Southeast Iowa farmer Gayle Olson is one of four farmers elected to Practical Farmers’ board of directors

For Release: March 10, 2017

Board members are among more than 530 PFI members serving in a leadership role

AMES, Iowa — Southeast Iowa farmer Gayle Olson is the newest addition to Practical Farmers of Iowa’s board of directors. Gayle, who farms near Winfield, was one of four farmers elected in January by Practical Farmers members to join or renew their tenure on the 12-person board of directors.

The other three farmers are Wendy Johnson, who farms with her family near Charles City, in north-central Iowa; Julie Wheelock, who farms with her family near Sac City, in western Iowa; and Ann Franzenburg, who farms near Van Horne, in northeastern Iowa. The board elections took place during Practical Farmers’ 2017 annual conference.

Gayle Olson operates J & G Olson Farms, Inc. with her husband, Jeff, growing a variety of row crops, small grains, alfalfa and beef cattle. Their operation is ISO-registered and includes both conventional and organic acres. She and Jeff are both lifetime members of Practical Farmers and long-time participants in on-farm research through PFI’s Cooperators’ Program. In addition to farming, Gayle is a certified health education specialist and serves as assistant to the director for Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH).

With her election, Gayle began her first term on the Practical Farmers board as the new District 5 (Southeast Iowa) representative, replacing Ann Cromwell, of Williamsburg, who served nine years on the board.

“Practical Farmers of Iowa is one of the very forward-thinking, innovative agriculture organizations, and I really was honored to be asked to serve,” Gayle says. “The other members of the board are such fascinating people to be able to serve with, and with all the changes happening in agriculture in the next few years – from policy changes to the structure of agriculture – it’s going to be a really interesting time to be in a position to help guide the organization and hopefully make some good decisions.”

Julie Wheelock was appointed in 2016 to fill an open board spot, and with her election, is now starting her first full term as a farmer at-large director. She farms with her husband, Ryan, and three children near Sac City, raising hogs for Niman Ranch, as well as pastured lambs and poultry. She also works at a local veterinary clinic as a veterinary technician for both large and small animals.

Wendy Johnson was re-elected to the board and is now starting her second term as the District 2 (North Central Iowa) representative. She and her husband, Johnny Rafkin, own and operate Joia Food Farm, a small organic grain and livestock farm near Charles City. They direct-market eggs, chicken, lamb and pork across Iowa. Wendy also helps manage her family’s conventional corn and soybean farm.

Ann Franzenburg was re-elected to her second term as a representative for District 3 (Northeast Iowa). She also serves as board secretary and sits on Practical Farmers’ executive committee. Ann and with her husband, Eric, operate Pheasant Run Farm near Van Horne. The diversified family farm includes traditional conventionally raised Iowa row crops, as well as flowers and certified organic fruit, vegetables and medicinal herbs.

These individuals are among the hundreds of Practical Farmers of Iowa members who serve in leadership roles within the organization. In 2016, more than 530 members served in a leadership capacity, working in ways as diverse as hosting field days, conducting on-farm research, speaking with the media, serving on committees, volunteering at events, mentoring beginning farmers – and more.

This breadth of engagement reflects the degree to which Practical Farmers members actively work on behalf of Practical Farmers’ mission to strengthen farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing, and its values of welcoming everyone, stewarding the land and environment, inspiring creativity and collaboration, and creating viable farms now and into the future.


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 https://www.practicalfarmers.org.


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