New OSU Book Helps Farmers Make Switch to Organic

May 1, 2008

WOOSTER, Ohio — Smooth your switch to organic farming through a new book from Ohio State University.

 

A Transition Guide to Certified Organic Crop Management, published by the Organic Food and Farming Education and Research (OFFER) Program, part of the university’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), details in its 74 pages the rules and realities of organic farming — specifically, of grains, fruits and vegetables.

“It’s the only manual of its kind in Ohio,” said OFFER Coordinator Deb Stinner, “and there are very few like it anywhere else in the United States. It helps make the federal guidelines for organic crop production understandable and is filled with both practical and scientific information about things farmers can do to meet these guidelines.”

Among the topics:

• Steps in the organic certification process, plus Midwest certification agencies.

• Seed, land use, planting stock, crop rotation and harvesting/handling standards.

• Pest, weed, disease, crop nutrient and soil fertility management standards.

• Exemptions, exclusions, record keeping, and allowed and prohibited substances.

“Anyone thinking about or seriously interested in transitioning to certified organic crop production, both agronomic and horticultural crops, should consider reading this,” Stinner said.

The author, Margaret Huelsman, prepared the guide with the help of experts from OFFER, Ohio State’s Agroecosystems Management Program, and the grassroots Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

Huelsman, who now lives in Indiana, previously was program manager of Ohio State’s Integrated Pest Management Program and an OFFER postdoctoral researcher. She holds a doctorate in environmental science from Ohio State.

Funding for the guide came from a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Cooperative State, Research, Education, and Extension Service.

“Acknowledging the realities of organic farming from the start will better prepare you to make the transition,” Huelsman writes in the introduction. “Arming yourself with knowledge and foresight only increases your chances of success from the beginning of the process.”

To get a copy — $15 each, with checks made payable to OSU/OFFER — write to OFFER Program, 201 Thorne Hall, OSU/OARDC, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691.

To find out more, call (330) 202-3528.

USDA, through its National Organic Program, requires organic farmers and food handlers to meet a uniform organic standard. The program makes certification mandatory for operations with organic sales over $5,000.

Organic crops often, though not always, sell at higher prices than conventional crops do.

The New Farm Organic Price Report, for example, listed these prices for the week of April 23:

• #2 yellow corn in Chicago, $11 a bushel for organic versus $5.50 for conventional.

• Granny Smith apples in Los Angeles, $45.50 per 100 count for organic versus $24 for conventional.

• Strawberries in Los Angeles, $23.50 a pound for organic versus $13 for conventional.

• Broccoli in Boston, $46 per 14 count versus $18 for conventional.

“The economics of organic agriculture,” Huelsman notes, “makes it more likely that a farmer can be profitable on smaller amounts of land and run a viable family farm operation.”

OFFER, established in 1998 on OARDC’s Wooster campus, provides educational and scientific support for organic agriculture to the people of Ohio.

OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

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Author(s): 
Kurt Knebusch
Source(s): 
Deb Stinner