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So far Caroline Baptist has created 230 blog entries.

OFRF Advocates for Climate Solution Investments in the Inflation Reduction Act, Senate Passes Bill

On August 7, 2022, the full Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which will provide approximately $40 billion over the next ten years for climate change mitigation and resilience efforts through agriculture provisions. Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and a broad coalition of over 130 groups strongly recommended investment in climate solutions and conservation technical assistance in the bill to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. OFRF further recommends immediate bill passage by the House to ensure agricultural producers can access USDA programs that promote soil health, sequester carbon, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while building climate resilience.

The $739B bill will allot approximately $369 billion to address climate change; this includes about $20 billion for USDA conservation programs for farmers, ranchers, and landowners. Funding would include the following:

  • $300 million for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)  to quantify carbon sequestration and emissions on farmland
  • $8.45 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
  • $6.75 billion for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
  • $3.25 billion for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
  • $1.4 billion for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
  • $1 billion for USDA conservation technical assistance programming

“We are equipping farmers, foresters, and rural communities with the necessary tools to be a part of the solution,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, who also acknowledged support from environmental advocates, economists, companies, trade groups, and farm-related organizations such as OFRF.

Read OFRF’s Letter of Support for Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

By |2022-08-10T16:33:51+00:00August 10th, 2022|News|

Pest Management for Spotted Wing Drosophila

2022 National Organic Research Agenda Cover

The Organic Farming Research Foundation 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) is a report informed by surveys and focus groups conducted in 2020 with over 1,100 certified organic farmers and ranchers across North America.

What Farmers Said

  • In the NORA report, 74% of survey respondents cited insect/pest management as a substantial technical assistance need.
  • Specific feedback from organic farmers also underscores the need for additional research on managing pests such as spotted wing drosophila.

Download OFRF’s Pest Profile on Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD).

Watch the eOrganic Webinar on SWD featured in OFRF’s Organic Agriculture Research Forum 2022.

SWDKnow Your Pest
Spotted wing drosophila (SWD) is an insect pest of small stone fruit and berry crops. SWD is native to Asia and was first detected in the mainland United States in California in 2008.

Adult flies are smaller than 4mm, light brown in color with red eyes.

Male SWD have a dark spot on the leading edge of the wing, unbroken bands across the top of the abdomen, and two dark combs on each front leg pointing toward the tip of the leg. The wing spots are an easy to detect characteristic, though these markings are not always present on newly emerged males.

While harder to identify, females have a pronounced serrated ovipositor. This allows female SWD to use the saw-like organ to cut the skin of intact ripe or ripening fruit and deposit eggs inside the fruit.

Managing SWD
Key strategies to manage SWD include:

  • Setting up traps.
  • Sample fruit for larvae.
  • Create a barrier such as exclusion netting or row cover tunnels.
  • Time your planting to give your crop the upper hand.
  • Decrease the intervals between harvests.
  • Remove cull fruit.
  • Mulch, prune the understory, and harvest.
  • Encourage the populations of beneficial insects.
By |2022-08-09T22:36:55+00:00August 9th, 2022|News|

Weed Management for Bindweed

2022 National Organic Research Agenda CoverThe Organic Farming Research Foundation 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) is a report informed by surveys and focus groups conducted in 2020 with over 1,100 certified organic farmers and ranchers across North America.

What Farmers Said

  • In the NORA report, two-thirds of survey respondents (67%) cited weed management as a substantial production challenge.
  • Specific feedback from organic farmers also underscores the need for additional research on controlling weeds such as bindweed.

Knowing Your Weeds
Farmers and researchers alike acknowledge that weeds pose the greatest barrier to building healthy soils in organic cropping systems. Management of weeds in an organic cropping system involves integration of many separate management tactics. Which tactics you use will depend on the weed species present, the crop, the time of year the crop is planted, the type of equipment you have available, other crops in the rotation, and other site and operation-specific factors.

Managing Bindweed

Field bindweed prefers full sunlight and moderately dry to dry conditions. It is relatively drought tolerant and flourishes in poor soil that contains sand, gravel, or hardpan clay. It is a competitive and persistent weed in a wide range of crops and rangelands. In organic systems the common method for controlling field bindweed is persistent and consistent tilling, requiring cultivation every two – three weeks over a multi-year period.

