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An Optimist’s Dream: Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference

I’m an optimistic guy by nature … okay, maybe not by nature but I’ve trained myself to be optimistic. I’ve also been in a lot of meetings with farmers over the decades, mostly related to the failure of government policy to support family farms and rural communities and the need for political organizing to bring about needed changes. Considering the state of our nation’s politics, not exactly an optimist’s dream.

But last weekend, my colleague Regi and I were guests of the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) at their annual conference in Ames, Iowa, where we found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of the most amazing, energetic, optimistic, can-do people imaginable. And not just your archetypal (aging) yeoman farmers, but a thriving community of women and men, young and old, spouses and partners, and enough children to start a soccer league; all engaged in learning and sharing in celebration. Hope was the operative vibe.

PFI has been supporting the work of sustainable farmers in Iowa for over 30 years. This year they invited Main Street Project to share our poultry-centered agriculture model at a session on Saturday afternoon, near the end of the conference. A standing-room-only crowd listened intently as Regi explained the elements of our system and the specifics of our model. Excellent questions reflected the experience and knowledge of the audience, and a number of farmers stayed after to express their interest and willingness to establish demonstration sites. In our work, that’s about as good as it gets.

Growing up and working in Iowa for the first half of my life, I fully expected to see some familiar faces and reconnect with old friends at the conference. That would have been enough for me. But I came back to Minnesota filled with a new sense of possibility and hope for my home, our region and the planet. Truly an optimist’s dream.

Thanks, PFI!

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