Practical Farmers of Iowa is now accepting registrations for its 2018 annual conference, “Revival,” which will take place Jan. 19-20 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building, on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. All are welcome to attend. New this year, we have created a special conference website to make information easier to find and access. Learn more and register online at http://pficonference.org.


This year’s theme of “Revival” emphasizes the degree to which healthy soils, extended crop rotations, diverse forms of agriculture and abundant opportunities for the next generation are vitally connected with thriving rural communities, healthy ecosystems and vibrant rural economies.


Attendees will hear practical insights from their farming peers about ways to integrate cover crops; conserve money and soil; grow and market a range of crops and livestock; increase stewardship; plan for their farm’s future – and more. As part of the focus on reviving Iowa’s rural landscape, attendees will have opportunities to strategize ways to create markets and infrastructure for small-grains and cover-crop industries, and discuss how to bring fruit, vegetable and livestock farms – and the resulting healthy food and jobs – back to Iowa’s small communities.


The conference attracted over 900 farmers, researchers and supporters last year. Conference highlights include:


· A keynote address by English farmer and bestselling author James Rebanks, who raises native Herdwick and Swaledale sheep and a British cattle breed called Blue Greys in the mountains of northern England. James is author of The New York Times bestselling memoir “The Shepherd’s Life,” and is a passionate advocate for heritage breeds of livestock and crops, and of farming in the tried-and-tested older ways that have roots in his landscape dating back 4,000 to 5,000 years.


In his keynote address, “An English Shepherd’s Vision to Revive Rural America,” James will share what it’s like to farm using old ways in the modern world, both the challenges and opportunities. He’ll discuss how traditional ways provide many of the answers we need for a farming future in which the efficacy of antibiotics, wormers, pesticides, herbicides and oil may all be reduced or in scarce supply.


· Fifty-four sessions on topics that span the agricultural spectrum, from production to marketing, farm transfer to business planning, conservation to advocacy. Some sessions are planned specifically for landowners, non-farmers and beginning farmers.


· An in-depth pre-conference short course devoted to soils, from the basics of soil health to the science behind it. The course – “Soils: Cultivating a Deeper Understanding” – is divided into four sections that will explore the soils of Iowa; the role and influence of soil microbes; the impact of cropping systems and strategies for building soil health; and biological soil-quality testing methods. The course runs Thursday, Jan. 18 from 1 – 6:30 p.m. and continues Friday, Jan. 19 from 8 – 11:30 a.m., at the Scheman Building.


· New this year, certified crop advisor credits will be offered for nine sessions and the short course.


· Many opportunities to network and build relationships with other farmers, researchers, consumers and sponsors – including during the free breakfast served on Saturday morning.


· Presentation of PFI’s 2017 Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award


Registration: Walk-in registration is permitted, but those who pre-register by the Jan. 11 deadline will save $10 per day. Special rates are also available for students and PFI members. Register online at http://pficonference.org, or contact Erica Andorf: erica@practicalfarmers.org or (515) 232-5661.


The full list of conference sessions is below:


Friday Sessions:


· Farming the Sun: The Ecology of Chemical Energy


· Doudlah Farms: Why and How We Transitioned to Organic


· Risk and Conflict in Family Farm Businesses


· An Economic Evaluation of Cover Crops in Midwestern Agriculture


· Managing a Young and Growing Orchard


· Non-Traditional Methods of Accessing Capital


· Ecology & Management of Iowa’s Common Vegetable Insect Pests


· Solar-Powered Livestock: From Plants to Animals


· Using Habitat to Increase Beneficial Insects on Fruit and Vegetable Farms


· Carbonomics


· Traditional Methods of Accessing Capital


· Developing Relationships to Implement Conservation on Rented Cropland


· Alternative Models and the Future of CSAs


· How to Talk to Your Family About Succession Planning


Saturday Sessions:


· The Shepherd’s Life: Soil, Sheep Dogs and Social Media


· Soil Health and Grazing – Can They Coexist?


· Organic No-Till: Soil Health & Regeneration vs. Short-Term Returns and Weeds


· Field Preparation, Cultivation and Fertility


· Physical Strengthening, Recovery and Injury for Vegetable Farmers


· Swine Genetics Made Easy


· Separating Science from Pseudoscience


· Q&A: Hiring Migrant & Seasonal Workers & Year-Round Employees


· Using the SmartMix Calculator to Develop Good Cover Crop Mixes


· Balancing Quality of Life & Direct-Marketing by Crunching Numbers


· Making Your Planter Ready for Next Year


· Learning From On-Farm Research: Horticulture


· Iowa Author Panel: Reviving Culture in Agriculture


· Teaching Livestock to Eat Weeds


· Winter Vegetable Production


· Q&A With James Rebanks


· Pragmatic Approaches to Sustainability and Profitability


· Learning From On-Farm Research: Field Crops


· Off-Target Movement: Can Herbicides Be Kept in Place?


· Expanding Operations to Add Beef Cattle


· Better Food, Farm and Conservation Policies Through Involvement


· Indoor Mushroom Production and Marketing


· Livestock Guardian Dogs 101


· Q&A: Strengthening and Recovery With Tony Gallo


· Using Tea Bags to Assess Soil: A Low-Cost Approach?


· Cover Crops and Crop Rotations in Organic Systems Without Livestock


· GAP, FSMA and Post-Harvest Handling for Food Safety


· Estate Planning With Farming and Non-Farming Heirs


· Q&A With Kathy Voth and Rachel Gilker


· Foraging for Market: Morels and Greens


· Land Access: Pitfalls and Potential


· More Sunlight to Corn = Space for Cover, Companion & Cash Crops


· Pack Shed and Post-Harvest Efficiency


· Learning From On-Farm Research: Livestock


· Growing Better Brussels Sprouts


· Leaving Your Legacy


· Landowners: Are Weed-Free Fields the Best Your Farm Can Be?


· Livestock Insurance: Identifying Risks and Risk Management Tools


· Innovations in Weed Control


· Soil Health: Continuous Testing, Continual Learning


Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2018 annual conference is supported by several major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; Clif Bar & Co.; Grain Millers; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy and Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Niman Ranch; Premier 1 Supplies and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.