In systems that work to enhance soil health it is recommended to reduce the frequency of tillage, which can be at odds with management strategies for bindweed infestations. Farmers working toward sustainable conservation tillage systems may first need to take steps to control a current infestation of weeds such as bindweed before returning to reduced tillage practices. Once control of bindweed is achieved, efforts should return to restoring soil health with reduced soil disturbances.

To reduce the impact of field bindweed on production, farmers can:

  • Execute a thorough, well-timed tillage program.
  • Remove via flame weeding.
  • Implement shading techniques.
  • Control via soil solarization.

Once control of bindweed is achieved, efforts should return to restoring soil health. The following steps are key to soil health:

  • Keep the soil covered
  • Maximize living roots in thesis profile
  • Minimize soil disturbance
  • Energize the system with biodiversity

For more on weed management and applicable solutions that control this common weed, farmers can download OFRF’s Weed Management Guide and Weed Profile on Bindweed.

By |2022-08-09T22:35:29+00:00August 9th, 2022|News|

Pest Management for Flea Beetle

2022 National Organic Research Agenda CoverThe Organic Farming Research Foundation 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) is a report informed by surveys and focus groups conducted in 2020 with over 1,100 certified organic farmers and ranchers across North America.

What Farmers Said

  • In the NORA report, 74% of survey respondents cited insect/pest management as a substantial technical assistance need.
  • Specific feedback from organic farmers also underscores the need for additional research on managing pests such as flea beetle.

Download OFRF’s Pest Profiles

Know Your Pest
Flea beetles are highly mobile and may fly long distances in search of suitable plants.

Eggs are elliptical in shape and white to yellowish gray in color. They are laid at the base of host plants, or in soil around the base of the plant. Eggs hatch in 11-13 days (at 77°F). Adults mate and lay eggs singly or in groups of 3-4 in soil at the base of host plants.

Larvae feed on the root hairs and taproots of seedlings. Damage is usually minimal at this phase except in the case of the Tuber Flea Beetle which feeds on potato tubers and the roots of potatoes. When larval development is complete, larvae pupate in small earthen cells for 9-13 days before emerging as adults.

Managing Flea Beetle
Stress these pests by:

  • Planting a trap crop  to attract pests away.
  • Remove alternative food sources.
  • Interrupt life cycles.
  • Create a barrier with floating row cover.

Enhance the population of beneficial bugs such as Braconid wasp (Microctonus vittatae), Lacewing larvae (Chrysoperla spp.), Big eyed bugs (Geocoris spp.), and Damsel bugs (Nabis spp.). Beneficial plantings of anise, dill, chamomile, marigold, or clover can enhance floral resources and encourage predatory insects.

Integrating healthy crop diversity, building soil health, and instituting crop rotations can also support pest management.

By |2022-08-10T02:19:58+00:00August 9th, 2022|News|

Vilicus Farms

Impacts of Climate Disruption on a Diversified Organic Dryland Farm

Interview by Mark Schonbeck, Research Associate, Organic Farming Research Foundation

While scientists, policy makers, and carbon marketeers debate the best agricultural practices for absorbing excess atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) into the soil, farmers need tools and strategies now to help them meet the day-to-day challenges posed by climate change. Contemplating this challenge, I thought immediately of Doug and Anna Jones-Crabtree of Vilicus Farms (whose name means “stewards of the land”) and wanted to learn more about how their uniquely diversified system – 27 crop species with livestock integrated into the rotation – has helped them cope with the crazy weather and keep their 12,566-acre operation economically viable. So, I contacted Doug and he graciously offered more than an hour of his time on July 9 of this year to share his climate observations.

Weather timing is critical

“We got some rain recently,” he began. “We have had a storm every evening for several days, about 2½ inches this past week. It is too late for the fall-seeded crops but will help the spring plantings.” The rain temporarily eased the impact of a prolonged and severe drought, with just 3.7 inches of moisture from June 1, 2021 to June 1, 2022, compared to the long term average annual total of 11.7 inches. “There is no normal anymore,” Doug observed. “We just cannot predict what will happen.”

