Farmers can have questions answered on a variety of topics during the fall farminar series. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Farmers can have their questions answered on a variety of topics during the fall farminar series. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Farmers in need of advice on atypical crop insurance, marketing their food and much more can find answers from other farmers during the Practical Farmers of Iowa fall “farminar” series.

The free, online sessions begin Nov. 5 and are open to anyone with Internet access.

Here is more from Practical Farmers of Iowa:

AMES, Iowa — Harvest is winding down, another growing season is nearing its end – and Practical Farmers of Iowa has set its 2013 fall farminar schedule. This free online seminar series is offered each autumn to help farmers learn about business and production issues that matter to them from the convenience of their homes.

The interactive webinars – called farminars – occur each Tuesday from 7-8:30 p.m. CST, from Nov. 5 through Dec. 10, except for Thanksgiving week, and are open to everyone. Any computer with an Internet connection may be used to participate. Most farminars are led by farmers, and many are presented in a “fish-bowl” format where attendees listen as an experienced farmer answers a beginning farmer’s questions. Farminars air live online and allow participants to ask questions of presenters in real-time.

Topics featured this season include: insuring apple orchards; efficient marketing and distribution of local foods; tools and systems for improving vegetable transplant production; improving the profit-potential of grass-based livestock; and building relationships to improve vegetable crop marketing. Practical Farmers will also produce a day-time series focused on row crops and winter farminar evening series.

To participate: Go to, click the link to connect and sign in as “Guest.” Pre-registration is not required, but those who register will receive reminder emails one week and one day in advance. All upcoming and archived farminars, as well as free audio podcasts of past farminars, are also available at this link.

The first farminar of the season – “Crop Insurance by Written Agreement for Apple Orchards in Iowa” – will be Nov. 5, and should be of interest to farmers growing specialty crops, since these crops are difficult to insure in Iowa. Phil Larabee, licensed insurance agent in Cedar Rapids, will discuss the fundamentals of how crop insurance works and how he managed to insure his family’s 3.5-acre apple orchard near Sabula, Iowa.

“I tell other Iowa apple growers that we have our orchard crop insured, and they tell me they didn’t think you could do that in Iowa,” Phil says. “I’m here to share what we have done and how we cover our basic expenses in the event of a crop loss – and hopefully take away some of the stress and anxiety for other apple farmers.”

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2013 fall farminars are made possible with funding from Ag Ventures Alliance, Grain Millers, John Deere, 211 individual donors to the “100 Days, 100 Beginners” fundraising campaign, Farm Credit Services of America, CERES and The Cedar Tree Foundation.


Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers, advancing profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-to-farmer networking, farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more.  For additional information, call 515.232.5661 or visit

2013 Fall Farminar Line-up

1).   Nov. 5 – “Crop Insurance by Written Agreement for Apple Orchards in Iowa” – Phil Larabee
Learn the timelines to report and apply for insurance, and the recordkeeping and other requirements to gain crop loss protection.

·      Phil Larabee’s mother-in-law, Diane Gravert, owns Gravert’s Apple Basket Orchard near Sabula, Iowa, which is managed by Phil’s wife, Laura. The orchard lost 100 percent of its crop in 2005, and more than 50 percent in 2006, both due to late-spring freezes. Phil saw a need for risk management and applied his skills as a licensed insurance agent to successfully insure the orchard’s apple crop, which has been insured since 2009. While apples are federally insurable in the U.S., coverage is not available in Iowa – but Phil obtained insurance by Written Agreement, a USDA Risk Management Agency document designed to provide crop insurance for insurable crops when coverage or rates are unavailable.

2).   Nov. 12 – “Efficient Crop Marketing and Distribution of Local Foods” – Ellen Walsh-Rosmann and John Lash
Ready to explore a new distribution business to help increase efficiency and amount of local food available in nearby communities? Learn from an established local food distributor now entering its seventh year, hear an Iowa beginning farmer’s vision for her food distribution company, and then listen as the two discuss considerations when creating a local food delivery business.

·         Ellen Walsh-Rosmann of Pin Oak Place, near Harlan, Iowa grows fresh vegetables and manages an organic egg-laying poultry flock with her family. She recently gained access to a delivery truck to distribute products to restaurants and select grocery stores in the Omaha area.

