Sally Worley

Executive Director

Sally Worley joined Practical Farmers of Iowa staff in the fall of 2007, after being a member of the organization for a few years.  She became the executive director February 1, 2016. Before that Sally worked in multiple positions at Practical Farmers, including: communications director, next generation and horticulture director, deputy director and operations director.

Sally works to ensure Practical Farmers is farmer-led and maintains its big tent, welcoming everyone into the organization. She oversees PFI’s staffing, programming, finances and programming, and is the primary liaison with the board of directors.

A native of Northeast Iowa, Sally graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in horticulture and environmental studies in 2001. Prior to working at Practical Farmers of Iowa, Sally directed the agriculture-based vocational program for people with autism at The Homestead near Pleasant Hill for four years. Sally has also started up a landscape maintenance program for a local landscape company, managed a crew of landscapers in Boise, Idaho, and apprenticed on an upstate New York organic vegetable farm.

Sally lives in Grimes, Iowa, with her husband Chris and three children. She is an avid fiction reader, enjoys live music, cooking for houseguests, gardening, traveling and spending time outdoors.


Blog posts

Practical Farmers of Iowa is delighted to have so many leaders in its membership. These members lead at Practical Farmers, as well as in their communities. This year member names are coming up quite frequently as they run for office across Iowa. Practical Farmers of Iowa doesn’t endorse any candidate, as it strives to be a place where many come together and learn from a spectrum of viewpoints and experiences. However, we are proud to share the multitude of members that ended up on ballots this year.

Are you running for office, but not on this list? Email Sally Worley and we will add you!

Secretary of Agriculture

  • Tim Gannon
  • Chad Ingels
  • Craig Lang


  • Fred Hubbell
  • John Norris

State House

  • Brenda Brink (District 49)
  • Kayla Koether (District 55)
  • Ryan Marquardt (District 25)
  • Denise O’Brien (District 21)
  • David Weaver (District 47)

County Supervisor

  • Linda Murken (Story)
  • Mark Peterson (Montgomery)
  • Thomas Thurston (Marshall)

Soil Water Conservation District Commissioners

  • Jack Boyer (Tama)
  • Steve Carlson (Boone)
  • Selden Spencer (Story)

Practical Farmers of Iowa is proud of this statistic: 72% of our members farm or aspire to farm in the near future. This is an important number, because as an organization we believe that farmers are the experts, and should set and lead organizational priorities.

However, the remaining 28% of members who don’t farm nor aspire to are also important to our organization: they buy member farmers’ products, they advocate for farm systems they believe in, they rent to farmers, and they support farmers and farming systems in their professional roles. One non-farmer working to improve agriculture in Iowa is Sarah Kielly. Read on to hear her perspective and contributions to farming in Iowa. Thanks, Sarah and other non-farmers for your important role in shaping our food and farm systems!

Sarah Kielly

Sarah Kielly

I am a non-farmer.  Growing up, I was exposed to life on the farm through my grandparents, who raised hogs and grew row crops.  My grandmother taught me about gardening and I always looked forward to the fresh produce every summer, which amazingly tasted different than buying it from the grocery store.  It wasn’t until I was older that I really began to appreciate the importance, simplicity, and reward of growing my own food.

My name is Sarah Kielly and I am the Local Foods Coordinator for Buchanan County ISU Extension and Outreach. Working in this role, I draw on this personal connection to strengthen our local food system, which is critical for our local economies.  Without supporting our close friends and neighbors and keeping our dollars in the community, our thriving towns and cities would not survive.  We need to be conscious of what we are buying, where our money is going and who it is supporting.

Through the farmers market, schools, and businesses in Buchanan County I work with producers and consumers, as it is vital to continue to grow agriculture in Iowa toward a more sustainable future. Many kids are not exposed to gardening or even the concept that their food comes from soil and just not the grocery store. It is imperative that they are taught at a young age about our food system and their impact on it.

I challenge you to make one small step toward supporting your local food system, such as buying local milk, beef, or eggs.  Even visiting a farmers market once a month is a great first step!  Non-farmers like me are just as important as the people who grow our food.  We all need to continue to work together to advocate and keep agriculture in our state moving toward a sustainable and great future, all while supporting our local economies and neighbors.

–Sarah Kielly

Tom and Irene Frantzen first hosted a field day 30 years ago. Irene said, “The reason we did that initial tour was because we were interested farmers that wanted some questions answered. What better way than through PFI?” Frantzens hosted 20 consecutive field days, skipped a year and hosted a tour in 2009, and then took an eight year hiatus until this summer’s event June 29—over 100 people attended.

