CHARLES CITY, Iowa — Many Iowa farm fields have low-lying areas, or potholes, that pool water during wet periods. These spots often yield poorly, and are prone to nutrient loss and leaching. While some farmers choose to continue farming those areas, Wendy Johnson sees them as an opportunity for integrating more conservation measures on her farm that can have both environmental and economic benefits.
Wendy and her husband, Johnny Rafkin, operate Joia Food Farm near Charles City, where they raise certified organic row crops, farrow-to-finish pigs, and pastured broilers and layers. Wendy has also been farming with her father for the past seven years, growing conventional corn and soybeans, hay and sheep. They have been using cover crops for five years, and this year added oats to the rotation.
“I care about our planet and what we eat,” Wendy says. “We’re also farmers, so trying to combine conservation efforts with humane and ethically raised meat is important to us. We want our daughter – and other kids – to live on this planet for a long time, and the best way is to be good stewards of the land and take conservation seriously.”
Wendy and Johnny will host a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day on Thursday, Aug. 3, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., near Charles City (2038 March Ave., a few miles west of town), where they will explore how to manage farm potholes and discuss other conservation measures they use on their farm. The event – “Managing Potholes and Matching Conservation Efforts to Farm Goals” – is free to attend and will include lunch. Guests are asked to RSVP for the meal to Debra Boekholder, firstname.lastname@example.org or (515) 232-5661, by Monday, July 31.
The field day is sponsored by Blue River Hybrids, Floyd County Soil and Water Conservation District, Healthy Harvest of North Iowa, Iowa Farmers Union, Iowa Organic Association and Prudenterra.
Guests will learn about conservation tactics for their farm and how to do what’s best, economically and environmentally, on marginal land while working within the parameters of their farm goals. Luke Gran, owner of Prudenterra, will discuss work he is doing with Wendy and Johnny to implement conservation measures.
In addition, researchers with Iowa State University’s Team Pothole – including Amy Kaleita, with the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering; Andy VanLoocke, with the Department of Agronomy; and Steven Hall, with the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology – will explain their research and share ideas on what farmers can do with low areas that don’t yield much during wet years.
“This information is especially valuable now, with the volatility that climatologists predict for weather patterns in the next 10 to 20 years,” Wendy says. “I hope those who come here will bring some information home as they look at places on their farms that need some TLC to improve water quality or wind erosion, or to help their farms become more resilient.”
Directions from Charles City: Drive west on IA Hwy 14 for about 6 miles and turn right (north) onto March Avenue. The farm’s purplish-colored barn roofs and a barn quilt with Iowa State colors are visible from the junction of IA Hwy 14 and March Avenue. Look for the first farm on the right (east) after going north on March Avenue from IA Hwy 14.
Practical Farmers’ 2017 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Ag Ventures Alliance; Albert Lea Seed; Center for Rural Affairs; Fertrell; Gandy Cover Crop Seeders; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Environmental Council; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); ISU Extension and Outreach; La Crosse Forage and Turf Seed; Lemken; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; MOSA Organic Certification; Natural Resources Defense Council; Organic Valley / Organic Prairie; Riverside Feeds, LLC; The Scoular Company; Trees Forever; Unilever; University of Iowa College of Public Health (I-CASH); Upper Iowa Audubon Society; USDA: Natural Resources Conservation Service; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed & Honey Co.
— Practical Farmers of Iowa
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