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|

OFRF Provides Testimony to full House Ag Committee on the Role of Climate Research Supporting Ag Resiliency

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(JULY 6, 2022) – Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) Research & Education Program Manager Thelma Vélez, PhD, recently testified before the full House Agriculture Committee hearing on “The Role of Climate Research in Supporting Agricultural Resiliency.” As one of five panelists invited to share their expertise, Vélez summarized research findings that demonstrate the potential for organic systems to mitigate climate change and build resilience. Her testimony and extensive Q&A reflected Dr. Vélez’s 15+ years of interdisciplinary research experience and thorough recommendations for more investment in organic research, education, and extension to support American farmers and ranchers. The hearing took place on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 at 10:00 AM ET, and is publicly available for viewing on the House Ag Democrats YouTube channel.

“OFRF was honored by the invitation to speak before the full House Agriculture Committee,” said Brise Tencer, OFRF Executive Director. “We are proud to share our expertise based on many years of reviewing and tracking research related to organic farming and climate mitigation and adaptation.”

Vélez was the first to speak before the full House Agriculture Committee, roughly 20 minutes into the livestreamed hearing. “While the organic method has been shown to have great potential to contribute to both climate mitigation and climate resilience, much more action-oriented research is needed to make widespread adoption possible,” testified Vélez.

Throughout the three-hour meeting, Vélez responded to questions from House Representatives including Alma Adams, Shontel Brown, Bobby Rush, Chellie Pingree, Glenn Thompson, Rick Allen, Annie Kuster, Angie Craig, and Jim Baird.

“It was an honor to be invited to weigh in on a critical issue facing our nation and impacting the backbone of our food system,” said Vélez. “It is clear that many representatives are concerned with building resilience across America’s farms and the message that organic growers are leaders in this movement was well received.”

In her testimony, Vélez cited OFRF’s recently published 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA), a 230-page report compiling survey results and listening session data from over 1,000 certified organic producers. Over half of the farmers surveyed were concerned with adapting to climate change and nearly 90% stated they implemented regenerative soil health management practices, such as cover cropping, a climate-friendly practice.

When fielded a question from Rep. Kat Cammack, Vélez drew from experience with South Florida farmers who focused on carbon sequestration and soil fertility. In conversation with Rep. Stacey Plaskett, Vélez advocated for increased investment in climate research for U.S. Territories. Having researched and worked with farmers building resilience to a changing climate in the Caribbean, Vélez recommended a focus on farmer-led work and “researchers on the ground with farmers.”

OFRF has led organic farming and research initiatives since its inception in 1993 and has advocated for federal policy supporting integrated research, education, and outreach to farmers who build healthy resilient farming systems that withstand climate change and steward the land for future generations. “It is a testament to how OFRF serves as a reliable and consistent resource on the sound science behind organic farming systems,” said Tencer.

On June 24, 2022, OFRF submitted supplemental testimony to the House Committee on Agriculture. The organization recommends expanded support of key USDA research programs including the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE), in the next Farm Bill. Citing its 2022 NORA report, OFRF also advocates for investments in technical assistance, university extension, and farmer training.

The testimony also states that organic agriculture is a proven strategy to help build resilience in the face of supply chain disruptions and climate change. Organic agriculture maximizes the effective use and cycling of on-farm and regionally-sourced resources and minimizes reliance on industrially produced inputs. Organic farmers produce food every day without relying on synthetic fertilizer – supplies for which have been impacted by the war in Ukraine. OFRF supports actionable research that focuses on the wide adoption of organic systems of production and the climate resiliency services it offers.

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About Organic Farming Research Foundation
Organic Farming Research Foundation 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. http://www.ofrf.org/

Media Contact
Caroline Baptist, OFRF Communications Manager, caroline@ofrf.org

By |2022-07-06T17:55:49+00:00July 6th, 2022|News, Press Release|

OFRF and FFAR Announce On-Farm Organic Research Grant Addressing Climate Resilience for Coffee Producers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(June 29, 2022) – The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) are pleased to announce its second award for the 2021/22 OFRF organic research grant cycle. Alejandra Guzman Luna, affiliated with Universidad Veracruzana and in collaboration with the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative at the University of Vermont, was awarded $19,970 to evaluate organic farming practices for staple crops in Chiapas, Mexico.

Mexico’s highland region of Sierra Madre del Sur, known for its coffee production, has been severely impacted by the climate crisis. The local area experiences food insecurity and total profitability for smallholder coffee producers remains volatile. This project takes a participatory research and demonstration approach to develop and integrate organic staple crop production into more sustainable organic coffee agro-ecosystems.

“Diversity and mutual collaborations are always the best way to approach agriculture and research,” said Guzman Luna, principal investigator for the project. “I am thankful to OFRF for founding our Participatory Action Research designed and carried out with smallholder coffee producers to move staple crops into organic practices in the south of Mexico.”

The project will address the perceived lack of viable organic alternatives in growing staple crops such as corn and bean. The research team will conduct a participatory diagnosis of the challenges of growing staple crops organically; co-design and establish four experimental and educational plots; and systematize the results and widely disseminate them to local ag leaders and communities, other smallholder coffee cooperatives in the region, actors in the coffee value chain, scholars, and general public.

“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. “We are pleased to invest in farmer/researcher collaborations that support science-based solutions addressing the most pressing challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers today.”

This year’s program prioritized farmers, early career researchers and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) applicants. Six projects focused on climate mitigation and building on-farm resilience have been awarded a grand total of $119,817 in funding. The 2021/22 cycle was made possible by a $66,000 grant from FFAR and matching funds from OFRF and its research partners.

“FFAR is thrilled to support six organic research grants through this collaboration with the Organic Farming Research Foundation,” said Dr. LaKisha Odom, FFAR scientific program director. “These research grants are funding audacious soil management techniques that enhance crop productivity, improve environmental health and support increased farmer resiliency to severe weather events.”

To date, OFRF has invested over $3 million in 361 grants across North America to advance scientific knowledge and improve the ecological sustainability and economic prosperity of organic farming systems. All OFRF-funded research must involve farmers or ranchers in project design and implementation, take place on certified organic land, and include strong education and outreach components. All research results are freely available in OFRF’s online database.

(Photos: Traditional and organic milpa of Doña Amalia, a member of the coffee cooperative.)

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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.

https://foundationfar.org/


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.

http://ofrf.org

By |2022-06-29T23:01:44+00:00June 29th, 2022|News, Press Release|

Mendocino Wine Company

Mendocino Wine Company is located 125 miles north of San Francisco in Ukiah, where extremely hot temperatures and minimal rain make conservation techniques like cover cropping and efficient water management imperative.

Established in 1932, Parducci Wine Cellars is the longest running winery in Mendocino County.

The home estate has about 90 acres under vine. Just south lies La Ribera with about 150 acres under vine. Both properties were certified organic in 2007 by CCOF. While La Ribera has a portion that is still in transition, the vineyards will be fully certified in 2024.

The wines are sold through distributors in all 50 states and can be found in grocery stores and restaurants. They also sell direct from their website in states where it is legal to do so. Parducci is the largest brand. Paul Dolan is the 100 % organic brand. Moniker is the wine brand that will convert in 2024.

The winery is well integrated with the community and supports their employees with fresh produce and eggs from their 15-acre organic orchard/farm and several hundred chickens. Employees may farm up to two rows themselves. In addition to the tasting room, they invite visitors to come in and look at the property, especially their efficient gray water recycling system.

Soil health on the vineyard

Chase Thornhill, Owner and General Manager, oversees soil health on the farm—anything that’s not directly connected to the vine. While it’s a whole different ball game farming row crops versus grape vines, Chase says he’s learned a lot about soil health by talking to other farmers. “This movement relies on farmers sharing information and people paying attention to what farmers are doing across crops, across the world. That is where this gets exciting and it has inspired us to go as far as we can with it.”

Traditionally, they would cover crop with a plow down in every other row. Another vineyard on the property might be no-till, but they wouldn’t plant anything there. Whatever vegetation was there would be mowed. These tillage methods were combined with some use of compost.

Composting is difficult in a vineyard though says Chase because it requires very narrow equipment, lots of trips, labor hours, and diesel. That’s why he’s putting more of the focus on getting nutrients through cover cropping and no-till by cover cropping every row every year. “If we want to build up the organic material and carbon, and we know that tilling dramatically reduces both of those things very quickly, then we really need to be looking at eliminating it.”

