I N T H I S I S S U E
1^ Towards a Sustainable Lifestyle
_ Vic Madsen, Audubon
2^ Is Your Job Sustainable?
_ Jim Barney
3^ "Out and About" - photos (not included in electronic
4^ Shared Visions
4^ Final Recruitment Underway
4^ Funding Opportunities
4^ Group Updates
4^ Ag Connect
5^ Audubon Graziers
6^ Central Iowa CSA Project
7^ Farm Fresh CSA
8^ Farms Forever
9^ Notes and Notices
_ SARE & Leopold Request Proposals
_ Aug. Waste Recycling Tour
_ NE Iowa Forage Workshop
_ Field Day Times Changed
_ Farm Bill on the Internet
11^ Farming Systems Conference
_ Rick Exner
12^ Farmer's Guide to Contracts
_ Rick Exner
13^ Coleman's Seeks Beef Producers
_ Rick Exner
14^ PFI Profiles: Phil Specht
_ Gary Huber
16^ Footprints of a Grass Farmer
What Does Deming Have to Do With Grass??
_ Tom Frantzen
17^ From the Kitchen
_ Marj Stonecypher
18^ PFI Membership Application and Renewal Form
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1^ TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE
Vic Madsen, Audubon
Over the past few years hundreds of articles have been
written and thousands of hours have been spent discussing
sustainable agriculture. Perhaps it is time to think about
I am afraid that if we are not careful, sustainable
agriculture has the potential to burn out or consume people
no differently than does an industrial management style. In
both cases it would seem to me that the families involved
need to be able to feel in control of events rather than
being propelled by them.
For example, a farmer may be doing several farming practices
that are considered to be sustainable. But because of being
on the front of the learning curve, that farmer and his
family may experience a high level of frustration and low
There have been cases where farmers have attended a field
day and seen clean fields of corn and soybeans grown without
herbicides. So the next year they use low or no herbicides
on their corn-soybean rotation and become a nervous wreck
fighting weeds and trying to combine the mess. Maybe what
they missed on the field day was the long crop rotation that
included a couple years of hay or pasture as well as timely
cultivation in the row crop year. The visitor may have
missed the idea that when mowing the second cutting of hay
in 1992, the host was lowering the weed pressure for the
soybeans in 1994.
A successful farming system often works because of the
secondary effects of the farming practices. Could it be
that a sustainable lifestyle is also tied to the secondary
effects of farming practices?
It would seem to me that the goal of developing a profitable
farm that operates in harmony with nature and has several
enterprises which also work in harmony will lead to a
pleasant place to work and an enjoyable lifestyle. Notice
there is nothing said here about having to follow a textbook
list of farming practices.
Late summer is an excellent time to think about how you can
make your farm and home a more enjoyable place to live and
work. And consider cutting yourself and your family a
little slack. Some of the stress and frustration families
go through is because we set unrealistically high standards
for the people closest to us. We all have times when the
most accurate description is the elementary school "duh!"
So the point of all this is that if we can manage the farm
and not let the farm manage us, and if we can choose the
farming practices that fit our needs and goals, we have
better odds of living an enjoyable life.
2^ Is Your Job Sustainable? A Question for Farmers and
by Jim Barney
(Editors' note: Jim Barney is a dairy farmer from Sherman,
New York. This article is reprinted with his permission from
the spring 1995 Farming Alternatives newsletter, which is
published by the Farming Alternatives Program at Cornell
Univeristy. Jim's phone number is 716-761-6611. He noted
that people who are interested in talking about this article
should give him a call.)
In the future, will others be willing and able to pay you
for what you can do? Will the assets you invested in for
your retirement have value? I started dairy farming 30 years
ago by investing in the skills and assets of dairying. Those
assets have changed a great deal in 30 years, but [it] now
seems that the rate of change necessary to stay competitive
is increasing rapidly. Those of us who have invested in the
current food and agricultural system have a stake in its
future; we have a deep interest in its sustainability
because our security is tied to it.
To me, there are two dimensions to sustainability: external
and internal. The external dimension is our customers' needs
and expectations of price and quality. In addition, our
local communities have needs and expectations that we will
protect the environment and strengthen their institutions.
The internal dimension is our individual and collective
capacity to satisfy those needs and expectations.
The nature of our markets is also changing. The mass markets
of the past are being replaced with niche markets. This
transition is being driven by our customers' expectations of
having ever greater choice. As the value added to
agricultural products by processors and marketers increases,
the value added by farming decreases. This trend is neither
unique nor new to agriculture.
