Farms that grow strawberries, hops, cut flowers and mushrooms? No, it’s not California—it’s the type of crop diversity found on family farms right here in Iowa. For those seeking to explore ways to step into agriculture through alternative crops and livestock markets, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) ‘Acres of Opportunity’ conference on Saturday, March 28 at The Hotel at Kirkwood in Cedar Rapids will allow guests to hear from a variety of small Iowa farm owners as well as experts on farm business management.
Breakout sessions will feature 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, Katie Colony with Colony Pumpkin Patch and Laura Cunningham who direct markets beef through Skyview Farms. In addition, Dr. Angela Shaw with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will talk about best practices for those interested in agritourism.
But running a farm is about more than raising a crop or livestock animal—there are business plans, financial questions and legal considerations at hand. To answer more of these questions, an array of experts will host breakout sessions to discuss the “Business Model Canvas,” current available loan programs, taxes, insurance, legal risks and more.
“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,” said Amanda Van Steenwyk, IFBF farm business development manager. “But Iowans across the state are finding ways to fulfill niche markets and master the business and marketing side of their small farm. 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.”
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 iowafarmbureau.com/acresofopportunity.