·         Since 2007, John Lash’s company, Farm to Table, has helped distribute locally grown vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs and cheeses to restaurants, grocery stores and institutional clients. Starting with a few dozen customers, Farm to Table now serves more than 500 in Austin, San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country with farm products from 18 local farms.

3).   Nov. 19 – “Transplant Production Improvement Considerations” – Chris Blanchard
Explore systems to keep your transplants happy (even in the heat of summer) so they are ready to grow in top condition.

·         Chris Blanchard owns Rock Spring Farm near Decorah, and provides education and outreach about systems and tools for farmers to succeed in agriculture, business and life through Flying Rutabaga Works.

4).   Dec. 3 – “Revenue Projections and Profit Potential of Grass-Based Livestock” – Ryan Herman and Neal and Laura Vellema
Listen in as an experienced livestock farmer shares his insight with beginning graziers.

·         Ryan Herman has grazed livestock with his father, Gene, for more than 10 years in the hills of the Mississippi River Valley of northeast Iowa. Together, they have 190 cow-calf pairs. They raise calves on grass as yearlings and sell them to a grass-finishing program. The Hermans have not raised hay since 2005, relying instead on stockpiled pasture and purchased hay. Ryan’s farm recordkeeping and grazing planning are exemplary.

·         Neal and Laura Vellema raise pastured beef near Harris, Iowa. While Neal works full-time on his parents’ dairy farm, he and Laura have started raising their own steers on pasture. Future goals include farming full-time on their own dairy, or raising mixed livestock and potentially some vegetables.

5).    Dec. 10 – “Building Relationships, Building Customers” – Jordan Clasen and Jody Bolluyt
Relationship-building can be a powerful marketing tool. Hear from two farms of different scales about how they focus on building relationships with customers to be successful.

·         Jordan Clasen operates Grade A Gardens in Johnston, which supplies the Des Moines area with certified organic gourmet garlic and fresh vegetables, including onions, shallots, leeks, kale, carrots and potatoes. In 2012 he expanded production on 10 rented, certified organic acres to service wholesale and retail customers, including a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) market.

·         Since 2000, Jody Bolluyt has worked as a farmer at Roxbury Farm, a 300-acre diverse community-supported farm near Kinderhook, N.Y. that grows vegetables, herbs and grass-fed pork, lamb and beef for more than 1,200 families. Jody grew up in Adel, Iowa, and has family who farm near Yale, Iowa. During her time at Roxbury Farm, she has focused farm sales on CSA shares, dropping wholesale customers and foregoing sales at farmers markets.

For your convenience in finding individuals within your coverage area, here is a list of farminar presenters by community:

Farminar Presenters By Community

Austin, Texas – Presenting on: Tuesday, Nov. 12 – 7-8:30 p.m.
·         John Lash owns Farm to Table, a food aggregator and distributor that supplies locally grown farm products to restaurants, grocers and institutions in the Texas Hill Country.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday Nov. 5 – 7-8:30 p.m.
·         Phil Larabee
is an insurance agent who has successfully insured his family’s Iowa apple crop.

Decorah, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Nov. 19 – 7-8:30 p.m.
·         Chris Blanchard owns Rock Spring Farm and is a farmer educator under the banner Flying Rutabaga Works.

Harlan, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Nov. 12 – 7-8:30 p.m.
·         Ellen Walsh-Rosmann is a beginning farmer starting a local food distribution business.

Harris, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Dec. 3 – 7-8:30 p.m.
·         Neal and Laura Vellema are beginning farmers getting into grass-based beef and dairy farming.

Johnston, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday, Dec. 10 – 7-8:30 p.m.
·         Jordan Clasen is a beginning farmer growing fresh produce for families in the Des Moines area.

Kinderhook, N.Y. – Presenting on: Tuesday Dec. 10 – 7-8:30 p.m.
·         Jody Bolluyt is an experienced farmer (and native of Adel, Iowa) serving farm products to 1,200 families in New York state.

New Albin, Iowa – Presenting on: Tuesday Dec. 3 – 7-8:30 p.m.
·         Ryan Herman is an experienced grazier with a profitable grass-based livestock operation.