What is Organic Agriculture?
Organic is a labeling term for food or other agricultural products that have been produced using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity in accordance with the USDA organic regulations. This means that organic operations must maintain or enhance soil and water quality, while also conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used. Only products that have been certified as meeting the USDA’s requirements for organic production and handling may carry the USDA Organic Seal (USDA National Organic Program, November 2016).
The Organic Market
According to the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic products in the U.S. have grown from $3.6 billion in 1997 to over $47 billion in 2016. While organic food sales make up just over 5% of total U.S. food sales, less than 1% of farmland is dedicated to organic production. Domestically, supply of organic commodities is not keeping up with growing demand. Much of the domestic organic supply shortfall is being satisfied with imports. For example, according to the USDA ERS, over 75% of organic soybean consumption was satisfied with imports in 2016. Organic processors and handlers continue to run into supply shortfalls and are seeking more domestic supplies in order to reduce dependence on imports. This situation presents unique opportunities for Indiana farmers who are interested in diversifying into the organic sector and navigating the 3-year transition process.
Organic in Indiana
The number of certified organic operations (certified to the USDA National Organic Program, 7 CFR 205) in Indiana has grown substantially in recent years. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the number of certified organic farms increased from 271 in 2012 to 602 in 2017. The USDA Organic Integrity Database (as of May 2020) lists nearly 900 certified organic operations. This encompasses a diversity of crop (grain, forage, vegetables) and livestock (dairy, eggs, poultry, beef) farms, and handling (food processing, packaging, milling, etc) operations. Learn more about organic operations in Indiana by exploring the following interactive map of certified operations. The map was created in Google Maps with data downloaded from the USDA Organic Integrity Database (accessed May 30, 2020). Learn more about the organic agriculture sector in Indiana.
This series of organic agriculture programs provides an opportunity for farmers and agricultural professionals to gain knowledge of organic grain production systems and to network with others. The series focuses on transitional strategy, crop rotation, nutrient and weed management, and markets targeted for organic transitional and conventional farmers, agricultural professionals and landowners.
The Organic Agronomy Training Series (OATS) is a collaboratively managed, multi-region training program for organic agriculture. Purdue Extension co-hosts the OATS two-day training by providing education and guidance on organic agriculture, production, certification, transition, and markets. Participants include agronomists, certified crop advisors, extension agents, and technical service providers.
Hosted by Purdue Extension, the Indiana Organic Grain Farmer Meeting increases participant understanding of organic transition, certification, and cropping systems through peer learning and networking. This two-day annual training includes education and full-day workshops on transitioning to organic grain, breakout sessions, farmer panels, networking time, and an industry trade show.
Purdue Extension offers professional development trainings for agriculture professionals and organic farmers at all levels of expertise – including those considering a transition to organic grain production. We focus on the practical expertise to develop yourself and your organization by covering leadership, time management, ethics, and other aspects of organic business and production.
Indiana Organic Agriculture Advisory Committee
The main purpose of the Advisory Committee is to provide guidance to Purdue Extension on the action that can be taken to further the Indiana organic industry. The Committee focuses on increasing the capacity and awareness within organic agriculture in the state, as well as building a committee-member understanding of organic industry issues and trends.
Purdue Extension hosted a series of regional roundtable meetings in areas of the state with robust organic activity. The purpose of these meetings was to bring together organic producers in the state and create a dialogue about the current state and vision of organic agriculture and the resources, programs, and supports that are needed.
Purdue Extension conducts organic agriculture research in several of Purdue Agriculture Centers located around the state. We also support individual initiatives for on-farm research and provide advising on how to conduct your own on-farm experiments.
Purdue Extension – Organic Agriculture offers one-on-one consulting to anyone looking for guidance, resources, and technical advising on organic agriculture and transitioning to organic agriculture.
“I appreciate Purdue’s willingness to listen to farmer ideas. Having the spirit of servanthood is an excellent step in the right direction in promoting organic ag.”
– Roundtable Attendee
To stay up-to-date with our programming, visit the Events page to explore future meetings, trainings, field days, and more.
Purdue Extension Organic Agriculture
The Purdue Extension Organic Agriculture program coordinates extension and collaborative research programs in organic agriculture in Indiana. The program seeks to identify and address the diverse educational and technical resource needs of certified organic and transitioning to organic farmers. This is accomplished through one-on-one technical support and formal extension programs for farmers, agricultural professionals, and landowners. We also offer professional development training for educators and agency staff to support the growing organic sector in Indiana. If you have program suggestions, questions, or would like to get involved, contact us!
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Purdue Extension-Organic Agriculture supports farmers of all scales and enterprises looking to shift acres into certified organic production. We work with Indiana farmers transitioning acreage into organic production, and offer educational programs on organic production for farmers and other agricultural firstname.lastname@example.org (765) 494-8490 615 W. State Street. W. Lafayette, IN 47907