Historically, the region’s four wettest months have been June, May, September, and April, which provide about 80 percent of the year’s usable moisture. Winter snows are very dry (low moisture) and mostly evaporate rather than melting into the soil. The region’s cropping systems ranging from wheat-fallow to the diverse rotation at Vilicus Farms, have been designed for this seasonal pattern. However, “that is all out the window now. Changes in annual averages, such as becoming a degree or two hotter, or annual moisture 20% less, don’t tell the whole story. It is not only how hot and dry it is, but when it is hot and dry, and when the rain comes.”

For example, when I asked Doug whether the freak Pacific Northwest heat wave in 2021 reached his farm, he said, “yes, the middle of June was our hot spell. At that time of year, our cool season crops are in their critical stage of late vegetative growth when their yield potential is determined. Usually, June is the wettest part of the year, but June 2021 brought a week of 100°F+ temperatures. Crops looked great until then but gave poor yields. Normally, we get a week or 10 days of that kind of heat in late July, when it is actually good for grain ripening.”

A diverse farming system designed for soil health and resilience

In an earlier interview, Doug outlined their diversified cropping system, which stands in stark contrast to the region’s common wheat-fallow system, consisting of winter or spring wheat followed by 18 months of chemical no-till fallow which is intended to store up an extra year’s rainfall, but deprives the soil of cover and living roots for that time. One effect of climate change is that some farmers have taken advantage of milder winters to grow more winter wheat, which has a longer growing season but still leaves soil bare and lifeless for about 14 months.

Vilicus Farms uses the following flexible seven-year rotation on most of its acreage:

  • Year 1 Light feeding grain: spelt, emmer, einkorn, barley or soft wheat with lower demands for nutrients and moisture are planted April 15 – May 15. Grains are harvested in late July or August, leaving 4 – 8” stubble and straw spread across the field.
  • Year 2 Green fallow: annual legume or cocktail mix planted late March or early April, or biennial sweet clover interseeded with the preceding grain crop. In June, beef manure + bedding is applied just before terminating the green fallow with shallow tillage.
  • Year 3 Heavy feeding grain: hard red winter or spring wheat, or durum wheat, their highest-value crops, are planted after manure application to ensure sufficient nutrients.
  • Year 4 Broadleaf crop or oats: safflower, flax, mustard, camelina, buckwheat, or oats are planted in April – May and harvested in September. Oats are included in this block because “they have a beneficial effect on the soil ecosystem, very different from other cereals.”
  • Year 5 Pulse crop: pea, lentil, or chickling vetch for seed, sown in April – May and harvested in August.
  • Year 6 Oats, broadleaf, or light-feeding grain: A crop not grown in the field earlier in the rotation cycle is planted in spring and harvested in August or September.
  • Year 7 Green Fallow: sweet clover interseeded into the Year 6 crop (if annual covers in Year 2), or annual legumes or mix (if sweet clover in Year 2), terminated in June.

This rotation, combined with prairie strips (20-30 feet wide) for every 240 feet of cropped land, keep the soil covered year-round with living root for as much of the year as practical (Figure 1A and 1B: Unlike the region’s dominant wheat-herbicide fallow system, Vilicus Farms keeps all their acreage covered by living vegetation or residues year-round).

Augmenting soil health with mindful tillage, livestock integration, and compost

Doug and Anna have developed a tillage strategy to manage weeds and cover crops and prepare seedbeds, while protecting soil health. “I have seen a tremendous advantage to rotating type and depth of tillage,” he said. “We never use the same tool in the same field two years in a row.” Stubble and residues are left in place and are tilled just 7-10 days before planting the next crop. Their seeders are equipped with sweeps to take out small weeds that emerge during this interval. For each operation, tools are chosen based on soil conditions and the needs of the crop to be sown:

  • Blade plow, which shallowly undercuts cover crops and weeds (Figure 2A and 2B).
  • Speed disk, which works the top 2-3 inches of soil without inversion.
  • Chisel plow with wide sweeps to lift and loosen the top 3-4 inches, followed by a coil packer to firm the soil and make weeds emerge so that planter sweeps can take them out.
  • Moldboard plow 6-8 inches to bury weed seeds, then speed disk a week later. This is done for the least weed-competitive crops (flax and lentils), and only once per rotation cycle.

