The Northeastern Farmer-to-Farmer Information Exchange
The Natural Organic Farmers' Association Interstate Council consists of representatives from organic grower organizations from seven Northeastern states. The Council is proposing to test and evaluate a model for farmer-to-farmer education which meets the following goals: 1) to facilitate information transfer between farmers and 2) to improve organic production practices. Ten grower meetings will be held over two years, focusing on organic management of four pre-selected crops: apples, strawberries, sweet corn and livestock herds (health). At these forums, farmers will meet with other farmers and agricultural professionals. Changes made in the production practices of participating farmers as a result of the meeting will be reviewed following the growing season. The success of this model at accomplishing the above goals will be evaluated by the participants and the model will be refined based on this assessment.
Many organic farmers have been experimenting with innovative techniques for years but need more effective ways to transfer this information to other farmers and to gain valuable information from agricultural professionals. Some growers living in states which require whole-farm organic certification have found that their entire farm is ineligible for certification because they produce one crop which is difficult to grow organically. Other growers are actively looking for alternatives to production methods which, though organically acceptable, may not be environmentally benign, economically viable, or wholly effective. One participant in a pilot apple grower meeting held in March 1990 described this model as a "simply solid structure for.... constructive communication." If further testing and evaluation of the model confirm that it is an effective way to transfer information and improve production practices, it could be used by many private organizations, Extension agencies, or other state or federal programs working with farmers.
(1) Test and evaluate a farmer-to-farmer model for the exchange of information on organic production practices and identify future applications for this model.
(2) Improve organic production methods for selected crops through grower-to-grower exchange of information.
(3) Link researchers and other agricultural professionals (extension, land grant, IPM) with organic farmers, and link farmers with other farmers to share strategies and experiences.