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Iowa Learning Farms marks 10 years

From news reports

Date Modified: 03/06/2014 4:31 PM

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AMES, Iowa — It began in 2004 with a small group from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University and Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

They created a project that would address increasing adoption of conservation farming practices across the state. The five-year Iowa Learning Farms project has evolved into a program that is commemorating 10 years in 2014.

The components of ILF include agronomy, agricultural engineering, economics and sociology. It includes partnering with farmers in the different soil regions who are practicing conservation such as no-till, strip-till and cover crops. ILF is guided by representatives from IDALS, IDNR, Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Conservation Districts of Iowa and Extension.

ILF began promoting conservation practices to farmers in 2005 through field days, a newsletter, website and radio. It has added outreach resources including print publications, how-to videos and the "Culture of Conservation" videos. In 2011, monthly webinars began with presenters offering technical expertise in many areas of agriculture. These are ongoing and air on the third Wednesday of each month at 11:30 a.m.

In 2006, a rainfall simulator trailer was acquired and accompanied staff to field days and other events. In 2010, a new trailer with an improved rainfall simulator — the Conservation Station — was launched. Two trailers have since been added to form the Conservation Station fleet.

Field days are held on farmer partner fields, in their machine sheds and outbuildings. The first field day was on June 22, 2005, at John Kielkopf's farm in Keokuk County with 22 attendees.

ILF held six field days in 2005 with 108 people attending. In 2013, ILF hosted 30 farmer events with 1,969 attendees who saw conservation practices first-hand.

Since 2004, ILF has reached approximately 75,000 people and ILF will continue to host field days, workshops and Conservation Station appearances. New videos are being produced; a blog and Facebook have also been added.

For more information about Iowa Learning Farms, visit extension.iastate.edu/ilf.