Additional steps to build healthy, resilient soils that the farm has undertaken in recent years include composting manure before application and integrating livestock grazing into the rotation. “Our operations foreman, Paul Neubauer, has a custom grazing business, and began grazing beef cattle on our land three years ago,” Doug said. “He developed a method to utilize grazing in lieu of tillage to terminate the green fallow. Cover crops are cut with a swather, then grazed for two or three days. I really like this system, as it effectively terminates the cover crop, and the manure stimulates soil biology.” Inspired by this success, Doug, Anna and Paul jointly acquired 12 head of Scottish Highland cattle, which they plan to breed for a future enterprise in grass-fed beef.

New climate challenges and adaptive strategies

When I asked Doug which of his crops performed best in all of the adverse weather of the past few years, he said frankly, “we don’t have any.” Fall of 2021 was so dry that fall planted grains either did not germinate or were too weak to winter over. All winter wheat and half of the rye failed, and fields were replanted with spring grains. Where rye did establish, stands are “thin and short – we’ll see what we can harvest.”

Part of the farm’s diversity and resilience strategy is increased emphasis on broadleaf and oilseed crops including mustard, camelina, and flax, as well as buckwheat for grain. Because the oilseed crops have very small seeds, the prescription for success is to till, allow weeds to emerge, then take them out with shallow sweeps mounted on the planter to provide a clean seedbed. However, the brutally dry spring of 2022 thwarted this strategy as well, as the first tillage did not stimulate weed emergence. Then, “we seeded into dust and the crop did not emerge until rain finally came in early June. The weeds came up then as well and grew faster than the crops.”

“We have asked ourselves whether we need to diversify into more warm season crops, such as millet or buckwheat,” Doug noted, adding that “we never had much success with warm season crops because July and August are usually super-dry, and we can have cold weather in June Climate change is bringing more variability, not a consistent change toward a new pattern” to which farmers might adapt by changing their crop mix or rotation. Thus, Doug and Anna face the as-yet unanswered question, “is the diversified annual cropping system we have built still viable in this ecosystem.?”

Another challenge has been the direct impact of climate disruption on soil health itself. Four out of the past five years (2017-2021) have had significantly below-average precipitation, which restricted plant growth, crop production, and net return of organic residues to the soil, making it more difficult for farmers to maintain SOM.

The Vilicus team have explored two additional approaches to diversification for climate resilience: crop-livestock integration and more perennial vegetation. “We have had times when we could grow forage but not grain, and thus we could raise meat,” Doug noted. While the green fallows provide grazing and fencing is do-able, providing water poses the steepest hurdle and greatest costs. “Livestock need to access water within a mile for the grazing system to work at all, and surface waters are scarce here, so we must truck or pipe it in.”

For grazing, Vilicus Farms prioritizes fields in which cattle have access to an installed “dugout” (pond) or other seasonal surface water feature within a half mile, or where water can be trucked from the pond to the grazing paddock. Buying and trucking-in water from the community water system is the backup plan, but it is not economically viable in the long run. Drilling new wells is risky, as groundwater is 500 to 700 feet deep, and drilling costs $30-40,000 per well regardless of whether the well provides water – which it may or may not.

While Doug does not see abandoning annual crop production as an economically viable option, he saw something this year that piqued his interest in integrating more perennials into the farm ecosystem. “In two fields with well-established shelterbelts of Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolius) and Russian pea shrug (Caragana frutex), the crops are noticeably healthier and more vigorous than crops elsewhere. The shelterbelts are 15-30 feet wide and occur every 200-300 feet across the field.” In contrast with low-growing prairie strips in other fields (Figure 1 right), the shrubs stand about 20 feet tall and greatly reduce wind speeds over a distance five times their height, thereby protecting the crops from drying damage by winds which can reach 50-70 mph in unprotected fields.

