Friday, June 21, 2013

Midwest Nature Quote of the Week

Birds are arguably Iowa’s most conspicuous and best-known animals. If invertebrates are excluded, birds dominate our state’s wildlife in sheer number and diversity, comprising about 60 percent of all vertebrates known from Iowa. About 150 birds now nest regularly in the state. In all, around 200 species have nested here between 1840 and 2000. Including migrants over 400 bird species have been observed in Iowa—nearly half of the roughly 900 birds known to North America.

Cornelia F. Mutel, The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Practical Farmers of Iowa, Part 2

Interview with Luke Gran, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Part 2

Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa includes a diverse group of 2,000 farmers and friends of farmers. The organization’s mission is to advance profitable, ecologically sound, and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Below is part 2 of acquisitions editor Catherine Cocks’s interview with Luke Gran, the coordinator of PFI’s Next Generation program. In our first post on this interview (June 12), Luke Gran said that marketing and production are the two biggest challenges facing new farmers.

Catherine: What are the marketing challenges?

Luke: Folks in the PFI beginning farmer network grow diverse crops and target diverse markets, from farmers’ markets to community-supported agriculture to grocers to brokers on the Chicago Board of Trade. All of them want to know how to build or maintain their customer base or how to make prudent selling decisions in commodity markets.

Catherine: And the production challenges?

Luke: In terms of production, 33 percent of our beginning farmers are focused on horticulture, but the knowledge of how to produce highly productive, diverse vegetable crops of high quality is lacking in Iowa because of the dominance of investments in research and market infrastructure for corn and soybeans over the past several decades. So this is knowledge that farmers are reacquiring now through experience and networking with other farmers. Another 20 percent of our beginning farmers are growing grain and raising livestock in integrated farm systems, and 15 percent of them are grazing livestock on grass-based systems. The knowledge of these systems also has also been lost as markets shifted and support in Iowa for these practices dwindled over the past half century.
            In general, new farmers face challenges in getting access to capital and land, developing comprehensive business plans, and finding or building adequate infrastructure for livestock and processing. 

More information: Farming's New Faces

Monday, June 17, 2013

Excerpt from Esther's Town

My mother regarded father as a dangerous man at the wheel. But she also was accustomed to horse-and-buggy tempo. One time while driving north on Sixth Street, he stepped the Hudson up to forty miles an hour. He suggested it might be discreet not to relate this foolishness to Maude. But he took pride on our annual trip to Des Moines that we needed only two hours to reach a country schoolhouse south of Algona, sixty miles from home. We always stopped there to use the two outdoor privies. On the Des Moines jaunt, we invariably had to bring out the side curtains and button them on to keep us dry. It always rained. Our route was identified by markings on telephone poles that pointed out the Lincoln Highway, the AYP, the Daniel Boone trail, and other competing traveled ways. Whenever the telephone company replaced a key marked pole at a highway intersection, we were in trouble: to turn or not to turn. Muddy roads sent my nervous mother into spasms of fear. But we always made it out without disaster.

Esther's Town, by Deemer Lee