Johnson farm field day will highlight a beginner’s work with cover crops, organic and livestock – Sept. 12, Charles City

For Release: September 1, 2015

CHARLES CITY, Iowa — For a beginning farmer, failures can be just as important as successes. But finding solutions that fit with your values and goals can be a challenge, says Wendy Johnson, a beginning row crop and livestock farmer near Charles City.

“I’m always learning, and failures are part of the learning process,” says Wendy, who is also enrolled in Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Savings Incentive Program. “I’m not an expert at anything, just trying things to see if they work on my farm. But I have particular values that help guide the way I want to farm, and sometimes finding solutions that run parallel to my values is more difficult than just doing what others around me are doing.”

Join Wendy at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day she is hosting on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and learn about her return to her family farm and the crop-livestock enterprises she is trying. The event – “Trying New Things: Cover Crops, Organic and Livestock” – is free to attend, and will include a lunch of grass-fed lamb raised on the farm. RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please contact Lauren Zastrow at (515) 232-5661 or by Wednesday, Sept. 9. The Johnson farm is located at 2038 March Ave., about 6.5 miles west of Charles City.

The field day is sponsored by Floyd County Farm Bureau, Floyd County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Organic Crop Improvement Association International.

Wendy will discuss her use of cover crops; how she is transitioning a portion of the crop acres to organic production; and integrating livestock into the system, raising sheep and chickens on pasture. She’ll also address her Conservation Action Plan to qualify for financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and discuss her goal of adding pasture-raised, farrow-to-finish hogs.

Tom and Irene Frantzen, her farming mentors, and Savings Incentive Program mentors Margaret Smith and Doug Alert, will be on hand for discussion. Joe Lally, an organic technical service provider, will explain plans to fund EQIP through the organic initiative. Wendy should also have some newly planted nut trees in the farm’s pasture as part of a future enterprise, as well as rye and some other cover crop species flown onto 300 acres.

“This field day will expose the failures and successes of a beginning farmer,” Wendy says. “For instance, the farrow-to-finish hogs did not happen this year. I’ll explain what didn’t work this first time, and my plans to try again. Input is always appreciated, and sharing your successes would be helpful for all who attend.”

Wendy farms with her father, raising corn, soybeans, hay and sheep. They are now in their third year using cover crops on some of their acres. She and her husband, Johnny, have also started their own enterprises on the farm, including: 27 acres in transition to organic row crops; a sheep flock transitioned to grass-fed only; and pastured broilers and layers, which she wants to integrate into her organic row crop system.

Directions: From Charles City, head west on state Route 14 to March Avenue (about 6 miles) and go north. The farm’s purplish-colored barn roofs and a barn quilt with Iowa State University red and gold are visible from the junction of Route 14 and March Avenue. The farm is the first one going north on March Avenue from Route 14.

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, 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.


Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit


Wendy Johnson | (641) 228-1583 | |

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