Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 fall farminar series starts Nov. 10

For Release: October 28, 2015

Topics range from high tunnel production to soil tests and grazing cover crops

Ames, Iowa — It’s that time of the year again: cooler nights, shorter days, harvest wrapping up – the perfect time to reflect on the growing season and consider making improvements to better achieve farm goals next year. Practical Farmers of Iowa is set to kick off its fall farminar series in November to offer practical knowledge for row crop, livestock or fruit and vegetable farmers looking to improve their operations. The webinar series – called “farminars” – is free for anyone with an internet connection to tune in and participate.

Starting on November 10 and continuing each Tuesday night for the following six weeks, farminars will each feature a unique topic related to farm production or business management. Presentations are given by experienced farmers, paired with experts in the field when appropriate. Many farminars feature beginning farmers sharing their start-up experiences and asking questions to the presenters. Attendees are able to listen in and ask questions using a chatbox. All farminars are from 7-8:30 p.m. CST on Tuesday evenings.

To participate: Go to and click the “Join in” button and select to sign in as “Guest.” A schedule for all upcoming farminars – as well as the recordings for dozens of past farminars – is also available at this link.

The first farminar of the season, “Getting Started with Greenhouse Production,” will be led by Lee Matteson and Rose Schick who co-own and operate Lee’s Greens in Nevada, Iowa. Together, they’ll discuss how they started and expanded their business, some common misconceptions they had about greenhouse production, and offer advice for greenhouse and site selection, crop types, markets and more.

Other farminar topics this season include using cover crops for vegetable production; grass-finishing cattle; soil tests and nutrient turnover; grazing cover crops and alternatives to cereal rye; and recordkeeping for vegetable production. The full farminar schedule, including titles, descriptions and speakers, is appended at the bottom of this release, along with a separate list of speakers organized alphabetically by town.

An additional farminar schedule for Practical Farmers’ winter farminar series that takes place January through March 2016 will be released in December.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 fall farminars are made possible with funding from Ceres Trust, Clif Bar Family Foundation, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Water Quality Initiative & Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, National Resources Conservation Service and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.



Steve Carlson | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |

2015 Fall Farminar Line-up

1).        Nov. 10 – “Getting Started with Greenhouse Production” – Lee Matteson and Rose Schick

Lee Matteson and Rose Schick are building their business around winter greens and extended season production using four high tunnels near Nevada, Iowa. Though they started with a solid foundation in greenhouse production, there was plenty to learn along the way. During this farminar Lee and Rose will discuss starting their farm, some misconceptions they had and how others might try things differently. They will also discuss greenhouse and site selection, favorite crops, markets, financial decision-making and share photos of their greenhouse operation.

  • Lee Matteson and Rose Schick are co-owners of Lee’s Greens. Before starting Lee’s Greens, Lee worked for seven years as a greenhouse grower and five years as a fruit and vegetable grower. Rose grew up in northeast Iowa and holds a B.S. and M.S. in horticulture with a specialization in genetics from Iowa State University.

2).   Nov. 17 – “Mindset and Method of Cover Crops in Vegetable Production” – Tom Ruggieri and Mark Quee

Cover crops can do great things for soil health, but who has the time or money to use them? Tom Ruggieri and Mark Quee do! During this farminar, these two vegetable farmers will share how they integrate cover crops into their production planning and farm goals, and discuss species, equipment, establishment and termination.

  • Tom Ruggieri operates Fair Share Farm in Kearney, Missouri with Rebecca Graff. Since 2003, Fair Share Farm has focused on growing their 150 member CSA through community support and a range of biological farming practices that build healthy soils. Cover crops are one way the farm lives up to its motto to “feed the soil, feed the people.”
  • Mark Quee is the farm manager at Scattergood Friends School and Farm, a small Quaker boarding school 15 miles east of Iowa City, Iowa. Mark oversees food produced for the school through 10 acres of organic gardens and orchards and 30 acres of pasture for livestock. Mark has been with Scattergood since 1999.

3).    Nov. 24 – “Grazing Management for Grass-Finishing Cattle” – Ryan and Kristine Jepsen, Daniel Sheetz

The growth of the grass-fed meat sector is driven by positive eating experiences. To ensure satisfied consumers, it’s critical for cattle graziers to have a solid understanding of grass-finishing. Ryan and Kristine Jepsen, of Dorchester, Iowa, will discuss the importance of meeting the nutritional needs of cattle at each stage of life and knowing your cost of gain. Daniel Sheetz, a row crop and beef cattle producer in Toledo, Iowa, is transitioning his operation to organic and grass-fed. He has seeded 60 acres of new pasture and will be implementing a grazing plan in the spring. Daniel will ask Ryan and Kristine questions about grass-based beef production.

  • Ryan and Kristine Jepsen own and operate a diversified agricultural enterprise consisting of organic cash crops, cow/calf pairs, grass finishing and custom grazing. In the past, the Jepsens owned grass-fed beef company Grass Run Farms, and recently sold this brand to JBS Swift USA. In addition to farming, Ryan currently works with JBS to market their grass-finished animals as well as source animals for its growing program.
  • Daniel Sheetz farms organic row crops and small grains on his father-in-laws’s 600-acre family farm north of Toledo, Iowa. The family also runs a cow/calf operation and grain-finishes calves in their feed lots.

4).    Dec. 1 – “The Haney Soil Test and Nutrient Turnover” – Sarah Hargreaves and Paul Ackley

Farmers today can be bombarded with soil test results, but without proper context or interpretation, a plan to act on these results is difficult to decide upon. The Haney Test takes a novel approach to determine fertilizer recommendations while considering soil microbial activity and carbon and nitrogen concentration. Soil microbial ecologist Sarah Hargreaves will address how soil microbial activity translates into nutrient turnover and what this means for a farmer. Farmer Paul Ackley will explain how he’s been using the Haney Test results to reduce his fertilizer rates and maintain crop yields.