This year, they used a no-till drill on both properties, on all rows, planting a 12 species annual cover crop mix of legumes, grasses, brassicas, and some broad leaf. They’ve also been experimenting with flax.

The property, which was formed by flood plains, extends a mile a and a half along the Russian River. Chase says it’s been interesting to see how the different cover crops have responded in each area. “You could go block by block and swear we planted different mixes. But it is the same mix, and it is all responding differently. Some areas might be just the legumes, some just the grasses and brassicas, and some everything—which is ideal. The fields are self-regulating to the plants that grow well and give them what they need.”

The goal is to keep growing their own nitrogen by adhering to the four soil health principles as stated by the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS): keep the ground covered, minimize disturbance, use plant diversity, and always have something green growing. Chase thinks vineyards offer a good opportunity for farmers to maximize the use of cover crops because so much of the infrastructure is already there and doesn’t move, and the vines grow at roughly the same time every year. “If we can use summer cover crops and grow 5,000 lbs/acre through the summer plus the 4-5,000 lbs. we grew through the winter, that’s where it starts to get really interesting.”

“The fun thing about a vineyard is that it’s a perennial deciduous crop. It’s only growing through this one period,” says Chase. “If we think about it like a relay race, the vines are going to hold the baton from bud break through leaf fall. Then, we can have the cover crop take that baton all the way through the winter and explode about a month or two before bud break. There is always going be this other part of the season where you can be maximizing the photosynthesis while the vines are dormant.”

The cover crop is typically terminated by mowing. “Occasionally, we have to apply some tillage but we try to minimize it,” explains Chase. “This year, we’re going to experiment with growing summer covers in the tractor row after we shape the field. A month after we mow the fall planted cover crop, we’ll do a light discing pass and go right back into a summer cover crop including sorghum sudangrass, safflower, sunflower, cow peas, and buckwheat.”

He doesn’t expect those crops to do much in the summer, except for the sorghum sudangrass, which is very water efficient. “We’ve had fields where the sorghum sudangrass has grown overhead with basically no water because these plants are so drought-tolerant. It’s going to add a lot more carbon to our fields.”

Like most farmers, Chase is thinking about disruptions related to climate change. “Evaporative demand has hit unprecedented levels, the highest ever recorded was last year. On the one hand we have this drought, so we don’t have enough precipitation. On the other hand, we’ve got this very high evaporative demand from wind, low humidity, and high temperatures.” In July, when it’s over 100 degrees and the afternoon winds pick up, he says it’s like standing in front of a hair dryer.

Planting a cover that can sustain the summer and keep the field green will lower the field temperature. “There’s a risk and concern that it is going to cause too much competition for the vines but I’m very hopeful that the benefit we will get from adding all that biomass to the field will outweigh the competition we experience.” And, while it remains to be seen whether it will reduce the need for water, Chase is expecting good results.

Chase says last year was a terrible year in general for the region, which made it a great year to be all in on the new practices because they weren’t any worse off than anybody else. “I’m really hopeful that as we move on, we’ll see the type of resilience that organic farmers see with other crops, so when we do have serious climatic events like we did last year, we won’t see massive yield reduction because we’ll have a more resilient system.”

Everything is on drip irrigation. Overheads are used in the vineyards only for frost protection. They have ponds on both properties for storing water from winter rains, using that water to run through the drip irrigation in the hot summer months. All gray water is processed onsite through a low-energy natural system that includes settling tanks, trickle towers, and man-made wetlands. Chase’s uncle, Tim Thornhill, designed the system more than a decade ago, describing it as a living green dialysis machine that cleans the water and puts it put into one of the irrigation ponds where it can be used the following season for drip irrigation.

They process 5,000-7,000 tons of grapes every year and all of the skins, seeds, and stems stay on the farm. “So, we’re carbon amending directly from the processing facilities into the vineyards. That material never leaves the property again except as wine.”

Support from NRCS & a Wish List

Participating in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) from NRCS provides support for cover cropping all rows every year. “There’s no question that the EQIP program, in providing financial assistance, is a huge help in getting over the hump of not doing these things. Plus, it got us committed to it.”

