Breaking Down Organic Farming Myths w/ Dr. Jessica Shade, PhD

Interview with Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs at The Organic Center

Show Notes

In this episode, we welcome Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center. The Organic Center is a nonprofit research and education organization that conducts and convenes credible, evidence-based science on the environmental and health effects of organic food. Jessica joins the show to break down some of the biggest myths that surround organic farming.

Learn more about Avé Organics: www.aveorganics.com

Learn more about The Organic Center: www.organic-center.org

Connect with our guest on LinkedIn

#agriculture #farming #myths #organicagriculture #organicfarming

Podcast Transcription

INTRO: Welcome to Organics Unpacked, a podcast for the business-minded organic grower — an interview podcast where we hear from the top experts in the commercial organic industry, with a focus on the business elements of organic growing both in and out of the field. You will gain insight and grow your operation. This show is brought to you ad-free by Avé Organics, a Wilbur-Ellis company. To learn more about Avé Organics, visit our program notes. In the meantime, enjoy the show. 

TOM: Hello, everyone. Thanks for tuning in today. Welcome to a new episode of Organics Unpacked, a podcast where we discuss organic farming from a practical view. I’m your host, Tom Buman. Today, I’m joined by Jessica Shade. Jessica is the Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center. Jessica, welcome to Organics Unpacked.

JESSICA: Thanks so much, Tom. It’s great to be here.

An Interest in Organics

TOM: Well, Jessica, before we get started with kind of the meat and potatoes of what we’re going to talk about, I’d like to know a little bit about your background and how you got to be the Director of Science for The Organic Center.

JESSICA: Sure. So my interest in organics started back when I was an undergraduate many years ago. I was the co-owner of an organic food cooperative. And while I was working there, I had many roles, as a lot of cooperative co-owners do, and one of them was policy director. So I really got to learn about why we were an organic cooperative rather than a cooperative that sells all kinds of food. And at the same time, I was learning about science and making these connections between the science that I was learning in my courses and the food that I was selling at this food cooperative and then growing in my garden and helping in the summers at farms. So it was kind of this confluence of things that came together that really stayed with me as I went to graduate school. So I went to graduate school and got my PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. And that interest in not just the whys’ behind what we eat and how we grow food but also communicating science really developed into a passion. So this job is kind of the perfect union of all of my interests and passions.

Mission of The Organic Center

TOM: Sounds like an interesting career path, Jessica. So, now, at The Organic Center, tell me about what the organization does, your mission, what you accomplish, your footprint, the type of work you do.

JESSICA: Sure. So The Organic Center is a nonprofit, and we have two main goals. One is to communicate research that’s happening all over the world, really, with stakeholders that are interested in that research — whether that’s organic farmers, farmers who are interested in organic but aren’t organic yet, policy makers, other researchers, consumers. We really have this broad array of stakeholders that we’re communicating with to get that message to the people who need to understand research findings to make educated changes in what they’re doing. Then, as we’re doing that, we’re really talking with farmers a lot. We’re identifying gaps in our knowledge when it comes to organic food and farming, and we’re collaborating with academic and governmental institutions to fill those knowledge gaps with research projects. And we have a broad array of projects in different areas. So we do applied research that’s on the field, overcoming challenges for organic farmers. We do health-related research. So that’s looking at things like pesticide exposure, nutrient levels. Then we also have an environmental section, and that looks at things like soil health, on-farm and off-farm biodiversity, climate change, things like that. So we really have this very broad portfolio, but it allows us to look at multiple different factors of the farming system — which, of course, in organic, is really important because it’s a holistic system that all fits together.

The Organic Center Staff

TOM: So, Jessica, how big is the staff at The Organic Center?

JESSICA: The Organic Center is really small. We work very closely with the Organic Trade Association, and I’m not sure exactly how many staff members we have, put together. But suffice it to say that we have a small staff. But everyone who sees the projects that we’re doing is surprised by how much we get done with such a small staff. And I would say that the reason why we’re able to get so much done is because we have a lot of emphasis on collaboration. So we work really closely with multiple different organizations and develop novel collaborations and put together teams of multifaceted people from different sectors of the organic world. And I think that enables us to really get a lot done and have a really impactful punch despite having a small organization.

Collaboration in the Organic World

TOM: I think that’s one of the interesting things to me, kind of joining the organic world — I am certainly a newcomer: how collaborative it is and how well people work together. No question there are turf battles and disagreements and competition, but it does seem like there is a close collaboration in the organic world.

