Neely-Kinyon Field Day Highlights Sustainable, Organic Research and Practices

August 4, 2017

The organic agriculture industry continues to grow and was listed as a $43 billion industry in the U.S. in 2015, with an 11 percent increase in the number of organic businesses. In addition, local food producers continue to increase in Iowa, marketing their crops through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations, farmers markets, and to restaurants and food service outlets.

The Iowa State University Organic Ag Program (OAP) will highlight organic research and practices at the Neely-Kinyon Farm Field Day on Tuesday, Aug. 22, from 4 to 7 PM, in Greenfield. A farm tour, followed by light supper and after-supper speaker will be included.

The OAP has studied best management practices for maintaining high yields while enhancing soil and water quality for transitioning and certified organic farmers. Through timely weed management, longer crop rotations, and appropriate manure-based fertilization, the program has demonstrated comparable organic corn, soybean, oat, alfalfa, vegetable, and fruit yields compared to conventional crops. Greater soil quality has been shown through the use of extended crop rotations, cover crops and compost applications.

The after-supper speaker is Denise O’Brien, of Rolling Acres Farm in Atlantic, Iowa. She will speak about organic practices on a certified organic integrated vegetable/livestock farm. She will also share tips for successful organic production that she has developed over the years and discuss Summer 2017 growing and marketing opportunities and challenges.

Since 1976, Denise O’Brien and Larry Harris have been committed to organic production and cultivating local food. The farm, which has been in the Harris family for multiple generations, nourishes the communities in the Atlantic and Omaha, Neb., areas with fresh, delicious, chemical-free foods. The farm produces vegetables -- from Asia greens to zucchini -- as well as a wide variety of fruits, herbs and flowers. They also specialize in the production of naturally raised antibiotic- and hormone-free turkeys and free-range chickens. A high tunnel nurtures lettuce, spinach, and fresh cut flowers for early-season production. O'Brien has been active in many roles besides farmer, including founder of Women’s Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN), grandmother, candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, and former agriculture adviser in Afghanistan. 

Highlights of the farm tour will include the Long-Term Agro-ecological Research (LTAR) experiment, which is one of the oldest comparisons of organic and conventional crops in the U.S., and the Organic Vegetable Research (OVR) experiment, which compares performance of organic production with cover crops versus tilled and mulched systems. The OVR has partnered with Bill Tracy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, in conducting trials of his organic sweet corn varieties, which are bred for insect and disease tolerance along with excellent taste.

Soil scientist Cynthia Cambardella, USDA-ARS, Ames, will present soil and water quality data from these sites. She has documented a 50 percent reduction in nitrate loading from organic vs. conventional systems at her Ames research site. Mike Witt, ISU Extension and Outreach, will discuss issues that producers are facing this summer, including insects and disease, herbicide drift, and weather extremes of a wet spring followed by a July drought, which affected planting and now, potential yield decreases from moisture stress.

The field day is free and open to the public. It will start at 4 p.m. with a light supper at 5:30 p.m. The farm is located at 2557 Norfolk Avenue, Greenfield, Iowa. Directions: Go two miles south of Greenfield on Highway 25, one mile east, and a half mile north. Contact Kathleen Delate at or 515-294-7069 for more information. The field day is supported by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

For more information:

Organic research information is available at:

Rolling Acres Farm website:

Recent press release on ISU Organic Ag Program: