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Join Us for the 2020 Organic Agriculture Research Forum

Graphic from the Organic Agriculture Research Forum flyer announcing the Jan 23, 2020 forum in Little RockOctober 15, 2019 – OFRF and Tuskegee University are pleased to announce the 2020 Organic Agriculture Research Forum (OARF) to be presented in partnership with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG). The Forum takes place on Thursday, January 23, 2020 in Little Rock, Arkansas, as part of the 2020 SSAWG Conference.

Farmers, students, and researchers who would like to apply for a scholarship of up to $600 to attend the forum should fill out the scholarship application no later than November 22nd, 2019.

The day-long forum will bring together scientists, organic farmers and ranchers, extension agents, non-profit organizations, and more to explore the latest research and science-based grower education, particularly as it relates to production in the southeast. Topics will range from assessing the impact of organic agriculture on climate change, to soil health, and pest and disease management.

The forum will feature many opportunities to learn from fellow attendees and presenters, beginning with oral presentations focused on research that addresses production, economic, and social challenges in organic farming and ranching. After the presentations, there will be a series of facilitated roundtable discussions, followed by a poster session and reception held in conjunction with SSAWG. The poster session will include a “People’s Choice” award and an award for “Best Research Poster” juried by a small panel of judges. Voting will take place during the Thursday evening reception.

The conference and scholarships are supported by Ceres Trust and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) grant no. 2019-51300-30250 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.

Southern SAWG facilitates the development of a more sustainable food and agriculture systems across 13 states in the Southern U.S. Since 1992 they have provided high quality educational materials and training opportunities on sustainable and organic production, marketing strategies, farm management, and community food systems development. Each year the Southern SAWG Conference brings together over 1,000 farmers, researchers, educators, and others in the sustainable agriculture field to share practical tools and information and strengthen their working relationships. The 2020 Southern SAWG conference will take place in Little Rock, Arkansas on January 22-25, 2020.

Tuskegee University has initiated an organic farming program for over 10 years to educate Alabama residents on the health benefits of organic vegetables. The program has grown in recent years to include site specific organic farming research on various vegetable crop varieties and integrated pest management throughout the Southern United States to provide recommendations to organic growers. Dr. Kpomblekou-A has served as director of the program at Tuskegee University since 2016.

Contacts:

Haley Baron, OFRF Education & Research Program Associate
haley@ofrf.org

Lauren Snyder, OFRF Education & Research Program Associate
lauren@ofrf.org

By |2020-01-08T18:12:21+00:00October 15th, 2019|Press Release|

OFRF is Turning 30! Save the Date!


October 9, 2019 – We’re celebrating a very significant milestone at our annual benefit luncheon at Expo West and we want you to join us! This must-attend event for organic industry leaders, market innovators, and brand-conscious consumers is the ideal place to network before the big show, and the all-organic lunch is always amazing!

Sponsorships are available now.

Individual tickets go on sale December 1, 2019.

By |2020-01-08T18:12:21+00:00October 9th, 2019|News|

NIFA Awards Grant for National Organic Survey to OFRF and OSA

October 7, 2019 – The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) are pleased to be among the recipients of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awards announced last week. The grant was awarded through NIFA’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI).

Through the competitive grant process, the organizations have been jointly awarded funding for their proposal titled A National Agenda for Organic and Transitioning Research. This funding will allow OFRF and OSA to combine their considerable expertise in conducting national surveys of organic producers to put forth an updated and comprehensive roadmap for future research investments.

“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. “We are honored by OREI’s investment in this important work and believe this collaboration with OSA will both increase grower participation and strengthen the impact of our updated findings.”

OFRF’s 2016 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) report is a frequently cited resource that has helped ensure research funding is relevant and responsive to the needs of organic producers, while also identifying gaps where additional investment is necessary.

“With demand for organic products continuing to outpace domestic production,” Tencer explains, “the organic industry needs more research that helps existing organic farmers scale up, diversify, and increase profitability, and also encourages more farmers and ranchers to transition to sustainable organic practices that are better for the environment and people.”

“Organic farmers produce food differently, and that means they need different seed for the crops they grow—seed developed to thrive without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and adapted to their local climate and soil conditions,” says Kiki Hubbard, who co-leads OSA’s State of Organic Seed (SOS) project.