His observations of the shelterbelt benefits led Doug to ask, “how can we increase the proportion of perennials in our system? I like the idea of perennial grains, but they work better in Minnesota which receives more rain than Montana. Trees don’t grow here, so the next frontier may be to diversify into shrubby perennials. So often, farmers in our region are ripping out shelterbelts to increase efficiency of wheat production but getting more perennial shrub species into our system would increase resilience.” Practical hurdles to implementation include the initial cost of planting the shelterbelts and the added cost and labor to keep the plantings weeded and watered until they are well established.

As Doug contemplates options for responding to the climate challenges, he believes that we need both crops and animals, and a greater diversity of both. “I see little soil loss from native rangeland unless it is overgrazed. Look at nature – everything is polyculture. The more plant and wildlife species, the healthier and more resilient the system, so how can we emulate this?”

Rethinking farm policy and programming

For many decades, mainstream agriculture has increasingly relied on subsidies and crop insurance to remain economically viable, and these financial supports have focused on a short list of the most productive crops: wheat in Montana and other low-rainfall regions, corn and soy in the Midwest, and cotton in the South. As increasingly erratic weather has made yields more unpredictable and crop failures more frequent, crop insurance has become a vital component of climate resilience strategies for all farms. Vilicus Farms carries crop insurance, and in bad years, the indemnity payments have helped keep the farm afloat. He especially appreciated the supplemental check that arrived this spring as part of the Emergency Relief Program (ERP).

At the same time, Doug is extremely concerned that USDA programs and policies are designed to discourage the kind of agroecosystem and enterprise diversity that is so urgently needed for true resilience. “There are such excellent subsidies for wheat now that the intelligent economic response to the climate crisis at this time is – just grow wheat. The crop insurance is cheap, and it provides a tight safety net. It makes no sense not to carry multiperil insurance for primary crops like wheat – it is too good not to have. But it reinforces the lack of crop diversity.”

I asked, “what about the Whole Farm Revenue Program (WFRP) – isn’t that one designed for diversified systems, and to reward increased diversity?” In response, Doug noted that Vilicus Farm has carried WFRP for the past four or five years, as well as multiperil insurance for wheat and flax. However, WFRP coverage is not nearly as robust as the single-crop multiperil policies. In addition, while USDA rules allow farmers to carry both, the value of single-crop insurance coverage and any indemnity payments therefrom are deducted from WFRP, so that the latter rarely yields any benefit. Thus, Vilicus Farms will drop WFRP and seek crop-by-crop policies for all their crops.

While NRCS programs can support diversity (for example, the prairie strips and diverse rotation, which are part of Vilicus Farms’ CSP contract), “most of what the Farm Services Agency (FSA) offers works best for the least diverse farming systems.” For example, FSA requires semiannual, field-by-field reporting of crop plantings. This works OK for a wheat-only system, but “we grow 27 crops in small strips, so we have to track, in effect, 385 separate fields, a task that took three people two full days to complete.”

Citing an urgent need to decouple the long-term service work of land stewardship from the year-to-year income stream from farm production, Doug and Anna launched a new program in 2022: Community Supported Stewardship Agriculture (CSSA). While growing climate instability causes yields and income to vary wildly from year to year, Vilicus Farms remains committed to building the health of their soils and agroecosystem 365 days of every year and incurs the costs regardless of return. The new CSSA program offers people an opportunity for people who care about land stewardship, agriculture and food to have a direct connection to Vilicus and each other.

In conclusion, Doug notes that “We are trying to build climate resilience by doubling down on crop diversity, but this is counter to current policy and programs, which are based on assumptions widely held by society at large and are reflected in USDA programs.” In order to truly meet the challenges of the climate crisis, “we need a robust conversation at the highest levels of decision-makers on what kind of agricultural system we want to support.”