JESSICA: I agree. And I think what’s interesting about the organic world is when you’re talking about these disagreements, these heated conversations that people within the organic sector have, I actually think that strengthens the organic sector as a whole because we’re not avoiding tricky topics. We’re not sweeping things under the rug. We’re pulling everything out. We’re talking about it all. People care deeply about what they’re talking about. So, in the end, it leads to a really strong label. I know some people who talk about how there’s infighting, and they don’t like to see it within the organic sector. I am of the opinion: let’s talk about it all and really think about things critically so that organic continues to be the gold standard.

Organic Farming Myths

TOM: I think that’s a really good point. So, Jessica, today, when I invited you on, one of the things I wanted to talk to you about today was kind of the myths that surround organic farming. So people that are in organic farming now, people that are transitioning, people that are thinking about it, people that have given it no thought or are against it — we have these preconceived notions about what organic farming is. And I wanted to talk to you about some of the myths surrounding organic farming that you would identify and then talk about the science behind your answers. So I hope that I am not somebody that just allows people to kind of say things unchallenged. Obviously, I’m interested in the science behind some of the discussions that we have. So, in your mind, what are some of the top myths that you hear from people about organic farming?

JESSICA: One of the biggest myths that I hear, or ideas that I hear, from people when it comes to organic farming is about organic’s ability to sequester carbon in the ground. So this sometimes manifests as people talking about organic and regenerative as though they’re two different things that oppose one another, which doesn’t really make sense to me because organic is regenerative. The arguments that I hear is that organic farmers use tillage as a way to control weeds and that tillage can prevent carbon sequestration. So there are many different levels of myths in this argument. The first one that I always bring up is that people think that organic farmers use tillage a lot more than conventional farmers. But if you look at the statistics from the National Agricultural Statistics Service out of the USDA, there actually isn’t much difference between organic and conventional when it comes to conservation tillage. They both use about the same amount, and that amount is about 40%. So we have a long way to go on both sides. But that’s kind of an interesting thing to keep in mind, which is that organic doesn’t necessarily always use tillage more often than conventional. But even if you play to the critics, even if you do compare organic full tillage to conventional no-till, you actually still see that organic comes out on top. There was this fantastic study done a few years ago out of the USDA ARS — the Agricultural Research Service — that did this comparison. So they looked specifically at organic full tillage, conventional no-tillage, and they took soil samples down to a meter, which is key. Because with tillage, you sequester carbon more deeply where it’s less exposed to the air, more likely to be stored.

So, with these deeper measurements, what they found was that if you looked just at the surface layer, conventional no-till did sequester more. But as soon as you started looking deeper into the soil, organic stored much more than conventional. And if you average all the way down to a meter, organic had significantly more carbon sequestration than conventional, even though they were looking at organic full tillage and conventional no-till. So, when it comes to tillage, even if organic farmers are using it as this critical tool to fight weeds, you still see that it’s sequestering more carbon. And the reason for that is that organic farmers are using organic soil amendments, which are so important. And this kind of gets at another issue that I hear a lot, which is there’s so much diversity within organic farming. There’s so much diversity within conventional farming. How can you make generalizations between organic and conventional? And that’s one of the things that I hear about that study. So it was a specific study done at the Beltsville long-term systems trials. So everyone who hears about it is like, Okay, but what about on average, if you look at all of the organic farms across the U.S. and all of the conventional farms?’ And The Organic Center actually did a study that took all of that noise into account. So we collaborated with Northeastern University, their National Soils Lab. And what we found, after taking over a thousand samples from across the United States, is that, on average, even when you account for all that noise of different farming styles, different strategies, different soil types, organic still sequesters significantly more carbon in the soil. 

So, after that, we had a lot of questions about why. Okay, great. So, now, we know organic is better at sequestering carbon. Why? So we actually have a really exciting project that just got published recently that looks at those whys.’ So it gets down deep into the strategies that organic farmers are using, to look at: which are the best practices that have the biggest impacts on sequestering carbon within the soil? So, as I mentioned, the most important thing that farmers are doing is using best practices when it comes to organic soil amendments. So, using things like compost, like manure — that’s really building up the carbon because it’s immediately putting carbon back into the soil. But it’s also creating food for microbes that then boost the carbon themselves. Conservation tillage also has an impact. So it’s not quite as big as organic soil amendments, but using conservation tillage can boost sequestration, as well. Another thing that we noticed is that things like cover cropping have an impact but not immediately. So it takes about a decade for you to start seeing those big carbon sequestration boosts. But, after that time, the carbon sequestration benefits are actually even slightly higher than conservation tillage. So things like cover cropping are really important, as well. So there are all these different strategies that organic farmers can focus on to boost their carbon sequestration benefits, even beyond that baseline that we found when we took all the noise into account and compared organic and conventional.