In my mind, the central issue of the sustainable agriculture
debate is one of organization. Will farmers continue to
allow the supplier and market sectors of the food and
agriculture system to gain in their share of the food dollar
while the farmers' share decreases? Will suppliers and/or
marketers continue to vertically integrate farming into
Isn't it about time farmers began to consider horizontal
integration? For such a system, farmers would collaborate
with each other and other rural community-based businesses
and institutions for such purposes as marketing, technology
development and supplier sourcing. Farmers would stop
allowing themselves to be divided by such things as
commodity groupings, cropping practices, sources of
technology, the "sustainability" of different farming
practices, market niches and the ideologies that support the
Instead, farmers would be the organizing force and reap the
benefits of creating and controlling the organization.
Farmers and rural communities would add more value through
information. Working together and using concepts like
strategic planning, Total Quality Management and marketing,
all common in larger organizations, farmers could begin to
reverse the trend toward poorer rural communities.
Such sweeping changes can only happen in rural communities
that are based on a few key values which focus that
community's vision. The idea that people will see the
opportunity to grow and the expectation that people will
grow must be widely held. Next, diversity must be respected.
Even more, diversity must be valued as an essential element
in the community's ability to develop niche markets and
creative approaches to the use of technology. People must
have pride in their local community.
While information, ideas and influence can exist in the
cyberspace of the global community, we must all go home to
some place to raise our children. Healthy communities with
strong local institutions are fundamental. It is every
citizen's responsibility to support his or her community
with both word and deed. These are the powerful values upon
which our great nation was built. Periods of rapid and
sweeping change cause people to search their most basic
values for guidance. Strength and courage can be drawn from
those values if they are relevant to the challenges ahead.
We are truly blessed. We need not create them. We need only
to apply them once again.
4^ SHARED VISIONS:
4^ RECRUITMENT UNDERWAY FOR FINAL SET OF GROUPS
Recruitment is underway for the third and final set of
groups planned for the community groups network of Shared
Visions. Marketing materials have been developed and
distributed. There have been about a dozen inquiries so far.
Some of these inquiries are bound to lead to applications,
while others may not.
The application deadline is Friday, Sept. 8, so if you have
an interest, now is the time to call. Contact Gary Huber at
4^ FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROUPS
Groups involved in Shared Visions may be interested to know
that two funding sources recently announced calls for
preproposals. These annoucements are noted at the beginning
of the Notes and Notices section of the newsletter, which
starts on page 9.
4^ GROUP UPDATES
The five groups added to the Shared Visions community
groups network last fall have been implementing the projects
they developed last winter. Here's what these groups have
4^ Ag Connect
Ag Connect was established in September of 1994 as a non-profit
corporation. Based in Lenox, its purpose is to assist
retiring and beginning farmers in transitioning farm assets
in an eight-county area of south-central and southwest Iowa.
It is overseen by a twelve-person Board, and its executive
director, Don Robertson, began work last spring.
The part of the Ag Connect program being supported by Shared
Visions is the development of a database of retiring
farmers. A survey was designed, which local Consolidated
Farm Services Agency offices have been including with their
newsletters. To date over 7,000 landowners in three of the
eight counties have been sent the survey. The last of the
surveys will be sent in September.
As for progress of the overall program, Mr. Robertson
reports that Ag Connect has completed its first match. Thus,
a new family will be moving to the area to begin farming
next year. He also notes that three other matches are in the
works, and twelve more retiring farmers have made verbal
commitments to work with Ag Connect to transition their
operations to beginners.
Contact: Don Robertson
124 N. Main
Lenox, IA 50851
5^ Audubon Graziers
This group has held three pasture walks this spring and
summer on group members' farms. Each involved a supper, a
pasture walk, and guest speakers.
Guest speakers were Daryl Strobehn, Dan Morrical, and Carl
Neifert of ISU Extension, Bob Blomme, a local veterinarian,
Rick Sprague of the Adams County CRP Project, and Dave
Brand, the local NRCS District Conservationist. Seventeen
adults attended each of the first two walks, and 25 attended
the third. Also attending were quite a few children, which
the group was happy to see.
The group has started a grazing library at the county
Extension office. The library was on display at a booth at
the county fair. The booth also displayed grazing photos and
pots containing different species of grasses. The grasses
were provided by Dick DeLoughery, area crops specialist for
The group organized a trip to the August 3rd field day at
the Adams County CRP Research farm. Organizing the trip
involved, among other things, sending letters of invitation
to all Audubon County CRP owners. At last notice it looked
like they had enough people to take a couple of vans.
