On returning Shelly first worked at the Iowa 4-H Center near
Madrid. She chose this location and work because it was
near to her family s home in State Center and she could live
in an outdoor setting and teach youth about nature. While
everyone at the 4-H Center had strong personal interests in
the environment, Shelly stood out in her interest in
agriculture and the gentle way she help youth learn.
Her interest in agriculture came in part from a realization
that food was a means to help connect people to the land and
nature. This realization led her to want to learn more
about agriculture, especially sustainable agriculture. She
began by becoming involved in PFI activities. She also
worked as an intern for the Leopold Center for Sustainable
Agriculture, and she began a graduate degree program at Iowa
Shelly s graduate program has focused on course work in
agronomy, rural sociology, and technology and social change.
Her areas of interest beyond the classroom include community
supported agriculture (CSA), improving agricultural
programming at the 4-H Center, and linking sustainable
farmers in Costa Rica and Iowa.
Shelly s ultimate goal is to establish a small, diversified,
working farm in central Iowa that would be used to educate
others, whether they are farmers, youth, or non-farm adults,
about the integration of nature and agriculture. Ideally,
this would be a place people came to get their food and be
involved in its production.
In the meantime Shelly will continue to help PFI. One of
her current tasks is helping plan another camp at the 4-H
Center this summer. (For those of you who are interested,
the registration form for the camp is on the opposite page.)
She is also helping plan a trip to Costa Rica in March of
1996, and she would very much like to include PFI farmers.
Future issues of this newsletter will describe the trip in
more detail. |
COMMUNITIES OF LIFE -- PEOPLE, PLANTS, AND ANIMALS
1995 PFI CAMP FOR YOUTH AND FAMILIES
FOR WHOM? PFI youth, friends, and others, ages 8 and up
- parents & families welcome!!!
- children under 8 are welcome with parents
- teen counselors and parent helpers would be
appreciated (Teen counselors 14 years and up
attend free. Counselors should plan to come the
morning of July 29 for orientation.)
WHAT? A chance for youth and families to have fun, and
learn about the "communities" of people, plants, and
animals that we live with.
- Visit local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
- Community overnight campout with cooking and crafts
- Community building through team courses, rapelling,
- Ecological studies of stream and forest communities
- Crafts and games
- Swimming and canoeing
WHERE? The Iowa 4-H Education and Natural Resources
Center near Madrid, Iowa.
WHEN? July 29 - August 1 (Saturday-Tuesday)
COST? $50 per participant
PLEASE REGISTER BY JULY 1, 1995. COMPLETE, CLIP, AND MAIL
THIS REGISTRATION FORM AND A CHECK MADE OUT TO IOWA 4-H
Gary Huber, 2104 Agronomy Hall, ISU, Ames, Iowa 50011
If you have questions, please call Gary Huber at
More information will follow receipt of the
COMMUNITIES OF LIFE CAMP REGISTRATION FORM
Names and ages of campers: _________________________________
Names of Parents: __________________________________________
Address and Phone Number: __________________________________
Check if interested in helping as a teen counselor _____;
as a parent helper ____.
In what area? ____ meals ____ crafts
Write suggestions for activities below. This camp is for
SUSTAINABLE AG TRAINING SURVEY
Jerry DeWitt, ISU Extension
In mid-April, Rick Exner and I sent to PFI members farming
in the state of Iowa a simple survey on possible sustainable
ag training needs for Extension and NRCS staff. The 1990
Farm Bill provides for certain USDA staff to be trained in
sustainable ag. Your ideas are important in shaping how
this training will look. We thought that you should have a
"say" in it, and did you ever! Within days we received more
than 100 replies, and more continue to come in each day.
Your quick response is really appreciated. Many of you also
provided a number of good comments, and these have been read
and will be saved.
What will we do with your responses? First, we carefully
calculated the numbers and studied all the comments. These
numbers and ideas, then, will be combined with responses
from other farmers and groups across the state. We expect
to see some distinct patterns and preferences of sustainable
ag training needs for Extension and others. Your ideas will
guide us on what topics should be covered, and which are
high priorities for training in sustainable ag. So you in a
way are helping to develop the "curriculum" for sustainable
ag training for the next several years. We also think that
this survey may help point towards topics which need to be
researched in sustainable ag in Iowa. We know that one
survey cannot do everything, but this is a good first step.
