In 2020, the University of California announced the creation of a UC Organic Agriculture Institute. The aim of the institute is to develop a resource specifically for the organic sector. Institute director Houston Wilson said much of the work so far has led to a better understanding of the state’s current biological landscape.
“One of the starting points was to develop a proposal for a state-level needs assessment. This is something we pitched to the USDA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, and it was successfully funded,” Wilson explained. “We have a postdoctoral researcher moving in the next few weeks and she will start developing this survey tool. Then we’ll shop around and meet, interview, and talk with dozens, if not hundreds, of organic growers across the state.
The survey will be more focused than previous survey efforts, to identify key issues facing producers. Wilson noted that the information will be used as a guide for the Institute’s future programmatic activities. The goal is to understand how the Institute can better support the industry through relevant research, extension and education.
The growing market share of organic products has prompted the development of increased technical support for organic production. At the same time, consumer interest in the environmental impacts of agriculture is driving more conventional producers to turn to organic practices. Wilson said state and federal efforts are helping to further develop alternative production resources, which often coincide with biological interests.
“What we’re doing at UC’s Institute of Organic Agriculture could result in new practices and training opportunities that will truly benefit all California growers looking to reduce environmental impacts,” said Wilson. “Of course, we’re starting specifically with certified organic growers, but I think that gives a lot of things that will be useful to all growers.”