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Why a High School Student Loves Organic Farming

It’s not every day that you meet a high school student from Texas who is as passionate about organic farming as Andrew James. We had the privilege to talk with Andrew recently about why he cares so deeply about growing food in a way that supports a resilient food system and why he believes research is a critical part of the puzzle. 

Andrew’s story may be unique because of his age, but his message is universal. We ALL need to be part of building solutions that foster healthy ecosystems and people. With your support, we can greatly increase our impact and provide the necessary resources to help folks like Andrew be even more successful in their pursuits.

Read his story below.


For me, it all started with a peach.

Five years ago, my dad, with good intentions, planted two peach trees and two pear trees in the hard clay soil of our backyard in a town north of Dallas, Texas. He did not do anything to care for them besides a little mulch. He also did not fertilize or apply herbicides; in a way, he planted them and let nature take over. They struggled. But they survived. 

Two years later, one of the peach trees grew a few fruits. They were not pretty, but it was the most delicious fruit I have ever tasted. As I savored the fruit, I looked at the one-foot-wide strip of dead Earth inside our fence line where the concoction of synthetic fertilizers and herbicides applied by our neighbor spilled into our yard. The stark contrast of our yards helped me realize that their search of a green Bermuda lawn from May until September comes at a heavy cost.

Non-organic farming and agriculture is the epitome of short sightedness. Short term monoculture must be propped up by unnatural and harmful means. Nature does the hard work. Nature performs the most complex and interwoven magic on the land. We just need to provide the ingredients and conditions to allow her to do so.

After that revelatory moment, I studied soil health and microbes, polyculture, organic farming, and permaculture designs. I designed and implemented my own experiments at the one-third acre of land in our backyard. Over the past three years, our backyard has become a year-long green haven of diversity. Our once clay soil now supports a polyculture of clover, vetch, daikon, and buckwheat understory. Over seventy-five fruit trees and nitrogen fixing bushes provide ample flower opportunities for the local bees. In a word, in just three years, we have dramatically increased the tilth of the land by providing the right ingredients to nature. We did not always get it right, but we learned with each step.

This activity inspired my friends at my public school as well. Last year, our teachers and administrators were so interested that they donated 1 acre of school land for use in our polyculture organic orchard. We have several faculty advisors involved in the project as well.

I love how OFRF supports people like me. Organic farming does not mean we let nature take over and do everything. To me, it means working with and understanding the land, its plants, microbial life, and animals for solutions to help nature work even better. We do this most effectively when we make informed decisions and perform research. The result is sustainable agriculture that is full of nutrients and taste and devoid of chemicals that harm our bodies and environment. It is a way of life that fosters rather than destroys the delicate balance of life on our planet.

As a high school Junior, I am excited to attend a University that offers an agricultural program so that I can learn even more about the complexities of organic agriculture. After all, life on our precious planet depends on a sustainable and wholesome interaction. 

Andrew James, 17 years old
Dallas, Texas 

By |2021-06-14T20:07:44+00:00May 24th, 2021|News|

FFAR and OFRF Renew Partnership to Improve Soil Health Research

NEWS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact(s): Brise Tencer, 831.426.6606, brise@ofrf.org
Colleen Klemczewski, 574.386.0658, cklemczewski@foundationfar.org

 

SANTA CRUZ (May 19, 2021) – The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) are thrilled to announce the continuation of their partnership to fund on-farm research advancing the climate benefits of organic agriculture systems. Priorities will focus specifically on the potential of organic agriculture to sequester carbon, mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reduce the environmental impacts of fertilizers and pesticides, and build resilience to a changing climate. Following an initial collaboration in 2019, this partnership has been renewed with a $66,000 grant from FFAR to support OFRF’s 2021/2022 organic research grant cycle. OFRF is providing matching funds to ensure a total investment of at least $120,000 this grant cycle.

The partnership between OFRF and FFAR has been instrumental in providing research that enables organic producers, and others wishing to farm more sustainably, to implement practices that optimize management of nutrient, weed, pest and disease while improving soil health. Five of the thirteen research grants OFRF funded in the 2019/2020 grant cycle focused on soil health and were a direct result of the previous FFAR grant.

