Iowa Falls family honored with sustainable agriculture award


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Wetlands can improve water quality and create habitat for wildlife on Iowa farms. (Scott Smithson/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | February 10, 2017

John and Beverly Gilbert were honored with the 2017 Practical Farmers of Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award at last month’s Practical Farmers of Iowa Conference.

Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to “strengthening Iowa farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information sharing.” Each year PFI offers the Sustainable Agricultural Achievement Award to an individual or couple that demonstrates a strong commitment to practicing sustainable agriculture and sharing that knowledge with others, all while fostering community.

John and Beverly Gilbert of Iowa Falls keep a 770-acre farm featuring corn, soybeans, oats, hay, and some annual crops for forage. The family also milks 50 to 60 Brown Swiss cattle and keeps pastured-raised, antibiotic-free pigs that are sold to Niman Ranch.

The Gilberts’ farm borders Southfork stream, a tributary of the Iowa River. They have taken many measures to improve water and soil quality on their land including stream buffers, extensive grass headlands and waterways, and terraces. The farm also features woodland areas, a prairie marsh remnant, and a restored shallow wetland, all a part of the Gilberts’ conservation efforts.

John said, “The mindset has gotten so focused on raising corn and beans that not many understand the potential of this landscape to support people. I have long thought that if we can’t replace the number of people we have farming, there are serious problems ahead for society.”

Wendy Johnson, PFI board member and farmer near Charles City, commended the recognition of the family. She said,

“Their farming system, management and decision-making encompass all that is or should be good about Iowa: its air, water and soil. They protect these elements alongside creating a viable farming business for multiple families. Their farm is what PFI means to me: a sustainable farm on all levels.”

Study finds lower ozone levels lift farm worker productivity


Photo by Mike Houge, Flickr.

The National Bureau of Economic Research released a report earlier this month, detailing the positive impact that low ozone levels have on farm workers.

Read more from the New York Times here:

The study found that on average, when ozone levels declined by 10 parts per billion — approximately the level of tightening proposed by the E.P.A. — worker productivity climbed 4.2 percent. Extrapolating from that result, an across-the-board reduction of 10 parts per billion might yield a $1.1 billion annual increase in economic value in the nation’s agricultural sector. Continue reading

Study: No-Till Farming Limits Greenhouse Gases


Credit: USDA

No-till farming does more than just improve soil quality and reduce erosion. It can help fight global warming too, a Purdue University study has found.

No-till fields in the study released 57 percent less nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas 310 more potent than carbon dioxide – than chisel-tilled fields and 40 percent less gas than fields tilled with moldboard plows.

The practice can also help save farmers money because it slows the breakdown of costly fertilizers in the soil.

Read the AP report.

 

On the Radio: Iowa’s runoff creates Gulf Coast “Dead Zone”


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Listen to this week’s radio clip on Iowa’s infamous contribution to the Dead Zone, which continues to plague the Gulf Coast Region.

Dead fish, damaged industry and dirty drinking water – Iowa is making a huge impact in the Gulf Coast region.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

That’s because of farm runoff. It doesn’t just pollute our rivers and streams; it flows down the Mississippi River and helps form the Dead Zone, which has plagued the Northern Gulf of Mexico for decades. Continue reading