WASHINGTON — To provide critical support for the most promising and impactful research and solutions to advance organic agriculture, The Organic Center (TOC) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) announced six awards totaling $627,000 to projects that advance organic farming through much-needed training, technical support and innovative climate research.
Organic farming is poised to be part of the climate change solution; organic farmers do not rely on fossil fuel-intensive synthetic inputs to manage pests or increase soil fertility and use farming techniques that sequester carbon in the soil. However, more work is needed to understand specific strategies organic growers can adopt to mitigate climate change, while managing the negative effects climate change is having on their farms through drought, flooding, invasive pests and extreme weather events.
The $350,000 Organic Training for Agricultural Professionals Prize recognizes extraordinary contributions to training farmers, agriculture professionals and community organizations in organic production. In selecting the 2022 prize winners, TOC and FFAR prioritized farmer-led projects with the potential for expansion and multi-regional impact. Organizations were also selected based on their project’s ability to increase diversity, equity and inclusion among participants and on the extent to which they included measurable, in-person and online knowledge exchange between farmers and organic agriculture professionals. Applicants were required to match the award amounts.
The 2022 Organic Center-FFAR joint Organic Research Program awards up to $200,000 per project focused on organic techniques for improving mitigation and resiliency to climate change, with a priority on systems-based approaches and a commitment to cross-sector partnerships. TOC and FFAR selected projects in regions typically underrepresented in organic research and with plans to expand their results to the greater organic farming industry by making their data open and accessible to the public.
“Through our partnership with FFAR, The Organic Center is able to catalyze the most promising organic training, research and education initiatives from across the country,” said Dr. Amber Sciligo, director of science programs at TOC. “The projects selected this year have immense potential to help advance organic agriculture and bring more producers, agricultural professionals and communities into organic.”
TOC and FFAR identified priorities for both programs through a robust outreach campaign beginning in 2019 at their Organic Research Consortium Convening event. Throughout the following year, the two organizations engaged diverse thought leaders, farmers, researchers and policy makers in debate around the needs of the industry. The selected priorities strike a balance between sector growth, human capital and equity and environmental stewardship.
“Transitioning to organic farming can be confusing, costly and labor-intensive. This partnership with The Organic Center provides a much-needed opportunity for agriculture professionals to educate more farmers about organic farming best practices so we can sustainably meet consumers’ growing demand for organic products and support thriving farms,” said Dr. LaKisha Odom, FFAR scientific program director.
The four organizations selected for the Organic Training for Agricultural Professionals Prize include:
The Organic Grain Resource and Information Network (OGRAIN) and Cooperative Extension bring together strong university and on-farm research with peer-to-peer learning to advance organic farming among grain producers. This prize will advance OGRAIN programming by building additional state-wide and cross-state relationships through Cooperative Extension, supporting work with Tribal Nations and developing additional resources for new agriculture professionals and farmers transitioning to organic.
Oregon Tilth – $50,000
Oregon Tilth offers education programs for certified organic producers and those interested in transitioning to organic production practices. In addition to farmers, Oregon Tilth has strategically focused on building an organic farming support network with agriculture professionals at state and federal agencies, universities and other organizations. This award will support the continued success of Oregon Tilth’s conservation, transition and farm viability education and will train additional farmers and agriculture professionals in organic certification, organic regulations, production practices and profitability tools. It will also facilitate the convening of organic certifiers to explore ways to streamline linkages between USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service support and the organic certification process.
Iowa State University Organic Agriculture Program (ISU OAP) – $50,000
ISU OAP has a 25-year history of training farming community groups, farmer leaders and agricultural professionals in organic agronomic practices, certification and farm management. With support from this prize, ISU OAP will expand its organic production education through train-the-trainer and organic certification workshops, videos and podcasts, and carbon sequestration webinars and field days.
OATS (Organic Agronomy Training Service) – $150,000
OATS is a training program for agricultural professionals working with organic or transitioning farmers in the northern tier of the U.S., fiscally sponsored by the Organic Trade Association. With this award, OATS will increase domestic organic crop production by strengthening the support network of organic agronomists, certified crop advisors, Cooperative Extension agents and technical service providers. OATS aims for every transitional and certified organic farmer to have robust access to unbiased, science-based support for their farming operation. The prize will help OATS achieve its goal by supporting the development of an organic professional certificate program, a variety of multi-media training tools and an industry-wide assessment to identify future participants and necessary education.
The following two scientists are the 2022 Organic Center-FFAR joint Organic Research Program award recipients:
Dr. Sindhu Jagadamma, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture – $200,000
Jagadamma is investigating how growing trees on organic farms and transforming organic waste from those farms into high-value compost cost-effectively mitigates climate change and reduces the carbon footprint of organic farms. She will conduct the study at Caney Fork Farms, a Tennessee-certified organic farm, and develop and disseminate educational materials to improve producers’ knowledge of these and other innovative farm management approaches to increase their adoption throughout the Southeast.
Dr. Erin Silva, University of Wisconsin-Madison – $77,022
Silva is investigating how to improve existing carbon and nutrient modeling tools and create new ones to better reflect organic farming management practices and reduce climate change impact. She will share the results with agricultural professionals and policymakers to inform where further research is needed to better understand the impacts of organic farming methods on climate and environmental stewardship. The organic agriculture industry will also use the results to determine the best ways organic farming can be incorporated in the development of carbon and environmental incentive programs.
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.
— Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research