A veteran Iowa policymaker and farmer will be honored by Practical Farmers of Iowa during the annual meeting that begins today (Friday). Paul Johnson of Decorah will receive the group’s Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award for 2006. P-F-I spokesman Todd Kimm says Johnson’s been involved in the movement for years and served three terms in the Iowa state legislature.
Johnson co-authored Iowa’s 1987 Groundwater Protection Act, and the 1989 Resource Enhancement and Protection Act (REAP), and for a short time was director of the Department of Natural Resources. He farms near Decorah on a sustainable farm that produces Christmas trees and has been involved in aspects from policy to hands-on farming.
From growing nuts to marketing meat, the 2-day conference will offer farmers and others more than a dozen workshops on aspects of niche marketing and farm solutions.
Kimm says half the membership is non-farmers, consumers who hope to learn more about how to get locally-produced food and support sustainable agriculture. You don’t have to be a member to come, he points out.
Both Friday and Saturday feature educational workshops, some of them long-form and intensive. One’s on specialty crops, and there’s a resource fair just for beginning and transitioning farmers, as the group’s focus this year is particularly on those making the switch from traditional agriculture to more sustainable methods. There’s also information on attracting new farmers as older people retire. The workshops include talks by several farmers and advisors who’ve seen the demand grow for organic, free-range, and grass-based livestock and agricultural products. The conference gets underway Friday at noon at the Airport Holiday Inn in Des Moines.