“Organic systems that emphasize soil health help farmers and ranchers increase resilience to the impacts of climate change,” said OFRF’s Executive Director Brise Tencer. “There is also extensive research demonstrating the potential of organic systems to reduce agriculture’s contribution to climate change. FFAR’s ongoing investment in farmer/researcher collaborations will support science-based solutions addressing the most pressing challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers today.”

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with OFRF to fund research that can improve soil health, mitigate the effects of climate change, and support thriving farms,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “Soil is the foundation for a productive agricultural system. Investing in cutting-edge research and technologies today with partners such as OFRF will ensure the soil health is optimal for generating nutritious food for the future.”

OFRF’s grants program is open to all applicants in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Proposals must involve farmers or ranchers in project design, and implementation must take place on certified organic land. All research projects require strong education and outreach components and must lead to measurable outcomes. OFRF will request Letters of Intent (LOIs) for its 2021 grant cycle this summer. Interested parties are encouraged to sign up for OFRF’s newsletter to be notified when the request for LOIs will be released.

To date, OFRF has invested over $3 million in 355 grants across North America. OFRF grant funding has advanced scientific knowledge and improved the ecological sustainability and economic prosperity of organic farming systems. OFRF’s research, education, and outreach efforts have provided thousands of farmers with pertinent, free information and training.

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Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

Organic Farming Research Foundation

The 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. Project results are shared freely at ofrf.org. OFRF also provides free access to all of its educational materials and resources.

Connect: @OFRF

 

 

By |2021-06-14T20:10:38+00:00May 18th, 2021|News, Press Release|

The Agriculture Resilience Act – Good for the Climate, Good for Organic

By Ferd Hoefner, OFRF’s policy advisor

By improving soil health and increasing soil organic matter, farmers and ranchers draw down atmospheric carbon levels while simultaneously making their farms more resilient to climatic and other future shocks. Farmers and scientists throughout the world recognize agriculture as a critical partner in mobilizing around climate change, and organic agriculture, with its central focus on improving the soil, can help lead the way! 

That is the premise of a bill recently re-introduced in Congress to serve as a blueprint for the needed policy changes to help U.S. agriculture reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. The Organic Farming Research Foundation was one of scores of groups endorsing the introduction of the Agriculture Resilience Act of 2021 (ARA) when the bill was introduced in April by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), herself an organic farmer, and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM).  

The House bill (H.R. 2803) currently has 20 sponsors, including Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), the chair of the Conservation Subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee, while the Senate bill (S. 1337) currently has 4 sponsors, including former presidential primary contenders Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

OFRF not only contributed to the ARA, but also recently submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture making recommendations for steps the Administration can and should also take on its own, without requiring further action from Congress. These efforts will assist farmers and ranchers to meet the challenge represented by climate change, focusing on the policy needs of organic farmers.

The ARA

The ARA is a farmer-focused, research-driven path to net zero agriculture. The legislation establishes ambitious yet achievable goals for the agriculture sector to reach net zero by 2040. The bill improves and expands upon many existing programs while creating a few new grant programs to support its six programmatic building blocks: 

  • Increasing investments in agricultural research
  • Improving soil health
  • Supporting the transition to pasture-based livestock
  • Ensuring farmland preservation and viability
  • Promoting on-farm renewable energy 
  • Reducing food waste

Congress will soon be considering and voting on a massive infrastructure, climate, and jobs bill based on the American Jobs Plan proposed by President Biden. The ARA sponsors are proposing that key elements from their bill form the backbone of the agricultural portion of the several trillion-dollar bill that will cover energy, transportation, housing, agriculture and other climate-related sectors of the government and economy.

OFRF readers and supporters can help push for a central role for agriculture, including organics, in the upcoming debate over the infrastructure and climate package by encouraging their Senators and their Member of Congress to become an ARA co-sponsor. The more co-sponsors, the more attention the bill will receive as Congress begins to act on the President’s proposal!

Organic-specific Parts of ARA

The ARA includes several organic-specific provisions, such as an expanded Organic Initiative within the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and a retooling of the Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, as well as a wide variety of programs and initiatives that will aid organic farmers. Here is a partial rundown.

Farm Conservation Expansion – The bill would create new conservation initiatives, such as a block grant program to aid state soil health programs and a long-term working grasslands/managed grazing program within the Conservation Reserve Program. It would also greatly increase funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.  

