The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) will hold its first-ever conference for farmers and others interested in exploring alternative agriculture next month.

The Acres of Opportunity conference will be held Saturday, March 28 in Cedar Rapids at The Hotel at Kirkwood on the Kirkwood Community College campus. It’s designed to provide information and real-life insight for those seeking ways to step into agriculture by raising alternative crops, livestock and selling directly to consumers, said Amanda Van Steenwyk, IFBF farm business development manager.

“Farming can be a very capital-intensive endeavor, putting it out of reach for many people who would like to get into raising crops and livestock,” Van Steenwyk said. “But Iowans across the state are finding ways to fulfill niche markets and master the business and marketing side of their small farms.”

Speakers at the Acres of Opportunity conference will share their experiences in developing their businesses, finding customers and tackling other issues, such as finances and legal questions, Van Steenwyk said. “The farmer-speakers at this conference are a great example of how you don’t need to be a larger farm to find success. Just like any business, it’s about having the drive to find success and improve upon that every year,” she said.

Breakout sessions at the IFBF Acres of Opportunity conference will include Johnson County veg­­etable grower Kate Edwards; Keri Byrum of Cedar Falls Hops Company; Lara Mangialardi and Jacob McGreal, who raise grass-fed beef; Annie’s Acres strawberry farmer David Kendall; Aaron Steele with Goats on the Go; mushroom grower Mike Mahoney; Lori and Jim Bochner, who grow cut flowers; Kate Colony with Colony Pumpkin Patch; and Laura Cunningham, who direct markets beef through Skyview Farms. In addition, Angela Shaw with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will discuss the best practices for those interested in agritourism. 

The conference will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Registration is free for Iowa Farm Bureau members and $55 for non-members. For more information on the Acres of Opportunity conference or to register, please visit