Future activities include pasture walks on August 4 on the
Dennis and Cheryl Hansen farm, August 24 on the Virgil and
Charlotte Sorensen farm, and September 7 on the Roger and
JoAnn Barten farm. The group will also travel to the
September 1 field day at the Neely-Kinyon farm near
Greenfield, at which there will be an opportunity to talk
with the Neely-Kinyon Farm Committee, which is also involved
in Shared Visions. Contact: Donna Bauer
1667 Hwy. 71
Audubon, IA 50025
6^ Central Iowa Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
This group is developing a Community Supported Agriculture
project in the Story County area. Typical CSAs connect
producers of fresh, healthy food with consumers who purchase
shares at the beginning of the season. This CSA project is
similar in this regard. There are 29 shareholders, or
Unlike most CSAs, this one is also linking consumers to
local sources of poultry, eggs, pork, beef, honey, baked
goods, and fiber products. The group has linked consumers to
local producers of these food and fiber items by identifying
producers and determining how and at what price they would
provide these items.
This information was included in the CSA's brochures and
membership forms. Also, the producers described their farms
and how they raised their produce and animals to CSA members
at a May membership meeting.
Produce items are handled as in most CSAs. Some of the 29
members purchased full-shares, which cost $250, while others
purchased half-shares at half that cost. In return, they
receive fresh produce on a weekly basis for 24 weeks.
The spring weather, which was cooler and wetter than normal,
delayed early-season deliveries. Members began receiving
produce in mid-June. The first few shares were delivered to
members' homes, but now there are two locations in Ames
where members pick up their shares. Distribution happens
once a week, either on Wednesday evenings or Saturday
mornings. Currently, the varieties and amounts members
receive are impressive.
The main grower for the CSA is Mark Harris. His farm, which
is called the Prairie Sky Market Garden, is about eight
miles northeast of Ames. Mark is growing about 30 different
kinds of vegetables for the CSA. Another area grower,
Michelle Ward, helped the project through the early season
delays by contributing some of her harvest. A third grower
is providing sweet corn.
The group has included a simple, two-page newsletter with
each delivery. Short updates on how the crops are doing are
provided along with recipes for items included in the
Monthly potlucks for shareholders have gone well. A field
day at Prairie Sky Market Garden will be held on Sunday,
August 13, giving members and others an opportunity to see
Contact: Jeff Hall
P.O. Box 1452
Ames, IA 50014
7^ Farm Fresh CSA
This group, which draws its members from across Benton
County, is also developing a CSA. Twenty-two $160 shares
were sold to area families, some living as far away as Cedar
Rapids and Iowa City. In return, the families receive
produce once a week. The plan is to have a 20-week delivery
period. Shareholders are also given the option of receiving
four deliveries of apples for another $10.
The apples will be provided this fall by Bill Hurley and
Emil Chalupsky, who operate the Apple Cart Orchard near
Vinton. Four other group members grow produce for
shareholders. Their names, the names of their farms, and
their home towns are: Jodi Biershenck, Blue Ridge Garden,
Newhall; Helen Grunewald, Bittersweet Acres, Blairstown;
Marion and Virginia Moser, Wildwoods, Garrison; and
Katherine Ollendieck, Heirloom Gardens, Dysart.
Deliveries began in early June. Shareholders will receive
about 60 different varieties of produce before the season is
over. The original plan of having people pick up their food
items at a central drop-off point has changed to include
several drop-off points and some door-to-door deliveries.
This method has worked well, but group members recognize a
need to find a less time-consuming process for future years.
An "Open Gardens" day was held on Sunday, June 25th to give
shareholders and others in their communities a chance to
visit each of the farms of the growers. Also, the group has
had very good publicity in the local papers, as well as the
regional papers from Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. The group
also hosted a visit from six of the people involved in the
Central Iowa CSA to talk about their experiences.
The core group has been very pleased with their efforts so
far. As Katherine Ollendieck, a group member and one of the
growers, noted, "This project has been very exciting and a
lot of hard work, but rewarding...very rewarding."
Contact: Katherine Ollendieck
116 East 4th Street
Vinton, IA 52349
8^ Farms Forever
This Louisa County group has been meeting on a monthly basis
since January. The group recently decided on a new name
Farms Forever because it captured the ideas of
sustainability, community, and agriculture.
The group established a goal of enhancing communication
between urban and rural citizens of Louisa County. Its first
project was a series of three "Evening Entrees." The first
was held at the Turkey Run Berry Farm near Wapello, which is
owned and operated by of John and Lois Wanfeld.
The Wanfelds raise asparagus, crawdads, and various small
fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
The Wanfelds and Patrick O'Mally, an ISU Extension
horticulture specialist, discussed start-up costs, the pros
and cons of organic production, irrigation techniques, and
labor management. About 15 people attended.
