calls for farm support that is not commodity based but stewardship based
and targeted at family farms.
In the next article, we will profile the farm and farmer types found
in Iowa. We'll also look at their different success strategies. ]
2^ PFI WINTER MEETING DRAWS 385
(See also the graphic attend.wmf, available by ftp)
Everything went like clockwork at PFI's tenth anniversary
celebration, Jan.6-8. The registration team, youth activities
organizers, ecumenical service planners, poster presenters - everyone
did their part and did it beautifully. There were many comments about
how well the meeting went.
The anniversary provided an opportunity for Practical Farmers of
Iowa to reach people who had never before participated in a PFI
activity. Supporters and friends came from Minnesota, Missouri,
Michigan, and Ohio to join in the event. About 70 folks who hadn't been
members of PFI joined with the meeting. An additional 56 people came
just to hear Wendell Berry speak Saturday evening. The weekend also
deepened some acquaintances, giving people new appreciation of the
feelings, abilities, and interests of other members.
Thanks to the "camcorder corps," every talk and workshop was
videotaped. These sessions fit on two videotapes. The tapes will be
available through the PFI office at ISU. They can be borrowed or
purchased directly. Fill out the form below to indicate your
preference. Selections from the talks by Wendell Berry, Paul Johnson,
and Alan Henning will also appear in future issues of this newsletter.
Workshop summaries follow:
Ten Years of Conservation Reserve, Paul Johnson.
(moderator and recorder Ron Rosmann)
Everyone introduced themselves, as the session was fairly small,
with around 35-40 people. There are 36 million acres in CRP right now.
This land needs to be protected, but at present only contracts from the
first sign-up can be rolled over for one more year. What form CRP will
take in the future is yet to be determined. A program more targeted by
environmental considerations is likely, and rates for new signups will
likely be lower than the rates ten years ago. One point nine billion
dollars is the cost figure thrown out, although because of budgetary
constraints, this may not be realistic. In Iowa, this figure is about
160 million dollars. Environmental easements are being looked at.
The influence of CRP is great. The entire DNR budget, for example,
may be only one-fourth as large. Alternatives for the future are:
1) partial payments for partial usage. Participants were interested
in having a rotational grazing use option.
2) CRP for grass buffer strips, riparian buffer zones, etc.
A key point for the future will be to work on problems with farmers
at the federal level as well as locally.
Controlled Grazing, Alan Henning.
(moderator and recorder Tom Frantzen)
About fifty people attended the grazing workshop. Alan Henning
spent 40 minutes on slides of his demonstration dairy near Madison,
Wisconsin. There followed 20 minutes of question and answer on basic
dairy. I asked the group for some discussion on general grazing ideas.
There were lots of feeding questions, but the conversation usually came
back to dairy.
Cropping Systems for Integrated Farming, Mo Ghaffarzadeh and Rick Cruse.
(moderator Rick Exner)
Rick Cruse began with a survey of ways to diversify in time and
space. One method is shelter belts. Different crops respond to them to
different degrees. Precision farming: most farmers are probably farming
the whole field the same way even though they lose money in some spots
doing that. We're trying to discover what crops belong where in the
field. Canadian farmers in Ontario have formed a strip intercropping
club. Playing with twin rows in 1994, they reported corn yields of
300-400 bushels per acre. Is this repeatable?
Mo Ghaffarzadeh stated that if Iowa cropping systems are going to
change, new alternative crops are needed. For example, oats are good in
strip intercropping from a biological point of view, but not
economically. Berseem is the legume of interest right now, but each
producer must figure out how to use it in their own system.
Four PFI cooperators were asked to offer their perspectives on the
state of strip intercropping. Weeds were a "fly in the ointment" in
1994. Paul Mugge, for example, was forced to plant some crops no-till
because of the wet weather in 1993. In no-till strips, overwintering
dandelions damaged the oats, and stalk borers infested some corn.
Soil Quality, Doug Karlen,
(moderator Jeff Olson, recorder Laura Krouse)
Doug Karlen is a soil scientist at the National Soil Tilth Lab in
Ames. He presented a discussion of the difficulty for researchers in
defining, identifying, and measuring soil quality.
Recent definitions of soil quality have included ideas about
productive and environmental sustainability, and have attempted to
consider the interactions between the soil and all the other components
of the ecosystem, including the humans. Many soil scientists have
agreed that some of the indicators of soil quality that are useful for
agricultural soils include: topsoil depth, bulk density, organic matter,
microbial activity, aggregate stability, infiltration rate, and water
holding capacity. These indicators are helpful if the soil is used for
crop production, but are individually only part of the measure of soil
quality. The complex interactions between the soil and the environment
make a soil quality index difficult to develop, and difficult to use in
a number of different ecosystems.
Karlen showed a video produced by Rodale, in which non-scientists
and many non-farmers were interviewed about their ideas on soil quality,
soil health, and food health. The video sparked a discussion and series
of questions from the audience. Some of the comments and questions
What is soil tilth vs. soil quality vs. soil health?
How will farmers use soil quality information produced by the
National Soil Tilth Lab?
Farmer-managed trials could be used to assess soil quality.
Are funds available to educate non-farmers about soil quality?
Biological activity of soil can be a good indicator of soil
processes, including nutrient recycling.
Transitional to Sustainable Agriculture: Women's Experiences,
(moderator and recorder Margaret Smith)
As farming is changing, women are adjusting, growing, and changing
too. This workshop included farmers, women with careers outside of
agriculture who work part-time on their family farm, women who work at
home and also work part-time on the farm, and both men and women who do
not live on farms but are deeply interested in women's roles and
activities relative to farming. Panel members were: Irene Frantzen and
Cindy Madsen, who both farm in partnership, and Regina Striegel who
formerly farmed full-time and currently is making a career change. As
part of her graduate program in counseling, Regina has surveyed women
from "sustainable" and "conventional" farms.
Each panel member had differing stories, but some common themes
emerged. Their involvement with the farm grew, both as children grew
and as they made changes to more sustainable practices. They find the
farm more rewarding as they have come to share more tasks,
responsibilities, and decision making. More sustainable farming
practices also offer more and safer opportunities for their children to
work with them. Regina found that women from "sustainable" farms spent
more hours working both on and off the farm, but that they enjoyed their
lives (see Well-Being of Women in Sustainable Agriculture, The Practical
Farmer, vol.9, #2, summer, 1994).
Group discussion also revealed common themes of: how are work loads
distributed among family members, how do women achieve their desired
level of involvement with the farm, and how do you get everything done
during the busy seasons. It's not surprising that these are similar to
questions non-farm families are asking in the 1990's.
Sustainable Communities Workshop, Cornelia Flora and Wendell Berry
(moderator and recorder Gary Huber)
Cornelia Flora began this workshop, which was attended by around 125
people. She noted that a community is made up of diverse interactions
among organisms, and a sustainable community is characterized by having
the resilience to maintain these interactions over time.
Ms. Flora then described various forms of "capital" in communities,
which she defined as "resources invested to create new resources." One
form is physical capital, and she included money in this form, which she
noted was "incredibly mobile."
Another is human capital, which included education, skills, health,
values, and leadership. She said human capital made physical capital
more efficient, and she noted with some irony that "we sometimes
understand the need to invest in human capital." Another form of capital
is natural resource capital, such as land, soil, water, and
However, the form of capital she focused on as important for
sustainable communities was social capital. She said social capital is
"trusting, reciprocal relationships among individuals," and she
commented that "when this exists, everything else works better." She
also said the reciprocal relationships were not "I'll do something for
you if you do something for me." Rather, they were more like "we are
all better if the collectivity is better."
Ms. Flora said the absence of social capital increases the cost of
other forms of capital, while, on the other hand, social capital can be
substituted for other forms. She also said social capital includes the
ability to discuss alternatives and engage in constructive conflict.
Wendell Berry began his part of the workshop by saying it was
increasingly common to hear what he called the "ain't it awful
conversation." He said the list of complaints people have is
formidable, and the way out is by talking about community.
Mr. Berry then described community as "a bunch of people with things
in common." He continued by saying that community was a place where the
needs of people are fulfilled by others who live in that place. He then
noted that "the way to destroy a community is to destroy its economy,"
which he described as "the mutual trading by which a community keeps its
He went on to give an example from Kentucky of how the collapse of
one economy led to actions to develop another, with the latter having
qualities that are helping to re-establish community. He explained how
a crisis in the tobacco market led the Kentucky Tobacco Association to
collaborate with the Community Farm Alliance to form Kentucky First
Buying Clubs. Through this effort, people in urban centers receive
half-bushel bags of fresh food grown by the tobacco farmers.
The effort just finished its first year and has been successful in
that the farmers have realized significant income from their produce.
Mr. Berry continued by saying, "I like it. It is something people are
doing themselves," and he described several realizations that have come
from the effort.
One was the value of a new kind of economics, "cooperative
economics." As Mr. Berry said, "The producers are nothing without the
consumers." Another was that "causing a supply and a demand to come
into existence simultaneously was extremely difficult," and he noted how
this problem resulted in people being kept awake at night "rolling in
A third was that an incredible loss of knowledge about food has
occurred. He emphasized this by saying that not only do people not know
how to grow food, they don't know what to do with it after its grown.
Thus there was a need to educate people on what they were getting and
what to do with it.