What were some of the preliminary results? First, keep in
mind that these are early results. We gave you about 91
choices across 11 categories such as crops, livestock,
nutrient management, soils, systems, etc. We added up the
check marks, and here is our interpretation of your
Most Important Topics:
1. Reduced herbicide programs
2. Soil tilth
3. Alternative N sources
4. PFI information
5. Economics of sustainable ag
6. Rotational grazing
8. Alternative field crops
9. Niche marketing/contracts
Remember, this is simply the first look at which topics are
viewed as more important today. Not only will more of the
surveys come back, but your ideas and ours will surely
change as we move ahead with sustainable agriculture in
Iowa. Again, send in your response; it is still important
and will be counted. Thanks for all your help. |
NOTES AND NOTICES
The New Farm Magazine Ends
The Rodale Institute ceased publication of New Farm Magazine
with the May/June, 1995 issue. Editorial Director Craig
Cramer wrote he is "mourning the end of the New Farm s
role," and that he is "unsure exactly what lies ahead."
Institute President John Haberern referred in an editorial
to the rising cost of paper and postage, but acknowledged
that hundreds of phone calls and letters told him the
message of the magazine is "too important to stop."
As the rumor of the magazine s demise spread in Iowa this
spring, the comment was often heard that there was nothing
quite like New Farm. Certainly they showed that there
really are "winners" farmers who are both successful and
sustainable. The writing and the attractiveness of the
publication added to its impact. What, if anything will
arise from the ashes of New Farm? Perhaps those holding
unexpired subscriptions will find out.
PFI Here and There
People of PFI sometimes travel to give presentations at
meetings of other groups. This past winter was no exception.
Here are some of the presentations done over the last few
Dick and Sharon Thompson...
...were keynote presenters at three annual meetings. Their
presentation in February to the Nebraska Sustainable
Agriculture Society was titled "Farmer Solutions to Farmer
Problems: What Works and What Doesn t Work." Their
presentation in March to the Sustainable Farming Association
of Minnesota was titled "Farming Systems Economics: The
Effect on Community." They were also keynote presenters at
the January annual meeting of the Innovative Farmers of
...gave the keynote address titled "People, Farms,
Communities, and Decision-Making" at the annual conference
of the Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture Society in
February. Tom also spoke at the annual meeting of the
Michigan Agricultural Stewardship Association in January and
conducted two workshops titled "40-lb Pigs Produced for
$14... Pasture Does It!" at the 1995 Upper Midwest Organic
...traveled to Maine at the invitation of Dr. Stewart Smith
in January, where he gave several presentations about
on-farm research. One was to University of Maine
researchers, one to a potato growers organization, and a
third to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners
...was a presenter at a Low Cost Hog Production workshop at
the Second National Conference for Beginning Farmers in
Columbia, Missouri, in February. Mike is a cooperator from
Doug Alert and Margaret Smith...
...were presenters at a Crop Production workshop at the
Second National Conference for Beginning Farmers in
Columbia, Missouri. Doug and Margaret are cooperators from
near Hampton, and Doug is associate board member from the
North Central District
...spoke on Shared Visions and on-farm research at the
annual rural-urban dinner sponsored by the Lions Club in his
hometown of Audubon.
...spoke on alternative hog production practices to the
Kiwanis Club in Sheldon. Dan is associate board member from
the Northwest District.
(Of these speaking engagements, Vic Madsen s and Dan
Wilson s may not seem as important. However, when PFI
people speak to groups their communities, opportunities for
change where it counts most are possible.)
Thompson and Rosmann Attend National Rural Conference
Dick Thompson and Ron Rosmann were invited to the National
Rural Conference at Iowa State University on April 25.
President Clinton, Vice-President Gore, and Secretary of
Agriculture Glickman were present to solicit ideas on making
federal policies work better for rural Americans.
