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Organic symposium proceedings now available

Summaries of presentations from the 2016 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS) held in Pacific Grove are now available online at http://eorganic.info/node/16778. Many of the workshops and keynote presentations were recorded live and may be viewed via the eOrganic YouTube channel.

Ten acres at Kearney are set aside for organic research.
The event, which was co-sponsored by the Organic Farming Research Foundation and UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, covered topics ranging from soil health, seeds, plant breeding, and biological control, to biodiversity, economics, and livestock — all with a focus on organic production.

“We are making these presentations available free online to extend the reach of all the valuable information shared at the symposium,” said Jeff Dahlberg, director of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center. “We're now planning the 2017 symposium and it will build on the cutting edge research shared by scientists this year.”

In the opening address, president of Organics International, André Leu, said organic agriculture offers the promise of a future to produce and distribute food and other farm products in a healthy, economically sound, truly sustainable and fair way. He called the current state of organic agriculture “Organic 3.0.”

“This is a concept we put out a year ago and it is resonating around the world,” Leu said. Organic 1.0 dates back to the 1920s and represents organic farming founders and visionaries, he said. Organic 2.0, beginning in the 1970s, represents the establishment of private standards, public regulations and global recognition. The current stage of organic farming is a time for market reinvention, widespread conversion and performance improvement.

Financial support for the 2016 OARS was provided by the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture Organic Research and Extension Initiative and the Gaia Fund.

"The OARS conference was very successful in bringing national and international scholars and farmers together to present findings about the latest research and how it is advancing organic farming and ranching," said Diana Jerkins, OARF research director. "OFRF will continue to encourage and participate in events such as these to ensure current research, education, and extension efforts are widely disseminated."

Organic Farming Research Foundation is a non-profit foundation that works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production.

The UC Kearney Agricultural REC is one of nine UC Agriculture and Natural Resources research and extension centers across the state of California. Ten acres at the 330-acre center are certified organic and available for organic research.

Posted on Monday, July 18, 2016 at 10:31 AM
Tags: Jeff Dahlberg (1), Kearney (1), Organic (6)

Northern California farmers are helping hospitals practice what they preach

Farm Fresh Healthcare How-to Guide

Inspired by an uptick of diet-related diseases and emerging antibiotic-resistant microbes, doctors are overdue when they insist that hospitals practice their prescriptions for healthy diets and healthier agricultural practices. Anything less would be a violation of their ethic to “first, do no harm. 

However, transitioning hospital food service to what they would like their patients to eat has been a two-year struggle. Many institutions do not systematically provide higher budgets for food procurement just because their doctors insist. Organic or antibiotic-free foods are consistently more costly and seldom available in the form that foodservice facilities have grown dependent on: prewashed, precut and preportioned.

Nonetheless, lessons have been learned and six hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area are sharing those in a How-To Guide based on two years of collaboration through the Farm Fresh Healthcare Project (FFHP). The guide describes how the hospitals were able to purchase almost 67,000 pounds of local produce from 10 family farmers who practice sustainable agriculture.

The guide features a photo of Capay Organic mandarins arriving at UCSF. The other hospitals in the project are John Muir Health, San Francisco VA Medical Center and Washington. (Stanford recently joined.)

Participating farms also include Coke, Durst Organic Growers, Las Hermanas, GreenSolar, Greene & Hemly, Dwelley, Zuckerman's, Casteneda Brothers, and Gowan Orchards. 

The project and the guide is the result of a collaboration between Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Health Care Without Harm, and San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility.

 

Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 7:12 AM
Tags: farm (1), local (1), organic (6)

Wild bees get boost from diverse, organic crops

Fields with diversified, organic crops get more buzz from wild bees, concludes a synthesis of 39 studies on 23 crops around the world published March 11 in the journal Ecology Letters.

The study found that wild bees were more abundant in diversified farming systems. Unlike large-scale monoculture agriculture, which typically relies upon pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, diversified farming systems promote ecological interactions that lead to sustainable, productive agriculture. Such systems are characterized by high levels of crop and vegetative diversity in agricultural fields and across farming landscapes.

“The way we manage our farms and agricultural landscapes is important for ensuring production of pollinated-food crops, which provide about one-third of our calories and far higher proportions of critical micronutrients,” said study senior author Claire Kremen, professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “This result provides strong support for the importance of biologically diversified, organic farming systems in ensuring sustainable food systems.”

