Luke Gran

Former staff member

Luke Gran grew up in Newton, Iowa and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Forestry at Iowa State University in 2008. Luke is passionate about learning from farmers, and the native ecosystems which are the foundation of agriculture. At home, he does the books for his wife Sally who is a beginning horticulture farmer in Story County. Luke enjoys guitar and performing the cowboy poetry of Townes Van Zandt and others.

Blog posts

Are you a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI)? Before you can complete these seven steps, join Practical Farmers today! https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=473bcc


Martha McFarland (left) listens in at the PFI 2014 Next Generation Retreat as Wendy Johnson (right) explains how she budgets for her hay and sheep farm enterprises to ensure profitability.

  1. Participate in one or more of the PFI members-only email discussion groups of interest to you – seven to choose from: pfigeneral, pfilivestock, pfihorticulture, pficovercrops, pfigardenandfood, pfisolar, and pfipolicy
  2. PFI Field Days – March through October – visit farmers who are growing and marketing small grains, cover crops, alfalfa hay, specialty crops and livestock. Travel across Iowa as far as you need to if the topic is the right fit. PFI members say they learn more in one field day than a year of research on their own. Last year, field day attendees traveled 70 miles one-way on average to attend our field days.
  3. Watch live farminar broadcasts – November through March – to learn from farmers online, for free practicalfarmers.org/farminar 80 recorded sessions available online for free viewing as well.
  4. Attend the 2015 PFI Annual Conference in Ames, Iowa – January 22-25, 2015
  5. Attend an in-depth workshop of interest to you that we help organize periodically throughout the year. Here are some of the events we have hosted in the past: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Mini School, Next Generation Retreat, Tomato Grafting Short Course, High Tunnel Build, Holistic Management (Intro to HM), Holistic Management (Financials), Holistic Management (Pasture Management), and more!
  6. Consider organizing a BBQ/potluck for PFI members in your area to attend and get to know other PFI folks near you. PFI can help spread the word about the event if you wish to throw a party to meet more sustainable agriculture interested farmers, and landowners.
  7. Got a question about something (anything farming related at all) – call (515) 232-5661 and one of our staff will be happy to help connect you with farmers who may know something on the subject.

Lets take actions to work together to farm better this growing season! Join Practical Farmers today practicalfarmers.org/join Read full details on membership benefits at: https://www.practicalfarmers.org/join-pfi.html After you are a current member of Practical Farmers, take these actions in the next 12-months to help move towards a more diverse, ecologically sound, and community enhancing farm.


Luke Schuldt (center) shares his beginning crop and livestock farm story as his business “coach” Dick Schwab (left) listens.



2014 Next Generation Retreat

Network with beginning and experienced farmers
1:00 p.m., Friday, February 21, 2014 – 3:00 p.m. Saturday, February 22, 2014
Cedar Falls, Iowa

Practical Farmers of Iowa welcomes you to attend The 2014 Next Generation Retreat – The sixth annual gathering of beginning farmers who share good food, network together, and swap strategies to help their beginning farms be successful!

This year the retreat is located at the Center for Energy and Environmental Education (CEEE) at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Schedule to feature: Continue reading

A top priority of Practical Farmers members is to help the next generation succeed in farming and they (beginning and experienced farmers, landowners) want to meet the leaders of the next generation at the Practical Farmers Annual Conference January 24-25, 2014.

Great conference sessions of interest to beginning farmers in particular are in store. Essential in the eyes of many longtime Practical Farmers members, is the decision-making framework offered at the holistic management pre-conference Short Course held Thursday, January 23 and Friday, January 24. Farm financing ideas shared by business adviser Elizabeth U, review the profit performance of a CSA vegetable farm in the midwest from start-up to year eight, and  learn from farm family James Ranch on how they work together with four independent family businesses on one 300 acres of family-owned land.