Dick said it was an interesting event, and he was able to
forward a summary of data on three farming systems that he
and Sharon have collected over the last six years. This
summary also included some conclusions regarding the impacts
of these farming systems on rural communities.
Ron said he was able to speak for a couple of minutes on the
floor. He addressed the President and spoke about PFI and
how the organization has helped farmers be equal partners
with university researchers.
Bean Bar Safety Tips Bulletin
A new fact sheet, NCR 345, gives the low-down on bean bar
safety. It includes an attention-grabbing color photo of
the bare legs of a bar rider under UV light that shows up
contamination. According to the bulletin "virtually all
riders are contaminated with herbicide after two hours of
spraying." The point, then, is to minimize that inevitable
contact with appropriate protection, safety procedures, and
first aid. The bulletin provides safety precautions for a
half-dozen common commonly used herbicides.
A second publication, How to Comply (PAT-12), describes new
Worker Protection Standard guidelines by which employed
non-family members on bean bars are classed as "handlers"
and subject to additional precautions.
Single copies of bulletins NCR 345 and PAT-12 are available
without charge from Extension Publications Distribution,
Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, (515) 294-5247.
Farm Bill News on the "Net"
Readers who use their computers to connect to the Internet
may be interested in a Worldwide Web site dedicated to news
about the 1995 Farm Bill and the related budget process.
Begun by Charles Benbrook, a PFI member and former director
of the Board on Agriculture of the National Academy of
Sciences, this Web "home page" covers legislative issues
from a sustainable agriculture perspective. It can be
News travels quickly on the Internet, and nothing travels
faster than a good quote. Tom Frantzen is quoted below from
the discussion on soil quality that appeared in the last
"If you'd ask me what I think is the healthiest soil on our
farm, I would tell you that I think I could find it and I
would not need my eyes nor any of my senses other than my
ears. You might laugh at this, but my daughter and I have
been out in a chunk of pasture that's been seeded down for
seven years under intensive management. If conditions are
right, I can hear the earthworms."
FEEL Clinics Set
ISU s Field Extension Education Laboratory (FEEL) is
offering two sessions of its Crop Diagnostic Clinic and one
session of its Alfalfa Clinic. According to the literature,
"these clinics are designed for seed-chemical-fertilizer
reps, crop consultants, agronomists, farm managers, and
others interested in crop production." Listed costs include
registration and on-site lunches, but not lodging or other
expenses. For more information call (515) 294-6429.
Crop Diagnostic Clinics -- July 6-7, July 13-14. $225
soil fertility, insect pest management, disease management,
weed identification and management, corn and soybeans
development, forage management, tillage.
Alfalfa Clinic -- June 6. $125
alfalfa growth and development, alfalfa insects,
fertility, alfalfa management, alfalfa diseases.
Wetlands and Landowners Conference
People (and especially farmers) interested in wetlands and
floodplains are invited to a conference in Omaha, June
28-30. The meeting, entitled Meeting Landowner and Resource
Conservation Needs through Partnership Approaches, is
sponsored by EPA, NRCS, and the National Parks Service. The
1) Help resolve conflicts between private property rights
and the conservation of wetlands, floodplains, and riparian
areas, identifying win/win watershed management
opportunities and case studies;
2) Provide how-to information concerning selected
3) Suggest future directions for better meeting landowner
needs and protecting and restoring wetland, floodplain, and
Basic conference registration is $45. For more information,
call Teresa Opheim, Environmental Law Institute, (515)
PFI MEMBERSHIP TOPS 500
Thanks to all members who responded to renewal reminders
from PFI President Vic Madsen and the district directors.
As the winter newsletter described, many new people came
into the organization as a result of the PFI 10th
Anniversary winter meeting so many that PFI membership is
now over 500. Of course, counting spouses, kids,
grandparents, and the family you know in the next township,
PFI reaches many more than 500 people in one way or another.
Still, this is a milestone. Figure 3 (the graphic file
fig3.wmf) shows where PFI members live in Iowa.
