‘Reclaiming Resilience’ at farming conference in Ames

We all want to be better stewards of the land. A great place to start is by forming new relationships with local farmers and partners at gatherings and conferences.

Annually, the Center for Rural Affairs staff attends the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) conference. This year’s conference focused on “Reclaiming Resilience” and was in Ames, Iowa, from Jan. 16 to 18, 2020.

Lucia Schulz at PFI Conference Sessions covered the importance of strengthening and maintaining our bodies around the farm to retrofitting old equipment with new tech on a budget. While a snow storm raged outside, inside, we met new people, learned from subject matter experts, and reconnected with others.

Some new attendees were Nebraska farmers who had the opportunity to take part in the conference through an Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers grant.

Nereyda Zambrano, from Wilbur, Nebraska, was one of the farmers able to attend because of the grant. She had never taken part in a farmer's conference before, and this was the first time she was away from her family for several days. Nereyda forgot her nervousness once she attended her first short course, “Organic Weed Control,” where we learned about various systems such as soil conditions, using weather as guides, weed ecology, and crop stages.

"The organic methods used to control weeds, such as electricity and weed burning, were very interesting; however, I think that the three presentations referred to the weeds as something extraordinarily bad for a farmer, as something that should not exist,” Nereyda said.

Nereyda has a different approach to weeds.

“Instead of killing them or trying to eradicate them, we should study them more and take advantage of them,” Nereyda said. “There are many weeds that are edible and very healthy, even some that are medicinal. With our desire to have perfect cornfields, whether organic or not, destroying our diversity makes us very dependent on corn.”

Nicole Seville was another Nebraska farmer who attended. She represented Spiritus Vitae Botanicals in Lincoln, Nebraska.

"Figuring out what works and what doesn't is unique to each situation, and quite honestly one of the hardest things to master,” Nicole said. “So, learning about the timing and exact science behind some of the tried-and-true techniques was very helpful. We're excited to try them out this season. It was also great to socialize and network with our fellow farmers and learn about the resources available to us.”

Talking with like-minded people, such as these farmers and other attendees of the PFI conference, encourages, motivates, inspires, and supports all to move forward on their farming journey. Even though farming is hard work, we met people who are passionate, enthusiastic, and realistic about the ups and downs that farming takes to make it a successful and viable enterprise.

"Attending events such as the Reclaiming Resilience conference provides the needed resources and opportunities to network with others who might be going through issues that only farmers are experiencing,” said Lucia Schulz, project assistant with the Center for Rural Affairs. “We suggest whoever is able to make it to this event next year should truly consider attending."

These reflections and enthusiasm echo what we all want—to be better stewards of the land and take advantage of the newfound relationships that will help us implement actions that will lead us to be more intentional with our conservation practices.

For more information on PFI’s annual conference, visit their website.