Elementary Organics: Multi-track Training for Minnesota’s Agricultural Educators and Advisors

Project Overview

ENC02-065
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2002: $59,360.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Meg Moynihan
Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Animal Products: dairy, meat

Practices

  • Education and Training: technical assistance, extension, farmer to farmer, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: market study, value added, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, analysis of personal/family life

    Abstract:

    As a result of six day-long regional trainings in Central, Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, Northeast and East Central Minnesota, 200 agricultural professionals increased their knowledge about, reconsidered their attitudes toward, and increased activity in organic agriculture. Pre-training, end-of-training, and follow-up surveys measured progress toward short and intermediate term incomes. Respondents rated the workshop structure and content high, generally preferring sessions led by organic farmers and farm field trips visits. Six to nine months after the course, more than half the respondents reported assisting growers and/or colleagues on organic topics and indicated continuing interest in organic agriculture topics. More than 80 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that organic can be a viable production system for organic farmers. More than three quarters of them expressed interest in further professional organic training, indicating a need for additional professional development programming on this topic.

    Project objectives:

    The following desired outcomes were specified in the “Elementary Organics” PDP Proposal:

    Short term outcomes: 250 participants…
    S-1 …are aware of the scale and scope of organic production in MN and the US, including production, domestic and international market, and consumer trends.
    S-2…know the National Organic Program Final Rule exists and, in basic terms, what it says
    S-3…understand the steps required for producer and processor certification, including the role of inspectors and certification agencies and the elements of required farm plans.
    S-4…know about and have access to 5-10 sources of information about organic production and marketing.
    Intermediate outcomes: 250 participants…
    I-1…provide appropriate technical assistance or information to organic growers OR refer them to appropriate sources;
    I-2…accept the notion that organic can be a viable production system;
    I-3…identify resource materials that would help them assist clients, but that don’t currently exist;
    I-4…share knowledge about organics with peers/colleagues.
    Long term outcomes
    L-1 Organic programming is “institutionalized”: organic producers and their needs are considered by land grant universities, Extension, state and federal agricultural and conservation agencies and private entities as a matter of course. Here, the interest is in long-term, internalized changes. When this goal is realized, organics will not be considered a “fringe” element, but one of many accepted and acceptable management options.
    L-2 Organic farms that are economically successful and conserve resources contribute to the long-term sustainability of farming in Minnesota. Meeting specific organic production criteria is not enough. Crucial to this outcome are organic systems that are sustainable into the future because they nurture the health of land, people and communities. Sustainable organic farms would protect personal health of farmers, their families, and their neighbors; enhance natural resources like soil quality, and biodiversity; and improve farm and community profitability by providing products that an increasing number of food buyers are willing to pay more for, and by providing local value-added processing opportunities.

    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.