About Vicki Lowell

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So far Vicki Lowell has created 142 blog entries.

Wild Hope Farm

April 3, 2020 – Wild Hope Farm is a certified organic farm owned by the Belk family and located in Chester, South Carolina. The Belk’s have been transitioning their land over the past few decades from forest to dairy farmland, and from corn intensive production to hay. Their focus is on replenishing the eroded soils to transform it into an organic operation collectively benefiting the community and the surrounding ecosystem.

As stated on their website, they are working to go beyond organic to enable a more nutrient rich soil which in turn nourishes the plants they grow and the bodies of those who eat their produce. The practices they use are simultaneously decreasing off-farm inputs (e.g., pesticides, fertilizers) and increasing the health of their ecosystem through a polyculture of crops, a diverse insect ecology, and enhanced soil microbiology. With intentional planning of their land and infrastructure, they hope within the next few years to use zero net energy.

We recently interviewed Shawn Jadrnicek, who manages the farm and has been working with the Belk family for about three years. We were also joined by Katherine Belk, who works on the administrative and marketing side. Katherine takes beautiful photos of the farm, a few of which are featured here.

They currently farm about 12 acres but have 220 acres overall, much of it forested. They employ 9-12 staff, depending on the time of the year, and have been doubling production annually.

Much of their business comes from their CSA program and farmers’ markets. They also sell to a few restaurants. This year, they’re dedicating an acre and half to wholesale as a trial. Among other regenerative organic practices they are using to build soil health, they’ve had a great deal of success with a no-till approach to prepping their fields, which minimizes disturbance and protects the living organisms that feed their soil.

Katherine says they are working to share their practices with the larger community to increase understanding of the importance of no-till techniques for the future of agriculture and sustainability. “We’re trying to help people get on board and better understand why it matters for them,” she explains. “We’re farmers in the watershed they use and our farming practices do impact our neighbors even if they don’t feel it directly.”

They’ve been able to consistently produce 50% of their crop in a no-till system through the use of cover crops such as cereal rye and crimson clover, adding mulch to extend the benefits. “Once the cover crop is mature, we terminate it with the roller-crimper and transplant through it,” explains Shawn. “It does have a limited planting window, so we’ve developed techniques to extend the amount of no-till and cover cropping you can do. The main thing we do is use wood chips in no-till areas. So, we’ll crimp the cover crop and if we have a long season crop like eggplant or peppers, we put wood chips down. The cover crop helps with weeds, but if you add the mulch you get six months or more. We also use shredded leaves when we can. We do all of our winter squash that way, as well as our eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelons, summer scallions, and some lettuce, as well as some successions of cucumbers, summer squash, and garlic.”

“We’ve been working the past three or four years to develop a summer mix we can crimp and then plant our fall crops through. This year, we got a SARE grant to expand our work in that. We’ve got four different mixes we’re going to try. Then we can plant our fall vegetables into cover crops, which will allow us to expand our no-till work pretty drastically. You can save so much time when you do no-till. You don’t have to do the weeding and it’s probably about fifteen less passes with the tractor. That saves labor and fuel costs as well as wear and tear on the equipment.”

The main challenge according to Shawn is keeping weeds out of the cover crop. “We’ve developed a technique where we do a lot of stale seed bedding before we plant the cover crop. Basically, we’re weeding the weeds that would be in the cover crop and the no-till mulch a year before we plant the cover crops. That helps. This year, we had three months without rain so that was an issue. There was no stale seed bedding so it will be interesting to see what happens this year since we weren’t able to use that technique. We just got a hose reel sprinkler, which allows us to irrigate an acre and a half a day. So, if we get another drought, we should be able to mitigate that to do the stale seed bedding as well as get our cover crops seeds up in time.”

Shawn says another challenge is the timing. “If you don’t plant your cover crops at the right time, they’re not going to be dense and lush and mature early enough to do well. Cover crops need tending to and fertilizer just like cash crops. I’ll usually precede the no-till cover crop with a nitrogen fixing cover crop such as cow pea to add fertility. That’s critical. Right now, I have a field where I did that and a field where I didn’t do that, and it wasn’t dense and lush. If you don’t have a big enough biomass to suppress the weeds, it’s not going to work.”