Within CSP, it would build on the organic farming provisions added by the 2018 farm bill by requiring payments for conservation enhancements specific to organic farming and organic transition. Within EQIP, it would eliminate the lower payment cap currently in place for organic farms versus conventional operations. It would also double the funding available for on-farm soil health trials and demonstrations.  

Across all conservation programs, it would increase funding for conservation technical assistance, increase set-asides for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and mandate a review of payment schedules to accelerate progress on reaching net zero goals by 2040.

Organic Certification Cost Share – The ARA proposes to lift the maximum cost-share amount per scope from $750 to $1,000 a year. It would also make the program an entitlement, meaning that the program would meet 100 percent of demand each year, rather than being capped by a specific dollar amount. The current cap forced USDA last year to reduce maximum payments to $500 per scope due to farmer demand outstripping available funding.

Pastured Livestock and Poultry – The legislation encourages sustainable, grazing based livestock production through designated funding for grazing land management, a new animal raising claims regime at USDA, to establish strong enforceable standards. It would also establish a small processor grant program to enable the growth of small and very small slaughter and processing facilities to better service organic, grassfed, pasture-raised and other alternative agricultural farming and ranching operations. 

Agricultural Research – In addition to the specific organic research programs at USDA, a variety of other programs also help service the organic sector. The ARA would provide a major boost in funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), enabling SARE to begin an agriculture and food system resilience grant program. It would also provide a major boost to the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Long-term Agroecological Research (LTAR) Network, which currently includes long-term comparative organic farming trials, trials that could then be expanded to all regions of the country. The bill would also require both NIFA and ARS to fund at least $50 million worth of public breeding research each year, with a focus on delivery of resource-efficient, stress-tolerant, regionally adapted livestock breeds and crop cultivars, including organic varieties, that help build resilience to climate change and support carbon sequestration.

Those are just a few of the advances included in the ARA. For more information, see Rep. Pingree’s net zero agriculture website and this section by section summary of the bill. To see what you can do to help, visit this action page by our partners, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).

By |2021-06-14T20:10:57+00:00May 10th, 2021|News|

OFRF Co-sponsors NOC’s Pre NOSB Meeting

May 7, 2021—On April 15, OFRF co-sponsored the National Organic Coalition’s (NOC) Pre National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Spring meeting. This half day event gathered over 200 organic advocates, farmers, researchers, and brands to discuss some of the most pressing issues in organic agriculture. The event was held virtually, allowing people from across the country to attend and participate. 

OFRF hosted Breakout Session A: Can Organic Farming Help Solve the Climate Crisis? where our renowned Research Program Associate, Mark Schonbeck and OFRF’s new Education and Research Manager, Thelma Velez, discussed the ways science demonstrates that organic farming systems can help sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and build resilience to future inclement weather events. 

Along with breakout groups on a wide variety of topics, the event included detailed federal policy updates from NOC’s Steve Etka. He discussed organic cost-share, NOP rules that need to be finalized, racial equity, and potential ways that carbon markets can be used as greenwashing. We also heard from Christie Badger about the topics to be discussed at the NOSB’s meeting (held April 28-30). The event closed with a farmer panel discussion.  

If you couldn’t make it to the meeting, you can find the recording, presentation slides, and notes for all of the breakout groups, including OFRF’s in this link.

By |2021-06-14T20:11:03+00:00May 7th, 2021|News|

Investing in the future, together

Friends,

You have likely observed the disastrous effects of climate change around you: irregular rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, disappearance of pollinators and native plant habitats, coupled with appearance of invasive species, pests and diseases. That is why in 2005, I decided to devote a significant part of my research portfolio to organic farming. We have a moral obligation and responsibility to play a role, no matter how small, in addressing the ways climate change threatens our everyday life. 

Will you join me in supporting organic farming systems by donating to OFRF? Plus, you can double your impact as your donation will be matched dollar for dollar for the next month. 

I committed myself to investing in organic and the future of agriculture to fight climate change for future generations, train the next cohorts of researchers and farmers in organic farming practices, and invest in science that will help support sustainable food systems. The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) works to ensure all farmers have the research they need and that is why I have chosen to support OFRF by serving as a board member.

