Guest Post: Iowa's Champion Cover Crop Commissioners Tell Their Stories

by Clare Lindahl, Executive Director, Conservation Districts of Iowa

“Farmers learn from other farmers” I was told upon starting my position as Executive Director of Conservation Districts of Iowa. 

And it was with this advice and blind faith, as one so often has when they begin a new endeavor, I developed Iowa’s Champion Cover Crop Commissioner Program. 

And am I ever glad I did! 

Through the program, Conservation Districts of Iowa, with support from the National Wildlife Federation, assisted 10 elected Iowa Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners using cover crops on their farm to share their experiences with others. 

To be a part of a conversation between two farmers is really something incredible. It is intense and interesting.  It is both business and personal. It is a story of a connection with the land; of one’s history and heritage.  

And to see a story change someone’s mind, to see it ease someone’s concerns about trying something new, like cover crops, now that is of even greater marvel! 

It is through this program, I saw this happen. It was at the Farm Progress Show that a farmer turned to me during a conversation with one of our Champions and said, “Well I was on the fence, but I am going to try cover crops this year on 60 acres to start”.  

Throughout the year, the 10 Champion Cover Crop Commissioners involved in the program … 

  • Sent letters and information to support 939 farmers using cover crops for the first time 
  • delivered information about cover crops to 805 farmers during meetings, workshops and field days
  • connected with 61 agribusiness personnel about cover crops
  • participated in print and radio media interviews about cover crops to readership/listenership of over a half million 

Conservation Districts of Iowa has been honored to provide farmers with a platform to share their cover crop story with other farmers. 

The use of cover crops has increased as more and more farmers have discovered they provide multiple benefits for agriculture and the environment. In Iowa, the number of cover crop acres has increased dramatically over the past several years — from fewer than 10,000 acres in 2009 to about 300,000 acres in 2013. Numerous studies have shown cover crops can improve soil health, protect water quality, improve farm resiliency, suppress weeds, increase forage availability and improve wildlife habitat. Cover crops are a suggested practice in Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, a way for farmers to voluntarily protect water quality without regulatory intervention, and can reduce nitrate loss by 31% or more. 

Take an opportunity to hear more about cover crops at the upcoming Iowa Cover Crops Conference on February 17-18, 2015, at the Sheraton Hotel, in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Visit for Iowa Cover Crops Conference information. 

Conference highlights include: 

  • Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey will share his personal use of cover crops in his own farm operation. 
  • Nearly a dozen farmers will speak about their experiences using cover crops. 
  • Individuals studying and using cover crops in seven Midwestern states will share their latest results from controlled and on-farm demonstrations. 
  • Agribusinesses will be providing attendees with their latest products and innovations related to cover crops during sessions and as exhibitors. The goal of this conference is to provide a forum for farmers, industry leaders, and agribusiness professionals to exchange information, discuss opportunities for collaboration, and learn about successful cover cropping practices. 

Life is a story. Make yours a bestseller! 

Thank you National Wildlife Federation and Iowa Cover Crop Champion Commissioners; Jeff Olson, Robert Lynch, Al Lingren, Steve McGrew, Steve Crittenden, Tim Palmer, Rick Juchems, Nathan Anderson, Allan Reinders, Kelly Tobin and the many other commissioners using and promoting cover crops!