Organic Education: Increasing Opportunities for Farmers and Processors
Phase 1 of this project was the development of an organic farming educational curriculum with input from key stakeholders for beginning and transitioning organic farmers. Based on the Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings program, the Organic Farming 101 class expanded to 10 class sessions focusing specifically on organic production methods and certification. Twelve enthusiastic participants are enrolled in the class, which will run through March 2008. The participants range from people new to agriculture to producers transitioning into organic production to certified organic producers. Initial feedback from the participants is very positive indicating the course is providing needed information.
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 of the project is the establishment of an education and mentoring program focusing on organic agriculture methods. The target audiences for this phase will be 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 of this project is the establishment of an education program about organic processing and niche markets. The target audiences for this phase of the project include organic farmers and regional processors. Marketing opportunities will arise as a result of growers and processors connecting with each other at the educational events and as new products are developed.
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.
Good progress has been made towards Objective 1 – the establishment of an education and mentoring program focusing on organic agriculture methods.
-Formed and convened a Steering Committee, comprised of organic farmers, organic inspectors and a Farm Business Management instructor, which has met three times to determine seminar/curriculum topics. This group will also serve as the evaluation team and will meet at the end of the course to review evaluations and plan needed changes and improvements for future use of the curriculum.
-Developed a 10 session organic farming curriculum, based in part on the Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings program. However, the Organic Farming 101 curriculum emphasized organic production and certification and changed much of the Farm Beginnings curriculum to address organic farm management, certification and marketing.
-Recruited and enrolled 12 enthusiastic class participants in the Organic Farming 101 course. The participants range from people new to agriculture to producers transitioning into organic production to certified organic producers. Initial feedback from the participants is very positive indicating the course is providing needed information.
Evaluation: Course participants completed a pre-questionnaire prior to the start of the course. This questionnaire included a self-assessment, as well as basic multiple choice questions about organic certification and terminology. Additionally, this tool was used to collect demographic information. An evaluation consultant has been hired to complete a full review of the curriculum, conduct exit interviews with participants and instructors and review all event evaluations.
The Organic Farming 101 course and its participants have been featured in multiple articles, including: The Bismarck Tribune (11/26/2007), The Farm & Ranch Guide (12/20/2007), and Ag Week (11/2007). Project Coordinator Britt Jacobson has also attended the Marketplace for Entrepreneurs in January of 2007 with a booth and a presentation on educational opportunities, such as Organic Farming 101. In February 2007, Britt also exhibited at the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society’s annual conference.
Four summer field days are currently being planned for the summer of 2008. These field days will be for producers and processors and will be conducted on organic farms in the area to address specific aspects of organic farming.
Intermediate Outcome 1
This outcome will be addressed in an on-going documentation and evaluation effort through follow up interviews/surveys of the Organic Farming 101 participants.
Objective 2 of this project is the establishment of an education program about organic processing and niche markets. Work on this objective will begin at the conclusion of the Organic Farming 101 course in March 2008.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
12 Organic Farming 101 Participants with a total of 7,207.15 acres of land include:
+ 4 currently certified organic producers and/or land owners
+ 3 producers transitioning to organic production
+ 1 market gardener
+ 4 non-producers (beginning farmers) entering organic farming/ranching in the next year or two
Additional impact information will be collected from course participants throughout the duration of the project.
Project Coordinator Britt Jacobson and the steering committee successfully developed an organic farming curriculum to be used by FARRMS and possibly other groups in the future. FARRMS shared the curriculum with the Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture at Minot State University-Bottineau and other Farm Beginnings programs.
In the first year of implementing the curriculum, we will have hosted 10 seminars during the class, including a workshop at the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society featuring experienced organic farmers talking about organic marketing to class participants and others conference attendees.
Steering Committee Member / Class Facilitator
3737 41st Ave SE
Tappen, ND 58487-9307
Office Phone: 7014863569
ND Farm Business Management
James Valley Career/Technology Center
910 12th Ave NE
Jamestown, ND 58401-6513
4190 40th Ave SE
Tappen, ND 58487-9314
Organic Farmer & Inspector
3232 53rd Ave SE
Medina, ND 58467
9732 79th St SE
Fullerton, ND 58441
Office Phone: 7018834429