It would be nice if everyone automatically renewed their
membership. As Figure 4 (graphic file fig4.pcx)
illustrates, a number of people drop from the rolls every
spring because they didn t respond to the fall renewal
PFI members who want to do a little recruiting on their own
are welcome to extra copies of the newsletter, the field day
guide, and other information. Just contact the PFI
coordinators, Gary or Rick, at 515-294-1923. |
PFI 1995 DIRECTORY DON T BE LEFT OUT!
The second PFI Directory will be at least double the size of
last year s, because at least twice as many members have let
us know they want to take part. If you AREN T one of the
243 current members who will be in the 1995 Directory,
here s what to do. Send in the form below. Then, when we
send you a copy of your Membership Agreement and Information
Form, check it for accuracy, write down new information
you d like to share about your farm and skills, and remember
to check the "Member Directory" box. Return the form
pronto, and you will be added to the 1995 Directory.
The PFI Directory is organized so you can find people with
answers and experience in your own part of the state. It
includes listings by last name, by PFI district, by
interests and skills, by crops grown, by tillage, by
livestock raised, and more. To discourage commercial
exploitation of personal information, the directory includes
members phone numbers, but not their full mailing
City, State, Zip: __________________________________________
____ A Gentler Way: Hogs on Pasture
____ PFI 1995 Directory (Note: You must be a member of PFI
to participate in the Directory. See membership
application form at the end of this newsletter.)
____ Farming Systems Conference and producer "photo album"
information (See article below.)
Return to: Practical Farmers of Iowa
2035 190th St., Boone, IA 50036
NOVEMBER FARMING SYSTEMS CONFERENCE INVITES PRODUCERS
"Farming systems" is a term familiar to most PFI members.
But were you aware there is an international society
focusing on just that? The Association for Farming Systems
Research and Extension (AFSRE) will hold its North American
meeting in Ames, November 6-8. Cornelia Flora, Director of
the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development, is
organizing the event, Linkages among Farming Systems and
Communities. Flora is being assisted by other ISU
scientists and a dozen producers from around the country.
The conference will be preceded by a "farm and community"
bus tour to look at several farming systems and ways
agriculture can support rural towns.
"On-farm research," "farmer-first," "indigenous knowledge,"
and "participatory rural development" were terms I first
encountered at farming systems conferences fifteen years
ago. Many of these ideas have reappeared in sustainable
agriculture. But not only are most Iowans unaware of AFSRE,
most of the people in that association are just beginning to
open their eyes to farming in the United States. You see,
the "farming systems approach" evolved out of development
work in the Third World. PFI cooperator Jeff Olson and I
presented a description of Practical Farmers of Iowa at the
last AFSRE meeting, and the reception was enthusiastic. Now
the conference is coming to our "home turf." We hope to
bring producers from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and it
will be interesting to see how they relate to Iowa farming
systems and farmers.
A group of 14 producers and other people we know through the
Kellogg Foundation and other connections has been working to
make this meeting interesting and useful to farmers and to
everyone else at the conference. Farmers will be sharing
the presentation in many of the sessions. Farmer-scientist
teams from around North America will be featured. Using
systems approaches, those attending will operate in problem
solving teams made up of producers, Extension, and research
scientists to address real-world situations. Through "story
telling" and other sessions, participants will get to know
each other as individuals. Also on the conference schedule
is time for socializing and a dance.
Producer "photo albums" will be part of the conference
poster sessions. Producer posters were a popular part of
the last PFI winter meeting, and you are invited to take
part in these sessions as well. Go out this summer and take
some pictures of your farm, especially sowing how things
"fit together" to make the farming system. Show how a
problem or a solution is part of the whole system of your
farm, or show how your farm is part of your community or
ecosystem. These producer posters will provide the basis
for farmer-to-farmer sharing, and some will be used in the
problem-solving sessions too.
To submit a "photo album" entry (due by August 1) and for
more information about the farming systems conference,
return the form below. |
MUTANT MESSAGE DOWN UNDER, A REVIEW
Dwight Ault, Austin, MN
If you enjoyed Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, you will find
equally interesting and revealing or even more so the
book Mutant Message Down Under.