“Once you do that initial prep to get rid of the weeds, you can put it into your rotations easier. For example, we’ll do a spring crop of brassicas and those come out pretty early. We’ll follow that with a cover crop of cow peas and millet or cow peas and sudex. We try not to do a lot of double cropping, it helps with the weeds and helps build soil. It also helps reduce the use of inputs. You have to have the land to do that so it can be difficult for smaller farmers.”

They also use manure from a neighboring horse farm to add fertility and that’s been working well says Shawn. “We can extract the heat from the manure for our greenhouses and add it to the fields in the fall before we cover crop. The horse manure has a lot of phosphorous and potassium in it, but the nitrogen isn’t really available until the second year because of the wood shavings in the bedding. We’ve been applying the manure around 20 tons per acre. This was the first year, so we’ll have to wait to see the results.”

Shawn says recent soil tests show promise. “We had a field that tested low for phosphorous and potassium and we were looking at spending four or five thousand dollars to bring that up. We tested it again after the manure application and everything is right where it needs to be. It’s already paying for itself.”

The no-till and other regenerative organic practices they are implementing on the farm are helping them manage a rapidly changing climate with rain events that are either feast or famine. In the past four years, they had a five-hundred-year rain event one year and two 100-year rain events the next year. Just last year they had another hundred-year rain event. They also had three months of drought last year and the year before. That’s why they are so motivated to teach others about what they have done to help manage climate change.

Katherine says they are working to insure themselves the same as they would during the hurricane season by making sure they have cover crops in the ground. “We have overhead irrigation systems that water our cover crops during the drought and then we go straight from drought to hurricanes,” she explains. “You feel it every day on the farm and that’s why it’s really important to get to know your farmers and the ways they’re farming so we can make our whole ecosystem more resilient in the future.”

“This is one of the wettest springs in recorded history here in our region,” Shawn adds. “We’ve had a very difficult time prepping the fields. The window has been narrowed. This year it was almost impossible. So, we’re looking at getting silage tarps, which is what a lot of smaller farmers are using. We’re trying to develop a system where we can do that on a larger scale in our fields. We’ll apply those tarps to the fall cover crops to keep the soil dry in the wintertime.”

Another technique they’re using is to make sure the beds are sloped properly.” I try to slope the beds at a quarter percent to one percent because if they’re too steep, you have erosion, but if it’s not continuous then you have puddling. It’s a long-term process doing that field grading. Every year, we’re trying to do a little more.”

To bring in beneficial insects, the Belks grow a lot of wildflowers. They have a 60-person flower CSA, sell wholesale to florists, and provide flowers for weddings and other events. They’ve also been planting perennials such as fruit trees and have a large cactus fence surrounding the farm. Katherine’s father, Tim, is very passionate about native plants and he’s doing a seed and grass restoration project on the farm that includes about 12 acres of native grasses and wildflowers. Katherine says, “It’s amazing to go out there in June or July as the different flowers come into bloom and see how our land is transformed and the different animals that are coming back. We’re trying to do regenerative land management beyond just the ways that we’re farming. It’s about how we take care of the property.”

“One thing I really enjoy about the CSA model and farmers’ markets,” adds Katherine, “is being able to interface with people. There’s a lot that goes into being an organic farmer. As soon as people start to learn, they realize how little they knew and they want to learn more. It’s just a matter of being able to communicate with people in a way they can understand.” Katherine uses social media and email to give people an idea of a day in the life on the farm. “The more we communicate with people, the more they begin to realize that all of these things are interconnected.”