For me, these conversations with Doug also underlined the importance of research into truly climate resilient and climate-mitigating agricultural systems, with emphasis on functionally diverse agroecosystems including crop-livestock integrated, perennial-annual integrated, and agroforestry systems. USDA research should prioritize organic farming, which protects the soil life by avoiding synthetic agrochemicals and can build soil organic carbon and improve nutrient cycling through advanced soil health practices. Farmers must take their proper place as leaders and equal partners with university scientists to ensure that practical solutions emerge. Finally, it of utmost urgency that the US and the world cut greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently and soon enough to stop further climate disruption to save farmer livelihoods, food security, and the future of human civilization.

This story is based on telephone interviews with Doug Crabtree on March 23 and July 9, 2022.

BACK to Farmer Stories
By |2022-07-26T18:49:50+00:00July 26th, 2022|Farmer Stories, News|

State of Organic Seed: A Conversation with Organic Seed Alliance

2022 National Organic Research Agenda CoverThe Organic Farming Research Foundation 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) is a report informed by surveys and focus groups conducted in 2020 with over 1,100 certified organic farmers and ranchers across North America.

What Farmers Said

  • In the NORA report, ~70% of organic crops are planted with certified organic seeds.
  • On-farm production of organic seed declined from 63% in 2015 to 46% in 2020, indicating a need for farmer training and technical support in organic seed production.

A Conversation with Organic Seed Alliance (OSA)

OFRF recently chatted with Kiki Hubbard, Organic Seed Alliance Directory of Advocacy & Communications, about the OSA’s State of Organic Seed 2022 report. This report was released concurrently with OFRF’s 2022 National Organic Research Agenda.

Watch the Video Online

Key Findings in the State of Organic Seed 2022 Report

  • Producers report variety unavailability as their top reason for not sourcing organic seed.
  • Furthermore, certifiers have a hard time identifying what might be substituted as an equivalent variety per the organic seed regulation.
  • Download the OSA’s Data Brief for Organic Producers

Cited Resources in the Video

By |2022-08-10T16:35:13+00:00July 15th, 2022|News|

OFRF Awards Two More 2021/22 Organic Research Grants Focused on Pulse Crops, Companion Planting

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), in partnership with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture (FFAR), is pleased to announce two more 2021-22 Organic Research grants, awarded to Travis Parker and Christiana Huss. Parker’s research will increase the productivity and market value of pulse crops for arid conditions. Huss will examine companion plantings for organic management of a new invasive Brassica pest. These awards are the third and fourth projects of six in OFRF’s current 2021-22 organic research grant cycle.

  • Travis Parker, with lead institution University of California, Davis, will focus their research on pulse crops, such as cowpea and tepary bean, which show exceptional resistance to heat, drought, and low soil fertility and make them particularly valuable under the context of climate change. This project will evaluate high market value varieties of common beans, cowpeas and tepary beans in arid organic systems, and conduct advanced genetic analyses for development of new high value varieties.
  • Christiana Huss, with lead institution University of Georgia, will focus their research on identifying companion plants that  can mitigate the recent attack of the invasive yellow-margined leaf beetle (Microtheca ochroloma) on leafy brassica greens across the Southeastern United States. This project will evaluate a very innovative landscape ecology approach that involves a combination of repellant intercrops and attractant companion plants in a “push-pull” design for bio-control of the pest.

OFRF’s grant program funds research on organic production systems and the dissemination of these research results to organic farmers and agricultural research communities. The 2021/22 grant cycle prioritized early career researchers and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) applicants, and awarded on-farm projects focused on climate mitigation and resilience. OFRF recently announced 2021/22 grantees focused on coffee leaf rust disease in organic production systems and climate mitigation for coffee producers.

As a result of OFRF’s research, education, and outreach efforts, thousands of farmers have received pertinent research and training information. Results from all OFRF-funded projects are available to access for free in an online database.

Thank you to FFAR and our research partners for making the 2021/22 organic research grant program possible.

OFRF Research Grant Partners

 

By |2022-07-13T16:09:56+00:00July 13th, 2022|News|

Sharing the Legacy of Eoin King

Eoin Jun King in the GardenWhen Eoin was 19, he said to his father that working in the tech industry where he’d been interning every high school summer, “wasn’t for him.” Instead, he wanted to focus on his true love while at Chico State University, enrolling in environmental science classes and growing organic vegetables in the backyard of his college rental. 