Please consider attending the finest Practical Farmers event of the year. Held in Ames, Iowa at the Iowa State Conference Center in the Scheman Building, this is a chance to connect with 600+ farmers (beginners and experienced), land owners, farm family advocates, farm suppliers, non-profit support organizations, legal, insurance, accounting, and other business advisory team partners; all mingling in a family atmosphere. Heck, we even have a Potluck! Friday night after the keynote address – we are going to eat brats from Iowa hogs and sauerkraut prepared by a local business. Bring a side to share if you can.

Our registration rates are among the lowest around – Practical Farmers members may attend both Friday and Saturday for just $70.00. Just $20.00 if you are a student! Add a lunch ticket for Saturday for $14 per adult, $7 per child. Practical Farmers provides free snacks, beverages, and a hot breakfast on Saturday. We care about keeping networking affordable for any farmer’s budget. Register online today, pre-registration discounts end on January 15, 2014.

Our conference is so jam-packed full of speakers, and sessions, we even added a beginning farmer social at the Practical Farmers office held at the conclusion of Saturday so you can spend a little extra time together. Beginning Farm Business Financing expert Elizabeth U is attending! Ask her your business financing questions one-on-one. Practical Farmers provides pizza and salads for all beginners to enjoy! Just RSVP that we know you are coming: luke@practicalfarmers.org

Traveling from outside of Ames? Intimidated by hotel costs? No sweat – Practical Farmers members are volunteering to host beginners in their homes! See below for more information:

FREE LODGING for Practical Farmers 2014 Annual Conference
Practical Farmers of Iowa members want to help reduce the financial barriers beginners face, and see you attend the Practical Farmers Annual Conference this January 24-25, 2014 in Ames, Iowa. Four spots remain available for FREE lodging in the homes of Story County Practical Farmers members during the conference. Email luke@practicalfarmers.org if you are interested in this free lodging opportunity and the nights you need accommodations (i.e. Thursday and Friday) All homestays are kid and family friendly. Couples or singles, we will try to help any Practical Farmers member beginner who is looking for a homestay.

Beginning Farmer Social (Pizza and Salad)
Saturday, January 25, 2014; 5 PM to 7 PM
Held at the Practical Farmers of Iowa office:
600 Fifth Street, Suite 100
Ames, Iowa 50010
FREE for all, rsvp to luke@practicalfarmers.org if you are able to attend.

PFI Annual Conference 2014 Silent Auction SPECIAL Item ACCEPTING BIDS TODAY through Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 4 PM- EMAIL lauren@practicalfarmers.org
All proceeds help fund the PFI Youth Program.

Two-week HAWAII HOMESTAY a $3,000.00 value!
PFI members Charlie and Suzanne King of Holualoa, Hawaii offer a lucky auction bidder an up to 14-day homestay in the scenic rural Hawaii (Big Island) countryside. Their home is very comfortable with a nice upstairs area available with 3 bed rooms upstairs (2 with double beds and 1 with twin beds) and a large open room with a small kitchenette. The winning bidder may stay and use their full kitchen downstairs and be close (5 miles) to the beach. A 50′ high balcony view of their Kona coffee plantation, and rural farming community in Hawaii awaits a winter weary Iowa visitor. Located just west of the volcanic terrain of the Honua’ula Forest Preserve, this stay will offer visitors a
unique experience not offered in any travel book. If the King’s are around during your stay, you will enjoy hearing stories of Charlie’s King Crab fisheries profession and the world of Kona coffee production from Suzanne.

Charlie King grew up in rural Audubon County, Iowa, and regrets to see the transition over a his lifetime to the row crop intensive production as it is commonly practiced today. Years later, Charlie purchased a farm nearby and with the help of a local farm manager, he and his wife Suzanne care for the farm remotely with the help of the Practical Farmers of Iowa community. They recommend the winning bidder redeems this travel opportunity in February-March 2014 when the average temperature is about 78 degrees. Other dates in 2014 available also, excluding the month of October. Kid and family friendly! Bring the whole family – sleeping space for up to 3 couples or 2 couples plus three kids!

