Back in 2020, the University of California announced the establishment of a UC Organic Agriculture Institute. The purpose of the institute is to develop a resource specifically for the organic sector. Director of the Institute, Houston Wilson said that much of the work thus far has been garnering a better understanding of the current organic landscape in the state.
“One of the starting points was to develop a proposal for a needs assessment at the state level. This was something that we put to the USDA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, and it was successfully funded,” Wilson explained. “We have a postdoctoral scholar who’s moving out in the next couple of weeks and she’s going to start developing this survey tool. Then we’re going to take it around and basically meet and interview and talk with dozens if not hundreds of organic growers across the state.”
The survey will be more targeted than previous survey efforts, to identify the primary issues that growers are struggling with. Wilson noted that the information will be used as a guide for future programmatic activities of the Institute. The goal is to understand how the Institute can better support the industry through relevant research, extension, and education.
The growth in market share of organic produce has pushed the development of increased technical support for organic production. At the same time, consumer interest in the environmental impacts of farming is prompting more conventional growers to look at organic practices. Wilson said that state and federal efforts are helping further develop alternative production resources, which often coincide with organic interests.
“What we’re doing in the UC Organic Agriculture Institute could result in new practices and new training opportunities that will benefit really all growers in California that are looking to reduce environmental impacts,” said Wilson. “Of course, we start specifically with certified organic growers, but out of that I think comes a lot of stuff that will be useful to all growers.”