During the 2016 Sustainable Agriculture Education Association Conference, I presented preliminary findings from the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) report, 2016 National Organic Research Agenda (available on our website at ofrf.org). As a researcher at OFRF and an educator at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I was thrilled to share our findings about the research organic farmers need to maintain or start environmentally and economically sustainable operations.
The full report was published last week, and presents recommendations for future organic agricultural research. These recommendations are based on our 2015 survey of organic farmers, nationwide listening sessions with organic farmers, and a review of key documents and recommendations from other organizations. Through our survey and listening sessions, we received input from well over 1,000 organic farmers and ranchers. Our effort to have their needs paramount in the future of research led us to identify the following top priorities for intensified research and education:
- Soil health and fertility management
- Weed management
- Nutritional benefits of organic food
- Insect management
- Disease management
The priority areas listed above are areas that require greater attention nationwide. In addition to these top priorities, OFRF recommends research on agricultural biodiversity, GMO impacts and avoidance, livestock health, climate change adaptation, organic breeding of plants and animals, and social science on marketing and policy regarding organic production and transition. The report also identified region specific priorities for research and outreach based on top challenges. For example, the issue of water use and irrigation efficiency is a top priority in the Western region, whereas GMO impacts and avoidance is a major priority in the North Central region.
This report highlights the need for educators and researchers to work together with farmers to find solutions to the most challenging agricultural problems. I hope the report will be of value to members of the SAEA network. Please contact me with any questions or to discuss the report at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like a printed version of this report for teaching and research activities, please send me an email.