January 26, 2007

Video series helps farmers ride organic food wave

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Consumers by the millions are jumping on the organic foods bandwagon, and a workshop series sponsored by Purdue and two sister land-grant universities will show farmers how to hop on board, as well.

The Tri-State Organic IP Video Series will be broadcast to viewing locations in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio on five nights this year. The first program, "Cover Crops/Fertility Management," takes place from 6-8:30 p.m. EST on Feb. 13.

The series is intended to provide producers and Extension educators with information on starting and maintaining organic crop or livestock operations, said Jerry Nelson, co-chairman of Purdue's New Ventures Team and a workshop coordinator. Speakers include specialists from Purdue, Ohio State University, the University of Illinois and organic producers.

"When we talk about organic, we're talking about U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic," Nelson said. "That means that there are certain types of crops and crop inputs that can be used in crop production that are labeled organic. Producers who are raising organic livestock must use certain feed products that are on an approved list. There also is a list of organic feed processors and handlers, as well. Producers can find a lot of that information on the National Organic Program Web site."

More farmers are considering organic production, and for good reasons, Nelson said.

"There are probably three aspects as to why producers are looking at going into organic production," he said. "One is the environment. Producers want to continue to protect the environment not only so that they can continue to use the land resources, but also so that future generations can continue to farm with the resource base that we have. Secondly, as farmers continue to use chemicals and pesticides, consumers are more and more aware of what the producers are using. Consumers want to make sure that their food supply is safe and healthy for them and their families.

"The third aspect as to why producers are going into organic production is economics. The bottom line is they have to make a living in order to sustain the farm. One of the exploding areas, if you will, in agriculture today is the need for organic products throughout this country and internationally, as well."

Sales of organic food products are at an all-time high, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA). A 2004 OTA manufacturer survey found that organic food sales were up 20.4 percent in 2003, to nearly $10.4 billion.

As sales keep growing, so, too, does the organic farming industry. USDA-certified cropland, pasture and rangeland totaled 1.34 million acres nationwide in 1997, the USDA reported. By 2005 there were 4 million acres of certified agricultural land.

In the same 1997-2005 period, the number of animals raised through organic production methods climbed from 820,729 to more than 14.4 million.

While Indiana is not among the leading states in organic production, the industry is slowly gaining momentum. Forty-three certified farm operations grew organic crops on 4,253 acres in 2005. Hoosier organic livestock producers raised 2,788 animals that same year — most of them hogs.

In addition to soil fertility, the IP video series also covers pest control, poultry and the certification process. Other video broadcasts include:

• March 15 — "Organic Weed Control."

• April 19 — "Insect and Disease Control in Organic Vegetables."

• Sept. 20 — "Organic Poultry Production."

• Nov. 15 — "Beginning Organic Farming: Certification."

Each broadcast runs from 6-8:30 p.m. EST. Twenty-eight viewing sites in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio are confirmed, with additional sites possible. Among the Indiana sites on the list are:

• Aurora — Dearborn County Extension Office.

• Bloomington — Monroe County Extension Office.

• Danville — Hendricks County Extension Office.

• Evansville — Vanderburgh County Extension Office.

• Greenfield — Hancock County Extension Office.

• Greensburg — Decatur County Extension Office.

• Kokomo — Howard County Extension Office.

• LaGrange — LaGrange County Extension Office.

• New Castle — Henry County Extension Office.

• Paoli — Orange County Extension Office.

• Rockport — Spencer County Extension Office.

• Scottsburg — Scott County Extension Office.

• Vincennes — Southwest-Purdue Agricultural Center.

• Wanatah — Pinney-Purdue Agricultural Center.

• West Lafayette — Purdue University, Stewart Center.

• Winamac — Pulaski County Extension Office.

Registration is $10 per person per program and includes workshop materials and refreshments. Online registration is available through the Purdue Conference Division by logging onto https://www.conf.purdue.edu/.

For more information, contact Nelson at (812) 886-9582, jnelson@purdue.edu; Liz Maynard, Purdue Extension vegetable crop specialist at (219) 785-5673, emaynard@purdue.edu; Jon Cain, educator, Purdue Extension Hendricks County, at (317) 745-9260, jcain@purdue.edu; or call the toll-free Purdue Extension hotline at 1-888-398-4636 (EXT-INFO).

The North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program also is a series sponsor.

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415, sleer@purdue.edu

Source: Jerry Nelson, (812) 886-9582, jnelson@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
Agriculture News Page

Related Web sites:
Purdue New Ventures: http://www.agecon.purdue.edu/newventures/

National Organic Program: http://www.ams.usda.gov/NOP/indexNet.htm

 

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