PAULLINA, Iowa — Converting some crop acres to organic production is one way farmers can diversify their farm and capitalize on a niche market. Making the switch means learning new techniques, however, and for some farmers, the prospect of going through the transition process and learning curve can be daunting.
“We want people to know organic is doable,” says Dan Wilson, of Seven W Farm. “It just takes patience and willingness to learn.”
Dan farms with his family – including his wife, Lorna; adult children April, Torray, Jaron and Liz; and daughter-in-law Erin – near Paullina, raising organic corn, soybeans, hay and a variety of small grains on 660 acres. The diversified farm also includes an organic dairy, a grass-fed beef herd, a sheep flock, pasture-raised broilers and laying hens, and farrow-to-finish hogs.
The Wilson family will share their experience transitioning to and managing an organic system at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Friday, July 20, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., on their farm near Paullina (4375 Pierce Ave., about 4 miles northwest of town).
The event – “Improving Organic Crop Production” – will include a potluck lunch at noon. The Wilsons will provide meat and beverages; guests are asked to bring a dish to share. RSVPs are requested for the meal to Debra Boekholder, (515) 232-5661 or firstname.lastname@example.org, by Friday, July 13. The field day is sponsored by Grain Millers, Iowa Farmers Union and SunOpta.
The day will start with some machinery shop talk, during which the Wilsons will discuss their mechanical weed control and how they set up their planter and drill for success in organic crop production. They will also discuss their use of auto-steer and precision planting to improve their weed control and plant population.
After a potluck lunch, the Wilsons will offer a hay wagon farm tour. Attendees will see cover crops seeded after small-grains harvest; cover crops interseeded to corn in June; and a solid-seeded mix of corn and forage sorghum for silage. The Wilsons will also discuss direct-cutting versus swathing oats for food-grade markets, and a winter pea variety trial they conducted.
“Transitioning to organic production can be a real learning curve,” Torray says. “We hope this field day will help others who are transitioning or are thinking of transitioning, and can be a time of sharing knowledge between people interested in organic production.”
Directions from Paullina: Take IA Hwy 10 west out of town for 2 miles, then turn right (north) onto Pierce Avenue and drive 2.25 miles. The farm will be on the left (west) side of Pierce Avenue.
From Primghar: Take County Road B40 / 390th Street 4 miles west; turn left (south) onto Pierce Avenue and travel 4.75 miles. The farm will be on the right (west) side of Pierce Avenue.
Practical Farmers’ 2018 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; Blue River Organic Seed; Cascadian Farms; Center for Rural Affairs; Farm Credit Services of America; Gandy Cover Crop Seeders; Grain Millers, Inc.; Green Cover Seed; Green Thumb Commodities; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); ISU Extension and Outreach; La Crosse Forage and Turf Seed; MOSA Organic Certification; Natural Resources Defense Council; Organic Valley / Organic Prairie; PepsiCo; Pipeline Foods; Premier 1 Supplies; Sunrise Foods International; The DeLong Company; The Fertrell Company; The Scoular Company; Unilever; University of Iowa College of Public Health (I-CASH); USDA: Natural Resources Conservation Service; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed & Honey Co.
— Practical Farmers of Iowa
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