Adam Montri

Adam Montri

The Practical Farmers of Iowa annual conference later this month will highlight farm management and budgeting to improve fruit and vegetable farmers’ profitability, along with much more.

Among the speakers that will interest many fruit and vegetable producers are veteran vegetable farmer Laura Frerichs of Hutchinson, Minn., and high tunnel expert Adam Montri of Bath, Mich.

Laura Frerichs

Laura Frerichs

Laura will teach an in-depth workshop on farm planning, budgeting and recordkeeping, and Adam will lead two sessions on advanced high tunnel techniques, and the recordkeeping necessary to evaluate high tunnel costs and management.

Tamsyn Jones of Practical Farmers of Iowa sent along the following about the group’s upcoming conference:

AMES, Iowa — Ask any farmer what he or she likes best about farming, and most will probably say being on the tractor, or out in the field, barn or greenhouse. Few are likely to rank recordkeeping, budgeting or profit margin analyses very high. But veteran vegetable farmer Laura Frerichs says all farmers – and especially beginners – need to remember how crucial the business aspect is for success.

“Budgeting is an aspect of farming that a lot of people don’t have experience with or don’t necessarily think about when getting into farming,” says Laura who, with her husband, Adam Cullip, co-owns and operates Loon Organics, a 40-acre farm that includes 7 acres of certified organic vegetables, near Hutchinson, Minn. “But learning the business side and having good recordkeeping skills, while a challenge for all farmers, is a big area for growth. Even experienced farmers can expand their knowledge in this area to increase profitability.”

Laura will help demystify farm budgeting and share her meticulous recordkeeping methods during an in-depth workshop at Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2014 annual conference, “Well Grounded,” Jan. 24-25 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building, on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. The conference is open to the public. Register online at or contact Erica Andorf at or (515) 232-5661. Special rates are available for students and Practical Farmers members. Walk-in registrants are also welcome.

This year’s event extends last year’s focus on sustaining soil health with a spotlight on cover crops and extended rotations, and features several sessions on growing fruits and vegetables, from budgeting and finances, to advanced high tunnel production, to diversifying your farm with livestock, fruit or other enterprises.

In Laura’s session, “In the Black: Eight Years of Vegetable Budgets,” which runs from 12:30-4:30 p.m. on Friday, you’ll learn about effective techniques for budgeting, the benefits of rigorous recordkeeping, how to analyze your farm’s productivity and how to use that information to make financial and other important decisions on your farm.

 “I want to demystify the business aspects of farming, and emphasize that anyone can do this – even if you have no background,” says Laura, who is entering her tenth year of farming. “I also want people to know they can start anytime. With some simple recordkeeping tools, you can put your budget together for this season and start tracking your sales, yields and all your farm expenses.”


Gain additional farm management skills with Adam Montri, of Ten Hens Farm in Bath, Mich. Adam has traveled to Iowa three times to lead high tunnel builds at PFI members’ farms. He is coming again, this time to bring his high tunnel expertise to the classroom in two sessions at the conference. In “Taking Your High Tunnel to the Next Level,” on Friday from 12:30-4:30 p.m., learn ways to fine-tune your production system with long-term soil health and fertility, advanced crop scheduling and pacing, irrigation options and application amounts, and marketing winter produce. Delve further into the question with Adam on Saturday morning from 9-11 a.m. in “Are You Making Money in Your High Tunnel?”

Additional horticulture sessions at the conference include:


·      Grow Farm Family Incomes, Retain Family Harmony

LED BY: James Ranch family members, Durango, Colo.

·      Combine Supply Orders to Decrease Product or Shipping Costs

     Saturday morning breakfast session

·      Coffee Shop with Laura Frerichs

     Saturday morning breakfast session

·      Map Your Delivery Routes: Are There Opportunities to Aggregate?

Saturday morning breakfast session

·      Raising Dough: Financing Your Farm Business

     LED BY: Elizabeth Ü, Finance for Food

·      Growing Potatoes: From Source to Store

     LED BY: Laura Krouse, Abbe Hills Farm, Mount Vernon, Iowa

·      Over the Fence: Discussing Spray Drift with Neighbors

LED BY: Gary Guthrie, Growing Harmony Farm, Nevada, Iowa

·      Weathering the Weather

LED BY: Andy Dunham, Grinnell Heritage Farm, Grinnell, Iowa

·      Farm-Scale Composting: Techniques for Iowa

U-Pick roundtable discussion

·      Policy to Protect People and Land from Pesticide Drift

U-Pick roundtable discussion

·      Food Safety of Integrating Livestock into Fruit and Vegetable Production

U-Pick roundtable discussion


Restoration Agriculture Short Course: Those who want to learn new techniques for diversifying and stewarding their farms can sign up for a pre-conference short course – “Registration Agriculture 101” – on Thursday, Jan. 24, from 1-7 p.m., and Friday, Jan. 25, from 8-11:30 a.m. Learn about keyline design, agroforestry, fruit and nut polyculture, silvopasture, alley-cropping, and other erosion-eliminating and soil-building production methods. The course will be taught by Mark Shepard, who runs New Forest Farm, a 106-acre commercial-scale perennial agricultural forest located in southwestern Wisconsin. The course costs $50 for Practical Farmers members, and $65 for non-members.


The conference will also feature keynote speaker Ricardo Salvador, with Union of Concerned Scientists; 19 other in-depth sessions on topics in livestock, field crops, estate planning, fermentation and more; eight additional Saturday morning breakfast sessions; four other in-depth “U-Pick” sessions on topics chosen last fall by Practical Farmers members; and a second pre-conference short course – “Achieve the Triple Bottom Line with Holistic Management.”

To access the full conference program, registration details or to register online, visit

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2014 annual conference is supported by several major sponsors, including: Ag Ventures Alliance; Albert Lea Seed; Calcium Products; eMerge Genetics by Schillinger; FHR Farms, Inc.; Genesys Grain Genetics; Iowa Farm Bureau Federation; Iowa Learning Farms; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy and Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Iowa SARE; Iroquois Valley Farms, LLC; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Saddle Butte Ag Inc.; Sustainable Farm Partners; and WeedGuardPlus.

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 exchange, 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