The second Evening Entree focused on agroforestry and was
held at Chestnut Acres, the farm of Bryan and Jill Hoben
near Grandview. The Hobens grow corn and soybeans and raise
hogs, but they have also been establishing a chestnut
Tom Wahl and Kathy Dice, two other members of Farms Forever,
joined the Hobens in talking about topics such as nut and
fruit tree products, woodlot management, and grafting
multiflora rose to spread disease in these plants. About 35
adults and children attended.
The third Evening Entree will be held on Monday, August 21
from 6 to 8 pm. Its focus will be on Management Intensive
Grazing and crafts/recreation from farms. Hosts will be
Roger and Marrianne Hunt and Tom and Janet Utter. A dinner
will be provided after the entree.
These events, as well as the group's goal of enhancing
rural-urban communication, were chosen because the group
wanted to involve more people in deciding what should be the
group's "big project." Discussions at group meetings this
summer have narrowed the focus of their ideas toward direct
The group has discussed a variety of excellent, creative
ideas related to this topic. They will continue to pursue
these ideas at their monthly meetings, with the next one
being on Monday, August 28.
Contact: Kathy Dice
13882 I Avenue
9^ NOTES AND NOTICES
SARE and Leopold Center Issue Calls for Proposals
Organizations, groups, and individual scientists may be
interested in two recently issued requests for proposals
from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)
program of the USDA. Both funders request short
preproposals, which they review before inviting full project
The preproposal deadline for the SARE program in our north
central region is September 15. Priority areas listed are:
sustainable livestock systems, networking, developing
markets, sustainable agriculture curriculum, environmentally
sensitive areas, environmentally sound management practices,
and emerging issues. This year the SARE and related ACE
(Agriculture in Concert with the Environment) proposals will
be handled together, with projects allocated to these
categories by the SARE Administrative Council. For
additional information, contact:
Steven S. Waller, ACE Program Coordinator
Office of the Dean, 207 Agricultural Hall
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE, 68583-0704
Early next year, SARE will request project proposals from
farmers under its Producer Grants program. This year four
Iowa projects were funded under Producer Grants. PFI member
Dave Zahrt of Turin will document the transition from
continuous grazing to managed grazing on loess hills bluff
land. The other grants to Iowa producers were: Intensive
Grazing Economic Study, Dr. M.O. Pitcher, Maquoketa;
Suitability of Non-Native, Hardy, Forage-Adapted Mutton
Sheep to North American Management Intensive Grazing System,
Stephanie Mitcham, Tripoli; and Evaluation of Kura Clover in
Intensive Grazing Systems, David Kendall, Bellevue. The PFI
newsletter will carry the next call for proposals in the
Producer Grants program of SARE.
The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture request for
preproposals gives a deadline of Wednesday, September 6.
The stated purposes of the Center are:
1) conduct and sponsor research to identify and reduce
negative environmental and socioeconomic impacts of
2) research and assist in developing emerging
alternative practices that are consistent with a
sustainable agriculture; and
3) develop, in association with the Iowa Cooperative
Extension Service, an educational framework to
inform the agricultural community and the general
public of its findings.
The Leopold Center competitive grants are available to
researchers, educators, and individuals at Iowa educational
institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and foundations.
Projects emphasizing collaboration with users (farmers,
conservationists, communities, agribusiness) are encouraged.
For more information contact:
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
126 National Soil Tilth Laboratory
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011
August 24th Tour of Ames Waste Recycling Effort
A Town and Country Tour to view efforts to recycle municipal
sludge will be held on Thursday, August 24. The tour will
start at 6 pm at the Ames Water Pollution Control Facility,
which is located ten miles southeast of Ames. For more
information, contact the Leopold Center for Sustainable
Agriculture at 515-294-3711.
Northeast Iowa Forage Management Workshop Set for Sept. 15
A forage management workshop will be held on Friday,
September 15 at the Gilbertson Conservation Park just east
of Elgin, Iowa. Topics will include techniques for
renovating pastures, the pros and cons of different forages
for intensive and continuous grazing, and cover crop
The workshop will also cover non-conventional forage
species, such as cowpeas, Kura clover, Cicer milkvetch, and
others. The workshop will run from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm.
Bring a bag lunch liquid refreshments will be provided.
For more information contact Brian Lang, ISU Extension Crops
Specialist, at 319-382-2949.
Field Day Times Changed
The August 21 field day will be hosted by Jeff and Gayle
Olson, Winfield, and two graziers in the Louisa County
Shared Visions group. They are Roger and Marianne Hunt and
Tom and Janet Utter. Roger and Tom attended a grazing
school in Missouri this summer.
The time for the Louisa County portion of the tour has been
moved up to 6:00 pm to make the best use of the daylight.
After the pasture walks, the local Cattlemen's Association
will furnish a barbecue.