As an educator, scientist, and researcher at Tuskegee University, I have dedicated my career to training students, researchers, and farmers in organic farming systems. Through my efforts and those of millions of scientists in the world, we conduct research to discover new ways to reduce or eliminate the effects of climate change. By adopting agricultural practices that sequester carbon into soil, we can lower greenhouse gas emissions.

I hope you will invest in future generations and support OFRF

Your support is crucial in addressing the climate crisis and we cannot do it alone. Your donation will have a major impact on improving production practices and supporting farmers with research, education, and advocacy. Please consider donating to OFRF to meet the challenge of our time. 

With warm regards,

Kokoasse Kpomblekou-A, PhD
Research Professor of Plant and Soil Science
Department of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (DAES)
Tuskegee University

(Photos: Berson J. Valcin, one of Kokoasse’s student’s, takes a selfie with other students and Kokoasse while conducting field research; Kokoasse and colleagues in a sweet potato field)

By |2021-06-03T21:52:13+00:00April 22nd, 2021|News|

Program Coordinator

Program Coordinator
Organic Farming Research Foundation

ORGANIZATIONAL BACKGROUND

The mission of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is to foster the improvement
and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF envisions a future where organic
farming is the leading form of agriculture. Since our founding in 1990, OFRF has sponsored
organic farming research, education, and outreach to support organic and transitioning farmers
across North America. This work is complemented by efforts to share our findings with policy
makers, agricultural institutions, and federal agencies to support broader change and advance the
organic sector.

POSITION OVERVIEW

The OFRF Program Coordinator is a full-time, benefited, non-exempt position based out of our
Santa Cruz, CA office. The Program Coordinator reports to the Education & Research Program
Manager.

ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Administer OFRF’s research grant making program, including outreach, grant
    application processing, and facilitating and compiling the Board’s review and
    scoring of proposals.
  • Assess and track the impact of OFRF research projects by maintaining and strengthening
    relationships with OFRF-funded researchers, past and present. Maintain a searchable
    tracking system of past and present OFRF-funded projects in our online database.
  • Support implementation of a variety of research and educational projects, such as
    building collaborations and engagement with external partners, assisting with
    curriculum development, doing online research, organizing datasets, scheduling
    meetings and conference calls, etc.
  • Perform outreach to disseminate the results of OFRF-funded research and increase
    awareness of best organic practices, including writing blogs and creating
    promotional materials.
  • Create communication and outreach materials to promote the use of our research and
    education materials, and increase attendance at OFRF events.
  • Organize and coordinate research and education events, such as our annual research
    forum, including managing calls for abstracts, coordinating scholarship awards, and
    organizing materials and event logistics.
  • Represent OFRF at conferences and events, and support stakeholder outreach.
  • Other tasks, as assigned by your supervisor.

DESIRED SKILLS

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field
  • A minimum of two years of experience working in agriculture, community education and
    outreach, or a related field
  • Excellent organizational skills and the ability to adhere to strict deadlines
  • Proficiency with Mac and PC and common software applications and
    communication programs/platforms
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills (including visual
    presentations)
  • Excellent attention to detail and critical thinking skills
  • Ability to handle and track multiple fast-paced projects at a time
  • Ability to work and communicate professionally with a diverse group of
    individuals under strict timelines to accomplish goals
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Knowledge of organic agriculture principles and practices is a plus

COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS

OFRF offers a full range of benefits, and a great work environment. We look for co-workers
who can have fun while working as hard as we do for a cause we love. Compensation fort the
Program Coordinator position starts at $21-24 per hour, depending on experience.

TO APPLY

Submit your complete packet with “Program Coordinator” in subject line via email to: jobs@ofrf.org

All qualified applicants should submit:

  • A cover letter stating your interest and qualifications.
  • A resume outlining your skills and experience.

Please visit www.ofrf.org to learn more about the Organic Farming Research Foundation.
Organic Farming Research Foundation is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

By |2020-01-31T19:12:50+00:00January 31st, 2020|Job Openings|

April Jones Thatcher

Founder and Farmer of April Joy Farm

April Jones Thatcher is founder and farmer of April Joy Farm, a first generation, diversified farm near Ridgefield, WA. Her WSDA 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. 

By |2020-01-17T22:47:10+00:00January 17th, 2020|Board|