“I want to eat clean food that wasn’t coated with any synthetic chemicals for my own personal health. I think consumers are beginning to catch on because we’re starting to see all of these autoimmune diseases and allergies and other sorts of physical reactions to our environment, and I think glyphosate has played a big role in that. I know they are still trying to draw those connections there. Also, from a sustainability perspective, by purchasing organic, consumers can invest in farms rather than chemical companies. Yes, growing organically is slightly more expensive up-front but I think that we’ll be able to have better yields in the long-run.”

“We’re taking a long-term approach to farming and we’re relying more on natural ecosystems by creating retention ponds that attract beneficial animals like frogs and toads and increasing our organic matter, which also helps with pest prevention in addition to erosion and other related challenges. We’re essentially creating an environment where we can be more resilient in the future. As the person who pays the bills, the fewer inputs we can have, the happier I am.”

Photos by Katherine Belk

By |2020-04-03T22:41:49+00:00April 3rd, 2020|Farmer Stories, News|

It’s About the Long Game Now

March 30, 2020 – Bob Scowcroft, co-founder and first Executive Director of OFRF, was scheduled to speak at OFRF’s benefit luncheon at Expo West on March 4th. Unfortunately, the cancellation of Expo West and our luncheon due to COVID-19 was just the beginning of a series of events that none of us could have foreseen. It’s a different world now, one that relies on the heroic efforts of many—not the least of whom are those who grow the food we need to stay nourished and healthy. That’s why we wanted to share his inspirational words with you. It’s about the long game now, continuing the important work OFRF embarked on 30 years ago.

Bob Scowcroft

OFRF started as a shoestring guerrilla operation.

We had an answering machine and a P.O. box. Our board consisted of ten certified organic farmers and two scientists. It wasn’t that way for long, thanks to the generosity of three foundations and a number of long- time organic farm operations, funds were raised to launch OFRF’s on-farm research program.

We knew that organic farming and ranching worked but we didn’t have the scientific documentation to back us up. There was no institutional support for on-farm organic systems research nor was there any national “portal” in place to make the few papers that had been published on organic were available to others.

We decided OFRF would fund organic research projects and, thanks to the generosity of every organic verification group in the country, we would write up and share the results with every organic farmer on their membership lists. We felt like we were part of a movement.

We hit a home run relative to the first on-farm research grant OFRF ever made. A grant we made to Carl Rosato* was for peach fruit brown rot disease, which was/is a very serious disease since it affects the fruit and cuts into production and profits. As a result of that grant, Carl (pictured below) developed his mineral-mix bloom spray, which has worked really well for over 20 years. It has been published on the ATTRA web site and is now available in greater detail on eOrganic.

It’s really hard for me to share the brilliance and passion I saw exhibited by the members of the OFRF board. I wanted to bottle it (and sell it at Expo!). Remember, most of them were (and are to this day) full-time organic farmers. Not only was their knowledge “observational” based on their own farming experience but they had the (in some cases, self-taught) academic understanding of similar research reports relevant to the proposals before them. I loved sitting back and watching four or five of the board members play “citation smack-down” in support of, or opposition to, a particular funding request. How they ever managed to read five or seven extra papers in addition to their “day jobs” was beyond me.

Though not easily publicized, one has to understand that those proposals not funded by OFRF made a major impact as well. Nearly 1,000, maybe more, organic research projects came into the office. All of them included organic farmers’ ideas and most of them had academic partners.

Over the years, we heard too many tales of automatic dismissal or refusal to sign off on a proposal by the powers that be in academia. The risk of starting (and ending!) one’s career as an organic outlier was real. Quite a different situation from today, note OFRF’s collaboration with Tuskegee University on a day-long Organic Agriculture Research Forum hosted in conjunction with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group.

Yet, that too wasn’t enough for us. With the publication of Mark Lipson’s Searching for the O-Word, OFRF revealed the utter lack of investment in peer-reviewed organic research (data point: we looked at over 30,000 USDA’s Current Research Information Service (CRIS) online agriculture research reports and found about 32 (nearly) organic reports). Clearly, we were not receiving our fair share of research funds.

