Growing Organic Grain
Production-Oriented Videos Teach Organic Grain-Growing Tips
|Above: Planting winter cover crops such as hairy vetch and rye provides many benefits to organic grain growers, including providing a non-synthetic source of nitrogen and, after killing, suppressing weeds with a thick blanket of vegetative mulch. Photo by Andy Clark.|
When a national organic dairy opened on Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1996, mid-Atlantic grain producers realized they had an opportunity to add value to their product. They knew how to grow corn and beans, but now they wanted to do so organicallyand needed help. Recognizing that new niche, University of Maryland extension educator John Hall applied for a SARE grant to create tools that agricultural professionals could use to teach farmers the basics of organic grain production. The final producta three-part video series produced at Cornell University in conjunction with USDA's Agricultural Research Service-Beltsville, Penn State University and the University of Maryland provides essential production information and a colorful mix of examples from successful organic grain farmers. University researchers explain how to create diverse agricultural systems with innate abilities to combat pests, use minimum tillage to reduce compaction and preserve insect habitats, and plant cover crops to build the soil. The videos chronicle a fictional farm family's transition from conventional grain production to holistic planning and also feature farmers from Maryland to New York attesting to their reasons for choosing organic production. Reviews from grain farmers have been positive. "The video makes a lot of organic production practices more legitimate and makes it easier for farmers to participate and change over," says Richard Winters, a Kennedyville, Md., grain grower. The video series debuted at a professional development training event in Pennsylvania in April 2001. The project has spawned a nonprofit institute in eastern Maryland that is exploring other marketing outlets for organically produced grain to expand beyond animal feed.
[For more information, go to http://www.sare.org/projects/ and search for ENE98-038]