AMES — Farmers interested in transitioning to an organic operation met individually with experts in the field at the Iowa Organic Conference.
After spending much of last year’s Iowa Organic Conference talking to individuals about organic farming practices, Roger Lansink, of Odebolt, got the inspiration for the farmer-to-farmer mentor program. He suggested it to Kathleen Delate, Iowa State University Extension organic farming specialist.
“I think learning organic agriculture is best done one on one with another organic farmer,” Lansink said.
The farmer-to-mentor roundtables were well attended with 14 mentors participating throughout the two-day conference, Lansink said. The mentors represented small grains, row crops, poultry, dairy, fruits and vegetables, machinery, swine and beef.
“We had very good discussions Sunday night and on Monday, too,” Lansink said. “I talked to four guys who specifically came to the conference because they were looking for information on transitioning into organics. I think it was very well worth it.”
Other farmers also were looking for new ideas.
“We’re always looking for better ways,” Lansink said. “You do that by picking another organic farmer’s brain.”
Lansink and his wife, Amy, their two sons, Derek and Leighton, and a hired man farm 750 acres organically at Odebolt.
The Lansinks grow corn, soybeans, barley and alfalfa. They also have 50 beef cows and turkeys. The beef and turkey operations aren’t organic.
“I think this was successful enough to do it again next year,” Lansink said. “We’ll try to change things and make it a little better, maybe add some videos and other props.”
Sally Gran, a beginning organic farmer from Nevada, said she found the one-on-one discussion helpful. She sought advice on the best way to till heavy bottom ground that is in alfalfa.
“It was great,” she said.
Jeff Kienast, of Jamaica, raises corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, hay and meat goats. The crops are certified organic. The goats are raised organically, and he is working on getting them certified. He’s been farming organically since the mid-1990s.
Lansink asked Kienast if he would help as a mentor. He answered questions both days.”This is a good way to open up conversations with individuals,” Kienast said. “We learn just as much as everyone else does. When you have a roundtable, everyone listens. They make it part way around the table, and they park it and join in.”