Practical Farmers’ 2015 annual conference will feature expert grazier Jim VanDerPol

Learn about niche pork marketing, mixed-species grazing, housing options and more

For Release: January 9, 2015

AMES, Iowa — Grazing different species together can have multiple benefits, from pest control to better animal performance. While it’s more common to see ruminants mixed together, veteran livestock farmer Jim VanDerPol says adding a non-ruminant like pigs can have unique benefits.

Jim and his wife, LeeAnn, have farmed since 1977 at Pastures A Plenty Farm near Kerkhoven, Minn., raising hogs in a farrow-to-finish operation, free-range chickens and running a seasonal cattle grazing business with their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Besides benefits like lower bloat risk and fewer flies, Jim says running cows and pigs together can lead to more pound of animal per acre grazed while benefiting the soil.

“We get better use of the pasture plants by running our sow herd throughout the pasture as the cattle rotate through,” Jim says. “The sows spread the manure pats and nip the tops of the legumes, reducing the bloat risk.” Grazing pigs can also be a profitable way for small farms to compete – or larger farms to diversify – by creating the opportunity to sell a niche pork product. But, he adds, “pigs love to play with whatever is lying around, such as gate handles and hoses.”

Learn from Jim and LeeAnn about niche pork and mixed-species grazing at Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 annual conference, “Mapping Our Future,” taking place Jan. 23-24 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building, on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. Jim will lead three sessions, and be available other times to network and answer questions.

  • In “Multi-Species Grazing with Cows and Pigs,” get in-depth insights into what’s involved with grazing these two species together. Jim will also cover some of the tools needed and the economics of feeding sows when they have access to pasture.
  • In “Niche Pork Marketing,” learn how to capitalize on this growing market opportunity. Jim and LeeAnn will describe the retail and wholesale aspects of their meat business; cover customer expectations – including ways to gain and maintain trust; and discuss how the staffing needs of a marketing business differ from those of a farm.
  • During a Saturday morning “Breakfast Networking Session,” you’ll have a unique opportunity to bring questions you have to ask Jim and LeeAnn in a more informal setting while enjoying a free breakfast.

All are welcome to attend. Register online at or by contacting Erica Andorf at or (515) 232-5661. Special rates are available for students and Practical Farmers members, and those who register by Jan. 15. This year’s event focuses on the decisions Iowa farmers face as they wrestle with challenges from profit margins and markets to soil health and volatility, and features several sessions on grazing practices and management strategies that can help you diversify, save time and boost profits while improving resiliency.

Additional livestock sessions at the conference include:

  • In Demand: Opportunities to Sell Meat and Dairy to Wholesale Markets
  • Recordkeeping Analysis Platforms for Crop and Livestock Farmers
  • Housing for All (Species): Livestock Facility Options and Designs
  • What’s the Deal with Cover Crops, Livestock and Herbicides? – (In partnership with Iowa Learning Farms)
  • He’s a Rebel: Grazing Management for Resiliency
  • Grazier Gear Show-and-Tell: Equipment to Make Grazing Management Easier

The conference will also feature:

  • Two pre-conference short courses – “Tell Your Story: The Farm Legacy Letter” and “Healthy Soil for Healthy Crops”– on Thursday, Jan. 22, from 1-7 p.m., and Friday, Jan. 23, from 8-11:30 a.m., at Oakwood Road Church in Ames.
  • A performance of “Map of My Kingdom,” a play about the critical issue of land transition commissioned by Practical Farmers and written by Iowa playwright Mary Swander
  • 23 other in-depth workshops covering topics in field crops, horticulture, farm transition and more
  • Eight additional Saturday morning breakfast sessions
  • Seven other in-depth “U-Pick” sessions on topics chosen last fall by Practical Farmers members
  • Numerous opportunities to network and learn from your peers

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 annual conference is supported by several major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meat; Calcium Products; eMerge Genetics; Iowa Learning Farms; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy and Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Iowa SARE; Sustainable Farm Partners; USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; and WeedGuardPlus.


Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers that seeks to strengthen farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call (515) 232-5661 or visit


Meghan Filbert | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |