“A common interest in strip-till is what brought us together,” says Loran Steinlage of West Union, Iowa, who organized a group of farmers and ag specialist who communicate regularly virtually and sometimes in person.

“But we’re interested in a broader picture. We ‘talk’ about a lot of agronomy issues. A handful of us go way back, more than 15 years, in bouncing ideas off each other. Two years ago we probably had 20 to 30 people on an email group.”

But emailing wasn’t efficient, Steinlage says, so the group moved to a Facebook page. “Most of us are from Ag Talk. But that’s a big group. We have things we want to share with each other, but not so publicly,” Steinlage adds. Members call, text, and email each other as well as use the Facebook page. The group has now grown to about 100 members, ranging as far as California, Washington, Texas and North Carolina.

“I’m involved in some other farm groups, but this one is focused on agronomy and business,” Steinlage says. “I probably call more people outside the state of Iowa than inside. If we travel across the country, I’m going to stop in and see some of them, too. You just have a wealth of experience at your fingertips with this group—experience you can’t find locally.”

“What’s a little unique here is we have biotechnology, organic farming, small-grain farmers, crop advisors, custom applicators, industry reps and others in the group. Everyone respects everyone else, and takes time to learn from everyone else. I like the diversity,” says group member Jacob Bolson.

New members have to be invited by a current member and approved by Steinlage. “We’re concerned about the group getting too large,” he says. “We want to know who’s in the group, know we can trust what they say. The openness and confidentiality of this group is important.”

The trust the members have in each other was what brought Jeff Reints of Shell Rock, Iowa to his first meeting with the group. He was invited by a farm-equipment rep. “They’re strip-tillers, they were going to talk about cover crops, and I wanted to meet them,” Reints says.

There are no group officers or dues. At meetings, the costs are added up and the hat is passed for donations before everyone goes home.

“I’m a ‘better mousetrap’ kind of guy,” Steinlage says. “I’m still evolving, watching some of the Minnesota farmers, because they’re in colder soils, like me. But I’ve also learned a lot from the Delta (South) farmers, too, and other folks from coast to coast. My dad set me up to learn. This is what drives me, learning firsthand. I like to learn and I like to help others learn.”