Field day introduction

Tom and Irene Frantzen

Tom and Irene Frantzen

Irene said, with heartfelt emotion, “We were one of the earlier members. Without the vision Dick Thompson and Larry Kallem had, I don’t know where any of us would be without PFI. I hope all or most of you are PFI members. If we didn’t have a connection with all of you people, I don’t know where we’d be today.”

Tom said, “There are three keys to leadership that Practical Farmers gets,” and defined these characteristics:

  • All good leaders deal with people issues first. People are the heart and core of Practical Farmers.
  • Leaders lead with questions, not statements.
  • Leaders focus on results. Tom said, “We are learning from each other and improving our farms so much.”

Frantzen Farm’s goal: “We desire a profitable family farm with good health, a pleasant surrounding, biological diversity and both economic and ecologic stability.” Continue reading

Practical Farmers of Iowa annual conference, January 19-20, 2018, Scheman Center, Ames

sunset on James Rebanks' farm -- photo from James Twitter account, @herdyshepherd1

sunset on James Rebanks’ farm —
photo from James’ Twitter account, @herdyshepherd1

If we look back in recent history, Iowa’s rural landscape was one with more people. People have been moving to metro areas where there are opportunities to make a living, make friends and build community. Rural schools are consolidating, businesses are closing and those once thriving rural communities are losing their vibrancy.

This trend is not inevitable. Practical Farmers of Iowa has a different vision for the future, one of Revival. Revival means repopulating rural communities with farmers.  This conference will strategize how to create markets and infrastructure for small grains and cover crop industries. We’ll talk about how to bring fruit, vegetable and livestock farms – and the resulting jobs and healthy food – back to our small communities.

Revival means regenerating Iowa soils by putting living roots in the ground year-round, by diversifying crop rotations and by re-introducing livestock to the landscape. The wellbeing of our rural communities depends on healthy soil. Revival means rejuvenating our creeks and rivers and bringing clean water back to Iowa. We will talk about ways that all Iowans can have clean water.

Continue reading

Many members have spoken out in support of the Leopold Center in multiple venues and articles. If you were featured in the news regarding Leopold Center, and aren’t in the list below, let us know by contacting Erica at erica@practicalfarmers.org.


Mark Peterson, with Anna Johnson (l) and Stephanie Enloe (r) from Center for Rural Affairs at the public hearing Monday

Mark Peterson, with Anna Johnson (l) and Stephanie Enloe (r) from Center for Rural Affairs at the public hearing Monday


Mark Peterson of Stanton,  Aaron Lehman of Polk City, Liz Garst of Coon Rapids, Angie Carter of Davenport, Ryan Marquardt of  Van Meter, and Joe McGovern of Bondurant spoke in support of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture during Monday’s public hearing with lawmakers at the Capitol. Continue reading

Russ and Phyllis Brandes hosted 30 at their farm Tuesday, April 4 for a spring cover crop field day. After a week of wet weather, a sunless but dry day served attendees just fine.

Russ operates Brandes Farms Inc., a 400-acre corn and soybean operation that incorporates cover crops and some alfalfa. He also has a small cow-calf herd and hogs. Russ is the 4th generation to farm the land near Hancock. His great-grandfather started farming the area in 1874. Russ grew up where he now lives.

Of the experiences he shared, Russ said, “This is what I do on my farm. It’s not the right way, just my way. Other farms have different soils and different circumstances.” This is a great reminder that could start off each field day Practical Farmers holds—farmers serve as great examples to learn from, not models to aspire to.

Russ speaking to field day attendees

Russ speaking to field day attendees

Russ has served as a commissioner or assistant commissioner for East Pottawattamie County Soil Water Conservation District since 1983. He has also been no-till farming since the mid-80s. Russ injects hog manure from his operation into his soils every other year. Russ was disappointed that his organic matter wasn’t increasing, despite regular manure injections. So, he started experimenting with cover crops.

Russ first tried cover crops in 2013. His first go at it was ryegrass flown onto soybean at yellow leaf stage. In 2014 Russ had cereal rye flown onto corn at black layer. Continue reading

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s annual silent auction at our annual conference is gearing up to be a great one due to member generosity.

