Organic Food Production and Marketing - Tours and Resource Guide

1996 Annual Report for EW96-006

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1996: $17,050.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1999
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $13,104.00
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Leslie Zenz
Washington State Dept. of Ag.

Organic Food Production and Marketing - Tours and Resource Guide



1. To provide information regarding organic food production to Cooperative Extension and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) personnel.
2. To offer Cooperative Extension and NRCS personnel an opportunity to observe organic crop production and discuss organic marketing opportunities with organic growers and processors.
3. To have thirty Cooperative Extension and NRCS personnel attend organic farm tours.
4. To publish an Organic Resource Manual.
5. To disseminate 500 manuals to Cooperative Extension and NRCS offices in the states of Idaho, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, and Montana


The project’s purpose is to provide information regarding organic soil management, pest control, material use (i.e. insecticide, soil amendments, etc.), marketing information, and organic certification standards for production, processing, handling, and labeling of organic food. Many Cooperative Extension and NRCS personnel in the targeted states are unfamiliar with organic standards and organic production methods. A greater understanding of the production and marketing options available in the organic food industry will enable extension and NRCS personnel to provide information and opportunities to their constituents regarding potential market and production strategies.

The organic tours were held in the summer of 1997 and provided useful information about cultural practices and materials used in organic food production. It also provided information about potential markets and market strategies for organic food production, processing, and handling.

Work on the Organic Resource Manual was initially delayed. The release of proposed standards for USDA’s National Organic Program (1998) required a dramatic reworking of a main component of the manual. As of October 1999, the National Standards are still incomplete and the manual, containing information regarding current standards, has been published (December 17th) and disseminated to Cooperative Extension offices and NRCS offices in the target states (of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah).

The Organic Resource Manual is in the process of being formatting for use on the WSDA Web site (please refer to SARE grant EW98-008). The WSDA Organic Food Program (OFP) has recently developed a Web site which currently contains information on materials approved for use in organic production and the registration process for these materials; certification information and applications; and program information. Other information to be included will be links to other sites with organic interest, updates on National Standards, and the Organic Resource Manual. The Web site address for the WSDA Organic Food Program is:

The Organic Resource Manual, 94 pages, is comprised of seven sections:
· Introduction to the manual and discussion on the terms “Organic” and “Sustainable” as these terms apply to agriculture.
· Regulating Organic Production and A Comparison of Rules and Standards – A description of the way in which organic production is currently regulated and comparison of the current standards in the target states.
· National Organic Standards – An overview of the National Organic Program and development of National Organic Standards.
· Organic Crop Production- Soil building and fertility management and pest management strategies for organic crop production.
· Organic Livestock Production- Maintaining herd health and alternative treatments, pasture management and appropriate housing for organic livestock production.
· Marketing Organic Products- Current trends in the market place and both direct and wholesale marketing strategies for organic food products.
· Resource Section- Agricultural support businesses, organizations, marketing support, Web sites, and publications pertaining to organic production in the target states.

Dissemination of Findings

Once the manual is available on-line via the Organic Food Program Web site, a user response e-mail will be added to the site and monitored for input on future editions. The WSDA has received numerous requests for the manual , which is available to all growers, processors and handlers in the WSDA Organic Food Program as well as for any individual requests. Copies can be obtained by contacting (360) 902-1877, or, or by writing to Organic Food Program, P.O. Box 42560, Olympia, WA 98504.

Potential Benefits and the Impact on Agricultural Professionals

The farm tours were beneficial to the participants by presenting first-hand organic food production and information on marketing opportunities for organic products. In this way, the participants were able to see a successful examples of organic operations and to transfer this knowledge to their clients. Also, these tours acted to dispel the myths often surrounding organic agriculture (i.e., unproductive, “hippie” farming.) Many times these stereotypes are barriers to change and, through the experience of visiting organic farms, participants were able to recognize the diversity of cultural lifestyles and production systems that utilize organic methods and the success of these operations.

The Organic Resource Manual provides information on the regulation of organic food, highlighting the target states, technical information on organic crop and livestock production, marketing strategies, resource groups and publications. This information will benefit agricultural support agencies such as university extension and NRCS conservationists by better equipping them to answer questions from their constituents.

Future Recommendations or New Hypotheses

Future editions of the manual should include sections on holistic resource management, organic tree fruit and nut orchard production, soil building, and the National Organic Standards, once these have been published and finalized.

To facilitate the task of locating the appropriate Cooperative Extension and Natural Resource Conservation Service offices for the distribution of publications such as the Organic Resource Manual (ORM), a master list of updated contacts should be developed. During the finalization of this project, it was difficult for our staff to locate the appropriate offices in which to send the ORM. The structure of both of these agencies is complex from an outside perspective. Sorting out which offices interacted with farmers and ranchers directly and who would find information such as the ORM useful was difficult to ascertain.

Educational Materials Produced:

The Organic Resource Manual (ORM) was produced with this project allocation and 500 copies have been distributed to University Extension and NRCS offices in the target states (refer to the Dissemination of Findings section of this summary for ordering information).

This summary was prepared by the project coordinator for the 2000 reporting cycle.


Nancy Taylor
Washington State Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 42560
Olympia, WA 98504
Office Phone: 3609021877