With a powerful and focused board, and one of the best group of staff assembled, we took risks to lead, on behalf of organic producers when no one else would or could. We could ONLY do this work thanks to the generosity of literally thousands of donors, making gifts large and small.

We published the results of the research we funded. We walked the halls of Congress with organic farmers, gently reminding our elected officials of the need for a fair share of organic research dollars. We established important collaborations with other environmental, consumer and even industry organizations. We worked with Congressman Sam Farr to found the Organic Caucus. Heck, once I (and two organic farmers) had the very rewarding job of briefing Willie Nelson on his bus before his Fillmore West show, on the size, scale and expansion of organic farming in the USA! Now THAT was an exceptional experience.

What made OFRF such a wonderful place to work was the esprit d’ corps of the staff reinforced by the passion of the board. Though up against great odds, there was joy to our work. We were a movement organization looking to seed organic systems throughout the country.

In my volunteer role as a Trustee of the Nell Newman Foundation, I run across any number of projects that give me great hope for the future. I think that under the current radar (and noise level) there’s a new exciting wave of young people going forward to the land! A few weeks ago, the New York Times published a long piece on the new wave of rural intentional communities coming together around food and farming. In Alaska, young women boat owners are forming policy coalitions and co-ops to manage their fish-shares sustainably. The new Secretary of Agriculture in Colorado is a former farmer and staff member of the NYFC. Kansas has a Democratic governor and a Secretary of Agriculture open to organic farming systems.

Today, it’s your turn. OFRF has the right stuff. Their current board members shine in each of their communities. Every organic sale you make, consumer you inform, even beer you drink, makes a difference. It’s about the long game now. By building relationships, growing grassroots networks and activism, and engaging in policy support, I believe OFRF reflects the very definition of exceptionalism today and into the future. That’s why I support them with my own donations and work with other foundations to support them too.

Thank You! Game on!

Carl Rosato giving farm tour


*For those of you don’t know, it is with a heavy heart that I share the passing of my friend Carl in 2019. His was a life well-lived, an amazing person gone way too soon.

By |2020-04-01T21:34:00+00:00April 1st, 2020|News|

The Power of Hope and Resilience

March 31, 2020 – As our world faces the confusion and heartache that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it, we at OFRF are reminded of the power of hope and resilience. For the OFRF team, our lives, like yours, are looking quite different these days. Our office in Santa Cruz is closed as we “shelter in place.” But, we are sticking together and committing to our mission more than ever.


We know the COVID-19 outbreak will have lasting impacts on our farmers and our food system and as always, we are committed to supporting and advocating for our community. While there are more questions than there are answers these days, we want you to know that we are here. Most importantly, we are extremely grateful to our farmers who continue to do the essential work of feeding our communities.

The current global situation reminds us of the importance of building resilient systems. As our climate changes, we will see new diseases and pest pressures, continued degradation and erosion of our soils, and irregular water quantities among many other challenges. We need to act now to mitigate climate change and help farmers adapt to challenges they are already facing.

Organic farming practices have been proven to not only help reverse the effects of climate change but also allow farmers to be more resilient. BUT organic farming only comprises 1% of U.S. agriculture. We hope you will support us in continuing our work to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming—we truly could not do it without you.

Like us, you might be asking yourselves what you can do to support our agricultural and food systems. Farmers are still farming and most grocery stores, farmers’ markets, CSAs and food delivery services are up and running. We encourage you to show up for organic farmers during this difficult time.

As always, all of our research and educational materials are available to access for free at

Please reach out to us at if you have any questions or just want to check in. Stay healthy and thank you for your support.








By |2020-04-01T21:51:24+00:00April 1st, 2020|News|

OFRF Welcomes New Board Members

March 31, 2020 – OFRF’s board is farmer-led and we deeply appreciate the time they devote to our mission of improving and advancing organic agriculture. In the midst of the COVID-19 upheaval, we were grateful that our staff and board could come together (virtually) for our regularly scheduled board meeting. While we recognize these are challenging and unusual times, we share a commitment to continuing to serve the organic farming sector, which we believe is critical to protecting food security while stewarding our environmental resource

The board approved changes to the roster and we’re pleased to welcome two new board members!

