Organic Agronomy Training Series (OATS) session offers education for agronomists, crop advisors, and others working with farmers

As demand for organic grain products soars, newly certified organic grain farmers — or those in the process of transitioning to organic production — struggle to find reliable technical service and support as they navigate this new production system.

To help solve this issue, a two-day Organic Agronomy Training Series (OATS) event will be held to provide training on organic grain production, certification, and marketing to the people who support organic and transitioning growers. After similar trainings in North Dakota and Indiana earlier this season, the last OATS event of the year will be held August 14-15 in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Agronomists, certified crop advisors, consultants, extension agents, technical service providers, farmers, and those working with farmers in other capacities are encouraged to attend this event. Registration is available through Aug. 7, and walk-ins are welcome.

After completing the OATS training, participants will be able to:

  • Provide basic agronomic services to certified/transitioning organic producers
  • Discuss successful organic crop production strategies
  • Understand thoroughly the organic certification and inspection process
  • Advise producers on compliance with all applicable USDA rules and regulations
  • Recommend profitable, diverse crop rotations that meet rotational requirements
  • Understand organic weed-control strategies, including cultural and mechanical
  • Advise on the integration of cover crops and reduced tillage into organic systems
  • Recommend organically approved pest-control strategies
  • Advise on basic organic fertility programs
  • Refer to current research relevant to organic production systems

Participants will learn from content experts, researchers, agronomists, and organic farmers, and they will also visit a nearby organic farm that features certified-organic row crop production.

“Participating in the OATS trainings will help those who work with farmers to engage in one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture,” says event co-organizer Erin Silva, associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin­­­­­­–Madison. “It’ll be a great opportunity to learn about the unique challenges and opportunities in organic production and marketing.”

According to the Organic Trade Association, sales of U.S. organic products have grown from $3.6 billion in 1997 to nearly $50 billion in 2017. While organic food sales make up 5.5% of total U.S. food sales, less than 1% of U.S. farmland is dedicated to organic production with much of the shortfall made up by imports.

Organic grain production is as much an opportunity for advisors and consultants eager to grow their customer bases and support diverse production as it is for farmers interested in diversifying cropping systems and income streams. However, a recent report from the U.S. Organic Grain Collaboration identified a shortage of technical service providers that understand organic production and offer sufficient support. Founded in 2018 with leadership from Pipeline Foods, OATS unites industry, nonprofit, agency and agronomy partners to fill the gap.

“The goal of OATS is to help those working with farmers to understand the opportunity in organic and be able to support and advise growers interested in pursuing it,” says Anders Gurda, director of the Farm Profit Program at Pipeline Foods.

“When agronomists and advisers can knowledgeably answer questions and offer guidance, farmers are more likely to transition effectively and find success once organic,” notes Matt Leavitt of Albert Lea Seed, who helped organize the training.

OATS is supported by the Organic Trade Association’s industry-invested GRO Organic Voluntary Research, Promotion, and Education Program. Additional support for the La Crosse training is provided by Albert Lea Seed, Pipeline Foods, Grain Millers, AgriEnergy Resources, Cashton Farm Supply, DeLong Company, and Blue River Organic Seed, as well as University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of Extension, Iowa State University Extension, and University of Minnesota.

The OATS Central training session runs August 14, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and August 15, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Radisson Hotel La Crosse, located at 200 Second St. South, La Crosse, Wisconsin. While the training was designed with service providers in mind, farmers are also welcome to attend. The registration deadline is Aug. 7, and walk-ins are welcome. For more information and to register, visit:

Continuing Education Units for Certified Crop Advisors have been requested for the session. Contact Jody Padgham at 715-667-3203 or with sponsorship inquiries or general questions.