Jim Riddle, University of Minnesota
The benefits and challenges of organic certification for research stations include:
- Access to Funds – Many grants now require that organic research be conducted on certified organic or transitional land.
- Credibility of Results – Conducting “systems” research under certified organic conditions establishes credibility with organic farmers, researchers, and funders.
- Marketability of Products as Certified Organic – Selling the crops on the organic market opens up the possibility for real-life economic analysis of the research project.
- Ability to Educate Others (faculty, staff, students, farmers) on Standards and Certification Process – There is no substitute for experience to learn, and then teach, organic production methods and requirements.
- Marketability of the Program – Researchers, students, farmers, funders, and others interested in organic agriculture are drawn to certified organic research programs.
- Implementation of a Quality System – Certification mandates documentation and discipline, which, while challenging, has numerous long-term benefits for the institution.
- External Evaluation – The organic inspector and the certification review process bring an additional level of external review.
- Internal Coordination/communication/teamwork – Certification of the research station requires teamwork on issues such as equipment cleaning, input application, crop segregation, planning and mapping, and the sequencing of events.
- Multi-disciplinary Research Opportunities – Maintaining a certified organic research station provides the foundation for multi-disciplinary research. For example, soil scientists often work with hydrologists, entomologists, plant breeders, and agronomists; organic products from the research station can be analyzed by food scientists or used for feed for organic animal science research; or, economists can study the profitability of the organic production system.