Practical Farmers of Iowa begins its popular farmer-led webinar series – called “farminars” – on Nov. 13. Just as many farmers wrap up the 2018 growing season, the farminar season begins again with practical knowledge led by, and for, row crop, livestock and fruit and vegetable farmers.

Held every Tuesday at 7 p.m. CST, each farminar focuses on a unique production or business management topic. All presentations are led by an experienced farmer or subject-matter expert, and attendees are able to ask questions in real time using a chatbox while they listen and watch a slideshow. The presentations are free for anyone with an internet connection.

Presentations planned for the series vary from advanced topics geared toward experienced growers – such as the Nov. 13 presentation “Understanding and Managing Impacts of Farmed Prairie Potholes” – to introductory topics such as “Where to Begin With Winter Wheat Production.” In the latter, experienced farmer Paul Ackley will advise Kristy and Bob Walker on how to add winter wheat to their diversified farm.

The Walkers hope to add winter wheat to their crop rotation to help improve soil health, provide feed for their livestock and use in baked goods at their winery. As they’ve embarked on the process, the Walkers have encountered some roadblocks that are common to growing what was once a popular crop in Iowa: a lack of knowledge, resources and markets.

Paul Ackley will draw from his decades of experience to offer advice to the Walkers. “I’d like to see more small grains on the landscape,” Paul said. “Getting started with small grains shouldn’t be difficult, but raising an exceptional crop can be.”

Other farminar topics this season include growing and marketing unusual fruits; grazing cover crops with sheep; organic seedling production; and managing disease in vegetable crops. An additional farminar series is set to take place January through February 2019, and will be announced in December.

To participate, visit A schedule for all upcoming farminars – as well as the recordings for 153 past farminars – is also available at this link.

Practical Farmers’ 2018 fall farminars are made possible with funding from the Ceres Trust, EPA Region 7 Wetlands Program, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Water Quality Initiative, and USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

2018 Fall Farminar Line-Up

Nov. 13: “Understanding and Managing Impacts of Farmed Prairie Potholes” – Amy Kaleita, Steven Hall, Ames

Leaching of nitrate and emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, are key environmental impacts of Corn Belt agricultural systems. Intermittent flooding of former prairie pothole wetlands (that are now farmed) can contribute disproportionately to these nitrogen losses at the landscape scale. These potholes may also flood often enough to hamper crop development – and in many cases, can pose logistical challenges to farm or farm around. Land management changes such as reduced tillage, or even more radical moves like retiring land, may provide a number of environmental benefits at relatively low cost.

Amy Kaleita is a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University. Her research is in the area of information technology for precision conservation, with particular attention to hydrology and soil and water quality.

Steven Hall is an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology at ISU. His group’s research focuses on soil biogeochemical processes in managed and natural ecosystems.

Nov. 20: “Getting Started Growing and Marketing Unusual Fruits” – Tim Clymer, Mechanicsburg, Pa.

What started 10 years ago as a backyard hobby has now turned into a commercial orchard featuring a wide variety of unusual fruits. Tim Clymer, of Threefold Farm, will share how he and his wife started their farm business, which includes a U-pick orchard, plant nursery and wholesale outlets for their fruit. He’ll also discuss the unique production and marketing considerations for a few of their crops, which include figs, pawpaws, kiwi berries and Asian persimmons.

Tim and Katherine Clymer started building Threefold Farm in 2015 in south-central Pennsylvania. They specialize in small and unusual fruits, using cultural and ecological means to control pests and diseases and to build healthy soil.

Nov. 27: “Where to Begin With Winter Wheat Production” – Kristy and Bob Walker, Paul Ackley, Bedford and Iowa City

There are many benefits to adding a small-grain crop to a corn and bean rotation, including breaking pest cycles and allowing for a longer cover crop season, which leads to reduced chemical inputs. Unfortunately, the barriers to growing small grains are as numerous as the benefits. Kristy and Bob Walker are looking to add winter wheat to their diversified farm operation, but have struggled to get started. Paul Ackley has been growing small grains like winter wheat for many years. He will discuss why and offer some advice for the Walkers to get started.

Kristy and Bob Walker started Walker Homestead near Iowa City in 2013, which includes an organic market garden, an orchard and vineyard, pasture and crop ground and a small venue. They’re hoping to add winter wheat to their crop ground to help improve soil health, feed their livestock and use for baking at their winery.

Paul Ackley and his wife, Nancy, run an integrated farm near Bedford raising corn, soybeans, wheat, cattle and hair sheep. Paul says having a small-grain in their rotation helps to regenerate their soil, reduce inputs, spread out the labor and provide wildlife habitat.

Dec. 4: “Grazing Cover Crops with Sheep” – Richard Ehrhardt, Lansing, Mich.

Sheep producers can take advantage of down times between cash crops to provide inexpensive feed options in the form of cover crops. But farmers must decide where these feed options fit in the ewe production cycle. Richard will discuss factors farmers should consider, appropriate infrastructure for grazing sheep on cover crops and the cover crop mixes best suited for sheep.

Richard Ehrhardt is the small ruminant extension Specialist at Michigan State University. He has an extensive sheep production background in forages, cover crops and annuals; accelerated production; and nutrition and health. In addition, he and his family operate an accelerated lambing commercial flock.

Dec. 11: “Organic Seedling Production” – Paul Betz, Montpelier, Vt.

Paul Betz, of High Ledge Farm, farms at 1,200 feet in the hills of Vermont. This geographic location, combined with limited infrastructure, makes it challenging for him to have a full market presence in early spring. To meet this challenge, Paul opted to shift his early-season attention to plants for local gardeners. Bringing high-quality plants to his local market has brought in cash from the first market of the season while letting Paul develop a loyal customer base of home gardeners and homesteaders. Paul will discuss his farm’s seedling production from seed to sale, including variety choice, record keeping, scheduling, costs and marketing.

· Paul Betz started High Ledge Farm in in the hills of Vermont in 1999 on 2.5 acres. The farm focused on growing certified organic vegetable seedlings for market.

Dec. 18: “Managing Disease in Organic Vegetable Crops” – Beth Kazmar, Evansville, Wisc.

Managing diseases on a vegetable farm is difficult due to the diversity of crops and the range of diseases that threaten them. Organic vegetable farmer Beth Kazmar will share her on-farm experience preventing and managing diseases. She will focus on one or two crops, with emphasis on proactive methods like variety selection, hot water seed treatments, row spacing, employee education and use of organically approved materials.

Beth Kazmar and husband, Steve Pincus, run Tipi Produce near Madison, Wisconsin. They grow 45 acres of certified organic vegetables, selling mainly through Community Supported Agriculture and to natural food stores. Beth has farmed since 1998. She and Steve were chosen as the 2016 MOSES Organic Farmers of the Year.