Q&A with Shannon Moeller, Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crop Initiative

Shannon Moeller was an Impact Award winner in 2020, and has been the Project Coordinator for the Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crop Inititiave for the first six years of the project. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship project promotes cover crops on seed corn production acres around the state. Because of this project, more than one-third of Iowa’s vulnerable seed corn production acres are covered annually!

Why are you passionate about conservation and the work you do?

I am passionate about conservation because I love natural ecosystems, and I value diversity. I believe nature has a place on all landscapes and farms, and that we should all be doing what we can to bring more biodiversity (back) to our own environments. One of my favorite parts of the project coordinator role is getting to know farmers better through farm visits and field days. It has been fascinating to learn about all the different motivations for how each farmer farms the way they farm. (Try saying that tongue-twister out loud!)

How do you envision Iowa’s future when it comes to conservation and agriculture?

My vision for Iowa’s future involves protecting waterways, adding more diverse crop rotations, and adding more areas of natural habitat and permaculture on farms.

What are farmers doing in your community that’s making a difference?

I have been blessed to work with and learn from a wide variety of more than 250 farmers, many of whom are doing other conservation practices besides cover crops on their farms. I’ve held field days in most counties where we have seed corn production in Iowa, and these events wouldn’t be possible without farmer hosts and keynote speakers. Also, I’ve learned that most farmers tend to learn from their peers (neighbors, mentors, etc.) more quickly than from other sources, and with less skepticism. I’ve always said the farmers I’ve worked with make me look good. It has been great to see growth in cover crop adoption as well as other conservation practices in the areas I work in, and that growth is from farmer leaders trying new things and telling their neighbors about it.

What is your favorite conservation innovation?

My favorite conservation innovation is a roller crimper, of course! A good cover crop can provide a tremendous amount of weed suppression – especially when established early in the fall, like after seed corn harvest. We already know cover crops such as cereal rye can help a farmer reduce the number of herbicides used in a spring application, and I think roller crimpers have the potential to help farmers reduce herbicide applications even further.

How did your Watershed Award impact you, your community, and your work?

I was honored to receive the “Impact Award” in 2020, and it felt great to be recognized for my work, even though most days it doesn’t feel like “work.” All the credit goes back to the farmers I’ve worked with – they are the “boots in the field,” spreading the word about this project and showing their neighbors how cover crops can be successfully implemented and managed in their operations. The money IAWA awarded to the project allows us to purchase food for field days. If you’ve ever been to one of “my” field days, you know the food is almost always on par with the quality of conversations we’re having! Thank you for the recognition and for highlighting the good work Iowa’s seed corn growers are doing in their communities!