Skip to Main Content

New Purdue Extension program helps grain farmers transition to organic production

With organic food sales climbing to a record $43 billion in 2016 — more than 8 percent over the previous year, switching from conventional to organic grain production is becoming increasingly compelling to more Hoosier farmers. Current razor-thin margins for conventional grain production also provide another incentive for changing direction.

In Indiana, there have been few resources for farmers who need to understand how to make the transition to organic grain production, but that will change. Purdue researchers received a nearly $200,000 grant from the  USDA’s North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program for a project titled “Organic Transition and Certification: Supporting Indiana Grain Farmers’ Capacity to Meet Market Demand.”

“We’re getting more and more questions from farmers around the state who are looking at the organic marketplace as an opportunity,” said Michael O’Donnell, a Purdue Extension educator in organic and diversified agriculture and program director for the project. “We’re bringing resources and programs into this space where they have been lacking in Indiana.”

The three-year program will include surveys of farmers who have made the transition from conventional to organic grain production, farmers currently making the transition, and those who are interested in addressing and exploring potential roadblocks to organic farming. Researchers will also talk to grain buyers about standards for grain, pricing tiers, and other factors that are important for growers entering the market.

From there, Extension specialists will spread what they learn through publications, workshops, field days, regional farmer meetings, and other venues. A farmer advisory board will guide the process to ensure that the data collected and disseminated is relevant.

Purdue’s Tamara Benjamin, assistant program leader for diversified farming and food systems, and Ariana Torres, an assistant professor of horticulture and landscape architecture and agricultural economics, are collaborating with O’Donnell, along with Indiana University’s James Farmer, assistant professor of recreation, park and tourism studies, and Analena Bruce, post-doctoral research fellow.

“There’s a huge push to sell into the organic markets right now,” Benjamin said. “There’s a lot of pressure, and hopefully this will give the guidance that farmers need to make the transition.”

Featured Stories

Bees on a honey comb
Research team explores genomic options to enhance honeybee resilience

Beekeepers lose between 30% and 40% of their colonies annually, mostly to parasites and...

Read More
Purdue College of Agriculture.
Farmer sentiment improves, producers credit stronger financial conditions

Agricultural producers’ sentiment increased for the second consecutive month, as the Purdue...

Read More
Students gather at Purdue Summer Science Program on campus at Purdue
Donation takes Summer Science Program to the next level

If you’re on Purdue’s campus in the summer, you may notice a group of students...

Read More
Mary Strickland
Mary Strickland - Graduate Ag Research Spotlight

Mary Strickland is a lifelong animal lover — so much so that she admits to occasionally...

Read More
Ismail Olaniyi flies a UAV up above the trees.
The crossroads between lemon trees and technology

In warmer southern and western states, citrus orchards are important for feeding and bringing...

Read More
A hand holding two eggs
Rehabilitation through agricultural skills with Purdue Farmer-to-Farmer Trinidad and Tobago

Gardening and poultry care are sometimes seen as trendy hobbies in the U.S., but in Trinidad and...

Read More
To Top