April Jones of April Joy FarmApril Jones Thatcher is the founder of April Joy Farm, a first-generation, diversified farm near Ridgefield, Washington. Her Washington State Dept of Ag certified organic farm has served wholesale and retail customers in Clark County since 2009. April has an undergraduate degree in civil engineering and an M.B.A. in entrepreneurship. She is passionate about soil health, livestock welfare, and nurturing community.




Dr. Joe K. Kpomblekou-A, Professor of Soil and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences at Tuskegee University.Dr. Joe K. Kpomblekou-A is a Professor of Soil and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences at Tuskegee University. He holds a Ph.D. degree from Iowa State University in Soil Science. Kokoasse is in charge of the organic agriculture and biogas production program at Tuskegee University; together with other scientists at four land-grant universities (Auburn University, Mississippi State University, North Carolina State University, and Oregon State University) and Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network are promoting organic agriculture throughout the Southeast United States.

We bid a fond farewell to Dr. Heather Darby and Dean McIlvaine, who have completed their tenure. “We are excited to have April and Kokoasse join our board of directors,” said Brise Tencer, OFRF’s Executive Director. “Their fresh perspective, strong skills, and diverse expertise will be a huge asset to our board. I am also extremely proud to name Heather as an Honorary Board member in recognition of her service as the longest-serving member of the OFRF board, her passion for on-farm research, and her deep commitment to the mission and vision of OFRF.

Bryan Hager takes over as Board President. Jeremy Barker Plotkin, owner of Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst, Massachusetts, will continue to serve on the board.

Again, we are so grateful for the wisdom and hard work that each board member brings to the organization.!

Learn more about our staff and board.

View our 2019 Annual Report.






By |2020-03-31T23:00:44+00:00March 31st, 2020|News|

Deadline for National Organic Producer Survey Extended

March 27, 2020 – The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) released two national organic surveys on February 18, 2020—one for certified organic producers and the other for producers transitioning to organic certification. This collaborative effort is part of a USDA-funded project seeking to learn more about the challenges and research priorities of organic farmers and ranchers, and those transitioning land to certified organic production.

We are extending the survey deadline from April 1, 2020 until June 1, 2020 to give producers a final opportunity to share their experiences and challenges. During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever that farmers and ranchers make their voices heard.

Survey results will help us ensure our organizational programs meet the needs of organic producers and that the increased funding for organic research secured in the 2018 Farm Bill addresses the unique needs of organic production. Results will be published in updates of OFRF’s National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) report and OSA’s State of Organic Seed (SOS) report to provide a roadmap for future research funding.


For certified organic farmers and ranchers, the survey link on our secure website is:

For farmers and ranchers who are transitioning to organic certification, the survey link on our secure website is:

The survey is being administered by Washington State University and all responses will be kept confidential. Questions about the survey may be directed to Lauren Scott at or 1-800-833-0867.

The surveys are voluntary, confidential, and will take approximately 30 minutes to complete. You can skip any questions you prefer not to answer. We welcome you to complete the survey in multiple sittings. The online survey saves your responses as you go along. You can stop at any point, and then resume the survey at any time by following the appropriate link above and entering your survey access code, which will be generated when you first start the survey. The online program will allow you to resume where you left off. Upon completion of the survey, you can enter to win a $100 gift card to REI. If you do not have access to a computer and cannot complete the survey online, please call OFRF at 831-426-6606.

Thank you for your time and support of this project!

The project is supported by the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) grant no. 2019-51300-30249 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is a non-profit foundation that works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production.

Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) is a non-profit that works nationally to advance ethical seed solutions to meet food and farming needs in a changing world. Through research, education, and advocacy, OSA fosters organic seed systems that are democratic and just, support human and environmental health, and deliver genetically diverse and regionally adapted seed to farmers everywhere.