Chase adds that working with the local NRCS office is extremely easy. “Everyone has been super responsive and it has been a very easy program to get involved with. There are many other things I’d like to do with the property around conservation, so we’d like to participate in other programs as it makes sense.”

One example is composting. “Compost is wonderful if you have it and you have the ability to spread it. Having help from NRCS for composting, cover cropping and residue and tillage management is really helpful.”

Chase’s wish list as he works toward achieving the goal of soil health and being an organic system? “I’d like to see innovation in under vine vegetation control, something that’s faster and cheaper to move through the field, uses less diesel, and less labor. If we were going to be conventional, we would manage weeds and growth under the vines with glyphosate. What we are doing now works but it is much more expensive. To be an organic grower probably costs 20% more per acre than a conventional grape grower. A lot of that is from the ground cover management. It’s not even planting or moving the cover crop, it’s the under-vine growth.”

“The mowing equipment needs to be more like hay mowing equipment that’s compact enough to work in a vineyard. That equipment is designed to cut fast and it leaves the material more intact. Whereas, if you go through with a flail or rotary mover, you’re going to chop it all up and that material is going to start decomposing faster, volatizing the nitrogen faster. If it was more intact, we’d be able to achieve the lasting residue “soil armor” principle a little more effectively. You might say, why not just roller crimp? But it’s very difficult in a vineyard because you’re dealing with an area that’s not flat and is only five feet wide. There’s so much undulation to it that makes it really hard to terminate. Another challenge is that we’re trying to terminate before the reproduction stage.”

The alternative is to not have anything growing under the vine, but that’s where the irrigation is. Sub-surface irrigation in the vine row is would work because vine roots extend far enough to get that water. However, there are other challenges and Chase says they don’t yet have the right tools to make it work.

Lastly, Chase says some very simple documentation on how to use conservation techniques like cover cropping—in the context of a vineyard—would help folks understand how to convert to an organic system. “My experience level has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I haven’t been doing this long enough to make these decisions; on the other hand, I don’t know any better. We’ve done it the other way for so long and change requires a lot of knowledge and communication. Resources like Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) and NRCS have been very helpful.”

In closing, Chase says farming organically is important because it’s doing things the way nature does. “There’s so much opportunity for us to do harm to the soil ecosystem with what we add to it, so I feel the most comfortable adding just what nature would have added. I know that farming is inherently extractive and exploitive of the land and if we weren’t there the land would be healthier. So, if we are going to be there, I want to work to fit into that system in the least destructive way we can—and that is being organic and regenerative.”

BACK to Farmer Stories
By |2022-08-24T16:30:35+00:00June 29th, 2022|Farmer Stories, News|

OFRF’s Thelma Vélez to Speak to House Agriculture Committee on Agricultural Resiliency, Climate Research

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(June 14, 2022)Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) Research & Education Program Manager Thelma Vélez, PhD, will testify before the full House Agriculture Committee hearing on “The Role of Climate Research in Supporting Agricultural Resiliency.” Vélez was invited to share her expertise and will be summarizing research findings that demonstrate the potential for organic systems to mitigate climate change and build resilience. She will also recommend more investment in organic research, education, and extension to support American farmers and ranchers in implementing the best practices for climate mitigation and adaptation. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, June 15, 2022 at 10:00 AM ET, and will be live streamed on the House Ag Democrats YouTube channel.

Vélez has over 15 years of interdisciplinary agriculture and food systems research experience. She will speak on behalf of Organic Farming Research Foundation, a national nonprofit that works closely with researchers, organic farmers, and policy makers across the U.S. to understand the challenges farmers face, and to provide the research and education tools needed to help them thrive.

OFRF recently published its 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA), a 230-page report compiling survey results and listening session data from over 1,000 certified organic producers. Over half of these farmers were concerned with adapting to climate change and nearly 90% of NORA participants implemented regenerative soil health management such as cover cropping, a climate-friendly practice.

“Less than 1% of the USDA’s annual research budget is spent on organic production topics, which is not aligned with the organic sector’s continually growing market share of 6%,” says Vélez. “While the organic method has been shown to have great potential to contribute to both climate mitigation and climate resilience, much more action-oriented research is needed to make widespread adoption possible.”

