Focus on organic dairy: An integrated program for Pennsylvania producers

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $149,277.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Leslie Zuck
Pennsylvania Certified Organic

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, millet, oats, rye, spelt, sorghum (milo), soybeans, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing - continuous, feed additives, feed rations, herbal medicines, homeopathy, manure management, mineral supplements, pasture fertility, probiotics, stockpiled forages, vaccines, winter forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: display, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives, marketing management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, grass waterways, habitat enhancement, riverbank protection, soil stabilization, hedges - woody
  • Pest Management: biological control, biorational pesticides, botanical pesticides, chemical control, compost extracts, cultural control, disease vectors, integrated pest management, mating disruption, physical control, prevention, sanitation, trap crops, traps
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, composting, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:


    Through interactions with organic and transitioning dairy producers in Pennsylvania, we have learned that there is a great need for information and support not currently available in our state. This lack of “organic knowledge” dissuades would-be organic producers from taking the big step of transitioning to a new system of farm management. This same lack of information and support results in a lower likelihood of success. Adding new organic acreage and sustaining that which already exists will further SARE’s outcome goals of diversification, profitability, healthful products, wise resource management, satisfied lifestyles and, most significantly, positive influence on communities and the environment.

    “Focus on Organic Dairy: An Integrated Program for Pennsylvania Producers” will provide the information and knowledge needed through guidance materials and checklists, intensive workshops, hands-on field days, one-on-one phone and email assistance, transitional farm visits and trained support staff. Significant follow-up contact will encourage continued participation by farmers and allow us to track our milestones and performance targets, which focus on two groups of beneficiaries: organic and transitioning dairy farmers.

    For transitioning organic farmers, we expect this project to result in an increase in at least 30 producers successfully meeting the requirements for organic certification. Once a farm is certified, the project will continue to educate and support the farmer with the expectation that at least 40 farmers will improve their knowledge of organic standards and practices, thereby increasing the likelihood of ongoing success. We will gauge the program’s success by tracking the numbers of producers who: 1) contact us for information; 2) attend workshops and field days; 3) receive written or oral information through the program; 4) interact with the Organic Dairy Advisory Panel; 5) receive transitional farm visits; 6) respond to evaluations about the program; and/or 7) successfully complete the transition to organic production.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Performance Target #1: Of 60 potential “new organic producer” beneficiaries, 30 Pennsylvania dairy producers will complete the transition to organic production. Increasing the number of organic dairy producers in Pennsylvania furthers the SARE outcome statement: Transitioning farmers improve the sustainability of their operations through integrated crop management, preventive and supportive livestock health care, better recordkeeping, more marketing options and increased profits. As these farms become more integrated and profitable, they contribute to the economic stability of their communities, maintain open space and protect the natural environment.

    Performance Target #2: Of the 120 organic and transitioning dairy producers in Pennsylvania, 40 will improve their knowledge of organic production standards and practices. Performance Target #1 has a positive influence on communities and the environment by increasing the actual number of sustainable farms, whereas Performance Target #2 contributes to continued sustainability for the farmer and farm family by increasing the likelihood of long-term successful organic management. As questions or problems arise in the farming operation, the farmer will be better prepared to deal with them properly, resulting in increased efficiency and decreased losses.

    Evidence of Results: Performance Target #1 will be reached when 30 producers who were not certified at the beginning of the project have met the requirement for organic certification and are selling their products as organic. To determine whether Performance Target #2 is achieved, we will summarize data collected through farmer questionnaires, farmer-advisor reports and staff contacts with producers.

    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.