A fourth realization was that creating alternative economies to
re-establish local communities involves some suffering. He continued by
saying, "People have to get over the idea that anybody is going to be a
hero by finding a big solution to a big problem." He finished by saying
that the work would be humbling and difficult, with lots of sweat and
frustration, but it is do-able.
Questions and answers that followed dwelled on several themes, with
perhaps the most interesting related to how to address the influences of
multi-national corporations and the role of government. Both Ms. Flora
and Mr. Berry seemed to advocate not trying to address a superior force
head on. Rather, they suggested establishing alternative economies
based on local food systems, which would begin to re-establish
communities made up of "trusting, reciprocal relationship among
Alternative Pork Production Systems, Dave Stender, Dan Wilson,
(moderator and recorder Vic Madsen)
Dave Stender used the first half hour to describe his analysis of
the Iowa State Swine Enterprise Records. The numbers disprove the
beliefs that sow herd size and pigs per sow directly determine profit.
Profits come from a blend of cost control and respectable production
levels. Focusing on either one exclusively is less profitable than a
good mix. (see also the graphic STENDER.WMF, available by ftp)
Dan Wilson showed slides of his family pasture-farrowing operation.
He also presented a slide tour of the September trip to Sweden's pork
production systems. Sweden, by law, must use straw and low-density
pens. The deep bedding, farrowing, and lactation buildings interested
the workshop audience. This system deserves to be studied to see if
elements can be used here. Wilson's description of his family's
successful pasture pork production reinforced Stender's numbers with a
real-life example of cost control and excellent production ratios.
Editors' note: A copy of the overheads Dave Stender used in the
workshop (example above) can be requested from the PFI coordinators at
4^ Order Form
Sustainable Agriculture Study Reports
___ Which Row to Hoe?
___ A Better Row to Hoe
PFI 10th Anniversary Meeting Video Tapes
___ Tape 1($2.00 purchase) $_________
Opening remarks and award, Paul Johnson address, CRP workshop, Alan
Henning address, Grazing workshop, Alternative pork systems, Wendell
___ Tape 2 ($2.00 purchase) $_________
Opening remarks and award, Paul Johnson address, Wendell Berry
address, Sustainable communities workshop, Women in sustainable ag
workshop (1 hr), Integrated cropping systems workshop, Soil quality
workshop, Alan Henning address
___ Tape 3 ($2.00 purchase) $_________
Marty Strange, Plateglass or Plywood: Alternative Futures for Small
Town Main Streets, PFI annual meeting, Jan. 1994
Total Enclosed: $_________
State, Zip: _____________________________________________
Make checks payable to:
Practical Farmers of Iowa
2035 190th St.
Boone, IA 50036-9632
5^ EVALUATIONS FROM THE MEETING
Only 29 people turned in the yellow meeting evaluation forms. Of
those, the most popular reasons given for attending were: 1) to hear
Wendell Berry; 2) to visit with others; 3) to hear Paul Johnson and; 4)
to hear Alan Henning. Among women's reasons, a three-way tie for fourth
place was shared by the workshop on sustainable communities, the
workshop on women in sustainable ag., and the opportunity to learn more
about Shared Visions. Actually, both for farmers and for those people
who had attended one or more previous meetings of PFI, the greatest
attraction was the chance to visit with others. The following comments
are from questionnaires returned.
Other Reasons for Attending
To see Dick and Sharon Thompson get a well-deserved reward.
To learn from other farmers, talk with research people.
I enjoy going to annual mtg. to see all our PFI friends and share
stories of what's been happening over the past year. Certainly always
learn something new from attending workshops and always come home
feeling good. PFI's annual meeting always gives you that up feeling or
What Did You Get Most from the Meeting?
Shared Visions was sole reason for coming; however we very much
enjoyed all aspects of PFI - I think we're hooked. What a nice bunch of
Enjoyed the posters. Really enjoyed the speakers and the music -
seemed to encourage a sense of community (to dance together we had to
Urgent need for PFI and others to start building a local food
Meaningful ecumenical service held on Sunday.
Sense of people rooted and living out what they believe - humble
risk takers who are open, warm, friendly, caring, welcoming diversity
and aliveness, fortitude, inclusiveness, seriousness of the people.
How Could the Meeting Have Been Better?
It was extremely well organized. Many thanks!
I loved the setup of a relaxed conference setting. I enjoyed the
family/community emphasis (day care).
I was disappointed in the Saturday evening dinner.
Would it be possible to have a section in the dining area for
Room G was too warm, ceilings too low to allow good viewing of
slides. Room A-B chairs are too close together, should have three
inches between them.
Get a better sound system, eliminate the lights behind the
A standing mike on the floor for people to come to, to ask a
A message board by the registration table.
So many good (workshop) topics, too few opportunities to work them
all in. Examples of operating farms using innovative ideas are much
more meaningful than listening to theories and pep talks.
Would have preferred three breakout sessions rather than two, and
also more farmer presenters rather than so many experts.
Could we have scheduled the business meeting for the 5-to-6 p.m.
hour on Saturday? By the time Sunday noon rolled around, many members
had left for home and didn't get to participate in district business.
What Should PFI be Doing and How?
My daughter truly enjoyed PFI camp!
Create a support group for women's issues as a farmer.
1) Help set up cooperatives. 2) Disseminate philosophy through
meetings like this and literature.
Get the message out to nonmembers, mailings to educational
institutions - Ag. Dept., high school teachers, community colleges, and
Perhaps you could start developing an educational program for
elementary/high schools that would create an awareness of sustainable
farming systems in young children - THEY ARE OUR FUTURE!
Keep on keeping on, growing organically from where you started.
Once Shared Visions is stable, the next step might be rural/urban
dialogue and stabilizing active relationships such as through marketing,
CSAs, nutritional education, etc. ]
6^ SHARED VISIONS
This section of the newsletter includes:
* a report on the Shared Visions' networking conference;
* updates on Shared Visions' groups;
* a report on results of the Poweshiek Area AG2020 group's survey of CRP
6^ SHARED VISIONS NETWORKING CONFERENCE
Over forty members of groups involved in Shared Visions braved six
inches of new snow to attend the January 6th networking conference in
Ames. All groups were represented, with the conference being the first
organized Shared Visions event for five groups that are new to Shared
The conference provided a chance to get acquainted and learn.
Dennis Keeney of the Leopold Center and Tom Frantzen of PFI welcomed
people and thanked them for their willingness to work as part of local
teams to improve rural Iowa. An overview of the W.K. Kellogg
Foundation's Integrated Farming System Initiative was followed by a
description of Shared Visions.
Tom Frantzen spoke on farming systems, decision-making, and the
importance of trust in relationships. Mary Foley of ISU Extension
helped group members understand their individual contributions to
working in teams based on their Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI)
scores. (MBTI is a widely used tool for helping people understand how
their personalities influence preferences for making decisions and
interacting with others.)
Three groups involved in the pilot year of Shared Visions (Poweshiek
Area AG2020, Grundy-Hardin County group, and Neely-Kinyon Farm
Committee) described their work and answered questions.
The day concluded with a piano and slide presentation titled "Hymns
and Herds" by Tom Morain of Living History Farms and a discussion of
peoples' memories of rural Iowa. Many participants also attended the
January 7th PFI meeting.
This networking conference was the first of three planned for Shared
7^ GROUP UPDATES
Eight community-based groups are currently involved in Shared
Visions. Five are new groups and three have been involved since the
program's pilot year. (The fourth pilot-year group, the Agricultural
Committee of the Davis County Development Corporation, decided in
December to end its involvement with Shared Visions.)
Audubon County Graziers
The Audubon County Graziers includes 12 farmers and six non-farmers.
The non-farmers include a veterinarian, a school employee, a postal
worker, a minister, a sales manager for a feed company, and a retired
Extension employee. The group has grazing systems as its focus.
Central Iowa Community Supported Agriculture Project
This group draws members from Boone, Story, and Marshall counties.
Members include a farmer, a market gardener, an owner-operator of a
habitat restoration business, employees of area businesses and agencies,
a retired business owner, and several Iowa State University graduate
students. The group wants to establish a Community Supported
Agriculture (CSA) project in Central Iowa. (See box below for a short
Benton Development Group
This county-wide development organization is sponsoring a group of
people from Benton County who also plan to develop a CSA project. Group
members include several farmers, a market gardener, and a teacher.
Louisa County Group
The Louisa County group includes three local agency personnel, two
bankers, an operator of a tree farm, and several other farmers. The
group has not yet identified a focus area.
Ag Connect, which is based out of Lenox, has a goal of preserving
rural communities in a nine-county area of Southwest Iowa through a
regional beginning farmer program. Its board includes a mixture of
bankers, utility managers, and farmers.
PILOT GROUP UPDATES:
Poweshiek Area AG2020
Original areas of interest to this group were beginning farmers,
cooperation between farmers and townspeople, integrated crop and
livestock farming systems, and the future of 46,646 Conservation Reserve
Program (CRP) acres in Poweshiek County.
A goal developed from these interests is to help CRP landowners use
their land in ways that are environmentally sound and financially
profitable. The initial project undertaken to achieve this goal was to
assess the intentions and interests of Poweshiek County CRP owners and
the availability of facilities for livestock production. (For some
results, see the following article.)
Transferring the operation of CRP farms to the next generation was
discussed at a meeting attended by over thirty CRP owners. Seven
indicated they were interested in further consultations, which the group
will facilitate. AG2020 is also helping promote a "Two-Generation
Farming Workshop" being held by ISU Extension on February 27. A future
goal is to serve as a local support group for farmers who want to use
alternative practices on these acres.