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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.
http://ofrf.org

Media Contact
Caroline Baptist, OFRF Communications Manager, caroline@ofrf.org

By |2022-06-15T10:11:32+00:00June 14th, 2022|News, Press Release|

OFRF and FFAR Announce Research Grant on Organic Farming Approaches to Coffee Leaf Rust Disease

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(June 9, 2022) – The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) are pleased to announce its first award for the 2021/22 OFRF organic research grant cycle. Colehour Bondera of Kanalani Ohana Farm was awarded $19,900 to research organic farming systems options for controlling Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR) on five organic farms in Kona, Hawaii.

This farmer-led research project takes a whole-systems approach to evaluate plant health-based options for managing coffee leaf rust (CLR), a potentially devastating disease for all coffee growers but especially organic farmers. Long-term organic growers have seen limited efforts in the state to explore or disseminate information about organic approaches to dealing with this new coffee disease.

“Funding from this OFRF grant provides an opportunity to help working farmers address the arrival of a new pest via farmer-directed research,” says Bondera. “By seeking community involvement and buy-in, this project supports the work of five participating organic farms to learn and work with Hawaii-produced coffee tree inputs to seek impacts at controlling the pest, coffee leaf rust – CLR, which currently has no known long-term solution in the global coffee industry.”

The project will research coffee leaf rust management by increasing biodiversity, using on-farm and island-made inputs and sequestering more carbon through increased soil organic matter. The impacts of additional fertilizer and indigenous micro-organisms (IMO) sprays on reducing CLR will be monitored and tested, with University of Hawaii organic system faculty assisting with analyses. Farmers will oversee research, data analysis and dissemination through already established networks in the community.

“We are thrilled to be able to invest in this research that supports the success of a key organic crop in Hawaii,” said Brise Tencer, OFRF Executive Director.

This year’s program prioritized farmers, early career researchers and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) applicants. Six projects focused on climate mitigation and building on-farm resilience have been awarded a grand total of $119,817 in funding. The 2021/22 cycle was made possible by a $66,000 grant from FFAR and matching funds from OFRF and its research partners.

“FFAR is thrilled to support six organic research grants through this collaboration with the Organic Farming Research Foundation,” said Dr. LaKisha Odom, FFAR scientific program director. “These research grants are funding audacious soil management techniques that enhance crop productivity, improve environmental health and support increased farmer resiliency to severe weather events.”

To date, OFRF has invested over $3 million in 361 grants across North America to advance scientific knowledge and improve the ecological sustainability and economic prosperity of organic farming systems. All OFRF-funded research must involve farmers or ranchers in project design and implementation, take place on certified organic land, and include strong education and outreach components. All research results are freely available in OFRF’s online database.

###

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.
https://foundationfar.org/ 

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.
http://ofrf.org

Media Contact
Caroline Baptist, OFRF Communications Manager, caroline@ofrf.org

By |2022-06-09T19:02:54+00:00June 9th, 2022|News, Press Release|

Weed Management for Nutsedge

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 nutsedge.

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.

Closeup photo of yellow nutsedgeField of purple nutsedgeManaging Nutsedge
Nutsedge is a highly competitive and persistent weed in a wide range of crops and extreme measures are often taken to manage it. In conventional and organic systems alike, the most common method for controlling yellow and purple nutsedge is to desiccate the tubers by timely, repeated tilling. Farmers working toward sustainable conservation tillage systems may first need to take steps to control a current infestation of weeds before returning to reduced tillage practices.

To reduce the impact of nutsedges on production, farmers can:

  • Mechanically control weeds by repeated cultivation every 2-3 weeks
  • Cultivate an infested area and then withhold all moisture to allow the sun to dry tubers (note: this drying approach only works on purple nutsedge, not yellow nutsedge)
  • Implement shading techniques
  • Consider crop rotations and cover cropping
  • Cautiously consider solarization or occultation
  • Implement rotational grazing

Once control of nutsedge 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 Nutsedge.

