Learn about wind energy, soil health at McGrew Brothers Farm field day – June 22, near Emerson

For Release: June 9, 2015

EMERSON, Iowa — A wind turbine might not be the first investment that comes to mind when looking for ways to cut farm business costs, but according to Steve McGrew, it might be worth considering – especially if you live in a reliably windy part of Iowa.

Steve and his brothers operate McGrew Brothers Farm near Emerson, using no-till on a corn-soybean – and sometimes cover crop – rotation. Three years ago, they installed an older wind turbine on their farm that had been retrofitted with a new generator as a way to cut grain drying costs.

“The grain fans run around the clock during harvest season and can take a lot of electricity,” says Steve, who farms with his brothers Bill, David and Robert, and their nephew, Billy J. McGrew. “With the turbine, we’re making about $10,000 in electricity – twice the amount we’re using – so we have no electric bills right now. On days when the wind is blowing, we get a credit back from the electric company.”

Steve invites farmers and the public to learn more about producing on-farm energy with wind power at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day he is hosting on Monday, June 22, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The farm is at 38843 Gaston Ave., about 6 miles northwest of Emerson (meet at the McGrew Brothers Farm shop). The event – “Conservation, Soil Health and On-Farm Energy” – is free to attend, and will include a pork chop lunch prepared by Iowa Pork Producers. RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please contact Lauren Zastrow at lauren@practicalfarmers.org or (515) 232-5661 by Friday, June 19. The field day is sponsored by Mills County Soil and Water Conservation District.

In addition to hearing about the McGrews’ experience with their wind turbine, attendees will learn about the numerous conservation measures Steve and his brothers have implemented, ranging from diverse cover crops to nutrient management. Guests will also get to see a soil pit on the farm, learn what the soil layers reveal about the history of the land – both geological and more recent farm management – and discuss soil health issues.

Rick Bednarek, a soil scientist with the state Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), will go into the pit and explain what different layers mean,” Steve says. “We might also be able to see cover crop roots too, and evidence of relay cropping – which is when soybeans and triticale are growing at the same time. We usually combine triticale in July, and then combine soybeans in October.”

Other speakers will include Colten Catterton of Green Cover Seeds and Ryan Hammes of Ag Synergy.

Directions: From the intersection of U.S. 59 and U.S. 34 at Emerson, go 2 miles west on U.S. 34 and turn right (north) on 390th Street. Go 3 miles, turn left (west) on Gastong Avenue, then go three-quarters of a mile west to the farm; you can see the wind turbine from a distance.

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.


Steve McGrew | McGrew Brothers Farm | (712) 370-5654 | mcgrewbr@netins.net

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