Tragically, Eoin Jun King died in a car accident February 2022 at the age of 31, leaving behind his mother and father, Miyuki and Niall, and younger brother, Fionn. While the team at OFRF never knew Eoin, he made a decision some years ago that intertwined his life with our work: he chose to bequest his IRA contributions from a past employer, Vital Garden Supply in Nevada City, CA, to support OFRF’s mission of improving and expanding organic farming systems, a sentiment that was very close to his heart. 

Eoin Jun King, as a baby, in the GardenEoin’s passion for organic began when he was a child growing up in Saratoga, CA where his mom introduced him to growing vegetables and fruits organically. Miyuki was raised in Japan, and every summer until college Eoin would go to Japan and see the family farm. He spent hours outside in the garden with his Mom, and grandparents, and Eoin quickly picked up on her adoration of nature. During college, along with his backyard veggie garden, he would bike to farmers markets, collect produce, and cook local foods for other students to try, calling it “Bike Kitchen.” His first job after college was at Chico Natural Foods Coop.

More recently, Eoin bought a property near Grass Valley, CA. A self-taught and gifted carpenter, Eoin began to build a large 8-ft fence around what would become an organic vegetable garden. Sadly, he hadn’t finished the fence or started the garden by the time of his death. Now his father is spending time at the house, learning about Eoin’s life in the Sierra foothills and maintaining the property. 

Eoin’s full name – Eoin Jun King – is a combination of his Irish and Japanese heritage and means “​​A Gracious Honest King.” And he lived up to his name. Eoin made connections with people from all walks of life and often supported friends in need. On trips to Japan with his family, Eoin seamlessly started conversations in fluent Japanese, taking full advantage of every day. His dad told us, “He put 90 years of life into 31. How many people go through life and do what they want to do?” Niall and Miyuki are proud that Eoin did.

We know these topics are not easy, yet Eoin has left us with two extremely special gifts – his story and his financial support to continue doing the work he cared so much about. We hope as you plan for your future, you consider giving to organizations and communities that you love, be it OFRF or others. Learn more about planned giving or email Haley Baron, OFRF Partnership & Development Director (haley@ofrf.org), for more information.

By |2022-07-12T22:50:13+00:00July 12th, 2022|News|

Climate Impacts on a Small Scale Farm

2022 National Organic Research Agenda CoverThe Organic Farming Research Foundation 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) is a report informed by surveys and focus groups conducted in 2020 with over 1,100 certified organic farmers and ranchers across North America.

What Farmers Said

  • In the NORA report, nearly 80% of transitioning growers cited “greater resilience to climate change through organic practices” as a motivating factor to certify organic.
  • “Adapting to climate change” ranked in the top 10 production challenges faced by organic farmers.

A Personal Perspective
by Caroline Baptist, OFRF Communications Manager and Owner/Farmer of River Valley Country Club

My farm is nestled in Washington state’s Snoqualmie Valley, an idyllic area just outside of the Seattle metro area held on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people. Since 2017, I have raised sheep, heritage poultry, and organically grown row crop vegetables on five acres ( approximately three in current production). The farm is surrounded by three bodies of water: a natural slough, Patterson Creek, and the Snoqualmie River. The latter, which spans 45 miles through King and Snohomish counties, is prone to flooding which causes significant property and economic losses to local farms.

Farming on a floodplain and a floodway can be a challenge and changes in climate over the years has only exacerbated this issue. The property owner from whom I lease land from remembers experiencing 1-2 major floods a year when he first began farming in the area in 1993. More recently, we’ve seen these numbers double and triple — some years more frequently and across longer stretches of the winter and spring seasons.

A surprise flash flood hit in October 2019 crested at 58 feet, putting my farm and neighboring lands underwater. “Catastrophic floods, arriving earlier in the season, close local roads and destroy any crops remaining in the fields,” the Snoqualmie Valley Preservation Alliance said in a statement. Local farms suffered crop and economic loss during what’s considered peak pumpkin patch season.