By |2022-06-06T16:12:30+00:00June 6th, 2022|News|

Organic Farmer Shares Her Story

Help OFRF Support Organic Farmers

Mary Phipps with beehive - Donate Now

For many organic producers, organic is a way of life and they can’t imagine farming any other way. Mary Phipps is one of those farmers. She joined the OFRF board in 2021, but has been using OFRF resources for nearly 15 years. “I first heard about OFRF from another organic farmer in our area in 2008 and started using OFRF information on our farm to help us solve the many challenges we were facing. I immediately signed up for the newsletter and have been following along and benefiting from OFRF ever since.”

Mary’s farm, Orchard Pond, is a diversified organic farm in the Red Hills Region of Tallahassee, Florida. They grow produce and honey, and create a number of value added products through their on-farm commercial kitchen. But it isn’t always easy. “There are so many challenges that organic farmers face, so we need as much research and new ideas as possible to help us be successful,” Mary explained.

While she first found OFRF through our education and research materials, OFRF’s federal advocacy is what is most important to her lately. “I’ve been filling out our organic certification cost-share paperwork, so it’s on my mind. USDA’s cost-share program is so critical to our ability to continue and OFRF is working to improve and expand programs – like cost-share – that help farmers succeed.”

Mary’s story is quite common: Farmers need practical information that can help solve on-farm challenges, and increased support from the USDA and Congress. Organic farmers can’t do this alone and OFRF works behind the scenes to help organic farmers thrive.

Mary Phipps on tractor

Mary joined the board because she believes in OFRF’s research, education and advocacy work. Follow Mary’s lead and contribute today! Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, increasing the impact of your donation. And don’t forget, there are many ways to support OFRF.

By |2022-06-03T23:07:35+00:00June 3rd, 2022|News|

USDA Announces Up to $300 Million Investment for Transition to Organic Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Organic Transition Initiative Announced, Organic Production as Climate Strategy

(June 1, 2022) – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a Food System Transformation framework that includes up to $300 million in a new Organic Transition Initiative to provide comprehensive support for farmers to transition to organic production. The new initiative acknowledges that organic production has climate and environmental benefits, allows producers to demand a premium in the marketplace, “and thus take home a greater share of the food dollar,” according to an official USDA statement.

The Organic Transition Initiative will deploy technical assistance, farmer-to-farmer mentoring, direct support through conservation financial assistance and additional crop insurance assistance, and market development support in targeted markets. “All the provisions of the organic transition activities that USDA announced are ones that Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has historically advocated for,” said Brise Tencer, OFRF Executive Director. “In the past year, OFRF has had numerous meetings with USDA officials and provided in-depth written comments on how the agency can best support farmers and ranchers transitioning to organic production systems.”

The USDA’s new initiative supports research findings cited in the OFRF 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) that “farmer-to-farmer networks and mentoring are by far the most effective ways to obtain and share information.” Additionally, finding and developing markets for organic products was a leading non-production challenge among organic farmers surveyed in the 2022 NORA report.

“This is a meaningful first step to truly working towards a just and equitable food system,” said Gordon Merrick, OFRF Policy & Programs Manager. “We at OFRF are excited to see the details of this historic investment into the National Organic Program, and will continue to work with staff from across the USDA to ensure that the research needs of organic producers are met to make this vision a reality.”

More than half of NORA organic survey respondents stated “adaptation to climate change” as a topic of concern in organic agriculture. Approximately 78% of surveyed transitioning farmers cited enhanced resilience to climate change through organic practices as a motivating factor for transitioning to organic certification. “It is extremely encouraging to hear Secretary Vilsack recognize organic systems of production will be a vital piece in our collective effort addressing the climate crisis,” said Merrick.

The Organic Transition Initiative builds on the USDA’s previously announced programs, the Organic Certification and Transition Cost Share program and the Farm and Food Worker Relief Grant Program, both which provided farmer and producer assistance during the pandemic.

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About Organic Farming Research Foundation
Organic Farming Research Foundation 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.
http://www.ofrf.org/

Policy Contact
Gordon Merrick, OFRF Policy & Programs Manager, gordon@ofrf.org

Media Contact
Caroline Baptist, OFRF Communications Manager, caroline@ofrf.org

By |2022-06-03T20:49:27+00:00June 3rd, 2022|News, Press Release|
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