Organic Education: Increasing Opportunities for Farmers and Processors

2008 Annual Report for LNC06-265

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:

Organic Education: Increasing Opportunities for Farmers and Processors


Phase 1 of this project was the development of an organic farming educational curriculum for beginning and transitioning organic farmers. The Organic Farming 101 course included 10 seven-hour Saturday classes and four summer field days.

Feedback from the 2007-08 participants was very positive indicating the course is provided needed information.

Phase 2 of the project was the establishment of an organic processing educational program for regional processors considering organic processing. This work is well underway with a training scheduled for April 2009.

Objectives/Performance Targets

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. However, due to low participant registration, the 2008-2009 Organic Farming 101 class had to be postponed for a year.

1) The Steering Committee, comprised of organic farmers, organic inspectors and a Farm Business Management instructor, continues to meet as needed for the program.

2) 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. The curriculum has been revised to incorporate ideas and feedback from the participants, instructors, and the evaluation consultant.

3) Twelve enthusiastic class participants completed the Organic Farming 101 course in March 2008. The participants ranged from people new to agriculture to producers transitioning into organic production to certified organic producers. Feedback from the participants was very positive indicating the course is providing needed information. To date, seven of the participants are farming organically or actively transitioning into organic production.

4) Four summer field days were held throughout the summer and fall of 2008: Organic Farm Tour (July 10), Organic Soil Health in western ND (July 23), Organic Market Garden Tour (August 20) and Organic Soil Health in central ND (September 23). While these were intended to supplement the Organic Farming 101 classroom experience, very few of the Organic Farming 101 participants attended these events. However, a variety of other producers and agricultural professionals did attend these sessions. Participant feedback was very positive regarding the quality and information presented at these events.

5) Evaluation: Course participants completed a pre- and post-questionnaire. Both questionnaires 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. Catherine Twohig was hired as an evaluation consultant for the educational curriculum and course implementation. Her final evaluation report is attached to the hard copy of this report.

6) Public Outreach: Developed a four-color brochure for participant recruitment. Press coverage: KXMB Bismarck (tv news feature of the Organic Farm Tour, 7/10/08) (available at:, Steele Ozone story about the Organic Farm Tour (July 2008) two articles in the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society’s (NPSAS) newsletter “The Germinator” (Spring 2008, Fall 2008). Conferences attended: Marketplace for Entrepreneurs (booth & workshop), Grand Forks, ND, January 16, 2008; NPSAS Annual Conference (booth & workshop), Mandan, ND, February 8-9, 2008; Upper Midwest Organic Conference (attended), LaCrosse, WI, February 22-23, 2008, Medina Ag Days (booth), Medina, ND, March 15, 2008; and Beginning Farmer Day presentation, Oakes, ND, August 2008.

7) Unfortunately, FARRMS planned to offer the Organic Farming 101 course again throughout the winter of 2008-2009. However, there were not enough participants registered for the course to administer the course. As a result, FARRMS requested and was granted a no-cost extension from NCR-SARE to offer the course again during the winter of 2009-2010. Through discussions with various stakeholders – previous participants, instructors, etc – it has been determined that a number of things may have impacted the low registration for the class, including: increased tuition rates, high gas prices at the time of registration (many of our previous participants traveled 100+ miles to get to the training), problems identifying new producers in the state, and less media coverage of the course. FARRMS is currently exploring additional recruitment strategies such as a short-course in Organic Farming (1/2 day or evening seminar).

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.

1) Working with International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) as co-sponsors of a two-day organic processing training to be held in April 2009. IOIA has a long history of training independent organic inspectors. They also have done some training sessions for individual processors. By partnering on this training, FARRMS will be able to tap into IOIA’s experienced and knowledgeable trainers as well as the IOIA’s strong reputation for high quality training programs. The processing training will be targeted to newly certified organic processors and processors considering organic certification. This would include on-farm processors as well.

2) Public Outreach: Participant recruitment has already begun through announcements on the FARRMS and IOIA websites, as well as various listservs and event calendars. A flier advertising the training has been developed and is being distributed (see attachments to the hard copy report) at events. A press packet announcing the availability of applications will be released in mid-February 2009.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

12 Organic Farming 101 Participants (2007-2008) with a total of 7,207.15 acres of land
+ 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. Anecdotally, one of the Organic Farming 101 participants has begun a new Community Support Agriculture (CSA) enterprise and will expand this new business in year two (2009). Another participant has begun succession planning for her organic farm to be passed on to the next generation.

Organic Marketing Panel Discussion at Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society Annual Conference (February 9, 2008) – total of 31 participants
+ 9 Organic Farming 101 Participants
+ 22 NPSAS Conference Attendees – a mixture of producers and other agricultural professionals

4 Summer Field Days with a total of 57 participants.
+ Organic Farm Tour, Tappen, ND, July 10, 2008 – 25 total participants
+ Monitoring Organic Soil Health, Richardton, ND, July 23, 2008 – 10 participants
+ Organic Market Garden Tour, Carpio, ND, August 20, 2008 – 15 participants
+ Monitoring Organic Soil Health, Medina, ND, September 23, 2008 – 7 participants

One of the most exciting developments during the past year has been the interest in organic farming from agricultural professionals working in the Extension service, the North Dakota Agriculture Department, and other Federal agencies, including Fish & Wildlife and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). A number of these professionals have attended various events including the Organic Farm Tour in July.


Karri Stroh

[email protected]
Steering Committee Member / Class Facilitator
Organic Farmer
3737 41st Ave SE
Tappen, ND 58487-9307
Office Phone: 7014863569
Virgil Dagman

Steering Committee Member
ND Farm Business Management
James Valley Career/Technology Center
910 12th Ave NE
Jamestown, ND 58401-6513
Rick Mittleider

Steering Committee Member
Organic Farmer
4190 40th Ave SE
Tappen, ND 58487-9314
Dwight Hofmann

Steering Committee Member
Organic Farmer & Inspector
3232 53rd Ave SE
Medina, ND 58467
David Podoll

Course Instructor / Curriculum Advisor
Organic Farmer
9732 79th St SE
Fullerton, ND 58441
Office Phone: 7018834429