SOS is an ongoing project that monitors the status of organic seed in the U.S. and provides a roadmap for increasing the diversity, quality, and integrity of organic seed available to farmers.

“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. “OSA is privileged to have the opportunity to partner with OFRF on this critical project with strong support from the USDA’s OREI program.”

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. Updated NORA and SOS reports will ensure this increased funding is allocated in a way that reflects the needs of organic farmers and ranchers.

By |2020-01-08T18:12:48+00:00October 7th, 2019|Press Release|

A Visit to Lakeside Organic Gardens

October 4, 2019 – Every once in a while, you’ve got to get out from behind the computer and stick your feet in the dirt to remember why you do what you do and how that beautiful organic salad got on your plate. The team at OFRF had a chance to visit Lakeside Organic Gardens in Watsonville this week and talk with owner Dick Peixoto and his team.

Even working in the organic sector, it is still awe inspiring to see the hard work and dedication that it takes to be a successful organic farmer. It was a treat to see so many different types of crops growing in the rich soil and to learn about Lakeside’s process. They are true stewards of the land, building up the soil year after year through cover cropping and other organic management practices such as planting flowers to attract beneficials.

Born and raised in Watsonville, Dick Peixoto has been farming since high school. Today, Lakeside is the largest family-owned and operated solely organic vegetable grower/shipper in the USA. Some of the employees have been working there for decades. Dick says, “We farm the soil and the soil grows the crop.”

Watch the video to learn more.

Thanks for the fun and informative tour and the healthy organic vegetables we get to eat!

Photo of tractor at Lakeside Organic Gardens

Tractor on the farm at Lakeside

Photo of bunches of celery at Lakeside Organic Gardens

Celery harvest at Lakeside Organic Gardens

Photo of OFRF staff with staff members at Lakeside Organic Gardens

L-R: Brise Tencer, Executive Director, OFRF; Lola Dannehl-Schickman, Development & Partnerships Manager, OFRF; Dick Peixoto, Owner, Lakeside Organic Gardens; Haley Baron, Education & Research Program Associate, OFRF; Marliese McWherter, Creative Marketing Manager, Lakeside; Juan Gonzalez, Operations Manager, Lakeside; Vicki Lowell, Communications Manager, OFRF; Lauren Snyder, Education & Research Program Manager, OFRF

By |2020-01-08T18:12:48+00:00October 4th, 2019|News|

Stakeholders Meet to Talk Organic Policy Stakeholders Meet to Talk Organic Policy

By Haley Baron, Education and Research Program Associate

September 24, 2019 – On September 18th and 19th, I had the privilege of joining CCOF staff and 13 other stakeholders at Paicines Ranch in Paicines, CA to discuss policy recommendations that will help build an organic California. Through facilitated discussion over the two days, we shared our perspectives on CCOF’s proposed policy initiatives and learned about one another across sectors. Our group was made up of farmers, social justice advocates, academics, legislators, agency staff, and leaders of membership organizations. The goal of the gathering was for CCOF to hear our opinions, experiences, and priorities before moving forward with future policy initiatives.

The event began on Wednesday afternoon with a farm tour of the majestic Paicines Ranch by Sallie Calhoun, owner of Paicines Ranch. We walked the grounds and learned about the innovative ways they are farming and ranching. Their mission is to find creative techniques to build healthy soils through certified organic rangeland, row crops, and vineyards. After the tour, we came together for a beautiful outdoor dinner to get to know one another before starting our big day of discussions.

On the second day, we were ready to get to work. The policies we discussed looked at how to solve a number of pressing issues that California faces—pesticide usage near schools, land preservation, beginner organic farmer support, organic research and training funding, and much more. Despite our diverse and sometimes conflicting perspectives, we came together as a group to find common ground and think through our differences.

It was an inspiring two days of sharing in a community that rarely has the opportunity to meet. Thank you to CCOF for putting in the time and effort to create space to truly hear the opinions of others. Our gathering proved that the more you work with those around you, the more likely the success of positive policy change.

By |2020-01-08T18:13:18+00:00September 24th, 2019|News|

Panetta Joins OFRF Field Day at UCSC

September 9, 2019 – On September 3rd, OFRF hosted a research field day at the UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden. Researchers and others from UCSC joined OFRF to talk with Congressman Jimmy Panetta about the highly innovative organic research taking place there, throughout his district, and across the U.S.