  • Sarah Hargreaves is a soil microbial ecologist specializing in microbial communities in agricultural ecosystems. Sarah’s dissertation research in Iowa looked at microbes’ response to annual and perennial crops, including seasonal differences in nutrient cycling and microbial communities in the rhizosphere. Sarah now fosters microbial life on her new farm, Three Ridges Ecological Farm, where she grows diversified perennial crops and raises pastured livestock with her husband, Drake Larsen, in southwest Ontario, Canada.
  • Paul Ackley and his wife Nancy run an integrated farm near Bedford, Iowa, raising corn, soybeans, wheat, cattle and hair sheep. Their diversified rotation, cover crop mixes, and grazing has allowed them to reduce phosphorous and potassium applications and herbicide use.

5).    Dec. 8 – “Alternatives to Cereal Rye and the Benefits of Grazing Covers” – Andy Lenssen and Nathan Anderson

The majority of cover crop research done in the Corn Belt is with cereal rye, which has proven to be both winter hardy and good livestock forage in the fall and spring. Farmers insistent on increasing diversity on their farms are now considering other cover crop species. Andy Lenssen and Nathan Anderson will share experiences growing cover crops beyond rye during this farminar.  Agronomist Andy Lenssen and his research group at Iowa State University are documenting the effectiveness of 16 fall-seeded cover crops following soybean harvest. Farmer Nathan Anderson has been aerially seeding mixes of small grains and mustard species in late summer to graze with cattle in late fall.

  • Andy Lenssen is a researcher and professor with Iowa State University with over 18 years experience leading collaborative, interdisciplinary team projects investigating diversified, intensified cropping systems. One of his current research goals is to provide better options for fall-seeded cover crops, including species diversification, for Corn Belt farmers.
  • Nathan Anderson has been farming with his family since 2005, raising beef cattle and field crops near Cherokee, Iowa. The cow-calf herd is primarily grass-based, the crops are no-tilled, and they use cover crops both for the soil benefits and as forage for the livestock.

6).    Dec. 15 – “A Simple Recordkeeping System for Fruit and Vegetable Production” – Rick Hartmann and Daniel Heldt

The Hartmann’s completed their 10th growing season as a certified organic vegetable farm in 2014. They have been able to create a stable, well-recognized farm allowing them to meet their financial and lifestyle goals. During this farminar, Rick will share how he and Stacy manage product and financial recordkeeping, and how this data impacts the decisions they make for their farm and family. Rick will work with beginning farmer Daniel Heldt to advise him on starting a recordkeeping system for his operation.

  • Rick and Stacy Hartmann own Small Potatoes Farm in Minburn, Iowa, an organic horticultural farm primarily marketing through CSA. The farm is intensively managed with moderate to high amounts of hand labor. The Hartmann’s farm priorities include conservation, biological diversity, cover cropping, crop rotation, beneficial insects, and quality products and service.
  • Daniel Heldt started Dangood Garden in 2013 and just completed his first full season on a new, permanent site near Johnston, Iowa. He markets his produce at the downtown Des Moines farmers market, the Iowa Food Coop, and the Eat Greater Des Moines Local Food Box program. Now that he’s got a stable farm and market, he’s eager to establish a recordkeeping system and scale up production.

Farminar Presenters by Community

Ames, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Dec. 8 – 7-8:30 p.m.

  • Andy Lenssen is a researcher and professor at Iowa State University who is currently looking into options for species diversification for fall-seed cover crops in the Corn Belt.

Aurelia, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Dec. 8 – 7-8:30 p.m.

  • Nathan Anderson has been farming with his family since 2005, raising beef cattle and field crops.

Bedford, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Dec. 1 – 7-8:30 p.m.

  • Paul Ackley is an experienced farmer who has a diversified crop rotation that includes corn, soybeans, wheat, cattle, and hair sheep.

Dorchester, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Nov. 24 – 7-8:30 p.m.

  • Ryan and Kristine Jepsen operate a diversified farm with organic crops and grass-fed cattle.

Johnston, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Dec. 15 – 7-8:30 p.m.

  • Daniel Heldt is a beginning farmer serving the greater Des Moines area with a diverse selection of fruits and vegetables.

Minburn, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Dec. 15 – 7-8:30 p.m.

  • Rick Hartmann operates an established farm serving 100 families with high quality, certified organic produce through the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model.

Nevada, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Nov. 10 – 7-8:30 p.m.

  • Lee Matteson and Rose Schick produce fresh fruits and vegetables year-round using heated greenhouses in central Iowa.

Toledo, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Nov. 24 – 7-8:30 p.m.

  • Daniel Sheetz farms organic row crops and small grains on his father-in-laws’s 600 acre family farm north of Toledo, Iowa.

West Branch, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Nov. 17 – 7-8:30 p.m.

  • Mark Quee oversees 10 acres of organic gardens and 30 acres of pasture as part of his role as farm manager at a small Quaker boarding school.

Kearney, Missouri – Presenting on: Tuesday, Nov. 17 – 7-8:30 p.m.

  • Tom Ruggieri runs a 150 member CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with Rebecca Graff that has been focusing on building soil and community support for 12 years.

Ontario, Canada – Presenting on: Tuesday, Dec. 1 – 7-8:30 p.m.

  • Sarah Hargreaves is a soil microbial ecologist who has studied microbes’ response to annual and perennial crops, and farms with her husband in southwest Ontario, Canada.