NOTE: This guest blog post was written by Brandon Friederich, who is serving as a summer 2014 communications intern with Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks!.
One of Iowa’s leading organizations for the advocacy of conservation farming celebrated a huge milestone last week. Members of Iowa State University’s Iowa Learning Farms came together on the evening of June 24 to celebrate the organization’s ten-year anniversary. Attendees included Iowa Learning Farms staff as well as scientists, farmer partners, and agency partners who have worked together with ILF over the past decade to promote and research conservation farming techniques.
As reflected by the guest list, ILF’s approach to conservation is made with multiple groups of people in mind. Members of ILF hail from urban and rural settings, and bring different skill sets to the table. There are Iowa State researchers, farmers, and program specialists within the organization. But what’s interesting is that despite these very different backgrounds, members of ILF get along exceptionally well. The event itself looked more like a wedding reception than a research organization celebration. Some ILF members had never met before, but everyone was chatting like they were old friends.
This cohesion that exists between such different people is what makes ILF so effective. Researchers work to make improvements on farming techniques, and ILF team members organize outreach events to give different communities, especially farmers, access to the most current data. 139 field days, which are events that ILF holds specifically for members of farming communities, have been held since ILF’s inception, and 7,907 people have attended these events alone. But this number is only part of the puzzle – ILF has reached a total of 85,496 people through the 813 different outreach events that they’ve hosted over the past decade. These efforts provide a great service by bridging the gap between the science and practical application of the research findings.
The event was much more than a celebration of members’ decade-long service to ILF. It was a celebration of the success they’ve had in treading through uncharted territory as an organization that takes all opinions into account, whether the opinion is coming from the lab or the field. But their outlook is broad in another way as well. Throughout the night, speakers hammered home the message that the importance of their work pertains more to the future than to the present. The impact that the organization has had over the past ten years is huge, but the impact that ILF will have on the future has the potential to be profound.