Field day will explore organic transition on a dairy and crop farm

When Gary and Scott Wedemeier decided to transition their northeast Iowa crop and dairy farm to organic a few years ago, the father-son team were motivated by both the economic potential and by concerns over the health effects of conventional chemical-based farming.

“The move to organic has generated more income, as intended,” Scott says. “We were also concerned about the possible effects of applying chemical products to our crops and land.”

The Wedemeiers operate Grassway Organic Farm near Maynard, where they raise corn, hay and a variety of cover crops, while managing a herd of 172 dairy cows on about 1,100 acres. The family also has a small herd of sheep and pigs, maintains a natural wetland and raises steers for direct markets.

The Wedemeiers started their organic transition process in 2015 and received their organic certification in October 2017. In November 2017, they became part of Organic Valley Cooperative. They will share their experience with the organic transition process at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on July 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on their farm near Maynard—18663 110th St., about 4.5 miles west of town.

The event—“New Beginnings: Organic Transition at a Diversified Dairy Farm”—is being held in partnership with Iowa Organic Association, and is free to attend. Lunch will catered by Iowa Organic Association and Organic Valley / Organic Prairie. RSVPs are appreciated for the meal to Debra Boekholder, [email protected] or 515-232-5661, by July 10. The event will also serve as one of the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Network’s monthly gatherings.

Gary and Scott will discuss their rotational grazing management for their medium-scale dairy, and how they transitioned both their crop and livestock systems to organic. They’ll also highlight their pig production and marketing streams; and discuss an on-farm research project they conducted with Practical Farmers of Iowa testing the effects of feeding apple cider vinegar to their cattle.

The day will also feature a tour of the dairying facility, and a walk through grazing paddocks to see the infrastructure the Wedemeiers have built over the last two decades to support their growing herd. In addition, Aaron Anderson, district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Fayette County, will speak about soil health and water drainage in relation to the organic transition.

Directions from Maynard: Take County Road W33 / 100th Street west. Turn right (north) on R Avenue, then left (west) on 110th Street.

From Westgate: Take Co Rd W33 / 100th Street east. Turn left (north) on R Avenue, then left (west) on 110th Street. The farm is less than a mile west of Co Rd W14 / R Avenue.

Practical Farmers’ 2018 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; Blue River Organic Seed; Cascadian Farms; Center for Rural Affairs; Farm Credit Services of America; Gandy Cover Crop Seeders; Grain Millers, Inc.; Green Cover Seed; Green Thumb Commodities; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); ISU Extension and Outreach; La Crosse Forage and Turf Seed; MOSA Organic Certification; Natural Resources Defense Council; Organic Valley / Organic Prairie; PepsiCo; Pipeline Foods; Premier 1 Supplies; Sunrise Foods International; The DeLong Company; The Fertrell Company; The Scoular Company; Unilever; University of Iowa College of Public Health; USDA: Natural Resources Conservation Service; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed & Honey Co.