Crop Diversity on Organic Farms

TOM: I would also think that one of the other benefits — and, again, it’s easy to kind of generalize — but organic farmers, to me, seem to use more small grains and maybe legumes instead of, at least in the upper Midwest, a corn/​bean rotation. Certainly, if you do discount soil sequestration because of tillage, it would seem to me that rotation would also benefit and maybe why you’re finding that organic matter and that carbon at a deeper level, because those roots are putting it at a deeper level. Is that fair to say?

JESSICA: Yeah, the diversity of crops on organic farms, like you mentioned, has a really big impact, as well. The rotations that they use can help sequester carbon, keep that soil healthy. And one of the things that’s interesting is that, as those crop rotations get diversified and become more diverse — and they incorporate more things into it, like annuals and perennials — that can also increase the income for farmers. So the more diverse a crop rotation is, not just the higher the incomes but also the more consistent and steady that income for a farmer can be over the years.

Manure in Organic Farming

TOM: You also talked a little bit about some of the organic fertilizers, especially manure, and I have an interest in how much — like, what’s the benefit of putting on manure to organic carbon?

JESSICA: Yeah, so are you talking about manure specifically or manure, compost, everything that’s out there?

TOM: I think that the most access is to raw manure, right? That would be kind of the low-hanging fruit.

JESSICA: Yeah, and we actually have a study that’s ongoing right now with the University of California, Davis, as well as a whole consortium of universities who are interested in this topic. So what we did is we did this big survey, this national survey, to look at what organic farmers are using when it comes to soil nutrient management. And manure was an extremely important part of that. Farmers were using composted manure, raw manure, an enormous diversity of animals that that manure came from. But raw manure was definitely one of the really important parts, and what’s great about using organic soil amendments like manure is that it really helps build that carbon. It helps build soil structure, soil porosity. So that allows the water to flow through the soil in the case of floods. It also helps water-holding capacity. So, when there’s a drought, that soil can actually hold onto water a lot better.

So there are all these environmental benefits. One of the concerns that we hear about is concerns over food safety. So one of the parts of the project was looking at whether any pathogens from that manure were transferring to the actual vegetables that we were looking at. And we found that there was very little if any transfer. So that’s kind of an interesting thing because that’s honestly another myth that I hear about organic and whether it’s less safe because it uses raw manure. And if you look at the evidence, there isn’t any evidence to support that. So that’s one of the things that we’re trying to look into, really understanding where these pathogens come from. But if you look at outbreaks in the food system, very few of them are from organic crops, which is kind of interesting because there’s that myth out there about food safety in organic. But what the evidence shows is that organic, since it still has to adhere to all of the food safety standards that conventional does — and on top of that, it has to adhere to extra standards from the USDA to get that organic certification label — it’s kind of like this double certification or double regulations that it has to follow. So organic food is extremely safe.

Pests in Organic Farming

TOM: So one of the other things I often hear that organic farming is criticized for is harboring pests. What are your thoughts on that?

JESSICA: Yeah, so this is one of the things that I’ve heard when I talk with farmers. And they have disagreements with their neighbors because sometimes there’s this idea that, since organic farms aren’t using pesticides, especially insecticides, that all of the herbivorous insects — these pests — go into the organic farm, breed there and then cause troubles for their conventional neighbors. And what’s interesting is that that myth is actually born out of some reality because organic farms do have a lot more biodiversity. So there was this curiosity about: where did that biodiversity come from? Is that increase in biodiversity on organic farms from pests? Do organic farms just have a lot more pests, and that’s what gives them a boost in biodiversity? Researchers actually went out to look at that. So they measured not just the biodiversity on organic farms but what types of animals they were finding on organic farms.