The September 1 field day at the Neely-Kinyon Research Farm,
near Greenfield, has been moved to afternoon to avoid
conflicts with local sporting events. A light supper will
be served after the field tour. To find out the time for
the field day, call the Adair County Extension office,
11^ FARMING SYSTEMS CONFERENCE DEVELOPING
As reported in the last newsletter, in November Iowa will
host the North American conference of the Association for
Farming Systems Research and Extension (AFSRE). Producers
and researchers from around the country have been putting
together a program that will have everyone involved. This
will be a chance to sit down with people who have interests
in farming systems, sustainability, and farmer-to-farmer
sharing but who come from all different parts of the
One of the goals of the conference is to explore new ways
farmers and other ag professionals can work together. Tom
Frantzen, PFI farmer from northeast Iowa, will be the
keynote speaker. Tom will touch on ideas of "control versus
trust" and how we relate to information and information-providers. He is also a producer who thinks about the farm as
both a system in itself and a part of larger systems.
With so many different kinds of people at the meeting, it
will be good to get the different definitions "out on the
table." The first day will feature a panel discussion on
"just what is farming systems." Various producers and
researchers will offer their views.
Wherever possible, the programs will be led by teams
consisting of producers and non-producers. For example, a
team panel will look at current "hot" technologies from a
"systems perspective." How do you decide whether global
positioning or high-tech hog production is right for your
farming system? This panel should spark a good discussion.
Other sessions will use team approaches to problem solving
using real world situations. Farmers and many scientists at
the last conference valued over all other activities the
opportunity to "tell their story". Never thought of
yourself as a story teller before? You might be surprised.
Producer "photo albums" will be part of the poster sessions,
and PFI farmers are invited to contribute. The date for
reserving a place in the producer posters has been moved
back from Aug. 1 to October 1. The PFI board has agreed to
contribute $50 toward registration for the first five PFI
members who bring a farmer poster. So get out this summer
and take some pictures of your farm or community, showing
how things "fit together" to make the system.
On Sunday, November 5, a pre-conference "farm and community"
bus tour will stop at two farms and the community of
Fontanelle. Fontanelle is not unlike many rural Iowa towns,
but local farmers and town leaders are trying to plan a
sustainable future. Bus tour participants will share lunch
with community members and discuss how they see their town's
relationship to agriculture. Later they will tour the farm
of Clark and Linda BreDahl, PFI members who raise cattle,
sheep, hogs and poultry and who practice management-intensive
grazing. The first farm visit of the day will be
with PFI members Dick and Sharon Thompson, near Boone.
Farming systems might just be the break you need after
harvest. For more information about the conference, call
Rick Exner, at 515-294-1923.
12^ A FARMER'S LEGAL GUIDE TO PRODUCTION CONTRACTS, BY NEIL
reviewed by Rick Exner
Contracting is more and more common in crop and livestock
production. Sometimes we hear about contracting in a
negative context, and sometimes the term comes up as a tool
for the smart farmer. Neil Hamilton, director of the
Agricultural Law Center at Drake University, has written a
handbook for agricultural contracting. This 174-page guide
was produced with support from Top Producer Magazine, from
which it can be purchased for $16.95 (230 West Washington
Square, Philadelphia, PA, 19106, quantity discounts
available). The text is enlivened on almost every page with
"sidebar" examples from actual contracts, legal rulings, and
Maybe you have been producing under contract for years with
no problem. Do you understand everything in your contract?
Do you know what isn't in your contract? Neil Hamilton
wants producers to know where they stand. The book starts
off with a discussion of basic terms and potential benefits
and risks "Contract Law 101." Then it describes the
relationship between the contract and the Uniform Commercial
Code. "The what?" The Uniform Commercial Code is one of
those things that may not be in the contract but
nevertheless affect the business relationship.
Chapter 5: Walking through a Production Contract. Having
laid the groundwork, Hamilton then takes apart a production
contract that was used on his parents' farm. Section by
section, he "translates" the legal language into common
English. If you get this far into the book, you'll be
hooked. The real life example makes it clear that this is
no game. Of course, maybe you knew that from your own
Chapter 6: Performing the Agreement. The kind of legal
relationship between the parties determines how the courts
will treat them in disputes. There are several basic kinds
of contractual relationship. A contract will usually
specify the type of relationship, but you may not realize
that unless you know what to look for.
Chapter 7: Getting Paid. Does the contract clearly state
the basis for payment? With all the bonuses and deductions
present in some contracts, this may not be clear. Who or
what has title to the crop or livestock between the time of
delivery and payment? Can a bank lay claim to the crop or
livestock because of some other dispute? What interest does
a landlord have? What can you do to make sure you are paid?
It's also important to know what not to do that might
jeopardize your case in these disputes!
