The Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) is on a mission to build resilient farms and communities by cultivating a network of producers of all kinds. Working across the state, PFI provides support to farmers in the form of research, education, personalized assistance, and outreach. PFI's goal is to diversify Iowa's agriculture system, which currently imports over 90 percent of the food consumed by Iowans.
Sally Worley, Executive Director of PFI, notes that there has been a lack of research and investment in farmers interested in growing cover crops, small grains, and fruit and vegetable table food. The focus on efficiency has led to a loss of diversity in Iowa's landscape, with a shift towards just a couple of staple crops. PFI is working to change that by promoting the benefits of diversification, such as decreased inputs needed to control weeds and pests or boost fertility, and creating more market diversity to help farmers weather failed crops.
PFI is also focused on supporting young and beginning farmers by addressing land access issues. A survey from the National Young Farmers Coalition found that the majority of young farmers report it is challenging to find affordable land. Worley notes that land access and transfer are significant issues in Iowa, where over half of farmed ground is owned by non-operators.
To encourage land transfer, PFI engages with non-operators to educate them on the opportunities they have to do good with their influence. PFI believes that educating non-operators on "the power" they have can help create more opportunities for young and beginning farmers.
Through its work, PFI hopes to diversify Iowa's agriculture system and create a more resilient and sustainable future for farmers and communities.