Organic Education: Increasing Opportunities for Farmers and Processors

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $114,811.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: berries (brambles)
  • Animals: bovine, poultry
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Education and Training: general education and training


    This project was designed with the long-term outcome of increasing farmers’ and processors’ profit margins by entering into organic markets by creating and implementing two curriculums:
    1) an education and mentoring program focusing on organic agriculture methods for farmers
    2) an education program about organic processing and niche markets for processors.

    The organic farming curriculum and mentoring program was successfully developed and implemented. The organic processing curriculum was developed, but was not able to be implemented due to lack of participants.


    Out migration, an aging producer base and limited job opportunities continue to be serious problems in many North Dakota communities. By increasing producers’ and regional processors’ profit margins, farm families and regional processors can sustain their rural way of life. Organic markets continue to offer significant opportunities for Midwestern producers and processors. According to the Economic Research Service (ERS), organic farming has become one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture. ERS also states that consumer demand for organic products has shown double digit growth for more than a decade, which has provided incentives for many farmers to become certified organic.

    Adopting organic farming practices requires farmers to take on different risks than farming conventionally–especially during transition to organic. These transitional risks can include the steep learning curve during the first years of transitional production, lower yields while soil structure is being rebuilt and beneficial insect populations are restored, and farmers cannot receive organic premiums during the three-year transition period for land to be certified organic (Hanson et al., 2004). While these transitional risks are not long-term, they are stumbling blocks for transitioning farmers. The Foundation for Agricultural and Rural Resources Management and Sustainability (FARRMS) project was designed to help transitioning and beginning farmers manage these risks and become sustainable organic producers.

    A 1998 survey conducted by the Henry A. Wallace Center for Agricultural & Environmental Policy identified a two primary challenges for all food processors: producing a consistent product and securing shelf space in the supermarket. However, the report also identified additional challenges for manufacturers of organic food products, including: securing a large enough and cheap enough supply of organic ingredients and maintaining the products’ organic integrity during processing (Dimitri & Richman, 2000). The National Organic Program (NOP) has very specific criteria and rules for organic food processing. Phase 2 of this project was designed to educate food processors about the organic standards, sourcing organic ingredients, and maintaining all the necessary organic records.

    Project objectives:

    This project is designed with the long-term outcome of increasing farmers’ and processors’ profit margins by entering into organic markets. The project also strives to create additional markets for all organic farmers in the region by growing the number of regional organic processors.

    Objective 1: The establishment of an education and mentoring program focusing on organic agriculture methods. Target audiences: beginning farmers and conventional farmers considering transition into organic production.

    Short-Term Outcome 1: Increasing conventional and new farmers’ and processors’ knowledge of organic farming practices.

    Intermediate Outcome 1: Increasing the number of farmers implementing organic practices in North Dakota.

    Objective 2: The establishment of an education program about organic processing and niche markets. Target audiences: organic farmers and regional processors.

    Short-Term Outcome 2: Increasing farmers’ and processors’ awareness of organic and niche markets, which have the potential to increase profit margins.

    Intermediate Outcome 2: Increasing the number of regional processors marketing organic products and sourcing regional organic raw products.

    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.