By |2020-03-27T21:11:10+00:00March 27th, 2020|News|

Kokoasse Kpomblekou-A

Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry Director, Organic Agriculture and Biogas Production

Dr. Joe K. Kpomblekou-A is a Professor of Soil and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences at Tuskegee University. He holds a Ph.D. degree from Iowa State University in Soil Science. His present research emphasis is on fate and kinetics of nitrogen (N), sulfur (S), and phosphorus in the ecosystem, chemistry and biochemistry of N and S in animal waste-amended soils including the effect of trace elements on biochemical reactions in the ecosystem. The ultimate goal of his research is to gain fundamental knowledge that will aid in the development of management practices that prevent the accumulation of contaminants in the ecosystem.

Dr. Kpomblekou-A is in charge of the organic agriculture and biogas production program at Tuskegee University; together with other scientists at four land-grant universities (Auburn University, Mississippi State University, North Carolina State University, and Oregon State University) and Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network are promoting organic agriculture throughout the Southeast United States.

By |2020-03-11T18:30:59+00:00March 11th, 2020|Board|

MOSES Conference Provides Community for Researchers & Farmers

the trade show floor at MOSESMarch 5, 2020 – Last week, I returned to the OFRF office feeling rejuvenated and re-energized after attending the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Conference in La Crosse, WI. This sense of energy and renewal came not only from the opportunity to return to my roots and enjoy the welcoming culture of the Midwest, it was also sparked by my interactions with the robust community of researchers, farmers, and non-profits at the conference. At a time when there is so much uncertainty, it was uplifting to be surrounded by a community of people dedicated to creating sustainable food systems that support people and the environment.

The highlight of my trip was the workshop on Resilient Soils that I hosted with Dr. Jess Gutknecht from the University of Minnesota. Given the extreme rainfall and flooding the Midwest experienced last year, farmers and ranchers were eager to learn about soil health building practices that can help maintain favorable growing conditions in the face of weather extremes. Jess got us off to a strong start with an overview of climate change and the long-term climate trend predictions for the Midwest. Her interactive presentation generated strong discussion among participants who shared not only their perceptions of the changing climate and how they are coping, but also their emotional response to these unpredictable times.

I followed by presenting soil health principles and practices that can improve overall soil health and water-holding capacity, characteristics important to dealing with extreme precipitation events. We concluded the workshop with small group discussions that allowed participants to dive deeper into specific topics like planting cover crops to absorb excess soil moisture and opportunities to reduce tillage to improve soil health.

In addition to hosting a workshop, OFRF also had a table in the exhibit hall displaying our hugely popular soil health guidebooks and resources on soil health management practices to reduce risk and increase the resiliency of farming systems. We also had postcards announcing the launch of two national surveys of farmers and ranchers we recently released in partnership with the Organic Seed Alliance—one survey is for certified organic producers and the other is for producers transitioning to organic certification. More information and links to both surveys can be found here.

I also had the opportunity to attend an organic research social where I met other researchers working to address pressing questions in the field of organic agriculture. The gathering gave everyone the opportunity to introduce themselves and share ideas for projects and collaborations, and was a welcome opportunity to slow down and listen. Throughout the discussions that evening, I was struck by the sense of camaraderie in the room. As a relatively new member to the organic research community, I was impressed by the strong network of researchers and their passion for building healthy food systems. I left feeling grateful to be welcomed into this community and am already looking forward to next year’s conference!

Submitted by Lauren Snyder, Ph.D., Education & Research Program Manager, OFRF










By |2020-03-11T18:49:47+00:00March 5th, 2020|News|

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Volunteers from Bracken's Kitchen, OFRF staff, and volunteer chefs in front of Bracken's Kitchen van filled with donated food from luncheonMarch 5, 2020 – As many of you have heard, Expo West and related events were postponed this week due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, that meant postponing our annual fundraising event, which we have held for 23 years on the day before Expo opens. That would have been yesterday.