8^ Grundy-Hardin County Group
This group's goal is to develop a community-based beginning farmer
initiative called The Promised Land Beginning Farmer Program. They
developed a flowchart for how the program might work (see also the
graphic BEGINFRM.TIF, available by ftp), and they have recognized that
developing an organizational framework that specifies roles of
cooperating partners is necessary to successfully implement the program.
Additionally, the group is hosting a public meeting on February 15
at which Steve Hopkins will talk about how he and his wife Sarah
Andreasen began farming with a grass-based dairy in 1992 near Decorah.
Neely-Kinyon Farm Committee
A 160-acre farm near Greenfield was given to the Wallace Foundation
for Rural Research and Development in late 1993. A local group called
the Neely-Kinyon Farm Committee has been planning the use of the farm.
They have developed some long-term goals and short-term research and
demonstration projects. Input from group members will provide the basis
for a Shared Visions project application that will likely focus, in
part, on research by several area farmers on how to best turn forages
9^ POWESHIEK AREA AG2020 CRP SURVEY RESULTS
Poweshiek County has 46,646 acres in CRP, which is nearly 73 square
miles of land. Recognizing the importance of the future uses of these
acres on area communities, a goal set by the AG2020 group was to help
CRP landowners use their CRP land in ways that are both environmentally
sound and financially profitable.
The group's first step toward achieving this goal was a survey of
owners of CRP land in Poweshiek County. During the summer of 1994, 511
owners of CRP land in Poweshiek County were sent a survey. Of these,
353 were completed and returned, giving a response rate of about 70%.
Figure 1 shows that 45% of Poweshiek County CRP owners are
non-farmers, 33% are actively farming, 13% are retired farmers, and 10%
are semi-retired farmers. (see also the graphic CRPFIG1.WMF, available
Figure 2 shows that the average ages of these groups were 72 for
retired farmers, 70 for semi-retired farmers, 59 for non-farmers, and 54
for active farmers. Given that 23% of Poweshiek County CRP owners are
in some stage of retirement and average at least 70 years in age, an
opportunity exists to explore options for helping beginners start on
these farms. (see also the graphic CRPFIG2.WMF, available by ftp)
Figure 3 shows that 25% of CRP contracts will expire in 1996,
another 18% in 1997, and 14% in each of 1998 and 1999. Thus, nearly 80%
of contracts are set to expire in the next five years. (see also the
graphic CRPFIG3.WMF, available by ftp)
Poweshiek County CRP owners were asked if they would re-enroll land
into the CRP at current and lower payment levels. Figure 4 shows 94%
would re-enroll with payments at current levels, and only 12% would with
lower payments. Figure 4 also shows that 40% would not re-enroll if
payments were lowered and nearly half (48%) do not know whether they
would re-enroll with lower payments. Thus, a substantial amount of CRP
land would likely come into production if contracts were extended but
payments lowered. (see also the graphic CRPFIG4.WMF, available by ftp)
Poweshiek County CRP owners were asked about plans if CRP is not
extended. Figure 5 shows that 38% would farm the land, 32% would rent
out the land, 4% would sell the land, and 21% don't know. Thus, while
more owners would farm their land than any other option, almost a third
would rent out the land and 4% would sell.
Figure 6 shows expectations of CRP owners on practices to be used if
they rent out their CRP land. Forty-three percent said they expect
renters to use minimum tillage, 30% expect renters to use no-till, and
12% expect renters to use conventional tillage. (see also the graphic
CRPFIG5.WMF, available by ftp)
Figure 6 also shows that 29% expect renters to rotate with hay, 10%
expect renters to produce hay, and 7% expect renters to keep the land in
permanent pasture. Thus, a portion of CRP owners who would rent out
their CRP land would expect forages to be used on this land. (see also
the graphic CRPFIG6.WMF, available by ftp)
If there is an expectation that forages would be a part of how CRP
land is used, a question of interest concerns the existence of
facilities for livestock. Figure 7 shows that 20% of Poweshiek County
CRP owners had usable livestock buildings on their CRP land, while 35%
had useable fences, 30% repairable fences, and 71% sources of water.
(see also the graphic CRPFIG7.WMF, available by ftp)
AG2020 also asked CRP owners if they were interested in information
about alternative uses of their CRP land. Figure 8 shows that 69% of
retired owners, 66% of active farmers, 60% of non-farmers, and 59% of
semi-retired farmers were interested in information on alternative
uses. (see also the graphic CRPFIG8.WMF, available by ftp)
AG2020 also asked CRP owners if they were interested in talking with
a beginning farmer. Nine percent (29 owners) said they were, while 64%
said they were not and 27% said maybe. Twenty-nine CRP owners were
willing to talk with a beginning farmer, which represents both an
opportunity and a challenge for the Poweshiek Area AG 2020 group. ]
12^ MAKING LISTS
Vic Madsen, Audubon, found the following "timely" reminders in an article
entitled "Topics in Season," in the October, 1941, Farm Journal and Farmer's
Now Is the Time To:
Clean the cellar,
Dust seed wheat,
Plant fruit trees,
Wash storm sash,
Count your turkeys,
Store winter squashes,
Put cabbage in a trench,
Landscape the farmstead,
Buy a pair of rubber boots,
Start feeder calves on grain,
Take care of farm machinery,
Buy fence for extra corncribs,
Clip dairy cows' flanks, udders,
Repaper the hired man's house,
Send Aunt Mary a birthday card,
Kill and dress a chicken for grandma,
Kill boxelder bugs with kerosene or scalding water,
Tell you neighbor his new bull is a fine looking animal,
Spray apples with hormones to make fruit hang on the trees,
Tell your wife her green tomato pies are the best you ever ate,
Give the lone scouts that old thresher belt for making ground fire beaters,
Ask Mabel if she saw the new washing machines at the fair, and which did she
Vic says it just shows how far behind he is on his reading. Sticking to
the form, he jotted down the following: We are often asked what Practical
Farmers of Iowa is trying to do. Sometimes it is difficult to put the right
words in the right order to say what we are thinking. So the following words
are listed for you to put into sentences that fit your situation.
PFI Is For:
Respect for nature,
Local food systems,
17^ NOTES AND NOTICES
Is Your Membership Current?
If you haven't checked on your PFI membership, now is the time.
This will be your last newsletter if you are one of those who needed to
renew last fall but you haven't taken care of it. Check the mailing
label on this issue. If there is a little frowning face looking at you,
you're in trouble.
You can stay on top of field days, the next member directory, and
other news with ten dollars for one year's membership or $25 for three
Board Elections Held
At the PFI annual business meeting, the north central district
elected Don Davidson district director. Don, who farms near Grundy
Center with his wife Sharon, his father, and his uncle, has served as
associate director for nearly a year. The north central and northwest
district caucuses also broke precedent by holding elections for
associate director. The bylaws do not presently provide for election of
associate board members, although this is under discussion. Doug Alert,
Hampton, will be the associate director from the north central district.
Colin Wilson, Paullina, was elected associate director in the northwest
district. The southeast district is also due to hold an election for
director. This will take place at the winter district meeting.
District Winter Meetings
The northeast district will get together in Calmar, March 25, from
1:00 to 4:00 pm, in the Wilder Building auditorium of Northeast Iowa
Community College. Extension field specialist Tony Harvey will talk
about dairy cow nutrition, and Scott Weinberg will discuss fencing for
grazing and his own operation grazing dairy heifers. There will also be
time for PFI members to exchange their own experiences and catch up with
each other. Families are welcome, and child care will be provided.
The northwest district will meet Feb. 25, at 6:30, at the Family
Table Restaurant in Cherokee. Dan and Colin Wilson will talk about
their pasture hogs operation and Dan and Lorna's trip to see the Swedish
system of hog production.
SARE Producer Grant Proposals Due May 1
The North Central Region of SARE (the Sustainable Agriculture
Research and Education program of the USDA) has called for farmer
proposals for the fourth year of its producer-initiated sustainable
agriculture grants. Project proposals, which are due May 1, can cover a
variety of topics. Last year PFI member Tom Frantzen carried out an
evaluation of pasture-raised hogs in a system with stripped crops and
trees. Dick and Sharon Thompson continued a study relating potassium
uptake to manure and tillage.
For more information and application materials, contact: SARE North
Central Region Office, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 13A Activities
Building, P.O. Box 830840, Lincoln, NE 68583-0840. Phone: 402-472-7081.
Burt Smith to Visit Graziers
Burt Smith, author of the popular book Intensive Grazing Management,
is planning a three-month motorcycle trip across the country this
summer. If you have at least three years' experience with intensive
grazing, he will consider making a (free) visit to your farm. Contact
him at the following FAX number: 808-883-0001, or write to him at Box
1944, Kamuela, Hawaii, 96743. PFI member Tom Frantzen is interested in
the offer, so you might contact Tom as well (515-364-6426).
Leopold Center Fifth Annual Conference March 3.
The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, now in its seventh
year, will be taking results of its work to Iowa's farming community
with Partners & Projects: A Research and Farming Exchange, to be held at
Scheman Continuing Education Building on Friday, March 3, from 8:30 am
to 4:00 pm. PFI members have already received a mailing on the
conference, which costs $25 with lunch, $15 without lunch.