Carol Shennan, Professor and Head Researcher at the Shennan Lab began the tour with an introduction to her research on anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD), an alternative to using harmful fumigants such as methyl bromide. Dr. Shennan learned about ASD from colleagues in the Netherlands and Japan and wanted to try it here. Seed grants from OFRF were instrumental in helping Shennan and her team secure funding from the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) totaling $10.5 million to date. “OFRF provided the seed funding to start this research and that allowed us to apply for larger grants,” explained Shennan. “It’s very hard to get funding unless you have initial data, but it takes money to get that initial data and that’s where OFRF has been really helpful. The OREI program has been so important. It allowed us to do things that we could then expand in multiple directions.”

Just twelve years ago the idea that you could grow strawberries without methyl bromide was very ingrained. Today, it’s a different story. The amount of strawberries grown organically in California has gone from 0% thirty years ago to 13% currently, and the good news is that percentage should continue to increase. “Fumigants are one of the biggest culprits in pesticide drift issues, from a human health perspective as well as an ecological perspective, reduced fumigant use is a good thing,” emphasizes Shennan. ASD is used on 2000 acres of strawberries in California and is being tested for its application in strawberry nurseries, apple, almond, vegetable, and flower production systems in the U.S.

Congressman Panetta was able to witness first-hand the exciting work being done at UCSC and the economically viable alternatives to fumigants this research is providing. He acknowledged the importance of continuing support for organic research and extension not just for organic farmers, but those thinking about transitioning, in the process of transitioning, or looking to adopt more sustainable farming practices such as cover cropping.

Thank you to everyone at UCSC for participating in the field day!

Joji Muramoto, Cooperative Extension Organic Production Specialist at University of California Cooperative Extension

Stacy Philpot, Professor Alfred & Ruth Heller Chair in Agroecology

Daryl Wong, Farm Site and Research Lands Manager of CASFS

Daniel Press, Associate Dean of Social Sciences, Professor and Executive Director of Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems

Katharyne Mitchell, Dean of Social Sciences

Chantal Waite, Laboratory & Field Assistant at the Shennan Lab

Special thanks to Rod Koda from Shinta Kawahara Farm for joining us!

 

 Photos by Kelsey Grimsley & Vicki Lowell

By |2020-01-08T18:13:18+00:00September 9th, 2019|News|

Musings from the Office of Partnership Development

September 6, 2019 – by Lola Dannehl-Schickman, Development and Partnerships Manager, OFRF

Introducing OFRF’s Featured Partner: OGEE

This month, I’m excited to highlight one of OFRF’s close partners, OGEE. An award-winning, 100% organic, cosmetic company, OGEE became OFRF’s first co-venture partner in 2016. Co-venture partnerships offer organic companies the opportunity to use OFRF branding on their products. By using our logo in their marketing, companies let consumers know they are dedicated to supporting the organic farmers who make their products possible. OFRF only offers this type of opportunity to companies with the highest organic integrity and we are proud of our partnership with OGEE.

Ten years before creating OGEE, Abbott Stark was making products for some of the world’s largest beauty brands. Stark witnessed firsthand the beauty industry’s reliance on petroleum-based conventional ingredients (which come with an extensive list of health concerns) as well as artificial and synthetic production processes that are resource-intensive.

Stark learned very early on in the beauty industry that much of what we apply to our skin is absorbed into the body. Already a health-conscious consumer who prioritized eating organic, Stark began applying the same criteria to beauty products as he did to his food. Unfortunately, he could not find brands that were both certified organic and offered the same visible skincare results as conventional brands. In this vacuum of quality organic beauty products, Stark created his own. “I decided to create a product that I wanted to use myself AND that I was proud to share with my mother, my sisters, and my friends,” says Stark.

OGEE hit the beauty scene with a “bang,” receiving accolades from magazines ranging from Allure to Vogue. Although ecstatic with OGEE’s success, Stark believes the organic industry needs a bigger voice to accelerate change, especially in the world of cosmetics and beauty. “It is still impossible to source most of the organic ingredients that we need,” says Stark, “certified organic feedstocks are minimal or completely nonexistent. At the same time, the demand for organic crops has skyrocketed, while the percentage of organic farmland has remained flat.”