And what they found was that most of that biodiversity boost is from beneficial insects. So things like pollinators, parasitoid wasps, predators like lady beetles, and the amount of pests was not significantly different on conventional farms as from organic farms. It was kind of this neat study that found that, actually, when it comes to controlling these pests, the strategies used by organic farmers, by having this very healthy ecosystem that supports ecosystem services from beneficial insects, is having this really interesting impact on what kinds of insects you’re seeing. So most of the insects — the increase in biodiversity — is from beneficial insects, and not only that. There was also a study that looked specifically at pollinators and found that organic farms, within the farms, certainly have higher pollinator levels. But even when you look at neighboring conventional farms, if they’re near organic farms, they have higher pollinator levels too. So neighboring conventional farms can actually get ecosystem service benefits by having organic neighbors, which is kind of neat because it means that we don’t need to have this polarity and these arguments. Because organic farms, first of all, aren’t harboring pests that then fly into the neighboring farms. If anything, they’re actually helping their neighbors by providing habitat and food sources for pollinators. So you should get an increase in pollination from having organic neighbors.

Working with Conventional Growers

TOM: Interesting. Just this morning, I heard an organic farmer suggest that he thought that he gets benefits from his commercial neighbors because maybe, in some cases — like the Bt corn controls certain insects in the neighborhood, and he benefits from it. So there might be that two-way interaction between organic farms and commercial farms. I don’t know. That was only anecdotal information, but that was his feeling. I thought that was interesting.

JESSICA: In general, I’ve been seeing a lot less polarity between organic and conventional and a lot more eagerness to work together. Which is really exciting for me as an organic researcher because so much research goes into things like improving soil health, creating a crop rotation that will help control insects and provide these long-term benefits. So what’s kind of nice is that some of those research findings are actually getting adopted by conventional growers because they see it’s cost saving, and it has these long-term benefits. So a lot of the projects that we’re working on that traditionally would only have organic researchers and organic farmers on are actually these really multifaceted teams that include organic and conventional growers and organic and conventional researchers because this holistic view of the farm is gaining popularity. And I think that it’s creating really strong results because, like you say, we’re able to leverage the knowledge from each sector that’s getting developed.

Organic Farming Yields

TOM: Right. The agricultural world is big enough to have both organic and inorganic, in my mind, and we can learn from each other, as you said. And the benefits from working together are much better than the benefits of fighting each other all the time, certainly. So one of the other things I’m really interested in is there’s always this comparison between yield and economics, if you’re an organic farmer versus more of a traditional farmer. And I think most organic farmers really feel like there’s an economic boost because you get paid more for your crops. But I also hear that maybe there’s a yield reduction. What does the science show on yields and economics?

JESSICA: That’s a great question, and it’s such a good question that some researchers actually looked into it a few years ago. So they looked into the yields on organic farms and conventional farms and the impact of the farming system on farmer livelihoods. And what they found was that even when farms that transition to organic end up having yield reductions, the income is still higher on organic farms. And the reason for that is: one, the premium that farmers get for organic products and also the reduced costs associated with growing organic because they don’t have to have those costly synthetic inputs. It’s kind of neat because organic farmers can rest assured that even if they don’t have as high yields, the income that they’re bringing in is still higher than if they were farming conventionally. And The Organic Center worked with the Organic Trade Association a few years ago on a briefing to Congress.

And we were really giving this information to Congress about how organic could be a solution for small and mid-scale farmers who weren’t able to make a go of it, to transition over to organic and be able to stay in business. So we had researchers there. We had farmers there who were able to give firsthand accounts of working as a conventional small-scale farmer, not being able to make ends meet, thinking about selling their farm and then transitioning over to organic and being able to have a sustainable living. Which is really encouraging because we’re in this time where we’re seeing more and more small to mid-scale farmers not be able to make a living, having to sell their farms. So organic can be a way for those farmers to stay in business. And what was neat is when we were giving this congressional briefing, we had members there from across the board. Because this isn’t an issue that’s talking to one side of the aisle. This is really both sides of the aisle. Everyone can benefit from this regardless of your political views.

Labor Costs in Organic Farming

TOM: And that totally makes sense. If you can produce a higher income, it makes sense for some smaller farmers. But one of the things I hear, Jessica, is that, typically, organic farming takes more management and more labor. And it would make sense, then, that maybe some of these farmers would also have some of the management skills and maybe some of the labor, depending on if they have off-farm jobs or not, but to be able to make an organic system work. Is that, kind of, the view?