Marlo Morgan, the author, was invited on a lengthy,
two-to-three-month "walkabout" with an Australian aborigine
tribe. This was one of the few tribes to still carry on
their 60,000-year-old customs and beliefs. They, like our
American Indians, have been labeled everything from
"barbaric" to "worthless" by their Australian invaders. (I
realize what track record European colonizers had on
original people, calling them savages and heathens. We are
gradually learning now that, if anything, we were the
It was very enlightening to learn what common sense
approaches the aborigines had on birth, life and death along
with the eternal being of one s self, with the body only
being the earth carrier, so to speak. This book, like
Ishmael, brings out concepts that are totally compatible
with sustainable farming and holistic agriculture
I repeat my comment made on the Ishmael review "If you
know me, I say read it. If you don t know me, I still say
bead it." It is a book which will surely help change one s
image of people we have been led to believe were not
"civilized." It is presently in hardcover and three months
on the New York Times best seller list. |
A GENTLER WAY SOWS ON PASTURE: REPORTS FROM SUSTAINABLE
FARMERS FROM MINNESOTA AND IOWA
This little collection of farm profiles is the project of
Dwight Ault, who farms near Austin, Minnesota. A long-time
PFI member and active in the Sustainable Farming
Association, in Minnesota, Dwight felt there was a need for
a booklet that presented tips and perspectives from a
variety of pasture hog operations. So he assembled one
himself, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture helped
Eight producers are featured: Dwight and Becky Ault, Austin,
MN; Robert and Blaine Bancks, Bluegrass, IA; Tom and Irene
Frantzen, New Hampton, IA; Larry Maher, Twin Lakes, MN;
Warren Robson, Scranton, IA; Dave Serfling, Preston, MN; Dan
and Colin Wilson, Paullina, IA; and Tom and Sharon van
Milligan, Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. The Milligans are using
a version of the Swedish method of confinement hog
production. Some of the pieces are written by Dwight, some
are by the farmers themselves, and some are taken from farm
magazines. In addition to these descriptions, the booklet
contains pointers from Mark Honeyman, Director of Outlying
Experiment Farms at Iowa State University.
In the introduction, Dwight gives three answers to the
question, "Why pasture farrow?" Ault writes that pasture
hogs as a system is 1) economically sound, 2) most healthy
for the pigs, and 3) "a real treat for me and the sows."
The booklet illustrates that there is craft, art, and
science in successful pasture hog systems and that no two
systems are the same. It should provide some good ideas to
experienced producers, and it may encourage new people to
try pigs outside.
Single copies of A Gentler Way are available from Dwight for
$4.00, but he has made the booklet available for free to
Practical Farmers of Iowa. For a copy, return the form on
page 27. |
THE GRASS IS GREENER: DAIRY GRAZIERS TELL THEIR STORIES
As the preface to this 46-page booklet make clear, "The
stories in this book speak to more than just the technical
and management aspects of intensive rotational grazing. . .
The farmers make it clear that grass farming is ten
percent hardware and ninety percent thinking, planning,
imagining, experimenting, exploring." This is an
easy-reading visit with 16 farm families from Wisconsin and
Minnesota, brought together through a USDA SARE grant by the
Wisconsin Rural Development Center, the Land Stewardship
Project, and the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
of the University of Wisconsin.
These producers share some of their history with grazing,
how it fits into their farming and quality-of-life goals,
and what works for them. Many Iowans will recognize the
names of several of their neighbors to the northeast who
turned to rotational grazing earlier and more seriously than
most farmers in the Tall Corn State. Consequently, some of
these producers are further along the learning curve, and
their observations can be especially useful to others. The
booklet actually includes both experienced graziers and
those still in early stages of transition. The survey also
takes in both large and small milking operations.
A sampling of titles of the farmer profiles tells the story:
Grazing Inspires New Milking Parlor and Transition to
Seasonal Dairying; Going from Confinement to Grazing Makes
Dairying Easier; Farmers are the Experts ; Grazing Benefits
Cows and Kids; Cows on Pasture Allow for Low-Debt Beginning;
Low-Cost New Zealand Parlor Cuts Milking Time for
Pulvermachers. This isn t a sugar-coated advertisement, but
it does convey the enthusiasm that this group of producers
feels about intensive rotational grazing.