Free use of fishing gear, bar-be-que grill (enjoy all the fish you can catch), boogie boards, beach towels, deck hammocks, microwave, coffee maker, pool table, fireplace. Connections to a local honey producer in the community.

Enjoy this wonderful poem shared on December 25, 2013 by PFI member Mark Peterson on the “pfigeneral” and “pficovercrops” members-only email discussion groups.

Read in the spirit of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore published in 1823.


Twas the morning of Christmas
And all across the farm
Not a creature was stirring
They were safe from all harm

The puppies were nestled
All safe in their bed
While visions of breakfast
Danced in their head

So I in my winter coat
And old wind suit pants
Went out for a walk
Thought I would give it a chance

So I walked down the road
With hardly a sound
Mainly the crunching of snow
As my feet hit the ground

So out this glorious morning
Surveying the field
I couldn’t help wondering
what next year would yield

Then what to my curious eyes
Did I see
Green blades of cover crop
Staring at me

Then more thru the snow
Did start to appear
Cereal rye a cover crop
On our farm this year

So again this winter
As I survey our farm
I know it is more than our creatures
That  are safe from all harm

Our soil protected
Under blankets of green
It makes one feel good
If you know what I mean

And down in the Gulf
We think of you too
If our nutrients stay here
We are “Shrimp Hugging” for you

So as I walk down the road
On this Christmas Day
I know we are protecting God’s gifts
In our own little way.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

At Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI), we hear from many of our members looking to hire their first farm employee, like the Cory Family Farm of Elkhart, Iowa. They applied last year to be part of the inaugural class of “PFI Trainers” – 10 farms who offered opportunities for paid on-the-job training in farming. Under the banner of Labor4Learning Program, the goal of which is to connect experienced farmers with high quality, motivated farm employees and connect beginning farmers with paid, on-the job training on successful farms.

Experienced farmers, if selected by a committee of PFI farmers as PFI Trainers, may earn up to $200 per month (maximum $1,000 per year) from Practical Farmers to share the business and financial details a beginning farmer needs to know to be successful managing his/her own farm.

Beginning farmers, who apply and get hired by a PFI Trainer, get paid, on-the-job training with experienced farmers. Additional benefits include: 1) a paid day off to attend a PFI event during the term of employment, 2) a discount to the Practical Farmers of Iowa 2015 Annual Conference (a $100 value), 3) networking with other beginners and experienced farmers.


“The timing all came together with PFI offering this program and our business growing, we applied last fall and thought maybe this would be helpful to us,” remembers Mary Cory. Selected in January 2013, the Cory’s earned $1,000 over the year from Practical Farmers to provide detailed business and farming training to their PFI Trainee, Rory Van Wyk of Ankeny, Iowa. He worked and learned part-time on the farm from February through December.

The caliber of the applicants the Cory’s received for their job announcement was high, but when they selected Rory what they got was exceptional. “He has our best interests in mind, he is always trying to think of a better way to get the job done while still doing high quality work,” says Mary. Even beginning in the cold, difficult conditions of February, Rory, who is a firefighter, rose to the challenge. “In the beginning he was occasionally working on his own off a list of tasks and he just kept going. He didn’t need us to hold his hand.”

Rory Van Wyk

Their PFI Trainee characterized working for the Cory’s as “a wonderful experience.” In addition to earning a wage while learning on the farm, Rory was able to attend three PFI field days during the summer (also with pay). “Why aren’t more organizations doing what PFI is doing here?” he asks. “The chance to get hands-on experience and mentoring has been a tremendous blessing as my family and I seek an opportunity to begin farming.” Rory recently applied and was accepted in the Class of 2015 Savings Incentive Program in part due to his compelling farm story and diverse experiences he has sought out while learning to farm.