JESSICA: Yeah, and so that was taken into account in the study that I mentioned — the labor costs because organic does take more labor. You really have to be in the field, understanding what’s going on, manually removing weeds because you can’t just spray herbicide to control for them. And what’s kind of neat about the studies that have been done on the economics of organic is they’re not just limited to the farmers, though. There have also been studies that look at the communities where organic farms are. There was this really great series of studies that came out of Penn State, looking at what the researcher termed hotspots.’ Organic hotspots are areas where there are pockets of multiple organic farms, so high concentrations of organic farms. And this research team looked at the impacts of having organic farms, not just on the farmers’ livelihoods but also on the community around those farms. And what they found was that having organic hotspots improved the whole community’s income levels. Really, organic doesn’t just help farmers maintain their livelihood. It can really have these community benefits to help move communities out of poverty.

Feeding the World

TOM: Yeah. That is definitely interesting, that we could transition to a new agricultural system that would help a whole community. So, Jessica, what are some other myths, maybe, that you’ve heard of? Or does that kind of cover most of them?

JESSICA: One of the things that I hear about is the question about whether organic can feed the world. Because you mentioned that organic can sometimes have lower yields. So, when I think about organic’s ability to feed the world, first of all, I have to think about this over the long term. So I’m not just thinking about current yields. I’m thinking about our ability to continue to grow food over the next decade, over the next century. And that’s something that I try to get into people’s minds because it gets at food security, which is so tied to a lot of the environmental benefits that organic builds. So it’s going to be hard for us to grow any food if the soil has been trashed to the point where it can’t grow crops. We’re not going to be able to grow as many crops if climate change continues to spin out of control. We’re not going to be able to pollinate our crops if we don’t have pollinators, if we’re not supporting pollinator populations. So that’s one thing to keep in mind. Even though, right now, sometimes yields might be lower on organic, organic is still providing this critical ecosystem service that’s going to support our ability to grow food over the next 100 years. So that’s one thing to keep in mind. It’s about food security, not just food yields. 

Another thing that I always think about is food waste. So there’s so much food that gets wasted, whether it’s at the retail level or from transportation, from the fields to the processors. There’s a lot of food waste out there, and that food waste grossly overshadows the differences in yields between organic and conventional. So, if we focused our ability and our research and thoughts on how to reduce food waste, then we’d be able to more than make up for any yield gaps. I’m also really encouraged by organic yields because organic is still this nascent field. We’ve only really been researching organic systems for the last couple decades. And there’s very limited funding that goes into that research as compared to conventional agriculture, which has had decades of research and billions of dollars worth of funding. And yet, even with that short amount of time and that small amount of funding, we’ve been able to see organic yields grow leaps and bounds. So I’m really encouraged because as more funding and more time gets put into organic research — looking into how to overcome challenges on the field, looking at varieties that thrive in organic systems — we’re going to see those yields continue to increase and rival those of conventional, if not exceed. So, to me, if all we need to do is increase the yields, that’s so much less-complicated of a problem than trying to combat the multitude of environmental disasters that can come from high-input conventional farming.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

TOM: I’ve also seen some recent research on how organic farming really reduces greenhouse gas emission, not just from sequestering carbon, but then the use of synthetic nitrogen. Do you have any information on that?

JESSICA: Yeah, that’s a really good point because a lot of times we focus on the soil and the soil’s ability to sequester carbon in organic because organic definitely excels in that area. But since organic farmers are using alternatives to synthetic nitrogen, they’re also preventing a lot of that greenhouse gas emission in addition to sequestering carbon. So the process to make synthetic nitrogen that gets used on conventional farms, the Haber-Bosch process, is extremely energy intensive. It takes a lot of energy to create that man-made reactive nitrogen that can then be used to grow crops, and not only that. The process itself gets that nitrogen from natural gas or other fossil fuel sources. So, in addition to being energy intensive, it’s also just directly using fossil fuels and other greenhouse gasses within the process. So it kind of has this double whammy when it comes to impacts on greenhouse gas emissions.

Scaling Organic Farming

TOM: So another question I have beyond the greenhouse gas and climate change: in general, we know agriculture is getting bigger, Jessica. It’s kind of a size growth thing. Do you see organic farming, where does it fit? Is it traditionally for that smaller size farmer, or can it scale to some large farms in organic?