Having been “flooded in” by myself for the first time (as local access roads were closed), I waded through 4-5 feet of water to carry my neighbor’s pigs and our farm dogs to a farm pad. Some areas of the farm were under water by 15 feet and accessible only by canoe. The financial sting of losing cabbage, beet, and kale crops that I could no longer sell was superseded by the emotional grief of losing pastured animals whom I could not bring to higher ground quickly enough. This flood and every flood since is a sobering experience, illustrates clearly that the climate crisis is real, and it affects farmers firsthand.

Five more floods in a 7-week period hit this area from December 2019 to February 2020.

Conversely, the Snoqualmie Valley has experienced rising temperatures, a trend seen across the state, country and globe. According to NOAA, 2021 was the world’s 6th warmest year on record. A Pacific Northwest heat wave in June 2021 lasted three days with temps above 90 degrees, an unusually high number during a month that locals characterize as “June Gloom.” I lost over 1,000 cabbage plants that month, though fellow farmers market vendors suffered even greater losses.

Building strong healthy soil is crucial to avoid soil erosion that’s often caused by flooding. 

Though these changes in climate are downright devastating to the well-being of my farm, the health of my flocks, and my vegetable yields, there are strategies I try to implement to protect the land and animals I am honored to steward.

  • Riparian buffer zones allow river waters jump the banks with less intensity, reducing flood peaks and erosion rates.
  • Cover cropping helps with soil water infiltration, helps dry out flooded soil, and promotes the growth of microorganisms that can manage nutrient cycling.
  • Rotationally grazing flocks across paddocks throughout the year to avoid soil compaction and helps manage animal waste that would otherwise be concentrated in one area.
  • Soil testing is conducted once soil ground is dry to determine what organic nutrient amendments might be appropriate for the coming production season.

Additionally, information-sharing amongst fellow farmers is crucial during extreme weather changes. A handy app for the Snoqualmie Valley that was created by and for residents and farmers in the area has proven invaluable during flood season.

By |2022-08-10T03:09:30+00:00July 10th, 2022|News|

Soil Health in the South

2022 National Organic Research Agenda CoverThe Organic Farming Research Foundation 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) is a report informed by surveys and focus groups conducted in 2020 with over 1,100 certified organic farmers and ranchers across North America.

What Farmers Said

  • In the NORA report, U.S. Southern farmers tended to use cover crops more often compared to other regions (60%).
  • This may reflect the greater need for cover crops in the rotation to replenish soil organic matter (SOM) and nitrogen (N) in Southern region soils, which tend to lose SOM rapidly and have lower inherent fertility than soils in cooler parts of the U.S. (Duncan, 2017).

A Snapshot of the Southern Region
Compared to other regions, NORA respondents from the South were considerably more likely to report many production challenges as substantial. For example, Southern region producers face intense weed, insect pests, and disease pressures, and organic producers incur substantial costs in managing these challenges. Additionally, many organic farmers surveyed from the South were challenged with:

  • Managing soil fertility and crop nutrition (44%).
  • Optimizing soil structure and avoid erosion (38%).
  • Minimizing adverse impacts of tillage on soil health (37%).

Addressing Soil Health in the South

Although there is no specific formula for building healthy soils organically in the South, experienced farmers can take a site-specific approach to building soil health, combining ingenuity with years of observation and trial-and-error to develop unique soil strategies for their operation (Schonbeck and Snyder, 2021).

  • Maintain living roots
  • Maximize crop diversity
  • Minimize soil disturbance
  • Energize the system with biodiversity

Applying Crop Varieties

Crops such as crimson clover, winter pea, arrowleaf clover, and ball clover are appropriate cool season legumes for Southern soils. Cowpeas, lablab beans, lespedeza, and soybeans can be planted to build soil health in warmer season.

For more NORA findings and recommendations to build soil health in this unique U.S. region, download OFRF’s Soil Health in South Infographic and the Building Healthy Living Soils for Successful Organic farming in the Southern Region.

By |2022-08-09T23:39:38+00:00July 9th, 2022|News|
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