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:

https://www.opinion.wsu.edu/organicproduction/

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

https://www.opinion.wsu.edu/transitionproducers/

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 lauren.n.scott@wsu.edu 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|

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 ofrf.org. 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: https://pingree.house.gov/netzeroagriculture/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

National Organic Producer Survey Opens Today

February 18, 2020 – The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) have released two national organic surveys—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.

OFRF, OSA, and a broad coalition of organic champions were instrumental in securing an increase in federal funding for organic research from $20M to $50M in the 2018 Farm Bill. This increase provides an unprecedented opportunity for researchers to tackle the challenges that inhibit the growth of organic production—strong farmer participation in these surveys is critical to informing that investment.

Survey results will be published in updated versions of OFRF’s National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) report and OSA’s State of Organic Seed (SOS) report, both of which have been invaluable resources for ensuring research funding is relevant and responsive to the needs of organic producers, while also identifying gaps where additional investment is necessary. By collaborating on these surveys, OFRF and OSA hope to reduce survey fatigue and increase grower participation.

“OFRF is committed to advancing the research needed to meet the current challenges of organic farming, with the goal of creating a more resilient and ecologically sustainable agricultural system,” said OFRF’s Executive Director, Brise Tencer.

“Understanding the research needs of organic farmers, including in the area of seed and plant breeding, is critical to the ongoing growth and success of organic agriculture,” Hubbard adds.

If you are a certified organic farmer/rancher, please respond to this survey:

www.opinion.wsu.edu/organicproduction

If you are a farmer/rancher transitioning to certified organic production (this means no land currently certified organic), please take this transitioning producer survey:

www.opinion.wsu.edu/transitionproducers

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 lauren.n.scott@wsu.edu or 1-800-833-0867.

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 |2020-03-10T17:43:13+00:00February 19th, 2020|News|

OFRF Hosts Packed Workshops at EcoFarm

Haley Baron and Kelsey Grimsley at OFRF table at EcoFarm

Haley Baron and Kelsey Grimsley at OFRF table at EcoFarm

February 5, 2020 – It was an extra special EcoFarm Conference this year because OFRF had four of our team members attending and participating. We coordinated two workshops at EcoFarm and had a booth in the trade show for the first time ever. It was also a chance to see many old friends, farmers, partner organizations, and board alumni. 

Being at EcoFarm was a further reminder that farmers, agriculture service providers, and more crave information not only about organic farming but also how to make their voices heard. We had 40 people attend the workshop on “Farmer Inspired Research,” during which OFRF shared how our newly funded research projects address grower needs. We also gave a sneak peek at our 2020 national survey of organic farmers (launching soon!) and how it will inform our next National Organic Research Agenda.

We had over 80 people at our “Setting Beginning Organic Farmers up For Success” workshop. Attendees were eager to squeeze in as many questions as possible with our speakers who focused on the guiding principles behind building healthy soils, and the strategy and record-keeping necessary to successfully crop plan and bring products to market. 

At the Legislator Town Hall Friday evening, OFRF’s Executive Director, Brise Tencer, introduced California Congressman Jimmy Panetta and Karen Ross, the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Conversation topics ran the gamut from climate change to how citizens can stay involved in agriculture policy.

And when we weren’t meeting new and old friends or moderating our sessions, we caught a few stunning sunsets over at Asilomar State Beach. 

 

 

 

By |2020-02-05T23:57:43+00:00February 5th, 2020|News|

Researchers and Farmers Come Together at 2020 OARF

poster sessionJanuary 31, 2020 – Holding this year’s Organic Agriculture Research Forum in Little Rock provided an opportunity for researchers and farmers to focus on challenges associated with organic farming in the Southern region. The forum was presented jointly by OFRF and Tuskegee University in partnership with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG).

Dr. Lauren Snyder, Education and Research Program manager for OFRF welcomed participants to the day-long event before handing it over to Professor Kokoasse Kpomblekou-A from Tuskegee University for an update on organic farming research in the Southeast.

Throughout the course of the day, 16 researchers presented on topics exploring the importance of soil health in building resiliency, breeding crops for organic production, and the attributes and nutritional value of organically grown produce. Safiullah Pathan, an Assistant Professor at Lincoln University in Missouri, wowed the crowd with his presentation on nutrient-rich leafy green quinoa and its potential for organic farming.

After the presentations, attendees broke into groups to identify and prioritize the research, education, and policies needed to address challenges in organic farming systems, particularly in the face of a changing climate. Topics included seed and plant breeding, soil health, and weed and pest issues, among others. Each group then shared their priorities.

As soon as the forum was over, it was time for a joint Poster Session with presenters from the forum and SSAWG.

Presentations from the forum will be available on e-organic in the next week. You can download the agenda here.

scholarship participants

Fifteen researchers and farmers received scholarships to attend the event thanks to Ceres Trust.

