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Opportunities and strategies for organic transition to be highlighted at June 12 field day

With seemingly unending low grain prices and increasing uncertainty concerning international trade, farmers are seeking alternative crops and production strategies that allow for higher margins and more stable prices. To showcase options to farmers, the Organic Grain Resource and Information Network (OGRAIN)—a program of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, in partnership with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)—is hosting a series of field days throughout the summer highlighting the opportunities associated with organic grain production and alternative crops, particularly cereal grains.

The first field day of the season will be hosted by Sandy Syburg of Purple Cow Organics on June 12 starting at 10:00 a.m. in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. This field day, featuring presentations by organic industry experts, including Gary Zimmer from Midwestern BioAg, will focus on a wide range of topics critical for farmers considering transitioning to organic, such as nutrient management strategies, tools for successful weed management, and identifying markets.

A full agenda for the day, including topics, speakers and registration information, can be found here: https://ograin.cals.wisc.edu/events/field-days/. Pre-registration is requested by June 9.

Total U.S. organic sales topped the $50 billion mark in 2018. The organic market continues to grow, with demand outpacing domestic supply, notes OGRAIN program leader Erin Silva, a UW–Madison assistant professor of plant pathology and UW–Extension specialist in organic agriculture.

“Organic grain prices remain strong, with organic corn averaging $10 per bushel, and organic soybean $18.50 per bushel,” says Silva. “Diversifying into organic production presents an enormous opportunity for Wisconsin’s grain farmers. And it is not an ‘all-or-none’ proposition – farmers are finding success transitioning a portion of their acres to organic while maintaining their conventional acres as well.”

While organic farmers must utilize a different set of production strategies and undergo the organic certification process, farmers of all scales are finding success through transition. “With more farmers finding success using organic practices, and more research and resources helping farmers face the challenges of weed and fertility management while improving their soil health, there has never been a better time to consider organic production as an option,” says Silva. “Our field days, including our June 12 field day, offer opportunities for conventional farmers considering transition to view successful organic grain operations. Current organic farmers will also pick up methods to further sharpen their skills.”

Throughout the summer, additional field days will be hosted on commercial organic farms and at the UW–Madison Arlington Agricultural Research Station, showcasing state-of-the-art production strategies and innovations that allow for organic practices to be integrated on farms of all scales and crop rotations. For a full list of field day dates, topics and speakers, visit the OGRAIN website: https://ograin.cals.wisc.edu/events/field-days/.

The June 12 field day will take place at the Mapleton Community Center, located at N87 W35493 Mapleton Road, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066. Questions about the field day can be directed to Harriet Behar, OGRAIN Outreach Specialist, at (608) 872-2164 or harriet.organic@gmail.com.

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