Facilitating Change: Reducing the Risks of Transitioning to Organic through a Comprehensive Farmer-and Extension-Based Training Program

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $144,543.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Kathleen Delate
Iowa State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn, oats, soybeans, wheat
  • Fruits: apples, grapes
  • Vegetables: sweet corn, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: herbs


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, grazing - rotational
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, marketing management, agricultural finance, risk management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, biological control, botanical pesticides, competition, cultural control, flame, genetic resistance, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, mating disruption, physical control, prevention, row covers (for pests), sanitation, traps, mulching - vegetative, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Project Description: Inadequate domestic supply of organic food and feed grains (e.g., corn and soybeans) ? illustrated by rapidly growing imports from China and South America to meet escalating U.S. demand ? presents a viable economic opportunity to U.S. row crop farmers. However, transitioning to successful organic production requires rapid acquisition of production, marketing and financial management skills.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The goal of this project is to increase farm income by compressing the management skill acquisition time needed to successfully adopt organic row crop production. Objectives:
    (1) Determine perceived organic production adoption barriers
    (2) Develop a responsive web-based (Adobe Connect™) and face-to-face Extension-led training program
    (3) Train and support interested producers, private and public agriculture professionals and organic farmer-mentors in the Iowa Organic Association, in maintaining good organic farming practices and prudent production, marketing, financial and risk mitigation strategies
    (4) Evaluate the training through surveys and personal interviews with participating audiences.

    (1) A mail survey of 1,000 conventional farmers to determine the issues inhibiting adoption of organic production will serve as the framework for the training sessions
    (2) Sixteen 3-hour trainings each year, at 10 remote sites broadcast from an Iowa State classroom/studio, will cover a broad range of production, marketing, finance, and federal and state opportunities for organic production

    Outputs and outcomes of the project:
    (1) “Transitioning to Organic” training program and manual that can be accessed by anyone, any time, with adequate computer capabilities;
    (2) 400 farmers and agricultural professionals with increased knowledge and skills required for successful organic transition
    (3) 100 farmers with increased knowledge of, and participation in, government and insurance programs useful in organic transition
    (4) successful transition and increase in organic row crop production by 20% in three years in the North Central Region

    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.