That’s why OGEE partners with OFRF. OFRF supports farmers through grant-based research and increases the awareness of the benefits of organic agriculture through education at the federal level. According to Stark, “OFRF’s support for organic and transitioning farmers helps grow the organic supply chain, which directly impacts the accessibility of organic ingredients for companies like us. Finally, when a farmer transitions from conventional to organic, or a consumer switches from purchasing conventional to organic products, we all win because organic is better for our health and the environment we all share.”

If your company is interested in a co-venture partnership, please contact Lola Dannehl-Schickman at lola@ofrf.org.

OGEE strives to create a brand that connects the worlds of luxury and organic. Its founders searched the planet for the newest discoveries in naturally derived ingredients, such as cutting-edge Edelweiss Flower Plant Stem Cells and hero ingredient, certified organic Golden Jojoba Oil to promote healthy aging-well.

With recent articles about the toxicity of talc in most baby powders and absorption of chemical sunscreens at 20x the legal allowable level, we are reminded of the importance of aligning our beauty standards with the standards for selecting food. OGEE sets itself apart with organic certification by the NSF. 

With 700% growth in 2018, OGEE delivered certified organic, clinically effective products to new audiences, which the brand celebrated as a huge success because organic farming relieves the toxic burden on the environment on the environment that we all share. Additionally, OGEE relaunched in sustainable glass packaging in 2018.

For more information, visit ogee.com.

Thank you to our 2019 Partners

 

By |2020-01-08T18:13:18+00:00September 6th, 2019|News|

New Soil Health and Organic Farming Guide Examines Soil Life

August 27, 2019—It is now widely understood that living healthy soil provides the foundation for successful farming, and supports plant, animal, and human life. However, while the concept of “feeding the soil” has been around for a long time, for many it is still uncharted territory.

To support farmers and ranchers in selecting the best management practices for building soil life and soil health, the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has released the ninth topic in their immensely popular Soil Health and Organic Farming Series of guidebooks and webinars, Understanding and Optimizing the Community of Soil Life.

The goal of this guidebook is to help organic farmers by providing up-to-date, science-based information on:

  • The soil food web, its key components and functions.
  • Assessing and monitoring soil life and soil biological condition.
  • Managing soil life for long term soil health and productivity in organic systems.
  • Biological management of plant diseases.
  • Microbial inoculants and biostimulants: whether, when, and how to use them.

“When we first embarked on this project, we hoped that by analyzing the research that’s been conducted over the past thirty years and presenting it in an accessible way, we’d be helping farmers and advancing the adoption of more sustainable agricultural practices,” explains Brise Tencer, Executive Director at OFRF. “We had no idea how popular it would be. To date, the guidebooks have been downloaded over 24,000 times and the webinars have been viewed over 8,000 times. These digital resources are free and available to anyone, so we hope they will continue to be shared far and wide.”

The entire Soil Health and Organic Farming series is available to download for free at ofrf.org. Limited printed copies are available upon request for a small donation to cover printing costs.

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.

By |2020-01-08T18:13:18+00:00September 5th, 2019|Press Release|

Implications of the ERS Move to Kansas, an Update

September 5, 2019 – By Carolyn Dimitri, Associate Professor of Food Studies, New York University, Board Member, OFRF​​​​​

Despite widespread opposition from researchers and members of Congress, along with questions of the legality of the move from the USDA’s inspector general, moving the Economic Research Service out of Washington DC and into Kansas City is well underway. Compounding the controversy is the bold statement of Mick Mulvaney, who, in early August, celebrated the move as an effective way to “drain the swamp.”

Throughout the years, ERS has been the first employer of newly minted PhD economists who typically begin working in late summer or early fall. This year, the new hires began working in Kansas City, after a short training period in Washington DC. While Kansas City is not a draw for current employees, the new researchers, particularly those who are millennials, may be attracted by the urban amenities and the low cost of living in Kansas City.

Some current employees were lucky and their jobs were considered “stay positions,” which reports suggest number 76. Some with DC-based positions have opted to find work in other federal agencies, rather than stay at ERS. Of those with “go positions,” few agreed to make the move to Kansas City, with reports suggesting that at least half of the ERS staff have either found new positions or will retire. According to my sources (I used to work at ERS, and have spoken with many of my former colleagues), the bulk of those unwilling to relocate are senior staff with deep institutional and specialized agricultural knowledge.

