Problem: Crop farmers who transition to certified organic grains report increased profitability, improved soil health, and improved quality of life through enhanced economic stability, key factors used to determine sustainability in agriculture. However, certified organic land accounts for less than 1% percent of the U.S. farmland, and even less in Indiana.
Approach/methods: We will survey and interview Indiana grain farmers (including conventional, those interested in organic certification, and those certified) to identify the most salient constraints and facilitators. Key informant interviews with organic grain buyers, such as processors, wholesalers, and distributors, will identify the marketing opportunities and bottlenecks for organic grain in Indiana. A farmer-to-farmer education and outreach component will include workshops with panels of experienced farmers, and farm visits focused on topics that have been identified as key challenges and strategies for sustainable grain operations. The construction of a farmer-buyer gap analysis will provide needed information on marketing outlets for the workshops and other outreach, to increase the viability of organic grain production in Indiana. Our methods will inform development of a farmer-to- farmer based education initiative that accounts for a range of systems and scales, and provides resource publications to be used across the state and region. In order to increase farmer participation, a farmer advisory board will be formed to guide both the research and outreach components of the project.
Outcomes: Indiana grain farmers will gain knowledge about new market opportunities and support programs for the transition period. New linkages forged between farmers, grain buyers, extension, and other education and certifying agencies, will support the adoption of enhanced sustainable agricultural practices.
Relevance: As the demand for organic grains continues to outpace supply, conversations with Indiana farmers highlight the importance of research and education on organic grain transition. Organic certification offers important economic opportunities for crop farmers in the North Central Region (NCR), as certified farmers tend to be more profitable due to price premiums. Wider adoption of organic practices would also contribute to the long- term sustainability of NCR agriculture by meeting current market demands using practices that increase soil and plant health, and protect waterways.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project will foster new collaboration between farmers, grain buyers, extension educators, and farmer-based organizations. These collaborations will facilitate market access and create a supportive network to facilitate peer- to-peer education and information exchange among key actors in the organic grain industry. The research will generate knowledge of the constraints and opportunities for transitioning to certified organic grain production and will inform education and outreach activities that result in increased certification, improved organic product availability, and new market opportunities. Wider adoption of organic practices will enhance the environmental sustainability and economic viability of grain farms in Indiana.