Keynote speaker will be Sam Alessi, a farmer and USDA/ARS researcher
from Minnesota. Alessi was also part of a team of farmers and
scientists that developed Farmbook, a computerized farm records and
decision-making tool. Also on the schedule are an open forum,
researcher/farmer panel discussions, and round table
presentation-discussions. A poster session featuring Leopold Center
research will include several of the cooperator posters that appeared at
the PFI annual meeting. For more information, call the Leopold Center
Young Farmers Host Satellite Broadcasts
The Iowa Young Farmers Educational Association, in cooperation with
the Nebraska Young Farmers, have developed a series of interactive
satellite broadcasts that are being aired this winter. There is still
time to get in on the final two programs in the series.
The 1995 Farm Bill, Feb 23. Presented by: Dr. Roy Frederick,
University of Nebraska; Eugene Glock, from Senator Kerrey's staff; and
Doug Rushing, Monsanto Environmental Affairs Manager. (Spacenet-3, NEB
2, Channel 4)
Characteristics of Successful Farm Operators, March 23. Presented
by Moe Russell, Division President, Farm Credit Services, Omaha.
(Spacenet-3, NEB 2, Channel 4)
Satellite participants will be given an 800 phone number to call in
comments. If you don't have a satellite dish, you can order a tape
($10) by the day before the broadcast. Call Dean Vantiger, IYFEA
Executive Director, at 319-865-5241.
PFI On-farm Research on Biologicals
A brief note in New Farm Magazine has resulted in 40 requests for
the summary of PFI trials involving biological soil amendments. From
1986 to 1994, PFI members carried out forty-two replicated field trials
on a variety of products ranging from micronutrients to microbial
inoculants. Classed loosely as "biologicals," these are materials
intended to enhance or utilize naturally occurring biological processes.
While the report urges producers to conduct their own evaluations to
find out what works for them, it also shows that biologicals were less
profitable than the check treatments by an average of $19.27 in corn and
$13.85 in soybeans. A copy of the summary is available from the PFI
coordinators, 2104 Agronomy Hall, ISU, Ames, IA 50011.
Grazing Discussion on the Internet
Editors' note: Michele Gale-Sinex, with the Center for Integrated
Agricultural Systems, in Madison, passes along this notice of a new
discussion group for management-intensive rotational grazing (MIRG):
Its name is GRAZE-L, and its purpose is to provide a virtual space
to discuss MIRG and seasonal dairying issues in a more focused arena
than other, more general, list servers provide, as well as to connect
producers (and others) in New Zealand and the U.S. -- and elsewhere. It
is quite new and the subscription list still small...and consisting
primarily of farmers (hurrah!!!!) in New Zealand and Wisconsin. As you
may know, New Zealand farmers have been involved in MIRG and seasonal
dairying for many years, and these are prairiefire technologies in
Information sharing is crucial in management intensive approaches.
Topics of discussion this week on GRAZE-L have included seasonal
strategies, pasture supplementation feeding, cropping, breeding,
stockpiling, and, alas for those of us in the snowy Upper Midwest, the
beautiful summer weather and beaches of New Zealand.
If you have an interest in MIRG/seasonal topics, we welcome your
subscription. Send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org. In
the body of the message type "subscribe GRAZE-L".
If you would like more information, contact me:
GALE-SINEX@AE.AGECON.WISC.EDU or my exceptional New Zealand colleague,
Noel Bridgeman, Taranaki Polytechnic: email@example.com.
Because the listserver is still quite new, folks who sign on in the
next month or two will have the privilege of taking part in and shaping
an exciting new virtual community. ]
19^ OPPORTUNITIES FOR CONTRACTING SOYBEANS
This is the annual survey of companies contracting with Iowa farmers
for identity-preserved soybeans of one kind or another. These programs
carry premiums that are sometimes significant. If you have the
capability to grow specialty varieties, pesticide-free, or organic
soybeans, you can reap the rewards.
West Central Co-op has dropped its pesticide-free category because
their major buyers want organic soybeans. When we phoned in late
January, their primary buyer had not yet told them what volume to
contract. They know they will buy certified organic, light hilum
soybeans. They will be paying double the Board of Trade price. The
beans must be stored on-farm and delivered to the Jefferson elevator.
Growers must be certified by the Organic Crop Improvement Association
(OCIA), which requires three years away from synthetic fertilizers and
pesticides. For more information, call Larry Tomsen or Bill Doubler at
Strayer Seed Farms, in Hudson, contracts with growers in 11 states
for a total of 14 varieties of specialty soybeans. Many of these are
tofu beans, but general manager Dennis Strayer explains that different
kinds of tofu require different types of soy protein. Strayer contracts
directly with growers, and they also work through local seed houses for
contracting and conditioning.
Strayer applies a yield adjustment for the food-quality soybeans
they are seeking, with the specific factor depending on variety and
region of the state. This multiplier ranges up to more than 130
percent, factored on a maximum yield that also varies by region and
variety. Bushels over the maximum yield may be marketed, but without
the adjustment. The second adjustment is a quality bonus of up to one
dollar, applied for seed size, seed coat quality, etc. The third price
adjustment is connected to special production methods. This year
Strayer will pay $1.00 per bushel additional for soybeans grown without
pesticides and $3.00 for organic soybeans. Organic soybeans need to be
from farms certified organic by some third party such as OCIA.
Growers for Strayer would add together the three premiums and yield
adjustments, if applicable, for a final price. Base price is a local
(to the farmer) elevator price at any time (farmer's choice) from
planting to August of the following year. The customary arrangement is
for the farmer to pay storage and Strayer to pick up at no charge.
Strayer will store, but the producer must then pay for delivery. For
information, contact Dennis Strayer, at 1-(800) 728-4187.
Pioneer Hi-Bred International is continuing its Better Life program
for soybeans grown without pesticides (synthetic fertilizers are
permitted). Their focus is on northern Iowa, with a variety, HP204,
that is adapted north of Highway 30. They are contracting for $3.00 per
"food-grade bushel" (bushels after screening and cleaning), with the
producer covering delivery costs. Grundy Center and Onawa are the two
collection points. Better Life is about done signing contracts for the
year, having cut acreage back a bit due to the large 1994 crop. For
additional information, contact Better Life at Pioneer Specialty Plant
Products, 1-(800) 356-0393.
Heartland Organic Marketing. Inc. is the new name for the year-old
producers' co-op centered in southwest Iowa. Ken Rosmann, one of the
group's founders, explains that, while they will keep the cooperative
philosophy, they will be structured like a business corporation until
the membership grows beyond the present 20 members. Heartland grew out
of the frustration individual producers experienced in dealing with
brokers for organic grain. Through the association, they are now able
to deal directly with the buyers.
Typical prices for clear-hilum, organic soybeans in 1994 were
$12-$14 per clean bushel. Heartland will be signing contracts with
member growers this spring at similar prices. Heartland is open to new
members. The cost of membership is $1,000, but for the committed
organic producers in the group, this is an investment that is paying
off. Ken Rosmann can be reached at (712) 627-4217.
Iowa soybean producers should compare these options and similar ones
and decide if they are in a position to grow for those premiums. ]
20^ PFI DISTRICT LIBRARIES COOPERATE
Laura Krouse, Northeast District Director, has agreed to coordinate
the five district libraries. The board decided to compile one listing
of all available library materials, and this is the information Laura
has been putting into the computer. PFI members will be able to request
material from any library, but they should seek first within their own
District libraries may be reached through the directors listed on
the back of this newsletter. The exception is the northeast library,
which is with Tom Frantzen. In addition, some individuals have offered
materials from their personal libraries. To borrow those items contact
1155 Jasper Ave.
RR 2, New Hampton, IA 50659
1321 March Ave.
Floyd, IA 50435-8058
RR 3, Box 128
Monticello, IA 52310
The current library list appears on the next pages. (see also the
graphics LIBRARY1.WMF, LIBRARY2.WMF, and LIBRARY3.WMF, available by ftp)
Acquisitions and occasional blurbs will appear in later newsletters. ]
20^ ISHMAEL, AN ENTHUSIASTIC BOOK REVIEW
Dwight Ault, Austin, MN
The book is Ishmael, a novel by Daniel Quinn, who is a native of
Omaha, Nebraska. It is well nigh impossible to give a conventional
report on Ishmael, or so it seems to me. I found it an incredible bit
The book requires the reader to suspend everyday expectations in
order to hear a voice from an unexpected source. I won't reveal more
than that, except to suggest the test of this device is whether the
voice rings true. The book deals with western civilization's cause and
effect along with the history of how we have become such a using
society. The message does not condemn, nor does it leave the reader
with a heavy burden of guilt. It does leave us with a sense of
environmental responsibility and the realization that we cannot continue
on a course of planet degradation.
For those who know me, I say, "Read it." For those who don't know
me, I say, "Read it." Ishmael is a most unusual novel. It is a Bantam
paperback costing $5.99.