The deep reduction in staff will leave wide knowledge gaps in areas including organic agriculture, conservation programs, animals, and crops. The agency is currently recruiting new staff to work in both Washington and Kansas City, but the needs are so great that they are unlikely to be able to hire enough knowledgeable and skilled people to keep the agency research afloat. In order to fill their needs, there is speculation that ERS will allow senior staff to retire, and then apply for part-time limited term positions. These workers would mentor junior researchers, as well as perform needed research, analysis, and outlook.

One remarkable aspect of the ERS staff is their continued commitment to the agency and the work they have conducted over the years. Of those I spoke with, including both researchers and managers, there was a strong expression of concern regarding ERS’S reputation and its legacy. Furthermore, these individuals were willing to do their part to preserve the agency, even though it was clear that this administration does not value ERS’s contribution to US agriculture.

By |2020-01-08T18:13:18+00:00September 5th, 2019|News|

Seeking Abstracts for Organic Agriculture Research Forum

September 4, 2019 –The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Tuskegee University are pleased to announce the 2020 Organic Agriculture Research Forum (OARF) to be presented in partnership with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) on Thursday, January 23, 2020 in Little Rock, Arkansas, as part of the 2020 SSAWG Conference.

This year’s research forum will feature oral presentations, facilitated round table discussions, and a robust joint poster session with SSAWG. Presenters are invited to submit abstracts for the forum. Oral and poster presentations will be selected based on their innovative excellence, relevance to the research, education, and extension needs and priorities of organic farmers and ranchers, soundness of the methodology used, and the overall scientific quality.

Topics of interest for oral and poster presentations include:

  • Ecosystem services provided by organic farming systems
  • Soil health and quality
  • Biological and cultural practices to manage insects, diseases, and weeds
  • Holistic animal health and nutrition, and grazing and pasture management systems
  • Breeding and selection of crops and animals, and seed systems suitable for organic production
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Integration of perennials in organic farming systems and the design of permaculture systems
  • Value-added production and processing without synthetic food additives and processing aids
  • Nutritional quality, health benefits, and integrity of organic food
  • The impact of organic agriculture on rural communities
  • Economics, marketing, and consumer behavior in organic systems and supply chains
  • Innovative approaches to teaching organic farming practices
  • Innovative approaches to transferring knowledge to beginning and transitioning farmers and ranchers
  • Appropriate methods and practices for food systems and on-farm research
  • Challenges to begin or transition into organic production systems
  • Public policies to facilitate the transition to organic farming

Interdisciplinary projects are encouraged. Abstracts are limited to 300 words and should include the following:

  • Working title and topic area
  • Names of the co-authors and contact information
  • An introduction explaining the context and purpose of the research, methodology, and a brief summary of the results and conclusionsThe deadline for submissions is October 18, 2019. Abstracts should be sent to haley@ofrf.org. Applicants with questions about the forum can call OFRF at 831-426-6606.

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.

Southern SAWG facilitates the development of a more sustainable food and agriculture systems across 13 states in the Southern U.S. Since 1992 they have provided high quality educational materials and training opportunities on sustainable and organic production, marketing strategies, farm management, and community food systems development. Each year the Southern SAWG Conference brings together over 1,000 farmers, researchers, educators, and others in the sustainable agriculture field to share practical tools and information and strengthen their working relationships. The 2020 Southern SAWG conference will take place in Little Rock, Arkansas on January 22-25, 2020.

Tuskegee University has initiated an organic farming program for over 10 years to educate Alabama residents on the health benefits of organic vegetables. The program has grown in recent years to include site specific organic farming research on various vegetable crop varieties and integrated pest management throughout the Southern United States to provide recommendations to organic growers. Dr. Kpomblekou-A has served as director of the program at Tuskegee University since 2016.

Contacts:

Haley Baron, OFRF Education & Research Program Associate
Send abstracts to haley@ofrf.org

Kokoasse Kpomblekou-A, Tuskegee University Director of Organic Farming and Biogas Production
kkpomblekou@tuskegee.edu

 

By |2020-01-08T18:13:18+00:00September 5th, 2019|News|
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