A small crew from OFRF, along with our amazing volunteer chefs, had begun prepping the all-organic lunch for over 300 guests this past weekend. When the decision to postpone Expo West was made late Monday afternoon, we immediately contacted Bracken’s Kitchen, a non-profit located in Orange County whose mission is to recover, re-purpose, and restore both food and lives through food recovery, culinary training, and community feeding programs. They happily picked up all the perishable food Tuesday morning. Nothing will go to waste.

So, you can make lemonade out of lemons after all! We’re really glad the food from the luncheon will go to community members who don’t have access to sufficient nutritious food to feed themselves and their families.
chefs loading perishable food into Bracken's Kitchen van


Beyond covering event costs, ticket sales, sponsorships, and donations are key to helping us continue our research, education, and advocacy programs throughout the year. As part of our mission to improve and advance organic farming systems, we provide free access to all of our research results and educational materials at Without your support, we couldn’t this work.

Thank you so much for all you do for OFRF and the organic community!







By |2020-03-10T17:54:19+00:00March 5th, 2020|News|

Reimagining our Seed Systems

Packets of seeds

On a rainy Valentine’s day, I had the privilege of attending the Organic Seed Growers Conference in Corvallis, Oregon, which is run by the Organic Seed Alliance. Despite my knowledge of and passion for organic production systems, my knowledge of organic seed systems seriously lags in comparison. Therefore, the two days I spent at OSG were transformative. I spent time learning about the ways Indigenous communities share seeds, and the current state of organic seed policy on the federal level. The most impactful part of the conference was the time and energy OSA dedicated to showcasing how seeds are the keepers of history, culture, and tradition in our own backyards and across the globe. Through workshops, panels, and keynote speakers, they demonstrated how complex seed ownership is today and has always been, particularly in relation to social and racial justice.

But I wasn’t there to only learn about seeds for myself. With staff from the Organic Seed Alliance, we gathered a group of organic seed farmers to learn about their research priorities and challenges. They voiced concerns about climate change, increased pest pressure, and access to diverse seed varieties.

Overall, the conference was a time to meet new people, and learn about a side of the organic industry that is crucial to the way we improve and increase organic production.

Submitted by Haley Baron, Partnership & Development Manager







By |2020-03-10T17:58:38+00:00February 27th, 2020|News|

Agriculture Resilience Act Promotes Farmer-Driven Climate Solutions

February 26, 2020 – Today, Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) announced the Agriculture Resilience Act (H.R. 5861), which would establish climate change mitigation and climate resilience in agriculture as top priorities for USDA research and conservation programs.

OFRF has completed an extensive review of climate-in-agriculture research and we believe the ARA’s goal of making U.S. agriculture climate-neutral by 2040 is achievable. The Act provides a science-based blueprint through which U.S. agriculture and food systems can meet the challenge of the climate crisis. Its provisions include climate resilience and mitigation through soil health management systems, advanced grazing management, public cultivar and livestock breed development for resilience and input efficiency, and the establishment of sustainable, organic, and conservation practices as Good Farming Practices for Risk Management programs.

OFRF has been using research-based analysis to inform public policy for nearly three decades. Recently, we contributed to a report from the National Sustainable Organic Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) titled Moving American Agriculture to “Net Zero”.

One of the principal authors of that report, Dr. Mark Schonbeck, OFRF Research Associate, is also the lead author of OFRF’s educational series on organic farming and soil health. His examination of research related to the capacity of sustainable organic systems to sequester soil carbon and minimize nitrous oxide and methane emissions was published in OFRF’s Organic Practices for Climate Mitigation, Adaptation, and Carbon Sequestration.

We know organic practices can play a key role in addressing climate change and we are committed to supporting and furthering the exciting potential of organic practices to offset greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.

Science is critical to developing policy recommendations that optimize the net climate impact of agriculture, and we will continue to partner on a national level to both develop and put forth those recommendations.

Read statements of support for the Agriculture Resilience Act here.

To learn more about the Agriculture Resilience Act, visit:








By |2020-03-10T17:47:56+00:00February 26th, 2020|News|
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