Agribusiness
Farmer-to-Farmer Program Is Bridging the Gap for Ugandan Women PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Thursday, 16 June 2011 12:34
AMES, Iowa — Iowa farm women are sharing their experiences in central Africa, where 80 percent of the farming is done by women. This collaboration was developed by a farmer-to-farmer project through Iowa State University’s Global Extension program with cooperation from a Ugandan nonprofit organization, Volunteer Efforts for Developing Concerns (VEDCO).

The program, Bridging the Gap: Increasing Competitiveness of Ugandan Women Farmers in the Marketplace, is a year-long project funded by Weidemann and Associates through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In late March, the first group of volunteers visited the Kamuli district of southeastern Uganda to conduct farmer training and education with Ugandan women farmers. The group included three volunteer Iowa farmers and ISU Extension specialist Margaret Smith. Their objectives included training for improved maize (corn) quality, facilitation of collaborative maize grain marketing, introduction of improved soybean production methods and improving written farm record keeping.

Iowa Farm Women Educate Ugandan Farm Women“Groups of Iowa women volunteers spend 10-12 days in the Kamuli District, Uganda, where the poverty rate is above 40 percent and much of it is concentrated in households that depend on agriculture,” said Mary Holz-Clause, associate vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach.

Dana Foster, Chris Henning and Brenda Zylstra were the first three women to volunteer for the project. All three have agricultural backgrounds and are influential volunteers in their Iowa communities. While their similarities led them to this project, they each brought a unique perspective to the first volunteer visit to the Kamuli District.

Foster, a teacher and farm manager at Scattergood Friends High School in West Branch, uses organic farming methods as everyday practice to teach her students. While in Uganda, she noted the importance of making the Ugandan women’s work easier along with increasing their crops’ market competitiveness. Most of the farmers do nearly all of their field work by hand with just one heavy-duty, hand-held hoe.

“Our gardening at the high school involves a lot of hoes and hand weeding because of the small-scale, organic production,” Foster said. “When I saw the Ugandan women farming on only a slightly larger scale, I thought of other kinds of tools they could be using. For example, just having access toa wheel hoe instead of always having to lift a hand hoe up and down could save a lot of energy.”

Challenges: Tools, Grain QualitySome of the biggest challenges the program identified for these farmers include availability of tools and equipment, transportation and quality control for grain. Poor grain quality and the lack of adoptionof regional grain standards put small-scale farmers at a disadvantage. Much of the maize is shelled by using a stick to beat the kernels off the ear, resulting in a high percentage of damaged and cracked kernels that are subject to insect and rodent damage. Grain buyers come around to farms to purchase grain that is available for sale, but do not use inspected scales and there are no grain standards in place in the countryside. When grain does reach mills for processing, the clean-out losses of damaged and broken kernels can be as high as 40 percent of the original volume.

“The advantages we have in the U.S., such as standard weights and measures, ready availability oftools, motorized equipment and the mechanics to maintain it, are so often taken for granted,” said Chris Henning, of Prairie Skye Productions in Cooper, Iowa. “A few strategically distributed maize shellers and some wheels and axles could make a huge difference for Ugandan farmers.”

The project is introducing hand- and bicycle-powered maize (corn) shellers, both to speed the shelling process and to improve grain quality.

Henning’s interest in the women-to-women farming program is vested in her roots as a farmer, the oldest sibling of six girls and a facilitator of various women’s programs for almost 30 years.

Zylstra, also a farmer, raises corn, soybeans and a small goat flock in Lyon County while also working part-time as the staff lawyer at Frontier Bank in Rock Rapids. Her four young children were in the capable hands of her husband during her volunteer service. When sharing pictures and stories of her family, she quickly found the common bond of family linked the Ugandan and Iowa women.

VEDCO Essential Zylstra, Henning and Foster all recognized VEDCO as essential to their efforts through theirtranslation, cultural knowledge and marketing efforts.

“VEDCO was invaluable in that they had laid the groundwork in identifying the farmers and farmer groups with which we worked,” Zylstra said. “If we had to start from scratch, we would have needed months of time in Uganda.”

The next group of Iowa women farmers worked in Uganda in late May. They met with VEDCO administrators and continued the work begun by the first group to improve on-site farm production, crop quality and farm record keeping in the Kamuli district.

For more information, contact Margaret Smith, project co-director, ISU Extension Value AddedAgriculture Program at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Iowa Learning Farms Hosts June 22 Strip-till Field Day PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Thursday, 16 June 2011 12:32

AMES, Iowa — Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) will sponsor a strip-tillage management field day with Iowa State University (ISU) Extension Field Agronomist Virgil Schmitt and ILF farmer-partner Doug Nolte in Muscatine County on Wednesday, June 22, from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The field day will include a complimentary noon hour meal and discussion about strip-tillage crop management. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.

Attendees will be able to view the Lil’ Conservation Station—a portable rainfall simulator demonstrating the effects of rainfall on different soil surface scenarios. Also, ISU Extension Agricultural Engineer Mark Hanna will discuss tractor fuel saving tips. Attendees will be able to discuss strip-tillage management with Nolte and ISU experts. Since 2008, Nolte has used strip-tillagein the spring before planting corn.

The field day location is 1021 Hwy 6, West Liberty; the site is one-quarter mile east of the Johnson-Muscatine County border on the north side of Highway 6. For questions about the event, contact Muscatine-based ISU Extension Field Agronomist Virgil Schmitt at (563) 263-5701, or by email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Iowa Learning Farms is building a Culture of Conservation, encouraging adoption of residue management and conservation practices. Farmers, researchers and ILF staff are working together to identify and implement the best in-field management practices that increase water and soil quality while remaining profitable.

