The California Organic Center, the Rodale Institute’s third regional resource center, will be in Camarillo, CA, and funded by the Ventura Seed Company. The regional resource centers are intended for regionally focused research trials, farmer outreach, and consumer education.
The Rodale Institute is launching its third Organic Research and Training Center in California with the Ventura Seed Company. The California Organic Center, the Rodale Institute’s third regional resource center, will be on fifth-generation farmer Phil McGrath’s farm in Camarillo, CA, and funded by the Ventura Seed Company, which currently grows about 60 acres of certified organic hemp on the farm.
According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s 2016 Organic Survey, California has 2713 certified organic farms, about 19% of the total organic farms in the U.S., with annual sales totaling nearly $2.9 billion. However, the state stuggles with drought, wildfires, and the use of pesticides is at an all-time high. According to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation reported that California used 208,972,917 pounds of pesticide in 2016.
“We know that organic research is still vastly underfunded compared to the size of the industry in the United States,” said Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute executive director, in a press release. “We need more resilient agriculture that can deal with the extreme weather of climate change, so that farmers can continue to feed our growing population. That all starts with soil health. With researchers on the ground working on solutions geared for organic farmers in their own communities, we’ll continue to increase both the demand and supply of organic products in this country and around the world.”
With its regional resource centers, Rodale wants to fill in the gaps on localized research and education to meet the needs meet the needs of organic farmers around the country. The two other regional centers opened in 2019 are the Midwest Organic Center in Marion, Iowa, and the Southeast Organic Center in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia. The Midwest Organic Center is located on Eztel Sugar Grove Farm, a 190-acre farm, and supported by Frontier Co-op. Iowa, according to USDA, is fifth in the nation for the number of certified organic farms, but still lacks progressive, widespread access to research and training in regenerative organic practices, says the Rodale Institute.
The Southeast Organic Center is based on a 300-acre farm an hour outside of Atlanta. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, Georgia has only 88 certified organic farms, representing just 0.5% of organic farms in the U.S. Historically, organic production has been low in the South because the warm weather makes dealing with pests, disease, and weeds difficult without the aid of synthetic chemicals like pesticides and herbicides. On the bright side, however, according to USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, the South saw the most growth in organic farming between 2011 and 2016, with Alabama and South Carolina touting increases in organic farming of more than 200% since 2011.
The Southeast Organic Center’s key partner is Serenbe, a wellness community that offers a unique opportunity for consumer education and community engagement. Additional support comes from Georgia Organics, Southern SARE, and The Conservation Fund.