Organic Food Production and Marketing - Educational Resource Development

Final Report for EW98-008

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1998: $19,100.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2001
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $5,606.40
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Leslie Zenz
Washington State Dept. of Ag.
Expand All

Project Information

Abstract:

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) receives hundreds of requests for information on organic production and marketing every year. A 1998 WSDA survey of WSU Cooperative Extension faculty and researchers indicated a need for organic production information in most counties. In 1999, SARE funded a WSDA project that included organic farm tours for Extension and NRCS personnel, as well as farmers and ranchers, and the development of the Organic Resource Manual (ORM). Together, the tours and the ORM, which gives information on organic certification, marketing, and a resource information for organic industry organizations and publications, were very successful in providing technical assistance for agricultural professionals. However, the impending release of USDA National Organic Program standards (NOP) and the continued requests for information at WSDA required an update of the ORM and an expansion of educational technical assistance through the development of a WSDA website and PowerPoint presentations.

This project, Organic Food Production and Marketing: Educational Resource Development, has enabled the WSDA to create this update and expansion of services. To date, WSDA has delivered PowerPoint presentations at eleven events, including over 400 farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural professionals. The PowerPoint presentations have been distributed in electronic format, upon request, to Extension personnel and agricultural consultants. The creation of a WSDA Organic Food Program (OFP) website has expanded this outreach further by providing information of organic certification, NOP standards, production information, and the ORM in formats that are easily downloaded. Supplemental research papers on organic tree fruit production and trends have been made available with this information. Tracking the statistical reports of this website has shown it to be very successful. These reports confirm the OFP website has consistently supplied some of the most requested files for downloading; the ORM has accounted for 22-30% of the total downloads on the WSDA Web site (containing over 1,000 Web pages) since May 2000. A sample from January 2001 alone shows the ORM having been downloaded 1500 times.

In addition to the presentations on organic certification and standards, the WSDA has coordinated several workshops on specific production techniques. The topics for these workshops include: On-Farm Composting, Sustainability on the Farm, Post-harvest Handling, Marketing Niche Crops, and Integrating Crops and Livestock. These workshops were coordinated with WSU extension faculty and the Washington State Farmers Market Association.

Project Objectives:

1. Improve the quality of information about organic agriculture provided to the public by Cooperative Extension Service and NRCS personnel.

2. Publish a revised Organic Resource Manual that includes updated information from the USDA National Organic Program.

3. Develop a Washington State Department of Agriculture Organic Food Program website with electronic educational resource files.

4. Develop educational presentation materials (e.g. PowerPoint) and provide organic production, marketing, and certification seminars to Cooperative Extension, NRCS, and state departments of agriculture personnel.

5. Collaborate with WSU Cooperative Extension to provide organic production and marketing workshops geared to specific production systems.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Mark Amrhein
  • David Granatstein
  • Miles McEvoy

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

The following is a list of each venue for the presentations:

1. Washington Tilth Producers Annual Conference, November 2000, total attendance = 25.
2. Snohomish Cattleman’s Association, January 17, 2001, total attendance = 28.
3. Clallam County Cooperative Extension, “Sustainable Agriculture Series”, January 20, 2001, total attendance = 30.
4. Washington State Farmers Market Association Annual Conference, February 27, 2001, total attendance = 55.
5. Seattle Tilth, March 8, 2001, total attendance = 32.
6. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, “Rachael Carson Days”, April 14, 2001, total attendance = 20.
7. National Association of State Organic Programs (NASOP) Annual Meeting, April 17, 2001, total attendance = 36 states were represented.
8. Northwest Wholesale Grower Meeting, January, 2001, total attendance = 25.
9. Wilber Ellis Grower Meeting, January, 2001, total attendance = 25.
10. Post Harvest Conference, March 2001, total attendance = 75.
11. G.S. Long Grower Meeting, February 2001, total attendance = 40.

