SfL Network

The Iowa Smart Agriculture Work Group

Iowa Smart Agriculture VISION sTATEMENT

To manage Iowa’s working landscapes to safely and sustainably provide an abundance of food, feed, fiber, and energy, while concurrently protecting and building health in our soil; filtering and storing water; sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and ensuring economically compelling opportunities for our livestock producers, farmers, their families and communities. Read the report for more information


Iowa Smart Agriculture Work Group

Solutions from the Land and Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are supporting a special self-directed Work Group, composed of Iowa agricultural thought leaders and value chain partners, who together are exploring and assessing the impacts that extreme weather events and changing climatic conditions are having and are expected to have on the state’s number one industry. Farmers, agribusinesses and rural communities across the state are already experiencing the impacts of climate change and know that the threats to their livelihood are increasing. The overarching goal of this project is to inspire and empower agricultural leaders to become leaders in the broader discussion of climate smart agriculture (CSA), including adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Through the Iowa Smart Agriculture Initiative, agricultural, business, academic, government and conservation leaders are examining ways to keep Iowa agriculture profitable while providing nutritious food, clean energy, and ecosystem services such as water filtration and carbon sequestration.


Goals Include:


Assist Iowa agriculture leaders

in examining the potential vulnerabilities and opportunities created by changing climatic conditions in ways that are relevant to their daily lives;

Equip producers

with the tools and knowledge they need to make informed decisions and manage new risks under changing conditions; and


Mobilize thought leaders

to advocate for needed changes in land use practices, research, education, and policy.

Work Group


Photo of Kellie Blair
Kellie Blair

Kellie Blair is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS in Forestry and Agronomy. Kellie and her husband, AJ, operate Blair Farm, LLC, a 4th generation diversified crop and livestock farm, in north central Iowa near Dayton. Her focus has been in soil conservation and water quality on her own farm, locally, statewide and nationally.

Photo of Ray Gaesser
Ray Gaesser

Ray was raised on a small diversified farm in southern Indiana, where he learned the responsibility of caring for a farm at a young age. During his youth, he explored many facets of agriculture, from maintenance to caring for livestock and tending crops. Believing that it is a privilege to farm, Ray began Gaesser farms in Corning, Iowa in 1977 and turned the original few hundred acres into 6,000 acres. His operation includes 620 owned acres and an additional 5,400 rented or custom farmed acres. Corn is grown for a local ethanol plant and soybeans are grown for Stine Seed Company. Gaesser farms uses the latest technology and innovations in seeds and equipment, and continues to test new practices to conserve and enhance resources. Caring for the land is a priority. Gaesser farms has been 100 percent no-till since 1991 and has planted cover crops since 2010.

Off the farm, Ray is an active member in the local and national agriculture community, serving in executive roles for the American Soybean Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Soybean Promotion Board, Iowa Economic Development Agriculture Advisory Board, North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance and International Soybean Growers Alliance. Ray has also served on numerous soybean trade and education missions around the world, working to improve international relationships and trade for U.S. agriculture. Ray was recognized as a Lenox Iowa Rotary Rural Good Citizen in 1999, and received the Adams County Iowa Conservation Award in 1992 and the Iowa Master Farmer Award in 2012. In 2013, Iowa Congressman Tom Latham read and placed into the Congressional Record a tribute to Ray’s achievements in agriculture, including as President of the American Soybean Association.

Before her retirement, Ray’s wife, Elaine, was Gaesser Farm’s accountant, and served as President of Iowa Women in Agriculture. Along with Ray, she was named an Iowa Master Farmer in 2012. Together Ray and Elaine have two children, Chris and Jennifer. Chris is the farm’s agronomist, a member of the Iowa Soybean Association’s Supply Committee Advisory Council, and (with his wife Shannon) the farm office manager. Jennifer teaches vocal music at Atlantic High School. Ray and his wife are active members of St. Patrick Catholic Church.

Photo of Bryan Sievers
Bryan Sievers

Bryan operates a grain and livestock farm which includes 2,300 acres of tillable land and a 2,400 head beef cattle feedlot near Stockton, Iowa. Bryan and his wife, Lisa, are enthusiastic environmental stewards of the land.  They have been actively involved in implementing numerous conservation practices on their farm and in 2013 commissioned their 1.0 MW combined heat and power (CHP) anaerobic digester system. The anaerobic digesters process all of the beef cattle manure plus additional sources of food waste and biomass.  They return all of the rich, pathogen-free, soil amendments produced by their digesters to their farmland in the form of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, and organic matter.  Bryan received his degree in Agricultural Business in 1982 from Iowa State University. His past experiences include being a 3-year letterman on the Iowa State University baseball team, leadership roles in the Iowa Farm Bureau, serving two terms in the Iowa Legislature (one term in the Iowa House and one term in the Iowa Senate) and served as Chair of the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Biomass Conversion committee.  He currently serves as Vice-Chair on the American Biogas Council Board of Directors.  Bryan also serves on Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ Carbon Sequestration Task Force and also serves as Co-Chair of the Iowa Smart Agriculture initiative.  Bryan and Lisa have two children and six grandchildren.

