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

Melanie Peterson and her dad

Monday, September 10, 2018, Mark and Melanie Peterson hosted 49 guests at their farm near Stanton for a soil health field day. Mark started off talking about the farm’s history. The family who sold their farm to the Petersons in 2004, Dale and Sunny Nimrod, and Faith and Bill Sherman, were in attendance. Read more about this thoughtful farm sale here. Achieving their farmland goal of passing their farm to a local family resulted in the Nimrod family receiving Practical Farmers’ 2015 Farmland Owner Legacy Award. Read more about that here.

The Petersons have used cover crops for seven years. Mark says that in that time, soil tests have shown a 1% increase in organic matter. He said, “I’m comfortable covers are a big part of that increase. For every percent increase, the ground gains a one-inch increase in water-holding capacity. As we see more 100-year floods, and periods with no rain at all, this is vitally important.”

Adding small grains Continue reading

Forty people gathered at Jon and Tina Bakehouse’s Maple Edge Farm on August 25 to celebrate the ties between agriculture and art. Why, you may wonder, would Practical Farmers hold such a field day?

Just shy of 25% of Practical Farmers’ membership is made up of non-farmers. To better bring them into PFI’s community, Practical Farmers committed to holding at least two events each year to educate non-farmers about agriculture in Iowa. Agriculture is such a staple in Iowa, and art feeds our hearts and souls. Art engages and educates people on important topics. Elevating the role and influence art can have when applied to agriculture is a wonderful thing, and was the focus of this creative event.

Food stories

The day started with Tina Bakehouse and Mary Swander sharing stories of how their lives have been impacted by food, and how that relationship has shifted over their lifetimes. Tina said, “Iowa has some of the richest, most beautiful soil. It should be full of agri-hoods!” She asked the audience to imagine a healthy food system, where farming is a panacea for a healthy economy, environment and people. Continue reading

About the Award

Did you know that 53% of Iowa’s farmland is owned by non-operator landowners? This number is poised to increase as Iowa’s farmland undergoes a massive generational transfer.

Land owned by non-operators can present significant risks: Land tenure insecurity for tenants often decreases tenant interest in investing in conservation. Decision-making processes to make change production and conservation practices are more layered. Landlords often don’t see day-to-day management, thus are less knowledgeable and empowered to advocate for systems they believe in.

However, non-operator landowners also provide great opportunity for the future of Iowa farmland. That is why Practical Farmers started honoring landowners with the farmland legacy award in 2013.

Practical Farmers created the award to call attention to the vital role non-operator landowners play in shaping the agricultural landscape, rural communities and opportunities for beginning farmers. This award highlights people who use their role in land ownership to help create an agriculture that is in line with their values and goals. By sharing these success stories, we hope to empower other landowners to do the same.

Maggie and Steve, this year’s recipients

Maggie McQuown and Steve Turman are dedicated farmland owners very worthy of this award! This press release highlights their many major accomplishments, along with their goals for Resilient Farms, the farm Maggie grew up on and moved back to in 2011.

Award Ceremony recap

Fifty-five family members, friends and fellow PFI members came together to honor Steve and Maggie at their award reception July 31 in Red Oak. Continue reading

“What’s your favorite summer activity?”

Nora, Jaron, Dan, Lorna, and Torray Wilson listen as others share their favorite thing about summer

Attendees at Wilson’s field day July 20 near Paullina kicked off the day by introducing themselves and answering this question. Member Pedro Esquivas got kudos for traveling the farthest, from Madrid, Spain! Long-time member Paul Mugge who farms near Sutherland had the funniest answer: walking beans.

Dan and Lorna introduced the field day and provided farm history. The event was a family affair; all the Wilsons were in attendance minus daughter Faye and her husband Matthew, who were at a youth camp in Eastern Iowa. Dan and Lorna talked about the evolution of the farm and family: Dan’s parents, Beth and her late husband Ernie raised their family at the home site, where the field day was held. Dan did the same with his family. Now Beth lives nearby in Paullina; Dan and Lorna live within walking distance down the road; son Torray and wife Erin live at the home site; daughter April will soon live in a new home down the road; and Jaron and wife Liz, Faye and husband Matthew, and Robin live in Paullina. Continue reading

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