Chapter 8: Resolving Disputes. Contract disputes can be
resolved through the courts, through mediation, or through
arbitration. The contract usually specifies both the method
and the location for dispute resolution. Locations are
generally near the home office of the contracting company,
where the contractor is familiar with applicable state laws.
Mediation, which served farmers well in the farm crisis, is
sometimes used by contractors to keep producers away from
the courts. In some states legislation offers specific
protections for growers of certain products. Hamilton
provides "Twelve Questions to Consider if a Dispute Arises."
The book then devotes chapters to grain production
contracts, livestock production contracts, and vegetable
production contracts. Two issues in grain production
contracts are eligibility for farm program participation and
crop insurance. If ownership of seed, the growing crop, and
harvested grain is retained by the contractor, does the
producer have anything to insure? State grain dealer laws
also play an important role in regulating the activity of
those who buy grain from farmers. The book also discusses
the effects of genetics patenting laws. Hamilton shows how
livestock production contracts are different from other
contracts, and he describes the influence of the Packers and
Stockyards Act (another factor that may not be explicitly
stated in the contract).
The final chapter reviews state and federal legislation,
showing how particular issues are developing and the
different approaches states have taken to regulating
agricultural production contracts. Hamilton notes that
farmer groups or individual legislators have drawn up "model
contracts" that in some cases have been adopted by the
industry. He recommends this process for making contracts
fair and mutually beneficial, so that they are more than
just a tool for exploiting farmers. Neil Hamilton notes
that "production contracts perceived as unfair will only
lead to more litigation and to new proposals for stricter
regulation of contracting practices."
13^ COLEMAN'S SEEKS CATTLE PRODUCERS
Readers may be aware of Colorado cattle rancher Mel Coleman
and his company Coleman Natural Meats. From a beginning in
health-food and other specialty stores, Coleman is gradually
growing to reach more consumers who want beef that is
healthy, tasty, and that benefits the environment. Coleman
beef is from animals not treated with growth hormones or
antibiotics, and the meat is of the better grades. The
company is now seeking growers in Iowa. This may represent
an opportunity for those Iowa farmers who already raise
The Coleman contract bases premiums on weight and grade.
The company wants heifer carcases between 600 and 850 lbs
hot weight and steer carcases between 600 and 900 lbs. The
top premium, for yield grade #1 carcasses, is $18 per
hundredweight above dressed base price. Dressed base price
is the USDA average of markets in Colorado, Kansas, and
eastern Nebraska in the week of slaughter.
Carcasses outside the weight range or of lower grade bring a
lower effective price. Senior cattle buyer Jim Coakley said
that the average premium paid last year was around $8.50.
The best premiums are for cattle finished by the producer,
although there may be a couple of dollars premium for
unfinished stock with good records if a finisher can be
Coleman requires cattle be "raised from birth in a humane,
unconfined manner." No subtherapeutic or therapeutic
antibiotics are allowed, and no growth hormones are
permitted. On the other hand, the contract does not
prohibit dewormers or lice treatments. The "suggested
protocol" for vaccinations is quite detailed. Company reps
will also work with a farmer on feed, minerals, and
vitamins, said Coakley. He noted that producers may want to
"back off" a bit on protein when they raise cattle without
Coleman is presently slaughtering in Windom, in southwestern
Minnesota. The contract premiums apply to cattle delivered
to slaughter. A Coleman buyer, Gary McCoskey, has been
taking cattle from the Tama Livestock Auction, but these
animals are not under contract and receive a minimal
premium. So how can a small or medium-sized producer get
the premiums without driving a few head at a time up to
Minnesota? One solution: a finishing cooperative based in
Benton County is pooling cattle for shipment to Coleman.
In our phone conversation, Jim Coakley also said he has
pooled cattle from several small producers to fill a truck.
I pointed out that a small producer contemplating a contract
would want it in writing if pooled trucking would be
provided, since they could otherwise be stuck with
significant trucking expense when the cattle were ready to
market. Coakley did not say any such arrangement is
provided in writing.
Coleman Natural Meats will be an unknown quantity until a
few more Iowa producers gain personal experience with the
company. Jim Coakley will be in Red Oak or Creston on Sept.
7, and you can visit with him or buyer Scott Coakley by
calling 800-442-8666. Local representative Gary McCoskey
may be reached at 515-827-5460.
14^ PFI PROFILES: PHIL SPECHT
Phil and Sharon Specht are new PFI cooperators. Their 490-acre
farm is located between Marquette and Monona in Clayton
The farm has 265 crop acres and 70 acres of pasture, with
the rest in woodlands. The rotation used on the crop acres
is corn followed by barley and three years of hay, though
the hay is sometimes left longer. The barley is mixed wet
with second crop hay using a bagger for their 110 milk cows.
