- descriptions of the farm’s soil, disease, and insect management practices
- aggregation and analysis of farm data (e.g. soil analyses, pest scouting and management records, rotation histories, yield records)
- identification of the farm’s soil and pest management successes and challenges
2) Farm System Analyses that focus on a specific topic (e.g. nutrient management, management of a specific pest), using data from one farm or multiple farms.
The FSDs and FSAs will be used by farmers, extension and other agricultural professionals, educators, students and researchers to:
- better understand how organic farmers manage soils, diseases, and insect pests
- identify which pests are successfully managed (and how), and which pests remain problematic and should be research priorities
- describe successes and challenges in organic soil and nutrient management
3) Engagement. The project engaged farmers, agricultural professionals, students, and researchers through presentations, field days, workshops, and courses throughout the course of the project.
- Persephone (OR)
- Wintergreen (OR)
- BioDesign (MT)
- Woodleaf (CA)
- Phil Foster Ranch (CA)
Another objective was to engage farmers, agricultural professionals and researchers with the information in the FSDs and FSAs so as to increase our collective understanding of what is working and what is not on experienced organic farms, and to identify critical research questions.
A fundamental goal of organic farming systems is to rely primarily on cultural and biological strategies for pest and soil management. Expert organic farmers manage soils and pests using a farm-specific toolbox of interrelated biological and cultural strategies and they avoid using pesticides (especially those with adverse effects on natural enemies) until all other options fail. However, there is little information available on farm-developed soil and pest management toolboxes and their efficacy. Therefore, it is difficult to determine if that fundamental goal of organic farming is being met on organic farms, and if so, how? The primary goal of this project was to address this question.
Farm System Descriptions and Analyses:
Project staff met with project farmers to collect farmer philosophy, experiences, and data sets:
• Data set 1: Farmer description of farm history, philosophy, markets, crops, systems management, record keeping
• Data set 2: Farmer-collected data (soils, crops, pests)
• Data set 3: On-farm research data sets (past research projects conducted on case farm, if any)
• Data set 4: Case study farmer’s knowledge and practices about systems soil/pest management strategies
Project staff then developed:
1)FARM SYSTEM DESCRIPTIONS (model structure below)
Farm System Overview
- About the farm
- Farm Philosophy
- Key Farm Design and Soil- and Habitat-Building Strategies
- Soil Management System Overview
- Disease Management System Overview
- Insect Management System Overview
Soil, Insect, and Disease System Descriptions
- Key Practices
- Integrating Practice and Research
- Figures and Tables
- References and Citations
- Additional Resources
2) FARM SYSTEM ANALYSES
Farm system analyses are in-depth analyses of the experiences and data of one or more farms related to specific topics, i.e. cabbage worms and nutrient management. Project staff aggregated and analyzed data from one or more farms and developed that information into an article including a discussion integrating research and practice.
Project staff and farmers engaged farmers, ag professionals, students and researchers through presentations, field days, workshops and courses.
This project was very ambitious and farm system description development has taken much longer than anticipated.. Early versions of the farm system description were long and project farmers and agricultural professionals could not learn from them. As the result, mid-way through the project, a more accessible system description structure was developed and all materials were revised to this new structure. The structure is intended to allow readers to access the information through multiple entry points. Readers wanting only an overview of a farm and its practices can read the farm system overview. Readers interested in management strategy details can read the farm soil, insect and/or disease system descriptions, and if very interested they can access the farm’s data in the figures and tables.
Extension agent: “This is the kind of real-world observation and lesson-drawing from that observation that should be at the heart of all organic production, presented in a way that will be accessible and comfortable for farmers. There are plenty of references for folks who want to explore further. The information itself is of great interest but the underlying philosophy and method used to move the farm forward are probably the greatest lesson here. I would definitely recommend this to our growers. The emphasis on reduced tillage and living mulches, and the ability of a living mulch to sequester and recycle N, certainly is of highest relevance and interest to organic producers, and the correlations between changes in soil fertility and other aspects of farm management will be of great interest. The sections on excessive buildup of NPK are particularly intriguing both for new producers who would give their right arm for that problem, and long-term producers who may be experiencing the same phenomenon. The possibility of weeds as habitat for beneficials is something that many producers have been working with and will be interested to see these results.”