Many of the study’s authors, including Kremen, also co-authored a study published March 1 in Science that found that fruit and vegetable production increased when wild pollinators – as opposed to domesticated honeybees – were more abundant.

“That study showed that wild bees helped crop yield, and this study shows that organic crops in a diversified farming system help wild bees,” said Kremen.

Christina Kennedy, senior scientist at The Nature Conservancy, is the study’s lead author.

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Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 6:45 AM
  • Author: sarah yang

When oysters and cows collide

California’s scenic Marin County is home to two thriving industries that were once in conflict – oyster farming and dairy farming.

In order to grow healthy and marketable oysters, the farmers depended on clean water in Tomales Bay. But regulations meant to protect the bay from cattle runoff were so strict that dairy farmers feared they could no longer stay in business.

Now, with help from David Lewis, director of UC Cooperative Extension in Marin County, these two communities have found creative solutions that allow both kinds of farmers to share this beautiful and fertile region. Find out how in a four-minute report by Kristen Simoes on UCTV Prime Cuts, “Cooperation Trumps Conflict in Tomales Bay.”

Posted on Friday, July 20, 2012 at 11:57 AM
  • Contributor: Alison Gang, UCTV Prime Cuts
Tags: dairy (1), David Lewis (1), organic (6), oysters (1)

UC scientists wrestle with weed control in organic alfalfa

During the 2000s, organic milk production was one of the fastest growing segments of organic agriculture in the United States, according to a USDA Economic Research Service publication Characteristics, Costs, and Issues for Organic Dairy Farming. In 2008, about 3 percent of the nation's cows were managed organically.

Among the conditions necessary for a cow to produce organic milk, she must eat only organic feed or browse on organic pasture for at least the previous 36 months. However, dairy producers have found that producing or sourcing organic feed – which must be grown with no synthetic fertilizers, insecticides or herbicides – is challenging. Recently organic alfalfa made up nearly 1.4 percent of U.S. alfalfa hay production, up from .5 percent in the early 2000s.

Dan Putnam, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, an alfalfa expert, said one key obstacle for organic alfalfa producers is weed management. Putnam put together a team of alfalfa hay experts to conduct an alfalfa weed management trial at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, where 10 acres are set aside to research organic production.

In 2011, Putnam; Carol Frate, UCCE advisor in Tulare County; and Shannon Mueller, UCCE advisor in Fresno County, experimented with timing seeding and early clipping to manage organic alfalfa in a weedy field.

“Alfalfa can be planted from early September all the way through the fall and winter to early spring, depending on weather patterns,” Putnam said. “Many farmers plant in late November and wait for rain to bring the crop up. Other options are irrigating the crop up in early fall or waiting till early or late spring to plant the crop. All of these strategies have implications for weed management.”

The late November planting is quite common since, compared to a September planting, it saves farmers the trouble of putting out sprinklers. However, late fall plantings failed in this experiment.

“We had a lot of weed intrusion at that point as well as cold conditions for alfalfa growth, so the stands were poor,” Putnam said.

The earlier planting also had weed intrusion, but the researchers clipped the field when the alfalfa was 10 to 12 inches high in early spring. The clipping cut back weeds that were overtopping the alfalfa, giving an advantage to the vigorous young alfalfa seedlings.

An early spring planting after tillage to destroy weeds also resulted in a good stand, but some production was lost in the first year compared with early fall plantings.

“Many growers are starting to realize that early fall (September/October) is a better time to start their alfalfa crops,” Putnam said. “With organic growers, it is even more important to pay attention to time of seeding because they have so few weed control options.”

While this research is conducted on organic alfalfa, Putnam said the results are also applicable to conventional alfalfa production, which represents more than 98 percent of California's total alfalfa crop.

“Timing has a profound effect on the first-year yield and health of the crop and its ability to compete with weeds,” he said.

Putnam, Mueller and Frate will share more information about the organic alfalfa trial during a field day at Kearney, 9240 S. Riverband Ave., Parlier, from 8 a.m. to 12 noon Sept. 5. The field day will feature the organic production trials, alfalfa variety trials, sorghum silage and nitrogen trials, and optimizing small grain yields. Other topics will be alfalfa pest management, irrigation and stand establishment.

Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 8:41 AM
Tags: alfalfa (1), Dan Putnam (1), organic (6)

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