24^ PFI ON-FARM TRIAL RESULTS, 1994
READING THE NUMBERS, KNOWING THE TERMS
Each year a subset of PFI members who are called "cooperators"
conduct on-farm trials using a research design developed with university
researchers. Since 1987 PFI cooperators have conducted 386 replicated
trials using this design. The topics examined most often have been
nitrogen rates and weed management techniques. In 1994 approximately 38
replicated trials were carried out by PFI cooperators and Sustainable
Projects recipients. The map in Figure 1 (see also the graphic
figure1.wmf, available by ftp) shows the locations of the farms of these
Valid and reliable farmer-generated information is a cornerstone of
Practical Farmers of Iowa. Consequently, PFI has worked to develop
practical methods that safeguard the accuracy and credibility of that
information. PFI cooperators use methods that allow statistical
analysis of their on-farm trials. Chief among these are: 1)
"replication," and 2) "randomization." (See Figure 2., a typical PFI
trial layout: the graphic figure2.wmf, available by ftp) The farming
practices compared in a trial are repeated, or "replicated," at least
six times across the field. Thus trial results do not depend on a
single comparison only, but on six or more. The order of the practices,
or "treatments," in each pair is chosen with a flip of the coin. This
"randomization" is necessary to avoid unintentional bias. PFI on-farm
trials have been recognized for their statistical reliability. So,
while PFI cooperators don't have all the answers, they do have a tool
for working toward those answers.
When you see the outcome of a PFI trial, you also see a statistical
indication of how seriously to take those results. The following
information should help you to understand the reports of the trials
contained in this document. The symbol "*" shows that there was a
"statistically significant" difference between treatments; that is, one
that probably did not occur just by chance. We require ourselves to be
95% sure before we declare a significant difference. If, instead of a
"*," there is a "N.S.," you know the difference was "not significant."
There is a handy "yardstick" called the "LSD," or "least significant
difference," that can be used in a trial with only two practices or
treatments. If the difference between the two treatments is greater
than the LSD, then the difference is significant. You will see in the
tables that when the difference between two practices is, for example, 5
bushels (or minus 5 bushels, depending on the arithmetic), and the LSD
is only, say, 3 bushels, then there is a "*" indicating a significant
The LSD doesn't work well in trials with more than two treatments.
In those cases, letters are added to show whether results are
statistically different from each other. (We usually use something
called a Duncan multiple range grouping.) The highest yield or weed
count in a trial will have a letter "a" beside it. A number with a "b"
next to it is significantly different from one with an "a," but neither
is statistically different from a number bearing an "ab." A third
treatment might produce a number with a "c" (or it might not), and so
Average 1994 statewide prices for inputs were assumed in calculating
the economics of these trials. Average fixed and variable costs and
time requirements were also used. These can vary greatly from farm to
farm, of course. The calculations use 1994 prices of $2.00 per bushel
for corn, $5.30 for soybeans, and $1.30 per bushel for oats. Labor was
charged at $8.00 per hour.
Some tables show both a "treatment cost" (which includes relevant
costs, but not the total cost of production) and "treatment benefit."
The treatment benefit is the relative advantage of a practice compared
to the least profitable treatment in that trial, which is often assigned
a treatment benefit of $0. If there are no significant yield
differences in the trial, treatment benefit is calculated solely from
input costs. If the yield of a treatment is significantly different
from that of the least profitable treatment, then that difference in
bushels is also taken into account to calculate treatment benefit for
the more profitable practice.
Dollar amounts shown in parentheses ( ) are negative numbers. A
treatment "benefit" that is a negative number indicates a relative loss.
The highest-yielding practice doesn't always have the greatest treatment
benefit. You will see that sometimes the additional input costs of a
practice outweigh its greater gross return.
Here is one more thing to be aware of. Fertilizer shown with dashes
between the numbers (18-46-0) means percent by weight of nitrogen,
phosphate, and potash in the product. Fertilizer shown with plus signs
(18+46+0) indicates pounds per acre of those nutrients in an
The results that appear here imply neither endorsement nor
condemnation of any particular product. Producers are encouraged to
carry out their own trials to find what works in their operations. In
reports of trials that involve proprietary products, brand names are
included for purpose of information.
25^ Banded Fertilizers
As in past years, several PFI cooperators evaluated starters and
other banded fertilizers in 1994. By now it should be no surprise that
results were mixed. Even where these fertilizers increased crop yields,
there was sometimes no clear economic advantage.
Doug Alert and Margaret Smith, Hampton, were among the ridge-tillers
trying out the deep placement applicator shoe for the Buffalo planter.
In soybeans, the fertilizer, placed two inches directly below the seed,
increased yield 3.1 bushels, but the benefit was less than the cost of
the 2-6-12 suspension fertilizer (Table 1) (see also the graphic
table1.wmf, available by ftp). In the corn trial, Doug and Margaret
compared placement below the seed, two inches to the side, and a
no-starter check treatment (Table 3) (see also the graphic table3.wmf,
available by ftp). Their soil tests very high in phosphorus and high in
potassium. There was no observable yield difference among the three
treatments. Don and Sharon Davidson, Grundy Center, also used the deep
banding planter shoe in a soybean trial (Table 1) (see also the graphic
table1.wmf, available by ftp). There was no significant effect on
yield. Jeff and Gayle Olson, Mt. Pleasant, evaluated a planter band
too, this one two inches to the side of the soybean seed and consisting
of just potash fertilizer (Table 3) (see also the graphic table3.wmf,
available by ftp). There was no yield effect. The potassium soil test
there is between medium and high.
The usual method of deep banding involves a separate pass with an
implement in the fall. Harlan and Sharon Grau, Newell, took this
approach, comparing a fall deep band, fall broadcast, and a
no-fertilizer check treatment. The corn in the deep band treatment
yielded significantly better than the check treatment (nearly 16
bushels), with the broadcast treatment falling in between (Table 3) (see
also the graphic table3.wmf, available by ftp). Soil tests are
medium-to-very-high for phosphorus and high-to-very-high for potassium.
Different results were obtained by Allen and Jackie Tibbs, Alden, who
no-till planted soybeans directly over a fall band of fertilizer. They
reported no yield increase from the fertilizer band (Table 1) (see also
the graphic table1.wmf, available by ftp). The soil on this field tests
low-to-medium for phosphorus and high for potassium.
Ron and Maria Rosmann, Harlan, have put their home farm in a
transition to organic certification. They evaluated two rates of a
mined rock phosphate on soybean yield, but saw no effect (Table 1) (see
also the graphic table1.wmf, available by ftp). Their soil test for
phosphorus was already medium-to-high.
Ray and Marj Stonecypher, Floyd, evaluated 3-18-18, a low-salt
starter, which they placed right with the corn seed (Table 1) (see also
the graphic table1.wmf, available by ftp). The 11 gallon per acre rate
amounted to about 1+6+6 of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash.
Surprisingly, leaf tissue tests showed a reduction in both nitrogen and
magnesium where the starter had been applied. For the third year
running, the Stonecyphers saw no yield effect from a low-salt starter.
Their soil tests very high in P and K.
Probably the most ambitious starter trials in 1994 were carried out
by Dick and Sharon Thompson, Boone, who evaluated both starters and
timing of manure applications for corn and for soybeans (Table 2) (see
also the graphic table2.wmf, available by ftp). How do you test both
manure timing and starters in one trial? They used what is called a
"split plot" design. The "main plots" represented different manure
application times - fall (in the corn trial), spring, and a no-manure
check plot. Each of these main plots was split into a subplot with
starter fertilizer and one without starter, the location of each
subtreatment being chosen at random.
In the Thompson's soybean trial neither manure nor starter affected
yields measurably. However, in the corn trial, both manure and starter
had an effect on yield. Fall-applied manure was significantly better
than the no-manure treatment, with spring-applied manure in between.
The highest yielding treatment was fall-manure-plus-starter. However,
because of spreading costs even this treatment lost money compared to
the no-manure-no-starter treatment. Table 2 (see also the graphic
table2.wmf, available by ftp) shows the economics calculated both for
in-year costs and "prorated" spreading costs. Dick Thompson distributes
spreading costs across all the crops of the five-year rotation, with
each crop's charge weighted according to its nutrient withdrawal. It's
worth noting that this field has been manured two or three years out of
five for some time, so all treatment yields reflect the long-term
benefits of manure. Soil tests for P and K are both very high here.
A few years back, nitrogen rate trials were the most common on-farm
experiment. That's no longer true, maybe because we now have the late
spring soil nitrate test for corn. At the Neely-Kinyon Research Farm,
near Greenfield, Bernie Havlovic carried out a demonstration of nitrogen
rates for corn following soybeans (Table 3) (see also the graphic
table3.wmf, available by ftp). Four rates were compared: zero, 75, 110,
and 150 pounds per acre spring-applied anhydrous ammonia N. The 110
pound rate, which was recommended by the late spring soil nitrate test,
yielded as well as the 150 pound rate, and both yielded significantly
better than the check treatment. (N recommendations from the late
spring soil nitrate test also in the graphic figure3.tif, available by
ftp.) The corn yield in the 75 pound treatment was not significantly
less than the two high rates. With more replications than the three
that were used, the trial might have distinguished the 75 pound
treatment as different too.
Tom and Irene Frantzen, New Hampton, tested the nitrogen
contribution to corn from a previous crop of berseem clover (Table 1)
(see also the graphic table1.wmf, available by ftp). There was no yield
difference between the corn receiving 80 pounds N and that getting 20
pounds, suggesting that the berseem may have supplied a significant
amount of N to the crop. The whole field had also received six tons of
hog manure in October, 1993. The late spring soil nitrate test showed
both treatments to be in the seventies (very high). However, both
treatments gave late season cornstalk tests in the 600's, suggesting the
possibility of an N shortage.