JESSICA: What I think is really exciting about organic is that it has this ability to translate from small farmers to larger-scale farms. And we’re actually working right now on a project that looks at technology that can be used for organic farms. And the term that the researcher we’re working with uses is scale-agnostic.’ And I love that term because it’s really thinking about things that are appropriate, not just for those smaller farmers and the midsize farmers but even the larger-scale farmers. So that’s something that I keep in mind, especially when it comes to technology because so much of the tech industry focuses on those large-scale farmers. But since organic has this diversity of farmers within it — small scale, mid scale, large scale — it’s important to keep in mind that anything that we think about producing for organic farms be scale-agnostic’ so that those smaller farmers have access, as well as the larger farmers. And that translates to equity when it comes to farming, as well, especially with technology. We can’t just be producing technology to help farmers who already have access to technology, who already have the privilege of tech literacy. We have to be thinking about this in a way where it’s not going to further increase that gap between already marginalized farmers and then farmers who have that advantage.

TOM: I did a previous episode in robotics in organic farming, and the person that I interviewed thought that farm equipment actually could get smaller with robotics, not bigger, creating less soil impact of compaction and other negative impacts. And I thought that was really interesting, that we could actually see in the future agriculture that was more scale-independent. I think that’s a good way of saying it.

JESSICA: Absolutely. And not just smaller machines but cheaper machines too so that farmers who don’t have those resources could also be using them. And that goes hand in hand with a lot of the software that gets developed. So developing software that’s open source that farmers can use without paying these huge subscription fees is also really important.

Visiting The Organic Center

TOM: Certainly all large agriculture is going to have money to invest in things on their own and proprietary software and other things. But yes, making that available to everybody is really an important point. So you obviously are embedded in science, and you talked about a lot of research. If I wanted more, like if I wanted to access more research on organic farming and its impacts positive and negative, what’s the best source of that?

JESSICA: The first place to stop is our website. So one of the things that we do is we read so much literature, scientific literature that’s coming out, and then we summarize it for the general public. And what’s nice about that is: number one, a lot of these journal articles that come out and scientific journals are behind paywalls, and they can be extremely expensive to get access to. So we kind of take the main points from those journals and summarize them so that they’re accessible for free to everyone. Then the other thing about scientific journal articles is that sometimes they can be written in so much jargon it’s like reading another language. So, in our summaries, we try to use really clear language rather than relying on scientific jargon so that everyone can understand it. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not dumbing it down. We’re just using clear language that is accessible to everyone.

TOM: But somebody can always link back to the original journal article and read it for what it’s worth, right?

JESSICA: Exactly. We always provide links to those original research articles, which we started doing because we thought that researchers who are going to our page would be interested in that. But what I found is that, more often than not, it’s farmers that are going to those original research articles. Farmers are so interested in the technical specifics that they want to see the original article. So go to our web page. Check out our summaries. Link back to those original articles if you want to read the full article. And we also do summaries of specific topics. So, for example, we did a summary about biodiversity, where we looked at all of the research out there on the impact of farming practices on on-farm biodiversity and kind of summarized a multitude of studies all in one place. And we did something similar with soil health. And that just came out earlier this year, where you can look at all of the research that’s been done on soil health within organic systems and kind of read this review of all of those different studies in one place, which is kind of nice to have it synthesized there.

TOM: Jessica, how do people access your web page? What’s the URL, the address?

JESSICA: It is organ​ic​-cen​ter​.org

TOM: So organ​ic​-cen​ter​.org

JESSICA: That’s right. You can also do an internet search for Organic Center, and we will be the first link to pop up.

Value of The Organic Center

TOM: All right. Well, Jessica, I want to be careful of your time. I really appreciate you spending time with Organics Unpacked today, providing information. But before I let you go, I want to ask you: if you had two minutes with a farmer — you’re in a meeting room alone with a farmer — when they leave, what do you want them to know about the value of The Organic Center? What is your value to organic farmers?

JESSICA: Well, I think the value of The Organic Center is that it’s taking the research that gets done in those ivory towers back into the field, and not only that. We’re taking farmers and connecting them with researchers so that the research that gets done actually has real-world implications. So all of the research projects that we collaborate on, we involve farmers on. We’re doing research on active farms. We have organic farmers as part of our advisory boards. We’re making sure that the research that’s getting done in academia has real-world implications for organic farmers. Then we’re also making sure that when that research gets published, it’s not staying within academia. It’s getting into the hands of farmers, as well.

TOM: Thank you, Jessica. Thank you for your time. And to the listening audience, thanks for tuning into another episode of Organics Unpacked. Tune in next week when we will talk about another facet of organic farming. Thank you.

OUTRO: Thank you for listening to Organics Unpacked. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing and giving this show a five-star rating and review, so we can continue to help organic growers improve their operations.