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


    Long-term organic farms are successful because they have developed effective whole-farm systems management strategies over time. On the successful organic farms in our project, pest and soil management approaches are based on the farm's climate, location, marketing, and philosophy. To understand what is and is not working on these farms, the farm system and its components must be described and analyzed. The approach of this project was to develop a detailed Farm System Description (FSD) for each farm that integrates the farmer’s perceptions about the long and short term  trends on the farm with analyses of the long-term farm records and available on-farm data sets/experimental results. Farm System Analyses (FSAs) were then developed to further describe and analyze management practices that were or were not working well on the individual farms and across farms in the project.
    The outputs of the project were:
    1) farm-specific Farm System Descriptions (data-rich case studies), which include:
    • descriptions of the farm's soil, disease, and insect management practices
    • aggregation and analysis of farm data (e.g. soil analyses, pest scouting and management records, rotation histories, yield records)
    • identification of the farm's soil and pest management successes and challenges

    2) Farm System Analyses that focus on a specific topic (e.g. nutrient management, management of a specific pest), using data from one farm or multiple farms.

    The FSDs and FSAs will be used by farmers, extension and other agricultural professionals, educators, students and researchers to: 

    • better understand how organic farmers manage soils, diseases, and insect pests
    • identify which pests are successfully managed (and how), and which pests remain problematic and should be research priorities
    • describe successes and challenges in organic soil and nutrient management

    3) Engagement. The project engaged farmers, agricultural professionals, students, and researchers through presentations, field days, workshops, and courses throughout the course of the project.

    Project objectives:

    An objective of this project was to publish Farm System Descriptions and Farm System Analyses based on the experiences, practices, and data collected from 5 experienced organic farms: 
      1. Persephone (OR)
      2. Wintergreen (OR)
      3. BioDesign (MT)
      4. Woodleaf (CA)
      5. Phil Foster Ranch (CA)

    Another objective was to engage farmers, agricultural professionals and researchers with the information in the FSDs and FSAs so as to increase our collective understanding of what is working and what is not on experienced organic farms, and to identify critical research questions.

    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.