All of the presentations were very well received by each audience. At the end of nearly all the presentations, numerous requests were received for presenting at other venues. It was one of these requests that lead to the development of a presentation for a consumer perspective.

In addition to the presentations on organic certification and standards, the WSDA has coordinated several workshops in specific production techniques. The topics for these workshops include: On Farm Composting, Sustainability on the Farm, Post harvest Handling, Marketing Niche Crops, and Integrating Crops and Livestock. These workshops were coordinated with Washington State University extension, Non-Governmental agricultural support organizations (NGOs), and Washington State Farmers Market Association. Each of these workshops has been detailed in documentation forms (Attachment E.)

The most significant of these workshops was a collaborative conference entitled: Farm-to Table: Growing Healthy Foodsheds and Community (brochure included.) This two day conference examined the current food system and explored alternatives for creating a more sustainable system. This conference was organized by WSU Food & Farm Connection Team, Cascade Harvest Coalition, and WSDA, and drew over 350 participants including farmers, university extension, state agencies, students, chefs, and many others.

The process of organizing these workshops has provided not only an exchange of information, but also has fostered positive relationships between the organizations, WSU, and WSDA. These relationships will continue to create dialog and collaboration on issues of sustainability in agriculture and organic production well into the future.

Outcomes and impacts:

Specific Results and Dissemination of Findings

The first Organic Resource Manual was published in December 1999. The second edition was intended to be a supplemental to the first edition; containing information on the National Organic Standards and organic tree fruit production. This supplemental was delayed contingent upon the release of the USDA National Organic Program standards (NOP). The NOP standards were released in December 2000. The WSDA Organic Food Program has developed a supplemental paper outlining the NOP standards and presenting them in a readily accessible format. This supplemental has been included with this report (Attachment A.) A copy of this report has been sent to all WSU Extension Faculty who received copies of the ORM in 1999.

Another aspect of the objective for the ORM update was to publish information about organic tree fruit production. Collaborator David Granatstein has produced two documents on this topic: ‘Trends in Organic Tree Fruit Production,’ December 2000, and ‘Tree Fruit Production with Organic Farming Methods,’ June 2000. These documents have been included in this report (Attachment B) and are available on the Internet at: http://organic.tfrec.wsu.edu/OrganicIFP/OrganicFruitProduction/Index.html.
This document has also been linked to the WSDA website, listed below.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture Organic Food Program has posted its website to the World Wide Web. The address for this site is: http://www.wa.gov/agr/fsah/organic/ofp.htm. The site contains information on the Organic Food Program; Washington State standards for organic food production, processing, and handling; organic and transition to organic certification procedures, applications, and forms; and lists of approved materials for use in organic production.

The Organic Food Program has received great feedback from other states that are accessing the materials list on the website and utilizing it for their own programming. Out of the 1,000 plus Web pages on the entire Washington State Department of Agriculture site, the OFP Homepage has been one of the top ten pages viewed since the conception of the site in December of 1999. The Materials Approved for Organic Food Production lists (Brand Names Materials List and the “generic” list included in Chapter 16 154 WAC) have been ranked the seventh and fourth, respectively, most downloaded documents on the entire WSDA website.

The Organic Resource Manual has also been posted to this site in a format that allows the user to download the entire document. To date, this document has been the number one downloaded document on the entire WSDA Web site; accounting for 22-30% of the total downloads since May 2000. Picking a random monthly sample to illustrate the number of downloads, the ORM was downloaded 1,500 times in January 2001. The NOP supplement has been converted to a similar format and is posted at this site as well.

