University of Idaho Expands with New Organic Agriculture Center in Sandpoint

Organic and sustainable agricultural research, education, and outreach will be the focus at a stunning new facility donated to the University of Idaho by Dennis Pence of Sandpoint. The Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center features 8 acres of organic orchards, surrounded by 8 acres of organic field plots, as well as a dormitory and a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen.

Michael Parrella, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences dean, said the new center will help U of I link more effectively with the local community and provide a template for programs that focus both on local food systems and bigger agriculture 

in Idaho. “The work that’s been done to advance organic has broader applicability than just the organic community.”

Dennis Pence created the orchard with the vision of supporting local food systems. A huge believer in advancing organic agriculture and the principles, research, and education that goes along with that, he sees the orchard as a way of helping people understand what we’ve lost—the variety and quality of heritage varieties. The orchard includes approximately 65 heritage varieties and 700 trees just coming of age.

Kyle Nagy planted a lot of those trees. He’ll continue his role as Superintendent and Orchard Operations Manager. “Kyle has a phenomenal understanding of all aspects of production from an organic perspective,” said Parrella. “He’s a wonderful ambassador for the orchard and the program.

Hands-on internships for U of I and North Idaho College students will be offered to help boost enrollment in agricultural programs and strengthen the university’s presence in North Idaho. Other U of I colleges will have access to the center as well.