The Grass IS Greener is available for $7.50 from the
Wisconsin Rural Development Center, 125 Brookwood Dr., Mt.
Horeb, WI 53572. |
RURAL COMMUNITIES AND PUBLIC POLICY CONFERENCE
Laura Krouse, Mt. Vernon
The Graduate Program in Public Policy at UNI sponsored a
"Conference on Rural Communities and Public Policy, " March
29. The conference was the idea of Laura Jackson and Kamyar
Enshayan. Several PFI members attended, along with economic
development people from several eastern Iowa towns. Tom
Frantzen and Laura Jackson were both program participants,
and both stressed the role of agriculture in rural
The keynote speaker was Marty Strange, from the Center for
Rural Affairs. His speech was about economic development
and the role of community in rural areas. He said that the
assets of rural areas are their land, capital,
entrepreneurial skills, and educated people. "Good"
economic development in rural areas will keep the land, and
profits from the land, under community ownership,
management, and control. Good enterprises will empower,
rather than exploit the rich resources of rural communities.
Rural people should expect investors in their communities to
be committed, long-time participants in the life of the
Marty talked extensively about the rights and responsibili-
ties of community membership. Social obligations cannot be
avoided, but they are often easily transferred to reach
short-term economic goals (like job creation). Strange
believes that all members of a community should willingly
accept the responsibility for their own actions in exchange
for the right to be a member of the community. He believes
that there is a valuable "economy of community" that is
possible because of the face-to-face, daily interaction
between the people who live and work in that place. |
PROFITS OF STRIP INTERCROPPING: 1992 1994
Don Davidson and Rick Exner
(Editors note: Don and Sharon Davidson farm near Grundy
Center, Rick Exner is the Farming Systems Coordinator for
Readers of this newsletter are by now familiar with narrow
strip intercropping (NSI), a practice that PFI cooperators
have been evaluating for as much as five years. Strip
intercropping attempts to take advantage of "systems
efficiencies," complementary use of resources like sunlight,
moisture, the farmer s time, and the different elements of a
diversified farm. What does that mean, and does strip
intercropping accomplish those things?
In narrow strip intercropping, two or more crops are grown
in side-by-side strips, rather than in completely separate
fields. Some would say the more crops the better. The idea
is to take advantage of the interactions that can occur in a
complex system. Examples:
The tall corn intercepts more sunlight, which it uses more
efficiently than most other crops.
Soybeans break up the rootworm beetle cycle for the corn
while they benefit from the windbreak effect of the
Green manures like berseem clover can suppress annual weeds
while they fix nitrogen for the succeeding corn crop.
With portable electric fencing, livestock can graze
Labor is spread over several crops, and peak workloads are
Of course, it doesn t always work that way. The more
complex a system is, the more chances there are of negative
interactions. While we run around "putting out fires," our
conventionally-farming neighbors are out on the porch with a
cool one. At least there are days it seems like that. In
the past three years PFI has intensively evaluated NSI using
the Crop Enterprise Record system (Table 4, graphics file
table4.wmf). We have seen that it is more than an eccentric
way to grow corn and soybeans. It is more than diversified
farming with a different enterprise in each field. Strip
intercropping represents a higher level of integration.
What have we learned?
What has attracted many people to strip intercropping is the
possibility of higher yields and lower costs. In a
three-crop system, for example, you may be able to generate
most of the crop nitrogen internally. And there are
examples of 30-40-bushel corn yield advantages in strips.
As Figure 5 (graphic file fig5.pcx) illustrates, eighteen
PFI trials from 1992-1994 have shown instances of
"overyielding" like this. In 15 of these trials, corn in
strips outyielded corn in single-crop blocks, although only
seven of these differences were greater than 10 bushels per
On the other hand, we have seen some yield reductions in
strips: notably Thompson corn and soybean yields in 1992,
Olson soybean and oats yields in 1994, and Thompson soybean
yields in 1994. When disaster has struck, it has been
because of complications associated with the cropping
system. For example, Dick Thompson s winter cover crop got
out of hand in 1992.
