The latest U.S. Agriculture Census shows Iowa farmers continue to work within narrow—and sometimes negative—margins and a recent Iowa State University report concludes the same, with 44 percent of Iowa farmers reporting they struggle to pay their bills. But, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) continued commitment to help farmers find new ways to add additional income to their balance sheets is bringing groundbreaking ideas to members who attend the 2019 IFBF annual meeting in Des Moines, Dec. 3-4.

A special breakout session, “Non-traditional crop and livestock,” on Dec. 4, will feature a panel of three farmers who have found opportunities in agriculture outside of Iowa’s most well-known commodities. “It used to be that farming was a person’s primary job, but now more than half of all farmers in Iowa have a primary occupation off the farm—for young farmers, those 35 years and younger, it’s 64 percent. This provides an opportunity to explore what other types of agriculture are in Iowa that can add to a farmer’s bottom line,” said Amanda Van Steenwyk, IFBF farm business development manager. “Iowa is more agriculturally diverse than many realize and bringing these farmers in to talk about their challenges and successes can ‘plant a seed’ for others to find ways to expand their family farms to be more financially sustainable.”

Among the panelists is Ken Iverson of Red Barn Hemp in Oregon. Iowa’s 2019 legislative session paved the way for up to 40 acres of industrial hemp to be grown in Iowa. As regulations are being reviewed, Iowa farmers still have many agronomic and marketing questions related to this crop. Iverson has been growing industrial hemp since 2016 and has been instrumental in CBD oil extraction practices used throughout the hemp industry.   

Knowing land and capital can be difficult to come by, panelist Kate Edwards of Johnson County, Iowa found success as an organic vegetable farmer, raising a variety of foods on her 10-acre farm. Her business—Wild Woods Farm—serves over 200 local families through community-supported agriculture, a model in which customers pay a fee upfront and later reap the benefit of Edwards’ harvest. 

With more food choices available than ever before, Steve Howe of Fremont County has raised outdoor, antibiotic-free hogs for the past 14 years. Farmers continue to use antibiotics judiciously to treat sick livestock on their farms, but there is a segment of grocery shoppers who want to eat pork products raised a certain way; Howe’s livestock are able to fill that need.

To learn more about this year’s panels and annual meeting events, visit