As demand for organic grain products soars, newly certified organic grain farmers — or those in the process of transitioning to organic grain — struggle to find reliable technical service and support as they navigate this new production system.
Upcoming two-day pilot sessions of the Organic Agronomy Training Series (OATS) can help agronomists, crop advisors, extension agents, and technical service providers receive education on organic production systems and USDA-National Organic Program regulatory compliance — and more strongly support these farmers.
OATS East will be held July 24-25 at Fusion 54, 119 N. Green St., in Crawfordsville, Ind. Agronomists, certified crop advisors / consultants, extension agents and technical service providers in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois are encouraged to attend this event. Early-bird registration is available through June 16, with a registration deadline of midnight July 14.
OATS Central will be held Aug. 14-15 at Radisson Hotel La Crosse, 200 Second St. South, in La Crosse, Wis. Agronomists, certified crop advisors / consultants, extension agents and technical service providers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa are encouraged to attend this event. Registration is available through Aug. 7.
Participants at both session will visit a nearby organic farm that features certified-organic row crop production. Additional details on each pilot session are available at the bottom of this release.
Pipeline Foods has spearheaded this collaborative effort, with a cornerstone donation from Clif Bar and support from other industry partners through the Organic Trade Association’s GRO Organic Voluntary Research, Promotion and Education Program.
According to the Organic Trade Association, sales of U.S. organic products have grown from $3.6 billion in 1997 to nearly $50 billion in 2017. While organic food sales make up 5.5% of total U.S. food sales, less than 1% of U.S. farmland is dedicated to organic production (with much of the shortfall made up by imports).
Organic grain production is as much an opportunity for advisors and consultants eager to grow their customer bases and support diverse production with potential for increased margins as it is for farmers interested in diversifying cropping systems and income streams. However, a recent report from the U.S. Organic Grain Collaboration identified a shortage of technical service providers that understand organic production and offer sufficient support. Founded in 2018, OATS unites industry, nonprofit, agency and agronomy partners to fill the gap.
“The goal of OATS is to improve options and broaden the geographical reach for technical service providers that are equipped to meet the needs of organic grain producers,” says Mallory Krieger, farmer training program manager for the Land Connection, which is assisting in facilitation of the OATS
pilots. “When technical service providers meet these needs for existing or transitioning organic grain producers, it’s easier for producers to expand available acreage, obtain optimal yields from organic production systems and find a path toward success.”
After completing the OATS training, participants will be able to:
- Provide basic agronomic services to certified / transitioning organic producersM
- Discuss successful organic crop production strategies
- Understand thoroughly the organic certification and inspection process
- Advise producers on compliance with all applicable USDA rules and regulations
- Recommend profitable, diverse crop rotations that meet rotational requirements
- Understand organic weed-control strategies, including cultural and mechanical
- Advise on the integration of cover crops and reduced tillage into organic systems
- Recommend organically approved pest-control strategies
- Advise on basic organic fertility programs
- Refer to current research relevant to organic production systems
“Those who complete the OATS pilot program can become more confident, knowledgeable resources for this growing segment of U.S. agriculture,” Krieger says.
Continuing Education Units for Certified Crop Advisors have been requested for both sessions. Sponsorship opportunities are also available for both sessions. For OATS East sponsorships, contact Krieger at 217-840-2128 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit thelandconnection.org/SponsorOATS. For OATS Central sponsorships, contact Jody Padgham at 715-667-3203 or email@example.com.
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT July 24 and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT July 25
Fusion 54, 119 N. Green St., Crawfordsville, Ind.
Early-bird registration: Available through June 16
Registration deadline: July 14.
Registration URL: thelandconnection.org/OATS or organicagronomy.com
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT Aug. 14 and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT Aug. 15
Radisson Hotel La Crosse, 200 Second St. South, La Crosse, Wis.
Registration deadline: Aug. 7
Registration URL: oats.brownpapertickets.com or organicagronomy.com