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Practical Farmers’ conference

AMES – Registration is open for Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2019 annual conference, “Cultivating Connections,” which will take place Jan. 17-19 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. All are welcome. Full details can be found at

This year’s theme draws attention to the many connections, both large and small, that are vital for farms, communities, rural economies and natural ecosystems to thrive – from individuals connecting to share knowledge, to the microscopic links between plants and soil organisms that have visible effects on crop and landscape health.

Attendees will hear practical insights from their farming peers and other experts about everything from using cover crops to control weeds in field crops to niche pork production, biodynamic farming to profitably marketing meat, growing winter small grains to farm transition, eggplant production to adding prairie habitat, cultivating civility to organic dairying, rural mental health to regenerative grazing – and much more.

The conference attracted more than 1,000 farmers, researchers and supporters last year.

Conference highlights include:

• A keynote address by farmer and author Michael Phillips, who raises apples and medicinal herbs with his wife, Nancy, at Heartsong Farm Healing Herbs and Lost Nation Orchard in New Hampshire. In his keynote, “Soil Redemption Song,” Michael will take a deep dive into the microscopic communities beneath our feet and crops. He will help listeners understand the vital link between mycorrhizal fungi and crop health, and explain how this fungal network can help foster resilience in ecosystems.

• Sixty sessions on topics that span the agricultural spectrum. Some sessions are planned specifically for landowners, non-farmers and beginning farmers.

• Two pre-conference short course options are “Silvopasture” and “Orcharding.” Both courses run from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 17, and continue from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 18 at the Scheman Building.

• Certified crop advisor credits for 36 sessions and both short courses.

• Many opportunities to network and build relationships with other farmers, researchers, consumers and sponsors – including during the free breakfast served Saturday morning.

• Presentation of PFI’s 2018 Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award

Register online at, or contact Debra Boekholder at or 515-232-5661.

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