Research and Media Coordinator
Nick joined PFI in December of 2014. He writes about PFI members and issues important to them in the ag media, primarily focusing on diversified crop rotations, cover crops and integrated crop/livestock systems; and assists with all aspects of the Cooperators’ Program. He also produces PFI’s videos and manages the YouTube channel, and hosts and produces On-Farm: Conversations with Practical Farmers, PFI’s podcast.
He grew up in rural southeast Iowa, outside of Wapello. He has a BA degree from the University of Iowa in 2008, where he majored in Journalism and English, and an MS degree from Iowa State University in 2011, where he majored in Sustainable Agriculture. His research interests focused on soil erosion, water quality, and the use of conservation practices.
From 2012-2013, Nick worked for a non-profit organization in rural Ecuador, where he worked with farmers, interns, and volunteers on rural community development projects. Before joining PFI, Nick worked as the kitchen manager at Cafe Beaudelaire in Ames.
In my article for the latest issue of the Practical Farmer, our quarterly newsletter, I focused on buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), some of the farmers who grow it, and its culinary uses. Many farmers grow the crop as a cover crop, because it’s pretty easy to grow, can suppress weeds, and research has shown it can also make soil phosphorus more available to subsequent crops. But buckwheat is also a delicious food: its groats can be eaten whole or it can be milled into flour.
One of the PFI members I talked to was Peter Kraus, who is originally from Decorah – where his parents Barbara and Kevin run Canoe Creek Produce – but now lives with his wife in northern Wisconsin where they teach environmental stewardship. He says that their long-term plan includes moving back to Decorah to farm and teach farm-to-table education, build support for growing and using small grains in the area, and building soil and setting down roots. He sent me his recipe for buckwheat sourdough bread, which includes buckwheat groats and flour. Enjoy!
Peter’s Buckwheat Sourdough Bread Recipe (adapted from Tartine Book No. 3)
Optional ingredients: toasted walnuts, maple syrup, dried fruit.
First, I mix the sourdough starter or leaven with the flour and half of the water to form a dough and then let it sit for up to an hour. While I am waiting, I bringing the rest of the water to a boil and pour over the toasted groats to soften them. Once the groats have cooled, I thoroughly mix all the remaining ingredients together.
I let the dough ferment in a closed plastic container for several hours depending on temperature and strength of the starter. Every hour I wet my hands and stretch and fold the dough on itself four ways. Once the dough is billowy and bubbly I shape the loaf on a floured surface. I I preheat the oven to 450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. I place the shaped loaf into an enclosed baking vessel like a dutch oven or a bread pan with a sheet pan over it, and let it rest for 15 minutes. I scratch the loaf surface with a razor blade or sharp, serrated knife to score it. Then bake for 20 minutes before removing the lid to let the loaf brown up. Finish baking for about 20-30 minutes more at 400-450 degrees.
On September 7th, the Canfield family hosted a field day on their farm near Dunkerton in northeast Iowa. A few years ago, the Canfields decided to make a big change on their farm: they shifted from producing conventional corn and soybeans for the commodity market to raising non-GMO corn and soybeans along with oats and hay. They also started an on-farm feed business and direct-market much of what they raise through that business.
The Canfield farm has been around a long time. I interviewed Earl for our video series on small grains production, Rotationally Raised, that we released on YouTube earlier this year. Before we started the interview, Earl ran inside and changed into a shirt the family had made last year in honor of the designation of their farm as a Heritage Farm – meaning it had been around for 150 years. The family proudly wears these shirts at any event related to their farm, and keeping it going for generations into the future is clearly a big reason they do what they do.
“The way we’re farming now, it’s been a wonderful thing for our family. When we were just raising corn and soybeans, the opportunities for our kids to get involved was very limited,” Earl says. He says now, the kids are all directly involved with the day-to-day operations of the business. “We are trying to create some new, viable business opportunities for my children and my grandchildren and however many generations we are privileged to have on this land.”
I had the chance to tag along to the Jefferson airport with the crew from Stott Aerial Spray and Bill Frederick of Iowa Cover Crop last week to shoot some footage for some upcoming cover crop videos we are producing. I cut together a little snippet, and thought some of you would be interested. For more info on where to find businesses to help seed cover crops, check out our Cover Crop Business Directory.
I’m guessing most of you are done with aerial seeding, but should be going on the ground soon – drilling and air-seeding as the beans and corn come out. Good luck with harvest and fall cover crops seeding!
We have the second video presentation up from last month’s conference – “Rotationally Raised: Making Small Grains Work”. This presentation is by South Dakota farmer Lee Brockmueller, who presented about how small grains benefit his crops, bottom line and livestock. His presentations cover all the basics of raising both winter wheat and oats, from variety selection all the way through harvest and marketing.
In case you missed our the video of the conference we released, of Dr. Pete Lammers of University of Wisconsin-Platteville talking about feeding small grains to livestock, here it is:
You can find PDFs of all of the presentations on our small grains page.