They also buy corn from the local coop to round out their
herd's feed requirements.
The Spechts have used rotational grazing since 1974. When
asked how they came to use rotational grazing long before
most, Phil noted, "I think it was an article in Farm
Quarterly magazine about New Zealand style of grazing. It
had lots of pictures and happy looking cows."
Phil then talked some about his views toward farming. "I've
had a lifelong commitment to soil and water conservation,
and it seemed to me grass was what gave the best
conservation of the soil. I try to be as extensive as I can,
meaning getting the most acres I can into grass."
"There are two things I try to do," Phil continued. "One is
protect biodiversity, and the other is to observe nature and
try to fashion a system that imitates a natural community."
"There was a two-year period where I would walk into a woods
or a prairie and stand there and count how many different
species of plants I could see. The number I seemed to
consistently come up with is seventeen. I asked myself,
With what kind of a farming system could you get seventeen
different species?' Pasture comes as close as you can get.
What I've been trying to do is mimic successful patterns
I've seen in nature."
Phil credits the writings of Wes Jackson, Aldo Leopold, and
Wendell Berry as influencing his views about farming. "What
I read from them in the '70s and early '80s were seminal,"
he noted. The latter of these writers and Phil have
something in common. "I consider myself a farmer-poet," he
explained. Several of Phil's poems made it to Ames after the
Specht's June field day. One that was read at a recent PFI
board meeting was "Mutual Caring."
After a storm, checking timber fences,
sometimes I'd run into my neighbor,
and oft as not it would be
him at my end as me at his. (The un-
spoken understanding; if you are out there
check it all.)
We would visit about the state of the world,
(How it was all going to Hell)
as if this mutual caring
didn't ever happen anywhere else.
"I do write poetry," Phil continued. "I consider myself a
poet. The poems you've got were ones I happened to have
handy when Mike [Bell] and I visited the day of our field
day." One of these was "Bobby's Corn."
"Bobby, don't get hurt over there. War is hell."
"You made it Dad. I'll be home in time to help
get the corn out next fall."
a conversation echoing for years
as each fall it got harder to put the picker on,
tears and coffee were shared in the kitchen
the pain so plain the neighbors knew.
When the emptiness and cancer
led to a second folded flag
the twice grieving farm wife
was joined at graveside by a neighbor
who had grown up with her son.
"Don't worry. We'll get Bobby's corn out."
was the promise, now kept by who-ever rents
"That one happened as I was driving across western Iowa in
late March," Phil noted. "There was a cornfield that hadn't
been harvested the only cornfield left in Iowa. And I was
musing about who didn't get done with their work and why."
Phil continued, "Then later at a fair booth, this guy sat
down next to me and started talking about how bad he felt
because he wasn't able to keep up with the farm work. He was
worrying about what the neighbors were thinking, and he
said, It's pretty hard to farm with cancer.' Then the poem
just came out. That's how they usually come out."
Returning to the topic of farming, Phil noted, "Grazing is
an easy system to take care of land and utilize the
strengths and complimentary nature of different species to
produce quality food. So, I do it with 100 cows and seventy
acres of grass. And I probably raise more row crops than I'd
like to, though I haven't used fertilizers or chemicals for
a long time. I farm organic, but I buy corn from the co-op,
so I'm not strictly organic."
When asked about fertility, Phil explained, "My cow manure
is my number one asset. I value that product highly. I
compost a lot of it, and I use it carefully where I need it
He continued his thoughts about grazing by noting, "One of
the most important advantages to the recent trend to grazing
is that it puts the human up front observing. That's the key
to it." He continued with an example. "We've been having a
mini-drought going on up here, and I didn't have grass ready
in the next paddock of the rotation. So, I released my 10-year
[CRP land] early, and for the last eight days the cows
have been walking up to of a mile. I was hesitant to make
them do that, but it's worked out."
"Then this morning there was this certain sheen on the dew
that's there when the grass is ready, and then I realized
that this sheen was what I was looking for, and I had
internalized it. The cows will get that grass tomorrow."
Phil continued with another observation, "When you stand in
the middle of your farm, you've got to feel good about what
you see, about what you do. Last year I had a nesting
grasshopper sparrow, and I put up four fenceposts around the
nest, and I got one little baby out of the deal. I haven't
seen them this year at least they are not nesting in the
same place. But that baby sparrow was one of my most prized
productions last year."
Another of Phil's poems that made it to Ames was written in
memory of Dixon Terry, a Greenfield farmer and activist who
was killed by lightning in a accident while baling hay.
