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California, U.S.A. -Â Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) announced the release of the first Organic Land Grant Assessment Report, measuring research, education and outreach in the federally funded Land Grant system. The system, initiated by President Abraham Lincoln’s visionary Land Grant Law, includes universities, research stations and Cooperative Extension.
In the past decade, the organic food industry has more than quadrupled in growth, and OFRF sheds light on America’s ability to meet growing consumer demand with trained organic farmers and useful research. Conducting the first and only national assessment of the Land Grant system’s organic activity, OFRF scored each institution on 8 points including maintaining organic research land, cultivating student organic farm, offering an organic minor, major or certificate, and employing a dedicated organic faculty or staff member.
The Top Six campuses scoring a perfect ’8′ include: Colorado State University, University of Florida, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Tennessee (the newest addition to organic), and Washington State University. Five years ago, Washington State University was the first in the country to offer students a major in organic agriculture. Today, eight Land Grant Universities provide students this opportunity.
“We look to the Land Grant system to be responsive to public needs, economic growth, rural communities, and ultimately, access to healthy, safe food,” said Maureen Wilmot, Executive Director of OFRF. “While land dedicated to organic research has nearly doubled from 2003 to 2011, and universities providing organic programs have grown from zero to eight, public universities must do a great deal more in order to meet the growing needs of organic demand.”
Rich in data, OFRF’s Organic Land Grant Assessment illuminates the need for public investment in organic research and education in order to prepare the U.S. for future organic food production challenges. The quantitative data provides tools to drill deeper into answering questions including: What elements of organic research are most relevant to the urgent needs of organic farmers? What programs best train future organic farmers? To what degree do student organic farms build organic awareness and consumption?
The information gathered for this report yielded a vast amount of state-specific data on organic programs. Daily, OFRF experiences demand for this information from farmers, scientists, students, organic advocates, policy makers, industry representatives, funders, and citizens. OFRF plans to organize and present state-specific information and make it accessible to all interested parties.