AMES, Iowa — Iowa Learning Farms (ILF), a hands-on education and outreach program for Iowa landowners and agricultural producers, is celebrating 15 years of service in 2019. Based at Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach, ILF supports education initiatives throughout the state, focusing on conservation and water quality topics from a science- and research-based foundation. In addition to its full complement of field day and outdoor classroom programs, Conservation Station visits to county fairs and farmers’ markets, and Water Rocks! youth education programming, ILF has planned a series of special events to look back at its first 15 years and look forward to the next 15.
On Feb. 14, 2019, the Iowa Learning Farms Leadership Circle at the ISU Alumni Center brought together farmers that have been practicing conservation in their operations – some for decades – to discuss what ILF has accomplished, where it has been less successful, and to share thoughts on future opportunities to make a positive change in Iowa. Feedback from this meeting and that solicited through surveys from farmers across the state will be compiled in a 15-Year ILF Report.
Other events planned for 2019 include a celebration to be held at Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa, on July 11. During the event, key contributors to the success of ILF will be recognized and program leaders will share visions for the future of the program. In November 2019, ILF is hosting Dr. Benjamin Turner, assistant professor, King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, to lead a workshop on systems thinking for 25 key conservation leaders in Iowa to help the ILF team shape activities in the future. Dr. Turner will also be giving a public lecture on ISU’s campus while he is in Ames.
“We’ve been very fortunate to receive support and expertise from the best minds in the fields of conservation, public policy and agricultural practices, enabling our team to deliver effective education on every front,” said Dr. Jacqueline Comito, ILF director. “ILF is at the forefront of reaching stakeholders in Iowa, but there are a lot of contributors, including partner organizations, sponsors and individuals, who fortify the substance of what we deliver. We also regularly request feedback from farmers attending field days and participating in studies, to ensure that what we deliver is not just interesting, but also helpful and complete.”
Founded in 2004, ILF is a multifaceted conservation outreach program that has garnered support – funding and knowledge—from partner organizations including ISU, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service, Conservation Districts of Iowa, Practical Farmers of Iowa, and numerous commercial entities. ILF works closely with farmers and landowners to facilitate understanding of challenges, peer-to-peer learning, and access to practical information and tactics. Between 2005 and 2018, ILF conducted 270 workshops and field days with some 13,500 participants.
To learn more about Iowa Learning Farms outreach and education programs, please visit us on the web at www.iowalearningfarms.org.
— Iowa Learning Farms
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