A new report from Oregon State University and Oregon Tilth, Inc. offers insights into how to enhance organic agriculture in Oregon. Unlike traditional agriculture research assessments, the report reaches beyond the farm, capturing the points of view of a variety of organic community stakeholders—local retailers, farmers’ market managers, produce distributors, farm to school program staff, and nonprofit organizations that advocate for sustainable agriculture—and OSU organic agriculture researchers.
The report, Enhancing Organic Agriculture in Oregon Research, Education, and Policy, was written to provide guidance and a research-based resource for researchers, educators, and policymakers who can help meet the needs of Oregon’s organic sector and broader community.
Chris Schreiner, Executive Director of Oregon Tilth notes, “Organic food and farming supports job growth, rural economies and consumer choice. This report sheds light on how we can nurture and enhance this growing and vibrant sector of Oregon agriculture.”
Nationally, Oregon ranks fifth in the number of organic farms and fourth in organic sales.
The report uses survey data, interviews, and focus groups to explore organic agriculture from a variety of perspectives and identify targets for research, education, and policy.
Farmers, stakeholders, and researchers pointed to the need for organic-appropriate strategies for production-related challenges, including pest, disease, and weed management, nutrient management, plant breeding, and seed saving. Yet important needs also emerged from discussions of economics, markets, policy, and other topics not specific to production: increasing the consumer base for organics, maintaining a skilled workforce, navigating regulations, developing new markets, access to inputs, costs associated with organic production, and guidance for farm businesses on record keeping, health insurance, and farm succession.
The report notes that market development, grower and consumer education, policy related work, and farm business development are just as important as farm production research.
The report is the product of an innovative partnership between Oregon Tilth, Inc. and the Oregon State University Small Farms Program. The partnership also includes education for beginning and transitioning farmers, and applied research on cover crops and nitrogen management in organic production systems.
“Oregon Tilth wants to ensure education, research and policy supporting organic agriculture is directly informed by the diverse stakeholders who comprise the organic community,” says Schreiner. “Our partnership with the OSU Small Farms Program helps put into focus the challenges, opportunities and needs of the organic sector.”
Hard copies of the report can be ordered online or by calling 800-561-6719.