Group Members

Work Group Activities

Iowa Smart Agriculture Summit

The Iowa Smart Agriculture Work Group, which released its vision for the future of Iowa agriculture in its Circles of Life report in November 2022, followed up by hosting a field day and forum June 6-7, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. Read More…

21st Century Agriculture Renaissance Report
21st Century Agriculture Renaissance Report

Iowa Smart Agriculture: Solutions from the Land – A vision for the Future

In November 2022, the Iowa Smart Agriculture Work Group (IASA), released a white paper focused on Iowa agriculture in the 21st Century entitled Iowa Smart Agriculture: Solutions from the Land A New Vision for the Future. The report sets out a vision for Iowa smart agriculture, discusses challenges producers face, offers a path forward for finding and putting in place Iowa solutions from the land and concludes with five farm and landscape level system recommendations. Written by farmers, for farmers, the IASA white paper is a call to action to all who make decisions about Iowa’s agricultural landscape, its croplands, livestock, wetlands, forests, rivers, and the complex value chain that supports and extends Iowa’s reach beyond state and national borders to the world.

Ray Gaesser has been talking about the circles of life on his farm in Iowa for years, and circular agricultural systems were the main focus of the recent Iowa Smart Agriculture Forum

But the conversation is not just taking place in Iowa. The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) is championing the concept of circular bioeconomy systems in its initiative, with the mission to advance education, professional development, and innovations for developing sustainable circular bioeconomy systems.

ASABE is made up of members from more than 100 countries who are interested in engineering and technology for agricultural, food and biological systems. Its members include engineers and non-engineers from universities, national laboratories and industry.

In its Introduction to Circular Bioeconomy Systems, ASABE defines a circular economy as one in which “the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible with minimal generation of waste.” It’s a “make, use and recycle” model as opposed to the linear, “take, make and waste” system.

Circular system conversations are also happening globally.

Solutions from the Land is collaborating with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on a global circular bioeconomy initiative launched at the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN)/FAO Innovation Forum in Rome in May. Read more

21st Century Agriculture Renaissance Report

Work Group Meetings


The inaugural meeting of the Iowa Smart Agriculture Work Group was held July 9, 2018, in Corning, Iowa. This exploratory effort approached questions such as “What conditions are you experiencing on your farm or in your operation?” “What is the state of knowledge about the conditions producers will encounter going forward?” “Are adequate adaptation strategies/plans in place to meet the challenges producers are facing?”

As producers agreed that there was a need for more discussion of these topics, a second Work Group meeting was held at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment on August 29, 2019. Presenters such as Dennis Todey, Midwest Regional Climate Hub and Jerry Hatfield, USDA, ARS presented and facilitated conversations between farmers on climate mitigation, adaptation, and what science tells us to expect for current and future conditions in Iowa. A vision for the future of Iowa’s agriculture and its role in a changing climate emerged.

Anaerobic Digester Project


A pilot project currently being designed, developed and undertaken by the IASA Work Group in partnership with the Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and C-CHANGE brings agricultural thought leaders and value chain partners from around the state together to explore and assess the impacts that extreme weather events and changing climatic conditions are having and are expected to have on the state’s top industry.

Among the work group’s first orders of business is developing a potential research/demonstration project to explore the synergistic relationship between commodity crop growers and livestock producers using cover crops as a supplemental feedstock for anaerobic digesters. Looking into integrated cover crop-digester technologies from Missouri to Germany, the group searches for ways to make digesters profitable through co-products like fertilizer as well as renewable energy. Read more…


Iowa Smart Agricultural Forum


Agriculture in a Changing Climate: What the Future Holds for Iowa— To continue the task of the Work Group and open the conversation to more stakeholders, the Iowa Smart Agriculture Initiative hosted a special forum on climate change in partnership with the Iowa…


In the Press

Stories from Iowa Leaders

Published: July 5, 2023 Website: Read more…
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Fern’s Ag Insider
Published: May 23, 2021 Website: Read more…
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Iowa Farm Bureau
Published: December 2, 2020 Website: Read more…
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Des Moines Register
Published: November 16, 2020 Website: Read more…
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Published: October 20, 2020 Website: Read more…
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Sioux City Journal
Published: August 9, 2020 Website: Read more…
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Des Moines Register
Published: May 22, 2020 Website: Read more…
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Published: December 3, 2019 Website: Read more…
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Published: August 8, 2019 Website: Read more…
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Mother Jones
Published: July 15, 2019 Website: Read more…
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Iowa Catholic Radio
Published: June 28, 2019 Website: Read more…
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IASA Project News

Check out SfL updates related to the Iowa Smart Agriculture Work Group.