In 1994, a number of us struggled with weeds. The close
proximity of the different crops in stripping makes weed
management a challenge. In strips, more sunlight may
penetrate the corn canopy, encouraging weed growth. Strip
placement must be precise, or "dead" border areas between
strips will harbor weed escapes. Some of us have tried to
control weeds without herbicides. Ridge tillage makes this
possible, but it requires high management. Those of us
using herbicides have gone to use of a hooded sprayer (Tom
Frantzen) or tried to adjust timing, materials, nozzles, and
rates to minimize drift problems. In our caution, we have
sometimes sacrificed protection.
Last winter, PFI cooperators heard from an Ontario, Canada
farmer who saw corn yields up to 300 bushels per acre in
two-row strips last year. The question isn t whether high
yields are possible, but whether strips can be integrated
into a practical cropping system. Those PFI producers who
stick with strips will be those who find ways to accomplish
the crop production basics like weed control and crop
rotation within the system. This year I will tear up my
own strips and re-establish them on a field with less weed
The six cooperators who have investigated strips over the
past three years have fallen into two categories. Four of
them have used a three-crop rotation to compare strips and
whole-field blocks of the same three crops. Two other
cooperators (Thompson and Alert) have compared the
three-crop strips to two-crop field blocks. They have also
adjusted tillage, fertility, and population in the strips.
The trials of those first four cooperators are shown in
Table 4 (graphics file table4.wmf) as "planting pattern
comparisons," while the trials of the last two cooperators
are shown as "systems comparisons." Average net profit was
greater in strips than blocks for the planting pattern
comparisons in 1992 and 1993, but not 1994. In the
whole-systems comparisons, net profit averaged greater in
strips in 1993 and 1994, but not 1992.
In 1994, Doug Alert and Jeff Olson grazed their forage
strips by using portable electric fencing. Based on pounds
of beef gained, the overall profitability of strips was
considerably increased by grazing $41 per ace for grazed
strips versus $13 per acre for ungrazed blocks. Grazing
turned the oat/forage legume strips from money losers to
money makers. This shows again that strip intercropping can
be more than the sum of its parts.
Why would someone choose to graze strips rather than a
separate field? Because they were going to be strip
cropping anyway. And why would they strip crop in the first
place? Because (conservation aside) they stood a reasonable
chance of greater yields for the same or less inputs. The
nitrogen saving with three-crop strips is real, but it too
must be seen as "icing on the cake" in a well-managed strip
intercrop not in itself sufficient reason to use the
system. Strip intercropping isn t for everyone. Continued
PFI research will tell us whether the system is stable
enough to find a home on Iowa farms. |
FOOTPRINTS OF A GRASS FARMER
"How Are Your Plans Going?"
Tom Frantzen, Alta Vista
Time sure flies by! As you read this column, the grazing
season is well underway, and the halfway point in the
calendar year is nearby. The early summer is a very busy
time of the year. The days are long, and most people have
more than enough to do. Most farmers are tired after the
long days. Attention to recorded grazing and financial
plans tends to slip.
If you don t have a plan, then where are you headed?
Remember the adage, "nobody plans to fail yet many fail to
plan." A fundamental aspect of any sustainable farm is to
have a written road map and to monitor your progress.
In November, as the days become shorter and the evenings
longer, we begin the process that guides our farm during the
coming year. Planning is done in short episodes, off and
on, through the winter months. Each enterprise on the farm
gets a thorough gross margin analysis. Results of this
analysis then become a component of the overall financial
plan. The farm has a plan for profit. We track this plan
each month, even during the busiest times of the year.
As spring nears, after we have a good idea of our farming
strategies, we lay out a detailed grazing plan. I cannot
overemphasize the importance of this planning. It is just
as important as the financial plan. In fact, on a farm that
is becoming more grass based, the financial component cannot
operate without a grazing plan!
After several years of practice and lots of reading, we are
using the Simplified Guide to Planned Grazing, available
from Center for Holistic Resource Management **. This
strategy calls for major planning twice each year. The
first plan is open-ended. At this time of the year we don t
know when the growing season will end or how much forage
will be produced. The second plan is called close-ended.