SALT OF THE EARTH (Dixon Terry)
One race won, wet hair, dry hay
the last load backed into the barn's driveway
embracing it with the labor of love of a different year
Sweat wet shirt, salty sea air sweat,
rain, the barn's beasts, and a man, wet
clouds giving fields a moist promising embrace
Now the good race run, wet eyes, earth's arms,
salt of earth, sweat, tears, and empty farms
comes the final embrace of God's Labor Of Love
"Dixon Terry I knew through my and his involvement with the
same issues in the 1980's," Phil explained. "I'm proud to
acknowledge my democratic activism and my association with
Dixon Terry and the things we were working for," he
continued. "Father Norm White has been an inspiration for me
as well." Father White was Rural Life Director for the
Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque until earlier this year.
The Specht's have two sons who have already moved away from
home. Then there is Nathan, who is 16, and Jon, who is 8.
Phil and Sharon have been married twenty years.
16^ FOOTPRINTS OF A GRASS FARMER
W. Edwards Deming: "What does that have to do with grass
by Tom Frantzen, Alta Vista
Recently, Public TV ran a program about the late W. Edwards
Deming, a management consultant known for his provocative
philosophy. Deming was born in Sioux City, Iowa in 1900.
Most of his early years were spent in academic circles
teaching business management. In 1950, Deming was selected
by General MacArthur to assist the Japanese in rebuilding
their devastated economy.
In Japan, Deming became a legend. His management principles
are really a philosophy that calls for radical changes in
how we think about everything we do. It represents a
holistic view and rejects the fragmented, analytical,
reductionist approach westerners are traditionally
"Deming insisted that what he taught the Japanese starting
in 1950, was an entirely new management system based at
least in part on statistical analysis. The idea was that
you could not consider each process complete in itself, you
had to look at the system as a whole, and the system must
include not only your processes but also your supplies and
customers. Your customers likes and dislikes, wishes and
desires had to be monitored and fed back into the system so
that the system would continually improve, always delighting
your customers with results that exceeded their
The Deming philosophy dispels many traditional beliefs
(paradigms) that we base our thinking on. One of the core
beliefs most of our actions are based on is that competition
is the key to success. We are told that competition is part
of human nature, that it brings out the best in us, that it
is fun, and that it builds character. According to Dr.
Deming, "None of this is true. In fact, competition is our
own ruination." ("Thinking About Quality," by Dobyns and
Crawford-Mason, 1994. Available through the PFI library
network contact you district director.)
A key principle of Deming is that cooperation is a
requirement in any quality system. Every component in every
aspect must contribute on a cooperative win-win basis to
produce quality results for everyone involved. Competition
is not ruled out but is accepted within rules and with a
Watt's steam engine ushered in the industrial revolution.
Management principles concentrated upon quantity production.
The Deming philosophy maintains that quality is more
important than quantity and that it is less expensive long
term. A quality-minded organization must have quality at
all levels, from design and purchased inputs to operations
and marketing. For this to be a reality, every person
involved must be a true team member.
What does that have to do with grass farming? The Deming
philosophy, while similar to (but not nearly as ecologically
complete as) Holistic Resource Management, is a distinct
alternative to conventional management. It represents
another example of an improved decision-making process that
can help improve our operations.
A visioning process, "Who are we and what are we doing?"
lies at the very beginning of this management style.
Continuing education, developing leadership, building up
trust, driving out fear, breaking down barriers are all
components of business management. These principles apply
directly to farms and farm management.
You will hear more about Deming in the future. These
principles can help us overcome the barriers we meet in
developing a sustainable agriculture.
17^ FROM THE KITCHEN
Marj Stonecypher, Floyd
What a summer, if you can call it that! First it's wet
and cold, then so hot you can't stand it. I took a trip
to Fallon, Nevada, to see my son and his family. He has
two girls, ages 3 and 5, and a son 12. Fun to be with
them but nice to come home. Those little ones have a lot
of life in them.
Just marinated some sirloin tip steaks to put on the
grill this evening. Here is what I marinated them in.
It's really delicious.
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 cup sherry
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. onion powder
Place steak, pork chops or roast in marinating dish and
pour mixture over. (Some cuts of meat I sprinkle with
tenderizer seasoning, or you can add , cup oil to above
mixture.) Let set for about three hours or overnight,
turning occasionally. Grill and eat.
3 1/2 Tbsp. cocoa or 1 square chocolate
1 stick margarine (1/2 Tbsp. more if cocoa)
Take off heat (you can melt in microwave).
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Mix together and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees in a
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup margarine
1 square chocolate (or 3 1/2 Tbsp. cocoa plus 1
Boil for one minute.
Have a good and safe harvest. Take time out for yourself
and come to the house for meals.
18^ 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 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 50036-7423
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.