Organic Farming Gets a Boost From New Partnership Between Oregon State University and Oregon Tilth with Launch of Organic Extension Program

OSU Small Farms Program
Publish Date: 
Winter 2017
VolNo: 
Vol. XII No. 1

Oregon's organic farmers will benefit from new research, education and outreach thanks to a new Oregon State University (OSU) Organic Extension program dedicated to building and sustaining organic agriculture—Oregon’s fastest-growing farm sector. Oregon Tilth, a Corvallis-based nonprofit organic certifier and advocate for sustainable agriculture, has pledged $100,000 in matching funds over four years to support the program. Oregon Tilth has provided $150,000 to OSU’s Small Farms Program since 2009.

OSU’s Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems will use the money to develop research and educational programs and help pay the salary of Nick Andrews, now OSU’s first Organic Extension Agent.

“We are excited to support the launch of OSU’s Organic Extension Program with this important first step,” said Chris Schreiner, Oregon Tilth’s executive director. “It recognizes organic as an important sector of Oregon agriculture that OSU will be better able to serve through a dedicated program.”

Garry Stephenson, director of the OSU Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems, said, “This is significant, yet we don’t plan to stop here. We envision an Organic Extension Program with four or more positions around Oregon, focused on different crop and livestock systems as well as local food system development.”

Nick Andrews, OSU’s Organic Extension Agent, said, “Not only does this new funding allow faculty like me to specialize, but we can aggregate and grow OSU’s work on organics – the most rapidly growing sector of agriculture – for bigger and broader benefit.” Organic research and Extension projects will initially focus on annual crops, but the scope of the program will increase to include perennial crops, livestock systems, local food systems and other topics as more Organic Extension agents come on board.

Oregon ranks sixth among U.S. states in the certified organic acreage, and fourth in farmgate sales, according to 2015 data from USDA. “We’re fortunate in Oregon to have favorable growing conditions for organic production,” said Stephenson. “And Oregonians are tremendously interested in local, sustainable food.”

Oregon Tilth is a leading nonprofit certifier, educator and advocate for organic agriculture and products since 1974. Our mission to make our food system and agriculture biologically sound and socially equitable requires us to find practical ways to tackle big challenges. We advance this mission to balance the needs of people and planet through focus on core areas of certification, conservation, policy and the marketplace.

The OSU Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems was established in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences in 2013, building on two decades of the successful Extension Small Farms Program. The Center uses education, research, and collaboration to advance sustainable agriculture, community food systems, and economic progress for Oregon’s small farmers and ranchers.