In early 1994, there were dry and warm conditions that released soil
nitrogen and led to the large number of high readings for the late
spring test. Then the rains returned, leaching soil N out of the root
zone - and conditions were also excellent for crop removal of nutrients.
As a result, some PFI farmers were left wondering if they really did
have enough nitrogen in 1994. Dr. Fred Blackmer, who adapted the late
spring soil nitrate test for Iowa, recommends always including one field
strip of a high nitrogen rate. This can be a very useful reference if
questions arise in mid-season.
32^ Biologicals and Unconventional Products
A number of PFI farmers experimented with unconventional products in
1994. Dave and Lisa Lubben, Monticello, continued a line of
investigation they began several years ago, testing ACA (zinc acetate).
ACA is said to increase nitrogen uptake of corn under some conditions,
but Dave and Lisa tried the product on soybeans this time (Table 1) (see
also the graphic table1.wmf, available by ftp). There was no effect on
Jeff and Gayle Olson, Mt. Pleasant, evaluated a package of
biological soil amendments from Ag Spectrum. In both corn and soybeans,
they applied Grozyme (Trade Mark) and Agri-SC (Trade Mark) (Table 1)
(see also the graphic table1.wmf, available by ftp). Jeff reports that
Grozyme is said to release soil nutrients, and Agri-SC is said to be a
soil conditioner to help the Grozyme go into the ground. The products
were added to an herbicide band in each trial. Crop yields were not
different than in the check treatment that received the herbicide
without the biologicals.
Lynn and Linda Stock, Waukon, evaluated a package of biological
amendments from Farm for Profit. Lynn describes Remedy (Trade Mark) as
a microbial inoculant that is sold to clean petroleum residues from the
soil and improve structure. Achieve (Trade Mark) is a product said to
provide nutrients for the microbes in Remedy. The trial was carried out
within the strips of a narrow strip intercropping field, and that
complicated the analysis. However, no difference in corn or soybean
yield was seen between the biological treatment and the control
treatment (Table 1) (see also the graphic table1.wmf, available by ftp).
John and Rosie Wurpts, Ogden, were PFI Sustainable Projects
participants in 1994. They carried out an evaluation of two approaches
to soil fertility, comparing ISU recommendations to a package of
biologicals from Agrienergy (Table 1) (see also the graphic table1.wmf,
available by ftp). This was the fourth year of the comparison. As in
previous years, there was no significant difference in yield, so the
economic difference was based on input costs alone. In earlier years of
the trial, the ISU Extension recommendation was for no fertilizer
(except nitrogen for corn). In 1994, the ISU recommendation included
some P and K for the corn. However, the cost of the fertilizer was less
than that of the biologicals.
33^ Corn Population Trials
In 1994, corn population trials came from both cooperators Ron and
Maria Rosmann, Harlan, and the Riceville, Iowa Future Farmers of
America, which participated through a Sustainable Projects grant. In
all three trials there was a consistent yield response to increasing
populations (Table 3 (table3.wmf, available by ftp) and Fig. 4
(figure4.tif, available by ftp)). The Rosmanns are adjusting their
cropping system as they make the transition to organic certification.
Not only did they see a yield response to population, they found through
stand counts that rotary hoeing and cultivation had thinned the planted
population by around 4,700 plants per acre. The finding may refocus
their attention on these operations.
The Riceville FFA compared three planting populations, the highest
being 32 thousand seeds per acre. That rate was the yield winner in
both of the corn hybrids evaluated, although crop stands were up to four
thousand plants less than seeding rates. Of course, 1994 was a good
year for corn. In a more stressful growing season, the yield response
could be different. These trials probably should be repeated for a
number of years, and results should be considered along with information
provided by the seed companies and by third parties like ISU Extension.
Three cooperators and a Sustainable Projects recipient compared
no-till to some other tillage system in 1994. Ted and Donna Bauer,
Audubon, achieved 19-inch soybean rows by offsetting the 38-inch row
planter and making two passes across the field. Although the narrow-row
soybeans yielded significantly better than beans in the 38-inch rows,
the cost of the extra planter pass made the practice somewhat less
economical (Table 5) (table5.wmf, available by ftp). Still, the
narrow-row soybeans yielded well, and the results suggest the trial is
Don and Sharon Davidson, Grundy Center, compared ridge-till and
no-till beans and corn in 38-inch row spacings. This was the second
year for the trials on that particular site. The no-till crops received
one cultivation and broadcast herbicides, while the ridge-till received
banded herbicides and two cultivations. There were no significant
differences in crop yield (Table 5) (table5.wmf, available by ftp).
Ridge-till corn had more broadleaf weeds than no-till corn, but there
was more grass pressure in no-till corn and soybeans. In the soybean
trial, weed management costs were markedly higher in no-till than in
The Dordt College Agricultural Stewardship Center conducted a
two-factor experiment - tillage and soybean variety (Table 4)
(table4.wmf, available by ftp). Drilled no-till yields and ridge
tillage yields were not significantly different. Economics favored the
drill because ridge tillage strips received one cultivation plus the two
broadcast applications of herbicide that the no-till treatments were
given. There was a significant yield difference between the two soybean
The Riceville FFA carried out an extensive evaluation of tillage
systems for soybeans: 30-inch planted rows; 15-inch drill; 8-inch drill
with true no-till, and 8-inch drill with reduced tillage (Table 4)
(table4.wmf, available by ftp). The no-till 8-inch drilled soybeans
were the only ones in which no primary cultivation was used to prepare a
seedbed. The yield winner was the soybeans drilled in 15-inch rows.
Jim Green, high school agriculture instructor for the group, thinks that
the 8-inch drill was not used to its full capability. It should have
been calibrated for each treatment. There were significant stand
differences among the treatments; however, these differences, in
themselves, were not correlated with the yield differences.
Dick and Sharon Thompson, Boone, designed a trial to "shed light on"
the rumor that weeds can be kept from appearing by depriving them of the
light cue that stimulates germination. Work in Europe continues on
this, but most reports from the U.S. have been negative. The Thompsons
compared flat (no-till) planting at night, flat planting in the day, and
ridge planting in the daytime - all with no herbicides. But the
phenomenon remained elusive. There were similar numbers of broadleafed
weeds in the night and day flat planting. Ridge-till day planting had
significantly more weeds, which might be expected from ridges built the
previous fall. The light-weeds connection may be unproven, but the
tillage-weeds connection was confirmed once again.
36^ Miscellaneous Trials
Several on-farm trials don't fall into easy categories, but that
doesn't make them any less interesting. Ron and Maria Rosmann, for
example, who compared corn populations in their transitional organic
system, also looked at soybean planting rates. They compared 171
thousand seeds per acre with 190 thousand seeds (Table 5) (table5.wmf,
available by ftp). They observed no difference in either crop yield or
weed suppression between the two planting populations.
Ted and Donna Bauer compared purchased soybean seed with farm-grown
seed (same variety) that was cleaned and germination tested by a
neighbor (Table 5) (table5.wmf, available by ftp). There was no yield
difference, and even after accounting for handling, storage, and the
lost sales opportunity, planting farm-grown seed was more profitable by
over seven dollars per acre. This was the third year they have done
this trial, and the result has always been similar.
The Bauers also carried out a comparison of mid-October and
early-November corn harvest dates that they began two years ago. In the
first year, the late harvest clearly came out ahead, while in year two
the economics favored the early harvest. In 1994, moisture-corrected
yields were 7.5 bushels greater with the early harvest (Table 5)
(table5.wmf, available by ftp). But because of greater drying and
handling costs, the November 2 harvest date was more profitable, even
taking into account the value of the yield difference. Ted also points
out that the combine moves more slowly through the moister corn
encountered at the early harvest. And what about the corn left on the
ground due to late harvest? Ted is hoping for some open winter weather
that will allow his cattle to clean up those ears.
Tom and Irene Frantzen wanted to know how berseem clover would
behave with oats. They know that berseem has potential as a green
manure and a source of quick livestock forage. But how would it fit
into their present cropping system? They compared oats seeded with
berseem to oats seeded with mammoth red clover (Table 5) (table5.wmf,
available by ftp). In 1994, the berseem grew nearly as tall as the
oats, making it necessary to windrow the oat crop. Unfortunately, rains
combined with the heavy berseem growth to retard drying of the cut
grain, so some oat yield was lost in the berseem strips. Tom notes,
though, that the berseem clover may contribute more as a green manure
for next year's corn than it takes away from oat yields.
36^ Pasture Versus Feedlot for Dairy Heifers
The Dordt College Agricultural Stewardship Center has long had a
strong dairy program. In 1994 they took their first steps in
management-intensive grazing. With support from PFI Sustainable
Projects, the Stewardship Center carried out a comparison of feedlot and
rotationally grazed Holstein heifers. A group of 23 animals was divided
in May for the two treatments. Six animals remained in the lot, while
17 were put out to pasture. The first year's results appear in Figures
5 and 6.
Figure 5 (figure5.wmf, available by ftp) shows that average daily
gain was sometimes higher in the pasture setting, sometimes in the
feedlot. It also shows that there was a difference in average weight
right from the beginning of the trial. Larger animals were selected for
the feedlot because of involvement with a local business on another
project. In the future, animals will be selected randomly for the two
treatment groups in order to make a truer comparison.
