Growing Organics: Integrating Science, Farmer Indigenous Knowledge, and Experience in Expanding Organic Production in Ohio
The purpose of this project is to provide the information and education that will assist farmers in the successful adoption of organic production practices. The goal is to increase the number of organic farmers and acreage under organic management in Ohio by at least 50 percent. This goal is warranted given increased demand for organic products and the economic opportunity this represents to farmers. Currently in Ohio, farmers’ needs for information about organic production are not being met. Our approach recognizes that delivering appropriate educational programming to farmers requires providing both technical information as well as experiential opportunities. This is reflected in project activities: on-farm workshops, classroom-style seminars, field days, and apprenticeships. Outputs include the establishment of a farmer-to-farmer education network, an organic production manual, farmer-friendly “science you can use” fact sheets, the establishment of a farmer advisory council for organic research and education, and an organic farming apprenticeship program. Progress towards desired outcomes will be assessed using standard survey and feedback measurement techniques.
The primary objectives of this project are to increase the number of organic farms in the state of Ohio by 50% and to increase total acreage under organic management in Ohio by 50%. To achieve these levels of growth in organic production, we have developed and implemented educational and outreach programs that increase knowledge and skills related to organic crop production and marketing. The education programs include on-farm workshops, classroom style seminars, field days, an apprenticeship program, development of printed resource materials, and on-going educational support.
According to our best estimates at this time, the number of certified organic farms in Ohio has increased from 352 in 2007 to 509 in 2010. This is a 45% increase in the total number of organic farms since 2007. Accurate organic acreage data was recorded by OEFFA Certification in Ohio for the first time in 2009. In late 2009 USDA ERS staff traveled to Ohio to compile data on certified organic acreage for ’06 – ’08. As this data becomes available we will identify that rate of change in the amount of acreage under organic management.
- Two “Organics 201” programs were held in 2010. Two OSU research and extension specialists and two organic certification specialists presented information. These full day workshops attracted 32 farmers and 4 Ohio NRCS representatives.
Twenty-two Advanced Workshops were held at the 2010 Annual OEFFA Conference. The average attendance at each of these workshops was 45. (As some individuals attended more than one workshop, the total number of individual participants is unknown, but this represents nearly 1,000 learning “slots.”)
Eleven farm tours were held in 2010 in 11 counties throughout Ohio. These on-farm education programs attracted 338 participants. We continue to collaborate with other organizations in the planning and promotion of these sustainable farm tours. The Innovative Farmers of Ohio, the OSU Sustainable Ag. Team, and the Ohio Forage and Grassland Council have all sponsored additional field days that are planned and promoted collaboratively.
Project partners have distributed the two books that were published with the support of this grant: A Transition Guide to Certified Organic Crop Management, by Margaret Huelsman, published in March, 2008, and the Organic Whole Farm Planning Workbook, by Margaret Huelsman, published in September, 2008. These books have been provided free of charge to participants in the Organics 101 and 201 seminars and are sold to farmers for $15 and $20 respectively.
The Organic Education Outreach Coordinator responded to 117 requests for information during 2010. These information requests came from organic, transitional, and conventional farmers.
In 2010 eight individuals were placed on Ohio farms through the OEFFA Apprentice Program.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
- 36 individuals participated in one “Organics 201” workshops.
95 individuals participated in the Organics 101 program at the “Night of Organics,” a pre-conference introduction to organics workshop held prior to the OSU Small Farm Conference in Wilmington, OH, March 12, 2010.
22 advanced workshops were held attracting an average of 45 participants each.
338 individuals attended one of the 11 farm tours or field days.
Two books for transitioning farmers have been published and are currently in distribution: Transition Guide to Certified Organic Crop Management and Organic Whole Farm Planning Workbook.
Four articles on organic production and marketing were written and distributed to 2000 individuals.
117 individual requests for specific information related to organic production and marketing have been answered.
Eight farm apprentices were successfully placed on host farms in 2010.