Whiterock Conservancy field day will focus on pasture, row crop strategies to improve water quality – June 24, near Coon Rapids

For Release: June 10, 2015

COON RAPIDS, Iowa — Water quality is on many farmers’ minds these days, as they consider actions they can take to protect local waterways. Rob Davis, conservation lands manager with Whiterock Conservancy, encourages farmers to consider one approach that might not at first seem so obvious: focus on soil health.

“The byproduct of improved soil health is improved water quality,” Rob says. “Regional conversation about farming continues to concentrate on water quality, while soil health is overlooked or left off the table. But estimates of erosion and soil organic matter loss are robbing farmers of future yields and farmland value.”

By restoring soil health, he says, farmers will be simultaneously implementing practices – like cover crops and perennial pasture – that benefit both crops and water quality. “Continuing practical discussions with other farmers to increase and integrate these systems into row crops is critical.”

He and colleague Darwin Pierce, farm manager for the conservancy, will host a “practical discussion” on these topics at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day on Wednesday, June 24, from 3-8 p.m., near Coon Rapids, and invite farmers and the public to participate. The event – “Practical Talk on Pasture and Row Crop Farming” – is free to attend and will include dinner.

RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please contact Lauren Zastrow at lauren@practicalfarmers.org or (515) 232-5661 by Friday, June 19. Note that the field day will take place across the road from 1564 125th St., but dinner will be at 1313 Fig Ave., which is 1.2 miles southwest of the field day site. The event is sponsored by Organic Crop Improvement Association International.

Attendees will get to take part in conversation on past and present grazing systems at Whiterock. For several decades, the pasture program had been based around rotational grazing, but in summer 2014, Darwin introduced high-density grazing into the pasture rotation program. Learn about future plans to expand this grazing program, as well as increase visitor interaction by grazing cattle through an expanded trail system that cuts through several pastures.

The conservancy also has an active row-crop program and, in recent years, has partnered with the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) on a micro-watershed study looking at how planting perennials in waterways can improve water quality runoff – both tile and surface flow – in a no-till, contour farming corn-soybean rotation. ISA staff will discuss their findings, and Whiterock staff will outline their experiences with how to add prairie strips to a farm program. A representative from Iowa State University’s Science-Based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) project will also be present to discuss the long-running project and its findings.

Whiterock Conservancy is a non-profit land trust with a three-part mission to conserve and protect Iowa’s natural resources; engage the public through outdoor recreation and education; and demonstrate and promote sustainable agriculture practices that respect the land, clean the water and improve the soil.

Directions from Des Moines: From I-35 / I-80 at the northwest corner of Des Moines, exit onto state Route 141 toward Perry. Whiterock Conservancy is 6 miles west of Bayard on Route 141. From Ames: From I-35 in Ames, go west on U.S. 30 for 50 miles. At Scranton, turn left (south) onto state Route 25, then right (west) on Route 141 at Bayard. Whiterock is 6 miles west of Bayard, on Route 141.

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.


Rob Davis | Whiterock Conservancy | (712) 684-2697 ext. 114 | landmanager@whiterockconservancy.org

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