Two PowerPoint presentations have been created on the NOP standards. ‘The New NOP Standards: A Consumer’s Perspective,’ created for consumer education, and ‘Organic Certification and the New NOP Standards,’ which was created for audiences including: University extension faculty, NRCS personnel, farmers/ranchers wishing to convert to organic production, farmers/ranchers currently certified, and other state agency personnel. These presentations include information on the principles of organic agriculture; the NOP standards for production, processing and handling of organic food; WSDA OFP information; demographics of organic producers; and marketing trends. The presentations were given a total of eleven times (detailed below), and continue to be a resource for WSDA that continues to receive requests for this information. Each time the presentations were delivered, they were modified to reflect the needs of the particular audience. For the purposes of this final report, two of the most characteristic presentations have been included in hard copy (Attachment C) and in electronic copy.

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

This project struggled to maintain continuity due to delays in the release of the USDA NOP final organic standards. Now that these standards have been released and as certification programs and agencies have begun to implement them, future projects involving outreach of this information will be more easily facilitated.

The use of the Internet and of electronic presentation materials as modes of outreach was highly effective. The vast majority of agricultural support personnel who have taken part in this project make use of the Internet as a primary method of accessing information. The PowerPoint presentations were easily transferable, via e mail, and proved to be an easy, clear, and effective way to present information to audiences.

Much time was spent at the onset of this project to locate the target audiences (extension & NRCS) and this has proved to be an encumbering process for the coordinators. This project, like many SARE Professional Development Program projects, sought to assist and collaborate with professionals who work directly with producers and who advise on land use, production, and marketing. Coordinators for this project found it difficult to identify these professionals in order to provide outreach in a comprehensive manner. The university extension system, as well as the NRCS system, is vast. Many of the personnel within these systems do not have contact with growers directly and, therefore, would not benefit from the opportunities provided with this project. By providing contact lists for university extension and Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel who work directly with farmers and ranchers in each of the Western states would greatly facilitate future SARE PDP projects.

Potential Contributions

Potential Benefits and Impacts on Agricultural Professionals

The Organic Resource Manual has been beneficial for agricultural support agency personnel by providing a reference resource for understanding the organic industry. Agency representatives are better equipped to serve growers, in their area or district, who need assistance in alternative agriculture. Through the electronic availability of the Manual on the Organic Food Program website, the document has and will continue to reach a much wider audience. This has been evidenced by the number of times it has been downloaded from the Internet and from the number of in-house requests WSDA receives.

The WSDA Organic Food Program website provides agricultural professionals and the organic industry with access to information on the regulation of organic food in Washington. This stimulates not only the organic industry in the state, but also serves other states in a variety of capacities. The Materials Approved for Organic Food Production list is the most notable component. The site also provides other states without organic certification programs a template or point of departure for developing a successful organic certification program. As the site expands to include electronic production information and updated links to useful sites for the organic industry, the quality of this service will only increase. The Web site also makes office staff time in the Organic Food Program more efficient by reducing the amount of phone requests for information.

Presentations about organic certification and the NOP standards have provided direct information for a variety of farmers, students, and support agency personnel and will continue to be a resource for WSDA and WSU in the future. Formatting and delivering information in this way has been highly effective in reaching a large number of people; allowing for an exchange of questions and answers which will deepen the participants understanding of the organic industry. The PowerPoint presentations have been requested several times by WSU faculty wishing to deepen their clients and their own understanding of the details required for becoming certified organic in WA and under the new national standards. At each presentation, copies of the Organic Resource Manual, approved materials lists, and producer applications for certification were made available to participants. Presentations were given within the context of conferences or other multi-topic workshops, where a range of different participants were attending; therefore, collecting specific evaluation and impact data on agricultural professionals (NRCS and university personnel) has proven to be difficult. Because the WSDA still receives requests for these presentations (both delivered and electronic copies for in field use), it can be concluded that the information has been and continues to be valuable to this audience.

Reactions from Farmers

Farmers and Ranchers participated in all of the events mentioned above. These groups provided the most useful feedback to the presenters. The “question and answer” period after each presentation enabled fine-tuning of the information provided in the presentations. Producers found the presentations and workshop to be very valuable. Reports included comments such as: “…an enlightening presentation on organic certification” and “[The organic] presentation really got [our] wheels turning.”

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.