As PFI Trainers in the Labor4Learning Program, the Cory’s gained a valuable benefit to their business and life. As many livestock farmers can attest, the challenge of not having knowledgeable farming neighbors can be immense in large parts of the state as farms have become larger and more specialized. Mary testifies to the level of trust and competency they have in Rory, “When we have had to be gone for a day or two, Rory has been completely in charge of the farm.”

Relying only on custom work and casual hired help by the day in previous farming seasons, the Cory’s were going out on a limb with hiring an employee for the first time. “Without Practical Farmers of Iowa offering the Labor4Learning Program, I don’t know that we would have taken that leap.”

Will they be Trainers again in 2014? “We aren’t ready to take on more Trainees yet, because its been so successful with Rory,” says Mary. The Corys are continuing to work with this PFI Trainee they hired in February 2013 and are looking for ways to collaborate further in the future.

If you are an experienced farmer, looking to take the next step in employee management or want to share your farming knowledge, apply by December 9, 2013 to be a PFI Trainer in 2014. Full application details are available at: https://www.practicalfarmers.org/programs/youth-and-next-generation/Labor4Learning.html Click “Download PDF application” link in the orange box on the right of the screen. Or follow this direct link to download an application: https://www.practicalfarmers.org/assets/files/next_generation/2014-PFI-Labor4Learning-Trainer-Application.pdf

Are you hesitant to hire a farm employee due to questions about legal requirements? Check out the PFI Farm Employment FAQ about the rights and responsibilities for Iowa farm workers and farm employers.

Read more about the Cory Family Farm, PFI members featured in this blog at: http://coryfamilyfarm.com/

Funding for the Labor4Learning Program comes from Practical Farmers of Iowa’s strategic reserves.

Well Grounded: Deeply rooted to thrive during dry times

Growing Harmony Farm's last carrot crop.

Some of Growing Harmony Farm’s last carrot crop.

The upcoming theme for the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) annual conference (January 24-25, 2014) is Well Grounded. Here is a short reflection from this past growing season that connects with the theme.

When the growing season started this spring, I wondered if I would harvest any crops with the amount of rain I was receiving this year. But one hopes and continues to plant though it is tempting to give into despair.

I lost virtually all of my garlic crop to yellow asters disease. My potatoes were planted in a slightly low lying area so I thought I would lose them all and nearly did. Sweet potatoes too were planted in muck and that pretty much described the harvest: mucky, yucky the worst ever for me. I kept planting my carrots though and decided after two years of disaster of poor germination due to heat in July I planted my fall Bolero carrots early in late June and beginning of July. Sure enough I had good stands.

Who would have thought that someone would be turning off the faucet? From mid-June to mid-August. not a drop of water fell on my parcel of land here in central Iowa? Yet the carrot tap roots kept going down and down for that moisture in our beautiful 4-5 feet of top soil. I have pulled out tap roots in the past that were 5-6 feet long! My organic soils have 6-8% organic matter and certainly that makes a difference for the top foot of soil. With one inch of rain in August and another inch the second week of September, then a few more small rains at the beginning of October my carrot crop not only survived, but thrived. I had one of the best carrot crops in my limited history here both in abundance and quality.

While on some level I consider it a miracle I do know that years of improving the soil makes a significant difference. It also proves that when one is well grounded/deeply rooted in place it is easier to survive the dry times in one’s life.

Gary Guthrie, “The Carrot King” has farmed fresh vegetables at Growing Harmony Farm for more than 18 years near Nevada, Iowa. He first joined Practical Farmers as a whole farm member in 1995 and renewed as a lifetime member this September. 2013 is his final season growing food commercially. Follow his blog on food, faith, and farming at http://garyguthriethecarrotking.blogspot.com/

Practical Farmers surveys its beginning farmer network regularly to identify their top priorities. We also use this to help find out more about who we serve – those who wish to farm, or are currently farming. The most recent survey summary information is shared below. If you want more information, send Luke Gran an email luke@practicalfarmers.org.
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