Learn about swales, permaculture & diversifying a grazing system at Carney Family Farms field day – June 6, near Maxwell

For Release: May 22, 2015

MAXWELL, Iowa — Are you looking for ways to manage water on your farm or pasture? Bruce Carney of Carney Family Farms was inspired to install a permaculture swale system on his livestock farm near Maxwell after attending a workshop taught by expert grazier Greg Judy and permaculture expert Mark Shepard.

Swales are basically water-harvesting ditches with flat bottoms that are built on the contours of a landscape. Unlike ditches, however, which are sloped to help move water away from an area, swales are built to catch and hold surface water so it can soak into the soil and stop erosion.

Join Bruce for a walk-through of the swale design process – as well as plans to diversify with trees and other perennials – at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day he is hosting on Saturday, June 6, from 1-5 p.m., near Maxwell. The farm is located at 13602 NE 96th St., about 7 miles south of town. The event – “Planning for a Permaculture Swale System on Pasture” – is free and will feature a potluck following the program. The Carneys will provide the main dish; guests are asked to bring side dishes or dessert to share. RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please contact Lauren Zastrow at (515) 232-5661 or lauren@practicalfarmers.org by Wednesday, June 3. The event is sponsored by Prudenterra and Story County Soil and Water Conservation District.

In addition to learning about designing a swale system on pasture, Bruce will discuss his plan to incorporate fruit and nut trees – and other perennials – into his farm, and attendees will learn about permaculture and grazing management. Luke Gran, forester and owner of Prudenterra, will discuss planting diverse perennial plants and how soil type determines species selection. He will also walk participants through the Web Soil Survey, an online tool by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that lets users look up comprehensive soil data down to the individual farm level. Paul Miller, a local NRCS district conservationist, will speak about cost-share opportunities for these conservation practices.

The Carneys will also discuss their plans to work these practices into an existing grazing system as a means to diversify the operation and create opportunities for family members who may want to come back to the farm. With field day attendees, Bruce would like to brainstorm a list of enterprises they can add to their own operations through diversifying.

“This field day will be all about planning,” Bruce says. “I would like to come away from this day with any and all input and ideas from our field day participants.” Carney Family Farms includes 125 cow-calf pairs, a grass-finishing operation, and direct-marketing of beef, pork and chicken.

Directions: From I-35, take Exit 96 toward Elkhart / Polk City and turn east on NE 126th Avenue toward Elkhart. Go 5.6 miles, through Elkhart, to the T intersection and turn left on NE 72nd Street / NE Yoder Drive. Follow the curves in the road for about 1 mile; it will turn into NE 134th Avenue. Go 2.4 miles and turn left (north) on NE 96th Street; look for the first house on the west side of the road. (Note: The Carneys suggest using GPS, making the farm easy to find).

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 field day season features 40 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available online at practicalfarmers.org, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2015 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union in partnership with Town and Country Insurance and Hastings Mutual Insurance; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Crosse Seed; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Pro-Soil Ag Solutions; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.


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 www.practicalfarmers.org.


Bruce Carney | Carney Family Farms | (515) 387-8769 | carneyfarms50@yahoo.com

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | tamsyn@practicalfarmers.org