The figure also starts at May 11, although weights are not shown
until May 30. Animals went to pasture on May 11, but individual weights
were not taken until nineteen days later. This makes it difficult to
put absolute profit figures to the treatments, since the weight gain of
the two groups is not known for the first period. However, student Lee
DeHaan has done a good job of deriving the cost side of the equation.
Feedlot costs per head are constant through the season. However, daily
production cost for heifers on pasture decreases as fixed costs are
spread across the lengthening grazing season (Figure 6) (figure6.wmf,
available by ftp). These first-year results should catch the attention
of Sioux County dairy farmers looking for a better bottom line.
37^ Transition to Grazing for Dairy
Matt and Diana Stewart, Oelwein, are PFI members who attended the
talk by grazier Joel Salatin that PFI hosted last January. It was an
important experience for them, and they began to plan changes for their
own farm. In 1994 they received support from Sustainable Projects to
document the process of moving their dairy operation to greater use of
pasture. Matt's report follows.
"Stewartland Holsteins is very similar to the large number of family
dairies in Northeast Iowa. We farm 380 acres and have milked 75-80
registered Holsteins in a tie-stall barn. We have two silos with a
capacity of 1,000 tons and a liquid manure system with an earthen pit.
Over 340 acres are tillable, and our corn base is 245 acres with a
Our cows have been drylot-managed for most of the fifteen years
since my wife and I joined my parents. We milked three times a day for
the eleven years preceding this spring. Our herd average has been
between 21,000-22,000 for the past ten years. The work force has
consisted of my wife and me, my father, our four children (aged 3-13),
and a full-time hired man. The heifers have been housed on a separate
acreage seven miles away, and the man that lives there does the daily
feeding in exchange for rent. We have a full line of machinery for
chopping, haying, and hauling liquid manure. My brother has planted and
combined our corn.
Our objective has been to switch to grass-based dairying as quickly
as possible and demonstrate the economics of such a drastic change.
Most of the economic data will not be available until next winter, but
it does appear that we will be able to stand the transition and show an
average net gain. This report covers the physical changes we have made
and a couple of observations from our DHIA test sheets.
The first tough decision was to let ASCS know that we didn't want
that big advance deficiency payment - we would only plant 60 acres of
corn. (Now I know how hard it really is to get off welfare.) Of this
60 acres, 27 acres were chopped and put in the silo for winter feed.
About April 1 we direct-seeded 100 acres with 5 lbs. bromegrass, 1
lb. reed canarygrass, 1 lb. ladino clover, and 1 lb. red clover per acre
using a Brillion seeder. We have seeded our alfalfa this way for ten
years with no chemicals and excellent results. The foxtail was cut
before it headed out, and it yielded 3 round bales per acre. The
seeding was grazed twice after that in large paddocks with low stock
density. As the foxtail regrowth became coarse in August and September,
lactating cows refused to eat the lush new seeding beneath. Heifers
grazed these fields until late November.
Another 100 acres of alfalfa-orchardgrass hayfields were too thin to
hay again this year and diverted to pasture. As bred heifers had been
out on cornstalks and hayfields last winter, the stubble was very short,
and grazing was delayed until April 20. We had four groups on grass.
The first group, the lactating cows, had to return to conventional
feeding on October 1. It became very difficult to maintain production
in late September. The dry cow group and the two heifer groups
maintained excellent condition through the seven months they were on
grass, trace-mineral salt blocks, and no supplemental feed. We were
extremely satisfied with their performance.
The milking group was allowed to gradually change from silage to
grass. The first two days we waited until they were full to let them
out to pasture. For the next two weeks we let the cows decide when they
wanted to walk away from the bunk and go to pasture. We had been
feeding 14 lbs. of grain in the barn and 40 lbs. of wet corn gluten feed
with the silage. The transition was very smooth, and production was
good. Our biggest mistake was that we should have raised the grain
level to 18 lbs. By mid-June, the cows were too thin, production was
about 5-10 lbs. lower than we thought it should be, and we did increase
the grain to 18 lbs. In July we started feeding 10-20 lbs. corn silage.
We monitored the appetite at the bunk to determine feed availability in
the pastures. The cows were locked in the paddocks from the end of
milking until one hour before milking.
Figure 7 (figure7.tif, available by ftp) shows our history of gross
milk income, income after feed costs, and the estimated proportion of
cows pregnant on testing days. The percent pregnant cows is based on
confirmed pregnancies plus half of the "maybe" pregnant cows.
Figure 8 (figure8.tif, available by ftp) is also based on test days
and focuses on the 1993 and 1994 grazing seasons. 'Total cows' is the
number of milking and dry cows on test day. For a good part of the
year, grazing allows us to milk more cows than the barn will hold at one
time - we just move two shifts through from pasture. We were limited to
80 milking at any one time under our conventional system. 'Income After
Feed Costs' applies to the whole cow herd on the day of testing. Milk
prices were comparable between the two years. The total income after
feed costs for the 160-day grazing period is $3,200 less than for the
same 160 days in 1993. This will be more than offset by reduction in
labor costs. We let our full-time employee go in May, when we dropped
to milking twice a day. We thought we might go back to milking three
times when the cows were back in the barn this winter, but so far
production has remained acceptable with two milkings."
40^ Weed Management
Three other trials were devoted specifically to weed management.
Ted and Donna Bauer, Audubon, compared banding to broadcasting herbicide
in soybeans. They did not take weed counts, but yields were the same in
both treatments (Table 6) (table6.wmf, available by ftp). They found it
was more economical to band and cultivate twice than to cultivate just
once and broadcast.
Paul and Karen Mugge, Sutherland, evaluated ridge-till corn with and
without a grass herbicide (Table 6) (table6.wmf, available by ftp).
Both treatments received a broadleaf herbicide. In place of the grass
herbicide, they substituted four rotary hoeings. While there was no
significant difference in yields, the cost of the four trips with the
hoe made that system less profitable. There was a tendency for hoeing
to control grassy weeds better than the herbicide, but it fell just
short of being statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.
Dick and Mary Jane Svoboda, Aurora, compared banded herbicide to a
weed-suppressing cover crop of annual medic (Table 6) (table6.wmf,
available by ftp). A relative of alfalfa, the medic is supposed to
compete with weeds early in the season, then die back and let the crop
grow through. Unfortunately, the medic establishment was very poor, so
there was no observable effect on weeds.
40^ Narrow Strip Intercropping
Narrow strip intercropping is a complex system requiring careful
management. Maybe we should think of it as a finely tuned sports car.
It's a roadster that can really perform on a good road. But it isn't
built for rough ground or muddy lanes. We know, for example, that in
stress years, there has not been the hoped for "overyielding" in the
outside rows of the corn strips. 1994 appeared to be the smooth highway
that farmers had been waiting for, but there were new lessons around the
There is a potential "biological efficiency" built into narrow
strips. It has to do with the borders between strips. That is where
neighboring crops can use resources like light, fertility, and soil
moisture in complementary ways. This doesn't automatically happen, but
crops that use these resources at different times of the season often
make good neighbors in strip intercropping. Oats, for instance, are
harvested in July, leaving extra resources for neighboring row crops.
Corn and soybeans are potentially competitive, but in past years,
increased corn yields have not come at the expense of soybean yields in
most PFI trials.
University and farmer researchers have seen that in stress years,
the yield benefits of strip intercropping are less evident, as
competition between crops dominates over the complementary use of
resources. So 1994, which was generally a good year for crops, should
have been a great year for narrow strip intercropping. In fact, some
cooperators did see the yield benefits in corn (Table 7) (table7.wmf,
available by ftp). The largest yield benefit was nearly 27 bushels, in
one of Doug Alert and Margaret Smith's trials. They optimize their
strips, using higher corn populations and fertilizer rates than in the
whole-field blocks. And their strips are in a three-year rotation,
while the rest of the field is in a corn-soybean rotation.
In other trials narrow strip intercropping did not fare so well.
Observations in the field point the finger at weeds. The grass got out
of hand in some stripped crops. Why was it worse in strips than in the
whole-field blocks? Corn in strips lets in more light. This appeared
to stimulate grass in some strips. And in some cases weed pressure had
built up from two years in which weather prevented a second cultivation.
Where trials got into trouble, the corn strip edges were the place with
the most light, the lowest stands of corn, and the most grass.
What is the take-home lesson? It may be "back to basics" - not
necessarily in the sense of a return to conventional farming practices,
but in the recognition that narrow strip intercropping is a very
management-intensive system. It is a system that is less forgiving of
slips in weed management, and perhaps in fertility and tillage as well.
It's that high-performance roadster that likes a smooth road.
Table 8 (table8.wmf, available by ftp) and Figures 9 and 10
(figure9.tif and figure10.tif, available by ftp) also show corn yields
in narrow strip intercropping, but these are hand-harvest yields row by
row. They differ from the machine harvests shown in Table 7
(table7.wmf, available by ftp) both by the method and because they
represent only a small part of the field, while the combine yields
reflect the system as a whole. The effect of low stand and grass in
some strip borders is evident, but a trend found in 1993 also stands
out. This is the tendency for the east edges of north-south strips to
yield better than the west edges. Corn on the east borders of strips
receives the greatest part of its light in the morning, when moisture
stress is reduced. Corn on the west edges of strips receives the full
light of afternoon, and stress may prevent it from taking full advantage
of this light.
43^ Forage Quality and Returns from Grazing
Steve Hopkins and Sarah Andreasen milked a small herd of Jerseys
near Decorah the last several years. In October, they moved their cows
to a farm near Newton, but not before wrapping up a project documenting
their pasture-based approach to dairying. The effort began in 1993 with
support from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and PFI
Sustainable Projects. In 1994, Steve and Sarah became PFI cooperators.
Figure 11 (figure11.tif, available by ftp) shows that, as in 1993,
milk production improved somewhat and income over feed cost improved
dramatically in the spring when pasture became available. Income and
cost are expressed here per hundredweight of milk sold. Typical feed
costs for well-managed dairies are $5-6 per hundredweight of milk.
During most of the time the cows were in the paddocks in 1994, feed
costs were around $3 per CWT milk sold. From May to July, daily feed
costs were less than one dollar per cow.
Figure 12 (figure12.tif, available by ftp) shows the result of
weekly forage sampling. In 1993, Steve and Sarah were surprised to see
a mid-summer slump in non-fiber carbohydrate (NFC), an important measure
of feed energy content. In 1994, forage energy fluctuated, reflecting
the different paddocks in which the cattle grazed. Depending on paddock
NFC, the cows were fed 10-16 lb. corn in the barn. Steve says that what
impresses him is that crude protein levels were more than adequate
throughout the season. He notes that this is the result of grazing
grass in the leaf stage. His working theory is that, while crude
protein is a function of grass height, NFC reflects both the growth
stage of the grass and the fertility status of the soil. Steve and
Sarah are looking forward to new pastures that aren't quite so steep and
a grazing season just a bit longer than those in northeast Iowa.
44^ Barley-Based Hog Ration vs. a Corn-Based Ration
Dan Wilson, Paullina, sends this description of the trial he and
brother Colin carried out:
"This test was conducted on a group of cross-bred gilts raised on
pasture. The main goal was to see if barley is an economical
alternative to corn for growing/finishing pigs. We wanted to find a
good use for the small grain in our crop rotation. The test was set up
by splitting a group of 222 gilts. The gilts were farrowed on pasture.
At six weeks of age they were weaned and moved to the barn with outside
concrete lots. After being vaccinated and sorted, they were weighed and
returned to pasture for the test.
The corn and barley were tested for protein, and the rations were
balanced accordingly. Both rations were mixed on the farm using soybean
meal and a vitamin/mineral premix. We started the group using barley on
a ration of 200 lbs. barley per ton and slowly increased the barley to
700 lbs. per ton when they reached 150 lbs. This meant that 42 percent
of the grain in the ration was barley, the rest was corn.
In calculating the cost of production we used $1.85 a bushel for
corn and $1.50 a bushel for the barley (season-average market prices for
our area). All other ingredients were priced at cost. Because barley
is higher in lysine, we were able to reduce the amount of soybean meal
in the barley rations. This helped to reduce the cost per ton of the
barley ration, and it accounts for the fact that this group consumed
more pounds of feed but cost the same per pound of weight gain (Table 9)
(table9.wmf, available by ftp).
We were quite encouraged by the result of this trial, as it makes
small grain a viable option in crop rotations. We will repeat the trial
again to see if the results are consistent."
When the Wilsons repeat this trial in 1995, they will improve
several procedures. They hope to have two replications in 1995; their
barley crop was hailed in 1994, leaving them with only enough grain for
the one rep of gilts. The barley group actually went on the ration
August 17, the same day as the corn group. However, they couldn't be
weighed and turned out until a week later, by which time they were
heavier pigs. This could raise suspicions that the '94 test was really
showing the effect of age/size, not rations. Finally, the packing house
lost the records for individual pigs in one group. This means there is
no way to know whether the one percent difference in percent lean or the
1.8 percent difference in carcass yield is a real difference or is
probably just due to chance. But from the 1994 results, the Wilsons
already have an indication that they can "afford" to grow a small grain
in their crop rotation. ]
46^ FOOTPRINTS OF A GRASS FARMER
Addressing The Weak Link, II
Tom Frantzen, Alta Vista
The last Footprints article explained viewing a farm as a tract of
land collecting the sun's energy and converting it into saleable
products. We see this process as a chain stretching from the sun's
energy to the creation of reinvestment dollars. We examine this chain
for its weakest link and direct our financial and labor resources toward
reinforcing that point. The weak link can shift, and continual review
of our operation is needed to track its location.
Converting existing forages and grains into marketable products was
traditionally our farm's weak link. During the summer and fall of 1994,
this weak link shifted to markets and market access. How could we tell?
Both cattle and hog markets declined sharply during the year. The
drop in cattle prices, while it erased any hope of profit from the
stockers that we purchased in the spring, offered us an opportunity to
buy lower-priced bred Angus stock cows. The cows, scheduled to calve in
the spring, will create several market opportunities. We can retain
heifers, grow out yearlings, or place calves on feed. This allows us to
build inventory while (hopefully) the cattle market improves.
The abrupt decline in the cash hog market signaled an important
shift in the weak link. While markets are still available, they could
become restricted. We need to produce the carcass quality packers
desire while retaining the foraging characteristics of our current herd.
In December, we purchased a set of excellent quality Tamworth boars.
This breed is renowned for mothering abilities, the love of forages, and
good carcass quality. Here attention to genetics and breed
characteristics could shape up one of our weak links. Capital and labor
resources invested into increasing gross hog production would not
address this situation.
Another effort directed at improving this weak link is our
investigation of antibiotic-free pork. We toured Sweden in September
with a group to observe low stress, deep-bedded hog facilities. I see
the growth of drug-free meat production as a real opportunity. In 1995,
hogs will provide 50% of our net income. I will explain our progress in
this area in future articles.
Our farm is currently a mixed grass-and-row crop operation. We are
growing clear hilum soybeans and grain amaranth. They are sold as
specialty grains. We are pursuing the idea of organic transition on a
portion of our acres. We propose to utilize a 6-year rotation, with
three of the six in a sod-building pasture. Three years of organic row
crops would follow the sod. The combination of cow/calf grazing and
organic row crop production would be more profitable than our current
practices. We are examining this proposed action in light of our
holistic resource management plans for our farm. Constant attention is
needed to ensure that proposed actions do not conflict with stated
goals. We hope that these actions will reinforce our farm's weak link.
Management attention in this area could pay good dividends. ]
47^ FROM THE KITCHEN
Marj Stonecypher, Floyd
Seems like just yesterday I typed recipes for the beginning of 1994,
now it is 1995. It was a good year for crop production, but not for
prices. I'm sure you all felt the same way as we did about prices for
farmers. Been working on income taxes. Now to get Ray to help with the
Let's look at something more pleasant, like spring, seed catalogues,
what to plant for flowers, vegetables and herbs. Did any of you try
herbs last year? I started some.
How about some simple, good, easy recipes? Bananas are up in price,
so they don't sell until they are good and ripe - and cheaper. They
make good banana bars and bread.
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar 2 eggs
3/4 cup sour milk
2 ripe mashed bananas
2 cup (scant) flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and milk. Add mashed bananas,
flour, vanilla, salt and soda. Mix well. Bake in cookie sheet, 375
degrees for 30 minutes. Frost with favorite powdered sugar icing. Can
sprinkle with nuts. Instead of frosting, I sometimes put chocolate
chips and nuts on before baking.
SURPRISE TACO PIE
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 envelop taco seasoning mix
1 cup tomato sauce
1 1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup Bisquick
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cup shredded cheese
Brown ground beef with onions (may add mushrooms too), add seasoning
mix and tomato sauce. Put in bottom of 10" x 10" casserole. Mix
together eggs, milk and Bisquick. Pour over ground beef mixture. Bake
350 degrees about 25 minutes, until set in center. Top with cheese and
tomato, bake for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. ]
48^ PFI MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION AND RENEWAL FORM
Zip Code ____________________________________
Phone # (_________)______________________________
This is a
____ new membership
Do you derive a significant part of your income directly from farming in
____ yes ____ no
Individual or family membership: $10 for one year, $25 for three years.
Please enclose check or money order payable to "Practical Farmers of
Iowa" and mail to:
Practical Farmers of Iowa
2035 190th St.
Boone, IA 50036-9632
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 directors.
District 1 (Northwest): Paul Mugge, 6190 470th St., Sutherland, 51058.
District 2 (North Central): Don Davidson, RR 1, Box 133, Grundy Center,
50638. (319) 824-6347.
District 3 (Northeast): Laura Krouse, 1346 Springville Rd., Mt. Vernon,
IA 52314. (319) 895-6924.
District 4 (Southwest): Vic Madsen, PFI President, 2186 Goldfinch Ave.,
Audubon, 50025. (712) 563-3044.
District 5 (Southeast): Jeff Olson, PFI Vice President, 2273 140th St.,
Winfield, 52659. (319) 257-6967.
Associate board member for District 1: Colin Wilson, 5482 450th St.,
Paullina, 51046. (712) 448-2708.
Associate board member for District 2: Doug Alert, 972 110th St.,
Hampton, IA 50441. (515) 456-4328.
Associate board member for District 3: Walter Ebert, RR 1, Box 104,
Plainfield, 50666. (319) 276-4444.
Associate board member for District 5: David Lubben, RR 3, Box 128,
Monticello, IA 52310. (319) 465-4717.
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.
Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Public Relations Coordinator: Maria Vakulskas Rosmann, 1222 Ironwood
Rd., Harlan, 51537. (712) 627-4653.