Farmer: “This article describes in extensive detail a farm which I visited several times while it was in production. The vegetables produced were uniformly beautiful- particularly the peppers. What was most remarkable was the near complete absence of weeds. It was as though weeds were just not part of the biome. The surrounding land was basic range land, and in my experience, under different management, the field would have been full of annual or perennial weeds. It is certainly clear from the farm records that keeping the land covered is best for soil health and increasing organic matter”
Educational & Outreach Activities
Published as of September 2016
Organic Farm System Description: Woodleaf Farm. Authors: Carl Rosato, Helen Atthowe, and Alex Stone. Available at http://articles.extension.org/pages/73428/organic-farm-system:-woodleaf-farm.
Organic Farm System Description: Biodesign Farm. Authors: Helen Atthowe and Alex Stone. 2016. Available at http://articles.extension.org/pages/73949/organic-farm-system:-biodesign-farm.
Trends in soilborne disease on two long-term organic farms in the west. Authors: Doug O’Brien, Alex Stone, Helen Atthowe, Phil Foster, Jeff Falen, Jake Asplund, and Nat McKinney. Organic Agriculture Research Symposium proceedings. Available at http://eorganic.info/sites/eorganic.info/files/u27/1.1.3-OBrien-SoilborneDiseaseTrends-Final.pdf
In press as of September 2016
Organic Farm System Description: Phil Foster Ranch. Authors: Doug O’Brien, Phil Foster, Helen Atthowe, and Alex Stone. Will be available at http://articles.extension.org/organic_production
Soil phosphorus and potassium trends on a long term organic farm: case study of Persephone Farm. Authors: Aaron Heinrich, Jeff Falen, Helen Atthowe, and Alex Stone. Will be available at http://articles.extension.org/organic_production.
Systems management for suppression of imported cabbageworm: on-farm research from Biodesign Farm. Authors: Helen Atthowe, Chris Philips, and Alex Stone. Will be available at http://articles.extension.org/organic_production.
Suppression of cabbage worms on four organic vegetable farms in the west. Authors: Alex Stone, Doug O’Brien, and Helen Atthowe. Will be available at http://articles.extension.org/organic_production
In press by December 2016
Organic Farm System Description: Persephone Farm. Will be available at http://articles.extension.org/organic_production. Authors: Alex Stone, Helen Atthowe, Jeff Falen, and Elanor O’Brien.
For outreach activities in 2013-2015, see interim reports.
Outreach activities 2015-16:
Ecological Soil Management. Online course offered through University of Illinois (graduate course) and eXtension (agricultural professionals). Fall 2015. Instructor: Michelle Wander, U of IL. 20 students. Farm System Descriptions used as course materials.
Soil Management for Organic Production, Oregon State University. Campus undergraduate course. Instructors: Alex Stone and James Cassidy, OSU. 25 students. Farm System Descriptions used as foundational course materials.
Trends in soilborne disease on two long-term organic farms in the west. Presentation. Organic Agriculture Research Symposium. Ecofarm Conference, January 2016. Authors: Doug O’Brien, Alex Stone, Helen Atthowe, Phil Foster, Jeff Falen, Jake Asplund, and Nat McKinney. Proceedings paper available at http://eorganic.info/sites/eorganic.info/files/u27/1.1.3-OBrien-SoilborneDiseaseTrends-Final.pdf
Building Healthy Soil Ecology: Investing in Your Farm’s Bottom Line. Practical, How-to, Take-home Information for Farmers Cultivating a Sense of Humus! Panelists included Helen Atthowe and Carl Rosato, who presented information from the Woodleaf and Biodesign Farm System Descriptions. Ecofarm Per-Conference Workshop: January 20, 2016, Monterey, California.
Investing in Soils for Climate Change. Presenters: Carl Rosato and Helen Atthowe, presenting information from the Woodleaf and Biodesign Farm System Descriptions. 29th California Small Farm Conference. Sacramento, CA. March 2016
Persephone Farm System Description and Analyses. Authors: Alex Stone, Jeff Falen, and Helen Atthowe. Poster. Sustainable Agriculture Education Association. Santa Cruz, CA. August 2016.
Utilizing Data-Rich Farm System Descriptions (case studies). Workshop. Presenters: Alex Stone and Sierra Laverty. Sustainable Agriculture Education Association. Santa Cruz, CA. August 2016.
Tour of Phil Foster Ranches for Stanford University graduate students (course on agricultural sustainability) using information and data from the Phil Foster Ranches System Description. Doug O’Brien. September 2016.
No economic analysis was conducted.
See Outcomes section.
Areas needing additional study
This project focused on soil, disease, and insect management. It would be useful to further develop the FSDs by adding additional sections addressing topics such as weed management and social, environmental, and economic sustainability.