This one is done near the end of the growing season, when
the amount of forage is known, and that amount is allotted
for the dormant season. My next column will detail our
dormant season forage strategy.
Our open-ended grazing plan begins with an estimate of the
recovery periods that our pastures will need. Fast growing
conditions will allow for about a 20-day recovery. When
growing conditions slow, approximately 40 days will be
needed for rest. These are coarse guidelines that can be
adjusted if conditions deteriorate. But they allow you to
estimate the range in duration (grazing time per rotation)
for the average paddock ("avg. min. and max. grazing
duration" in formulas 1 and 2, in graphics file
With recovery periods and average paddock duration
estimated, the next step is assessing the volume and quality
of each individual paddock. I use a scale of 1 to 10. A
paddock with a score of 10 should feed my stock twice as
long as one with a 5 rating. If all of the paddocks have
similar quality, then their area can be the rating. Then
use this information in formulas 3 and 4 (in graphics file
tomtable.wmf) to estimate the longest and shortest grazing
duration to expect for each particular paddock.
These results are recorded in my farm operations notebook.
I keep this notebook on the end table next to "my chair."
This way I remember to update the grazing progress even
during the long busy season.
As the season progresses, attention is paid to the growing
conditions. When the forage growth is fast, I use the
minimum grazing period. As the growth rate slows, the
maximum grazing period is allowed. A detailed explanation
of this grazing planning is available from the Center for
Holistic Resource Management.
Planning provides us with a road map, a guide to where we
want to go. Any plan requires day-to-day monitoring to keep
on track. Develop a grazing plan, keep it simple, and
monitor your progress through the season. It is all a part
of sustainable farming!
** Center for Holistic Resource Management
1007 Luna Circle NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102
(505) 842-5252 |
FROM THE KITCHEN (AND GARDEN)
Marj Stonecypher, Floyd
As I type this, it is the middle of May, and no corn in the
ground. Well, maybe a start. The guys pulled to the field
about a half hour ago. I'm sure you are all in the same
"boat" of planting as we are? Some of the farmers around
here do have some planted. Ray has been sick for a couple
of weeks, so that really put us behind. That, on top of new
calves coming in, and not wanting to nurse because they are
wet and cold. That's where I spend my time, playing
nursemaid, getting them to nurse mama so I don't have to
bottle feed. Good thing Ray fixed up a nursery last year in
the old hog house.
How about a quick dish, so we wives can help the guys?
AMERICA CHOW MEIN
Brown 1 pound of ground beef or pork with onion.
1 large can chop suey vegetable or 2 14-oz. cans, drained
(save the juice)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup water or vegetable juice
1 cup uncooked rice
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup broken chow mein noodles (to place on top)
Bake 350 degrees for + hour uncovered. Serve on top of Chow
5-6 cup chopped rhubarb
2 5/8 cup sugar
4 + Tbsp. margarine
1 + cup flour
1 + tsp. baking powder
3/8 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
+ Tbsp. cornstarch
1 + cup hot water
Place chopped rhubarb in a 9 x 13 glass dish. Cream 1 1/8
C. sugar and margarine. In a separate bowl, stir together
flour, baking powder and salt. Alternate additions of the
flour mix and milk to the creamed mixture. Spread over
rhubarb. Sprinkle 1 + C. sugar over batter. Mix cornstarch
with hot water. Pour over all. Bake for 1 hour at 375
degree. Top with fresh strawberries!
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 Iowa?
____ yes ____ no
Individual or family membership: $10 for one year, $25 for
Please enclose check or money order payable to "Practical
Farmers of Iowa" and mail to:
Practical Farmers of Iowa
2035 190th St.
Boone, IA 50036-9632
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
District 1 (Northwest): Paul Mugge, 6190 470th St.,
Sutherland, 51058. (712) 446-2414.
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.
Public Relations Coordinator: Maria Vakulskas Rosmann, 1222
Ironwood Rd., Harlan, 51537. (712) 627-4653.