Women Enjoyed the July Water Quality Tour and Iowa Women in Agriculture Conference

August 26, 2016

Water QualityWater QualityBy Madeline Schultz

Urban and Rural Tour Stops Appreciated

Favorite tour stops were a toss-up after the July 25 Water Quality Tour in central Iowa. The 28 women attending the pre-conference event enjoyed both the urban and rural stops. “It was eye opening to see towns are interested in improving water quality by enhancing streams and improving parks,” commented one participant. Another stated, “I've never had the opportunity to see buffers or wetlands in action on farms.”


The group visited Summerbrook Park in Ankeny, Iowa.  We learned how native prairie and woody plantings, along with rocky riffle grade controls not only stabilized Fourmile Creek, but added beauty to parks and backyards. Amanda Brown and John Swanson from the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District, also did a great job explaining how rain gardens and bioretention cells help cool, cleanse and slow the flow of urban storm water.

Traveling north, the next stops were visits to the Bear Creek Watershed near Roland, Iowa. We visited a wetland restoration installed to improve the quality of water draining from more than estimated 700 acres of farmland. We also toured the streambank riparian buffer on the Risdal Farm which was installed in 1990. Today, the Bear Creek Watershed is designated as one of twelve National Restoration Demonstration Watersheds. Innovative conservation methods continue to be researched and developed by Iowa State University Agroecology professors and students, private land owners and others. Dr. Tom Isenhart engaged the tour participants in a lively discussion on conservation practices to improve water quality.

The final stop on the perfect-summer-day tour was the Iowa State University Field Extension Education Laboratory in Boone, Iowa. Ann Staudt from the Iowa Learning Farms explained the basics of cover crops and soil health. Jamie Benning, ISU Water Quality Program Manager, demonstrated water quality testing.

The tour was organized by Jamie Benning and Madeline Schultz, both with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, in partnership with the Iowa Women in Agriculture board of directors. Farm Credit Services of America generously sponsored the tour bus.

A Little Fun, A Little Value Added Agriculture

After the tour, Nicole Jonas, owner of Red Granite Farm in Boone, Iowa was the featured speaker at the evening Wine and Cheese Welcome and Networking Reception. Nicole and her husband and children raise ornamental plants, produce vegetables, design landscapes, operate an on-farm market, host agri-tourism events, and sell at local farmer’s markets. Tour participants and other conference attendees enjoyed a relaxing evening.

Sharing Solutions Conference

“Sharing Solutions” was more than a conference theme on July 26 at the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny, Iowa.  One hundred women and a few brave men gathered to learn from and share with one another at the Tenth Annual Iowa Women in Agriculture Conference.

Karey Claghorn, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association, kicked off the conference with her message on the 2017 ag outlook and navigating the new normal. Her inspiring talk included taking a look at agriculture markets around the world as well as taking that next step to become a woman leader in agriculture. Leslie Miller, Vice-President of Iowa State Savings Bank in Knoxville, Iowa followed with practical advice for fine tuning your farm finances. She offered tips for the wise use of agricultural credit and working with lenders in difficult financial times. The “Wired to Win” presentation wrapped up the morning speakers. New Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV) rules, how this technology will impact farming, and data privacy were just a few of the topics discussed by Dennis Bogards of Flying Ag and Terry Johnston of HTS Ag.

After lunch, the conference attendees enjoyed a light-hearted and humorous talk by April Hemmes. She encouraged women to be brave, speak-up and go for their goals. Through her stories and laughs, April demonstrated that women in ag leaders can have fun, learn a lot and make a difference. April was the first President of Iowa Women in Agriculture.

The conference break-out sessions were highly valued. The Get Ready for New Antibiotic Rules session “definitely answered a number of my questions,” said one conference attendee. Amber Knudsen, Purina Animal Nutrition, and Niesha Muller, Elanco Animal Health, did great job explaining how the rules will impact livestock producers.  Agronomy, Conservation and Land Leases was presented by Angie Reick-Hinz, ISU Extension and Outreach Crops Specialist. The group asked lots of great questions. “Good conversation and good for landowners outside ag; we need a longer version,” commented one woman. Angie Setzer, Citzens LLC, and commentator for Market to Market and U.S. Farm Report presented a popular session on Meeting Marketing Challenges. Her session was really enjoyed and one participant said, “Angie was passionate, authentic, and funny! She definitely made the learning fun!”

Transition Tightwires was the topic for the end-of-the-day panel with Neil Hamilton, Drake University Ag Law Professor, and Al Johnson and Brent Keene, farm business mentor and mentee. The trio offered plenty of down-to-earth advice for dealing with generational transitions such as making decisions to sell farmland, choosing a successor to continue a business to the next generation, and the benefits of being a mentor or mentee.

Iowa Women in Agriculture President, Cheryl Tevis did an excellent job as the master of ceremonies for the conference and provided the strong leadership throughout the year that made this event possible. I would personally like to thank Cheryl for her dedication to Iowa’s women in farming and agribusiness. I very much enjoyed serving on the planning committee with Deb Schuler, Katie Olthoff, Elaine Gaesser, and Amber Kohlhass.