Image of people in a room with text "Indiana Organic Agriculture Roundtable Series"

About

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 support that are needed.

To view a summary of the roundtable discussion analysis and results, click here or keep scrolling to read below.

Image of a group of people at a roundtable meeting.

Overview

To better serve the diverse needs and interests of organic farmers and the organic agriculture industry in Indiana, Purdue Extension hosted a series of Indiana Organic Roundtable meetings over four weeks in four locations in Indiana in the spring of 2020.  At each regional roundtable, the meetings followed the same format and included facilitated discussions about organic farming in Indiana. These discussions were broken up into three main segments titled “Wow”, “Now”, and “How.”

"Wow" Discussion

During the first segment of discussions, titled “Wow”, roundtable participants reflected on what they wanted organic agriculture to look like in their region and in Indiana. The most prevalent ideas that arose during this section were:

  • Growing the strength and volume of the organic industry, by diversification and increasing production of crops, produce, livestock, and grains
  • Increasing education, training, and understanding among farmers, consumers, the public, and youth in organic agriculture
  • Building connections, networks, and community of organic producers between themselves and with consumers through sharing information and supporting each other
  • More clarity and consistency related to certification, integrity in organic production, consequences for not meeting standards, and conflict among farmers related to drift

"Now" Discussion

After a break, the second segment of discussions, titled “Now”, asked roundtable participants to reflect on what the current assets, needs, and information and support for organic agriculture.

Some of the current assets that were indicated are:

  • Other organic farmers, experts, and organizations such as NRCS, Indiana Grown, etc.
  • Retail and co-op operations such as Organic Valley and W.O.L.F.
  • Farmer meetings, conferences, and trainings about organic agriculture

Some of the current needs that were indicated are:

  • Farmer and consumer education and awareness
  • Access to better profits and markets, cheaper land, and better insurance
  • Better infrastructure for storage, milling, and supplies

Some of the current information and support were:

  • Conferences, meetings, and associations such as ACRES, OEFFA, etc.
  • Organic agriculture contacts, such as agronomists, certifiers, farmers, etc.
  • Retail and co-op operations such as seed dealers and buyers
Current Needs in Organic Ag

Word cloud of participant responses about current needs for organic agriculture in Indiana. The words organic, more and need were not included. Most-reported words were education, farmer, market, farm, crop, issue, new, and research.

"How" Discussion

After lunch, groups of participants took up discussion again in the last segment called “How”. During this time, participants discussed what resources, programming, research, and strategies will help move organic agriculture towards their vision.

Some resources identified by participants were:

  • Communication networks, organic associations, and lobbying power
  • A clearing house for organic sellers/buyers, information, news, mentoring, etc.
  • More funding for transition, new enterprises, co-op, and loans

Some programs identified by participants were:

  • Events to allow farmers to share information and build connections with each other
  • Programming to increase public and youth education about food production and organics

Some research ideas identified by participants were:

  • Yields, environmental impact, crop health, and economics between organic and conventional
  • Cropping strategies and ideal rotations to fit into corn/soy
  • Tissue, soil, and fertility testing

Conclusion

During the analysis, the two most prevalent themes that emerged were connections and clarity. It is clear that organic agriculture producers across Indiana are interested in connections. They want to know other farmers, learn from each other, and share/demonstrate their practices. Second, participants indicated their desire for Purdue Extension to increase their role with producers to increase clarity and transparency in organic agriculture. They want Purdue Extension to help get farmers together; to collaborate with other universities and state agencies to provide training, information, and resources; and to conduct and share research results about organic production, focusing on on-farm studies with farmers.

 

Moving Forward

Roundtable participants provided a large volume of information that is helpful and great guidance to Purdue Extension to use toward planning future priorities and activities. Some of the steps that we have begun to take include:

  • Designing the inaugural Indiana Organic Agriculture Advisory Committee to provide guidance to Purdue Extension on the actions that can be taken to further the Indiana organic industry
  • Building an External Resources page on the Purdue Organic Agriculture site using the roundtable responses

Through these roundtable activities, participants shared their passion for organic agriculture and see a positive future for organic agriculture in Indiana.

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