Here is a sneak peek at some of the items we are excited about:

Fishing Sunset Resort
Sunset Resort

Three-night stay for two at the Sunset Resort on the Ash River Trail near Lake Kabetogama in northern Minnesota. If you want to go relax in beautiful Northern Minnesota, but have more than two in tow, no problem! The resort owner will put the full credit ($340) toward another cabin. Donated by John Goraczkowski

piggy (1)

Half a hog, to be picked up from Story City Locker: This hog comes with a tale. The Dial family found this lost weaned pig wandering in a field they were working last April. They raised him on grass and vegetables and fruit from their gardens, including aronia berries. He was never given antibiotics or GMO feed. Say the Dials: “This special pig has lived a wonderful ‘real pig’ life.” Hog donated by the Gertrude, Gary and Ursula Dial;  processing donated by Ty and Bobbie Gustafson 

Loyas bnb
loyas breakfast

Gift basket including a one-night stay at Loya’s Little House Bread and Breakfast  near Ames. Basket also includes homemade jam, which will give the winner of the prize a sneak preview of the delicious breakfast that is offered as part of the accommodations. Donated by Dean and Denise Biechler

simply the greatest life

Featherman apron, Featherman broiler cone and Featherman $50 gift certificate. Donated by David Schafer David is also donating two books he has authored, Just the Greatest Life, and Simply the Greatest Life. As always, there will be many unique and interesting agriculture-related books available at the auction.

$50 gift certificate to Red Fern Farm, 5 pounds of chestnut seed mix good for zone 5a and south, 5 pounds of Qing chestnut seed, good for the southern half of Iowa, and a gift basket of wine, jam, chestnuts and persimmons. Donated by Kathy Dice and Tom Wahl 

…And much more! Bring your wallet so you can bid on these great items. Please note: You must be present to win! 

Do you want to donate to the silent auction? Please email erica@practicalfarmers.org

wedding tractors

In addition to the silent auction, Helen Gunderson has donated some very nice calendars that capture rural Iowa, urban gardening, and cats. These will be at Practical Farmers of Iowa’s merchandise table during the conference.

Proceeds from the auction and calendar sales will help us fulfill our mission of strengthening farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing.

Earlier this month I attended Iowa Environmental Council’s annual conference. This year’s theme was ECOnomics. During one session, speakers talked about the benefits and challenges of trying to make a living that sustains land, water, families and rural communities.

Seth Watkins

One speaker was Practical Farmers member Seth Watkins. Seth is the fourth generation farming his family’s 1846-founded heritage farm near Clarinda. Seth operates a 600-head cow-calf enterprise, raises hay and corn for cattle feed, and implements a multitude of conservation practices.

Seth started his presentation with: “Can farmers make a living while caring for their land, soil and water? Yes, absolutely. I am a farmer. I get money from the government. You all contributed to that. At the very least, I owe you clean water and healthy soil.” Continue reading

As a farmer-led organization Practical Farmers strives to have farmers represent at least 70% of our membership. We welcome everyone, and relish our friends of farmers members (I am a friend of farmers member).

However, having a large percent of farmers as members assures our work is indeed farmer-led. We are proud to report, as of the end of our fiscal year, 74% of our members are either farmers or aspiring farmers (67% farmers, 7% aspiring farmers). Who are these farmers and what do they grow? This group is diverse! Farmers in the network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and much more. Practices range from conventional to organic, with many iterations of conservation and farm efficiencies employed. These farmers are hard to categorize, and this heterogeneity makes the network strong.

Thank you, farmers, for being part of Practical Farmers of Iowa. Your involvement is what makes us effective and credible!

Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband, Photo Courtesy of The Land Connection

Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband – photo courtesy of The Land Connection

Wes Jarrell, Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, Champaign, IL, member since 1993: “We joined [Practical Farmers] because it’s an exceptional place to hear what other farmers are doing, all sizes, management styles, production systems, in a constructive way.  Lots of perspectives aired.”


Many farm conservation practices are proven to protect soil while reducing both the amount of inputs needed and reduce nutrient runoff. However, these conservation practices come with unknowns to those curious about adding them to their farm systems. What are the costs? risks? At Conservation District of Iowa’s annual conference, Practical Farmers of Iowa sponsored a panel where three member farmers (all soil and water commissioners) shared their experiences with the audience in a Myth Busters Panel to debunk commonly perceived downfalls of conservation practices. 

Rick Juchems

Rick Juchems

Rick Juchems raises 470 acres of corn and soybeans, and finishes 5,000 hogs annually at his farm in northeast Iowa near Plainfield. Rick started using cover crops in 2003 and now raises cover crops on all his crop acres. Rick spoke about his experience with cover crops on his farm. Rick’s PowerPoint

Rick started his presentation by defining cover crops: “Cover crops are a living crop grown after harvesting a cash crop—cereal rye, oats, wheat…anything that will turn green in fall and protect the soil.”

Rick talked about benefits he is seeing on his farm, including: reduced wind and water erosion; reduced nutrient runoff; reduced fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide rates and costs; increased organic matter and soil health; and weed suppression.

Rick said, “I’m growing bacteria and earthworms and producing a healthier soil. Turkey, quail, and pheasants are returning to my farm. I can now hear pheasants cackle in the morning and evening, which hasn’t happened for a long time.”

Continue reading