Did you know that PFI has a podcast?
Our first season just wrapped up – our first podcast is called On-Farm: Conversations with Practical Farmers – and we have 17 episodes available. Basically, these episodes are a 45 min – 1 hour conversation between me and a PFI member. This year, we focused on people who hosted field days, so if you missed a field day that you wish you hadn’t missed, you might be able to find a pretty in-depth conversation with the host on the podcast.
How to Listen to Podcasts
For the final episode of the first season of On-Farm, we visited the farm of Maria and Ron Rosmann of Rosmann Family Farms near Harlan. The Rosmanns have been instrumental in many of the most important agricultural movements of the last 30 years: They were pioneers in organic livestock and row crops, and were among the core of farm families that helped Practical Farmers of Iowa get off the ground in the mid 1980s.
On today’s show, we’ll talk about the history of their farm, their upcoming field day on September 9th, organic row crop and hog production, and the next generation – all three of their sons are working in agriculture, two of them on the family farm. You can check out a short video about their upcoming field day: https://youtu.be/zFtYCY2Ut7k – or learn more in this press release.
This week on the show, we have Jamie Hostetler of Rolling Meadows. Jamie farms with his family near Bellevue in eastern Iowa, where they raise 100% grass-fed beef and sell Red Devon cattle for seed stock. In 2010, shortly after moving to the area, they seeded row crop ground down to pasture and have been practicing high-density grazing to regenerate the soil and produce gourmet-quality, grass-finished beef.
On September 16, the Hostetlers will be hosting a field day on their farm focused on all things grass-fed beef production. They’ll talk production, from grass-efficient genetics, interseeding annuals to perennial pastures, and rotational grazing, all the way to market – what a grass finished animal looks like when its ready for market. On today’s show, we’ll talk all things regenerative grazing and grass-fed beef.
This week on the show, we have Earl Canfield of Dunkerton in northeast Iowa. Earl farms with his wife Jane and their four children. Their children represent the sixth generation of the Canfield family to be on the land since the mid-1860s, for which they received a Heritage Farm Award at the Iowa State Fair in 2016. The Canfields are making a transition from growing strictly corn and soybeans for commodity markets to growing and direct marketing a diverse mixture of value-added products, including whole grains, mixed feeds, produce and eggs.
On September 7th, they’ll be hosting a field day on their farm focused on all the things that it takes to grow and market oats and hay in Iowa. In addition, the Canfield Family has spent the last two years relearning how to grow small grains in Iowa. They have researched machinery, production strategies and varieties, in addition to seeking potential market streams. One opportunity is to direct-market small grains to small-scale livestock owners as either whole grains or as part of complete mixed feeds. We’ll talk about that and more on this week’s show.
If you haven’t gotten your Summer 2017 issue of the Practical Farmer, our quarterly newsletter, it should be arriving in the mail soon. In it, you’ll find a couple articles about food. One is authored by former PFI staffer and chef Tomoko Ogawa (it’s a fascinating update on her culinary adventures in Japan and Spain since leaving PFI 3 years ago). The other is an article I wrote “Cooking Adventurously to Support Local Food and Farmers” after talking to members Jamie Hostetler (cattle farmer), Jordan Clasen (veggie grower) and Bobby and Ty Gustafson (meat locker owners).
I wanted to know how friends of farmers could support farmers with their purchasing power. As a friend of farmer myself, what do farmers want me to eat? I get into some of their responses in my article, but a lot of it comes down to what’s good for the soil. The one caveat is that sometimes the vegetables and cuts of meat that farmers need to sell are ones that are a bit trickier to cook.
So I bought some grass-fed beef (helps support farmers who put more perennials on the landscape) and chose a cut of meat that usually just gets ground – beef short ribs (which I had never cooked before). Then, I chose a vegetable – fava beans – that Jordan told me is good for the soil due to its ability to fix nitrogen, and its root system. But, again, how do you cook a fava bean? You can read the results in my newsletter article, but I relied on my favorite food blog Serious Eats for guidance. I adapted these recipes to my own taste, and you can too.
Fava Beans (I really just took the fava bean part of this recipe and added lots of slow cooked garlic, a little honey, a little soy sauce, a little salt, and a little red wine vinegar).
Support your local farmer and have some fun in the kitchen!
This week on the show, we had Chris Teachout, who farms near Shenandoah in southwest Iowa with his wife Janenne. Chris is a fifth-generation farmer, and he and his family have been using conservation practices on their farm since the mid-80s. He raises corn, soybeans and small grains, and has been using no-till practices for over 20 years. Ultimately, his goal is to regenerate his soil with cover crops and biology. On this show, we talk with Chris about how he got started with cover crops, what soil health is, and what he hopes people will learn at his field day.
On August 29th, Chris will host a field day on his farm, where the soil scientist Jill Clapperton will speak about soil regeneration and soil health. The event is free for members of Practical Farmers of Iowa – you can find more information and RSVP at this link.