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Iowa Learning Farms Offers June 23 Bus Tour of Dallas County CREP Wetlands PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Thursday, 16 June 2011 12:30
AMES, Iowa — Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and LandStewardship (IDALS) are hosting a bus tour of Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) wetlands in Dallas County on Thursday, June 23, from 9-11 a.m.

Registered attendees can park and meet the motor coach at the Dallas Center-Grimes High School,where the bus will depart from and return to at the end of the tour. The tour is free and is limited to 40 pre-registered participants. To register, phone 515-294-5429, or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The tour will include stops at two sites—one site being readied for CREP wetland construction, and another site where CREP wetland restoration is complete. Matt Lechtenberg and Shawn Richmond, CREP specialists with IDALS, Iowa State University Extension water quality engineer Matt Helmers and farmer-landowners who have installed CREP wetlands will lead the tour and talk about the benefits, installation and financial incentives for these structures.

Thirty-seven counties in north-central Iowa are eligible for enrollment in CREP. Research at Iowa State University has demonstrated that strategically sited and designed wetlands can remove 40-90 percent of nitrates and more than 70 percent of herbicides from cropland drainage waters. These areas are as beautiful as they are functional. Tour participants are welcome to bring their hiking boots or waders to see these structures up close.

Iowa Learning Farms is building a Culture of Conservation, encouraging adoption of residue management and conservation practices. Farmers, researchers and ILF staff are working together to encourage farmers to implement the best in-field management practices that increase water and soil quality while remaining profitable.

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New Publication Illustrates Energy Efficient Farm Lighting Options PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Thursday, 16 June 2011 12:28

AMES, Iowa – Farm lighting is a key factor for worker safety, animal production and overall farmsteadsecurity. Many farm facilities use incandescent bulbs in a variety of settings, but the upcoming phase-out of incandescents among U.S. retailers demands consideration of energy efficient lighting alternatives.
A variety of bulbs and fixtures already are available to replace incandescent bulbs. A new publication from Iowa State University Extension compares some of the indoor and outdoor lighting options and their features.

“Energy Fundamentals for Farm Lighting” (PM 2089N) is available to download from the Extension Online Store, www.extension.iastate.edu/store/.
“The incandescent bulb produces light using electrical resistance and much of its energy is wasted as heat,” saidJay Harmon, ISU Extension agricultural engineer. “In spite of low initial cost, the short bulb life and lack ofenergy efficiency make these bulbs a costly source of lighting.”

The incandescent phase-out officially begins with 100W bulbs in 2012 and will grow to include the lower wattage bulbs during the next few years. Alternative options for farm lighting include energy efficient technology such as compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL), light-emitting diodes (LED) and tube fluorescent fixtures.This publication also explains lighting terminology for comparing the energy efficiency of different bulbs.

“Incandescent bulbs will begin disappearing from hardware store shelves throughout the coming months,” said Dana Petersen, ISU Extension program coordinator with ISU Farm Energy. “Contact your local electric utility provider to learn about available rebates on energy efficient lighting alternatives.”

For more tips on energy efficiency around the farmstead, visit http://farmenergy.exnet.iastate.edu or follow@ISU_Farm_Energy on Twitter.

The Farm Energy publications are part of a series of farm energy conservation and efficiency educational materials being developed through the ISU Farm Energy Initiative. The purpose is to increase farmers’awareness of opportunities for improving efficient use of farm energy. The initiative also will help farmers and utility providers to explore alternatives to reduce farm energy demand and to improve overall profitability in a rapidly changing energy environment.

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New Publication Illustrates Energy Efficient Farm Lighting Options PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Thursday, 16 June 2011 12:28

AMES, Iowa – Farm lighting is a key factor for worker safety, animal production and overall farmsteadsecurity. Many farm facilities use incandescent bulbs in a variety of settings, but the upcoming phase-out of incandescents among U.S. retailers demands consideration of energy efficient lighting alternatives.
A variety of bulbs and fixtures already are available to replace incandescent bulbs. A new publication from Iowa State University Extension compares some of the indoor and outdoor lighting options and their features.

“Energy Fundamentals for Farm Lighting” (PM 2089N) is available to download from the Extension Online Store, www.extension.iastate.edu/store/.
“The incandescent bulb produces light using electrical resistance and much of its energy is wasted as heat,” saidJay Harmon, ISU Extension agricultural engineer. “In spite of low initial cost, the short bulb life and lack ofenergy efficiency make these bulbs a costly source of lighting.”

The incandescent phase-out officially begins with 100W bulbs in 2012 and will grow to include the lower wattage bulbs during the next few years. Alternative options for farm lighting include energy efficient technology such as compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL), light-emitting diodes (LED) and tube fluorescent fixtures.This publication also explains lighting terminology for comparing the energy efficiency of different bulbs.

“Incandescent bulbs will begin disappearing from hardware store shelves throughout the coming months,” said Dana Petersen, ISU Extension program coordinator with ISU Farm Energy. “Contact your local electric utility provider to learn about available rebates on energy efficient lighting alternatives.”

For more tips on energy efficiency around the farmstead, visit http://farmenergy.exnet.iastate.edu or follow@ISU_Farm_Energy on Twitter.

The Farm Energy publications are part of a series of farm energy conservation and efficiency educational materials being developed through the ISU Farm Energy Initiative. The purpose is to increase farmers’awareness of opportunities for improving efficient use of farm energy. The initiative also will help farmers and utility providers to explore alternatives to reduce farm energy demand and to improve overall profitability in a rapidly changing energy environment.

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