Two men standing together in the middle of a wheat field, both looking down at the laptop computer in the hands of the man on the right

OATS (Organic Agronomy Training Service)

Generating Soil Health Solutions

Program Contact

Dr. LaKisha Odom

(Organic Agronomy Training Service)

Year Awarded   2022

Total award amount   $150,000

Location   Champaign, IL

Matching Funders   The Organic Center

To Advance Organic Agriculture, Training and Technical Support is Needed

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, The Organic Center 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.

Why this research is important

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.

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 LaKisha Odom, Ph.D.
Scientific Program Director Soil Health

Details About this Research

Expanding Organic Production Education and Training

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 helps 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.

Three Approaches

  1. Developing an organic professional certificate — In addition to the industry-wide shortage of organic technical advisors, there is currently no widely recognized mechanism for farmers to discern the qualifications of advisors that do exist. In 2021, OATS began a conversation with the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) to explore offering an organic specialty certificate for CCAs. OATS is continuing this conversation, and if ASA determines it is not a good fit for them, they will design a stand-alone certificate administered by OATS.
  2. Expanding access to information through durable resources by creating a series of 12 entertaining, informative, high-production value, bite-sized video lessons that are freely available on the OATS YouTube channel. Each are accompanied by a topical factsheets. OATS is also producing three episodes of the OATS podcast, which explores seasonal topics through interviews with experts and farmers.
  3. Industry-wide assessment to target training participants, areas, and content — OATS is seeking input from analysts from public and private institutions to identify the factors that drive companies to choose to import, identify regions where these factors have the best opportunity to be met domestically, and use that information to better target its recruitment, content and networking. OATS is also identifying the topic areas that are of most importance to smaller scale and disadvantaged farmers.

How This Research Contributes to Our Mission

This research develops and deploys the latest technology and knowledge to help farmers build and maintain healthy, productive soil and to protect farmers’ livelihoods and the environment, while increasing productivity.

Matching Funders

The Organic Center's mission is to convene credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental impacts of organic food and farming and to communicate the findings to the public. The Center is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) research and education organization operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association.

Connect: @OrganicCenter

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