OARF was supported by the Organic Agriculture and Extension Initiative (OREI) grant no. 2019-51300-30250 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

 

 

 

By |2020-02-12T16:44:21+00:00January 30th, 2020|News|

OFRF Leads Organic Soil Heath Workshop at TOFGA

L-R: Diana Jerkins, Scott Snodgrass, Justin Duncan, Tommy Garcia-Prats

January 28, 2020 – OFRF was a sponsor of the Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners ( TOFGA) annual conference held in Temple, Texas conference from January 16-18. OFRF and TOFGA and OFRF jointly held a panel workshop on soil health, as well as a farmer listening session. Diana Jerkins, OFRF Senior Scientist, led both sessions with 60 participants for the workshop and over 40 for the listening session. Dr. Jerkins is a co-author of OFRF’s educational series on Soil Health and Organic Farming, which includes nine guidebooks and webinars, all of which are available to download/view for free.

TOFGA is a statewide non-profit organization focused on education and advocacy for Texas farmers, ranchers, and gardeners who practice organic and sustainable methods. Attendees came from across Texas for three days of in-depth workshops and learning sessions, plus multiple off-site intensives and farm tours.

Dr. Jerkins provided information on OFRF research and educational projects addressing soil health and moderated a panel on small- and large-scale farmer solutions to improving soil health with examples from research and on-farm sites. Tommy Garcia-Prats, founder and general manager of Small Places LLC of the Finca Tres Robles, an urban farm in downtown Houston discussed integrating soil health-building practices such as making and applying mulch and compost on vegetables, fruit, and herbs. Tommy is “always looking to expand his edges and those of his community through agriculture.” Scott Snodgrass, a fourth-generation Texan and founding partner of The Edible Group, spoke on larger scale production systems, including regenerative practices for vegetable production at scale. Justin Duncan, a researcher and Sustainable Agriculture Specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology, gave an overview on the use and selection of cover crops for soil improvement. Attendees especially liked the real farm examples, like building compost and adding biomass to the soil, and the use of specific cover crops for Texas conditions.

The listening session provided an opportunity for organic farmers and ranchers to discuss their production concerns, successes, and priorities for future research investments. Participants expressed concerns over the future of “small” farms and the preservation of farmland due to aging farmer populations and fewer new farmers entering the field. Participants expressed a desire for more funding for organic research, both federal and community grants, with a focus on regionally specific information. Other topics included cover crops; starting winter crops in greenhouses; tools for tracking soil carbon to a create carbon-farm plan; appropriate soil testing for organic production; use of seasonal IPM bug calendars; resource information for current research; on-farm research as “centers for university research;” urban community assessments related to agriculture use; how to connect farmers with researchers; physical and mental impacts of farmworkers; building, training, and maintaining labor force; policy and legislative issues – soil health, water catchment, suburban growth impact on farmland; planning/development land use.

Dr. Jerkins’ presentation is available to view here.

All of OFRF’s research results and educational resources are available to download for free.

Learn more about OFRF’s National Organic Survey here.

 

 

By |2020-03-13T19:49:13+00:00January 9th, 2020|News|

OFRF Researcher Reports on Grant to Study Biosolarization

January 7, 2020 – Soil solarization is an organic method that has been shown to control weeds, pathogens, and nematodes in areas with hot summer temperatures. Biosolarization, a relatively new technique, combines the use of soil solarization and organic soil amendments to enhance the results of solarization. While biosolarization has proven effective in a number of studies, its efficacy varies across study regions, cropping systems, and pathogen communities. In 2018, OFRF provided a grant to Dr. Ashraf Tubeileh at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo to study the effect of biosolarization and cover crops on weeds and soil-borne pathogens.

Results from this research demonstrated that solarization effectively reduced weed biomass; it also reduced Verticillium dahliae (a fungal plant pathogen) populations by 80.7%, reduced crop mortality by 54.9%, and roughly tripled yields compared to non-solarized fields. Cover cropped plots tended to perform better than non-cover cropped plots, with cover crop mulch providing the best weed control and healthiest strawberries.

The study concluded that there is potential for success using biosolarization in organic strawberry production on the central coast of California, although this method may provide better results with crops that have growing seasons that are less than three months.

A detailed account of the project is available to read here.

Dr. Tubeileh’s work is also featured in OFRF’s free online training program for organic specialty crop farmers in California. This open educational resource is a joint effort between OFRF, the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM170100XXXXG011.

Designed especially for beginning farmers and farmers transitioning to organic production, this self-paced program combines descriptive essays, video lectures from university faculty, and virtual field trips to demonstrate organic principles and practices.

View/take the first learning module on Organic Soil Health Management.

 

 

By |2020-01-31T20:04:47+00:00January 7th, 2020|News|
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