Integrating research and practice in systems management of organic vegetable farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2013: $277,430.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Oregon State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Fruits: apples, cherries, peaches
  • Vegetables: cabbages, cucurbits, greens (leafy), onions, peppers, tomatoes
  • Animals: bovine, poultry


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, riparian buffers
  • Pest Management: biological control, biorational pesticides, chemical control, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, genetic resistance, integrated pest management, mulches - living, mating disruption, physical control, sanitation, trap crops, mulching - vegetative, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil chemistry, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: social psychological indicators, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    The goal of this project is to improve the environmental, economic and social sustainability of organic vegetable farms by facilitating adoption of effective, research-based, on-farm vetted, systems approaches to soil/pest management methods. These methods are needed to manage critical and seemingly intractable soil/pest problems such as annual weeds, caterpillars and soil N supply.

    The project will involve six highly-experienced organic vegetable and fruit farmers from across the west who have pioneered systems-management of soils and pests; five research/extension faculty (with soil, insect, disease, weed and sociology expertise); a crop consultant/plant pathologist; and eOrganic, the national organic agriculture information portal at

    The project will develop six organic vegetable farm systems analyses of farms with >15 years of experience practicing systems soil and pest management. All six farms have > 15 years of data, observations and management records (weed/insect/disease incidence, soil analyses, crop yield and quality, soil management and rotation histories, spatial design). Using these model farms as our foundation, we will:

    • analyze and interpret farm data, informed by comprehensive literature reviews developed by researcher project members;
    • convene farmers and other project members to discuss and troubleshoot farm case study successes and problems;
    • document why and how farmers learn about and implement systems soil/pest management strategies and plans;
    • explore how systems soil and pest management impacts the farms’ environmental, economic and social sustainability;
    • develop educational materials, including at least six systems analyses, five stories and five webinars published online through eOrganic/eXtension, and two journal articles;
    • engage farmers/agricultural professionals in systems soil/pest management learning and discussion through online forum discussions;
    • evaluate the project's impact on farmer and agricultural professional knowledge, intentions and practices.

    Future Work:

    This project represents the first two years of what can become a longer-term project. Future objectives would be derived from this project’s findings and might include collection of more data on efficacy of systems soil/pest management strategies and soil/pest interactions on case-study farms, as well as development of an
    online systems soil and pest management planning platform and online course.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Goal: to improve the sustainability of organic vegetable and fruit farms by facilitating adoption of effective ‘systems’ soil/pest management.

    OBJECTIVE 1. Develop six detailed organic farm system analysis case studies:

    *Persephone Farm. Lebanon, OR.
    *Winter Green Farm. Noti, OR.
    *Grant Family Farm. Wellington, CO.
    *Biodesign Farm. Stevensville, MT.
    *Pinnacle Farm. San Juan Bautista, CA.
    *Woodleaf Farm. Oroville, CA.

    Farm System Analysis Case Studies will aggregate, integrate and analyze:

    • Data set 1: Farmer description of farm history, philosophy, markets, crops, systems management, record keeping and economics
    • Data set 2: Farmer-collected data (soils, crops, pests, labor, economics, etc)
    • Data set 3: Supplemental on-farm data collection (by project researchers: weed seedbank, soils data, insect and disease scouting and diagnostics)
    • Data set 4: On-farm research data sets (past research projects conducted on case farm, if any)
    • Data set 5: Case study farmer’s knowledge and practices about systems soil/pest management strategies

    Data Sets Available From our Six Farm Systems Analysis Case Farms:

    • BioDesign Farm - researcher data sets from 1995/1996 and 2006/2007, soil test and farm management (spray, soil amendment) records for 17 years.
    • Pinnacle Farm - IPM field monitoring (private consultant) for 20 years, soil test and farm management (spray, soil amendment records) data for 20 years.
    • Winter Green Farm - researcher data sets from 2006/2007, soil test and farm management (spray, soil amendment records) data for 25 years.
    • Woodleaf Farm - researcher data sets from 1992-1995, IPM field monitoring in 2012, and soil test and farm management (spray, soil amendment records) data
    for 30 years.
    • Grant Family Farm - soil test and farm management (spray, soil amendment records) data 1990 – 2012 and IPM field monitoring (private consultant) in 2011.

    OBJECTIVE 2. Develop ‘storylines’ based on common trends, successes and problems drawn from case studies

    Obj 2a. From case studies as a group, identify most important trends, successes and problems related to systems management (examples drawn from our work developing the Persephone Farm case study this summer and from our preliminary conversations with other case study farmers)

    Obj 2b. Data set 4: Conduct literature review related to the most important trends/stories (compiled by researcher project members).

    Obj 2c. Data set 5: Analyze on-farm data and records and make their findings available to organic farmers, extension agents and researchers through a “Multiyear Organic Trials and Homegrown Experimental Research – Lost Organic Data Excavation” (MOTHER-LODE) initiative. Bill Snyder and his postdoctoral scholar (with a math/statistics background) will conduct this work. This data will inform the Farm Systems Analysis Case Studies and will also be prepared for publication in scientific journals and on eOrganic.

    Obj 2d. Develop detailed stories describing each important trend/success/problem, integrating case study information, literature review and MOTHERLODE analysis findings.

    OBJECTIVE 3. Review and discuss case studies and stories

    Obj 3a. Review farm case studies and stories (by project case study farmers, researchers, extension professionals and consultants, as well as others with critical expertise)

    Obj. 3b. Discuss case studies and stories. Convene farmers and other project members to discuss and troubleshoot farm case studies during a two day face-to-face winter meeting.

    OBJECTIVE 4. Describe farmers’ knowledge and practices related to systems soil/pest management strategies and how these strategies impact sustainability. We will examine the “cultural models” of farmers with different management strategies within a systems approach and explore the barriers to systems management adoption.

    OBJECTIVE 5. Develop educational materials and publish them through eOrganic/eXtension.

    OBJECTIVE 6. Engage farmers/agricultural professionals in systems soil/pest management learning, with in-person discussion (ie., case farmer and project member “systems-approach ambassadors” will attend farmer and professional conferences and workshops, “virtual, on-line farm tours” and forum discussion through eOrganic/eXtension).

    OBJECTIVE 7. Evaluate impact on farmer and agricultural professional knowledge/intentions/practices.

    Future Work:

    This project represents two years of what might become a longer-term project.

    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.