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Finding the Right Resources to Transition to Organic Farming

By Margaret Wilson

Conventional farmers who have contemplated transitioning their operations to organic frequently voice the same concerns: where to start, who to talk to, how to find resources, and how to make sure they remain profitable through the transition.

Transitioning your farm to certified organic, while ultimately rewarding, can be complicated in the short-term. However, as the organic movement expands and consumers seek more products grown with people and the planet in mind, no farmer must go it alone.

The boom in organic agriculture, now a $55 billion industry in the U.S. alone, has led to an increase in organic investment across the board. Farmers who are interested in transitioning, or are currently in the process, now have a suite of options to get support in education, land access, markets, and more.  

Rodale Institute has been in the organic industry for over 70 years—so we know how important it is to farmers to see a name you can trust. That’s why we’re working to ensure that current and future organic farmers have the support they need to heal people and the planet.

Rodale Institute is proud to support farmers through all phases of their transition, from education to market identification. Here are just some of the support systems we’re proud to work with to help transitioning farmers:

Education & Training

• For farmers who have considered transitioning to organic but need guidance on the process, Rodale Institute’s new Transition to Certified Organic Online Course is the perfect place to start. This on-demand, self-paced online course is taught by Rodale Institute experts and features interviews with organic farmers across the country, covering the basics of organic management, certification requirements, and more. Learn more: RodaleInstitute.org/Online-Courses

• Whether you’re beginning the transition process or want to expand your certification, Rodale Institute’s Organic Crop Consulting Services can help you with anything from certification paperwork, to weed management, crop rotations, and access to markets. Our Organic Crop Consultants will work with you to create an individualized plan that fits your farm—no one else’s. Currently, these services are free to farmers in Pennsylvania and the Midwest. Learn more: RodaleInstitute.org/Consulting

Land Access

• Rodale Institute recently invested $2 million in Iroquois Valley Farmland Real Estate Investment Trust, a farmland finance company that works with mission-driven investors to provide organic and regenerative farmers land security through long-term leases and mortgages. Iroquois Valley will lease or underwrite land for experienced organic farmers starting or expanding their operation, breaking down the barrier of land access that discourages many farmers. Iroquois Valley partners with small to mid-size operations throughout the country. Learn more: IroquoisValley.com

• For farmers looking to scale their organic production, SLM Partners acquires conventional cropland, enters long-term flexible leases with farmers, and transitions the land to organic certification. An environmentally focused investment manager, SLM Partners is working with Rodale Institute to monitor the impacts of this organic transition on soil health. SLM Partners works with farmers with at least 3 years of organic farming experience and seeks to invest at least $1.5 million with each farmer through one or more land transactions. Learn more: SLMPartners.com

Guaranteed Markets

• Bell & Evans U.S. Organic Grain Initiative, a partnership between the organic poultry producer Bell & Evans, Cargill, and Rodale Institute, provides farmers with lucrative contracts and extensive educational support to those who commit to non-GMO and organic grain during transitional years. Farmers who enter this program will receive individualized consulting and assistance from Rodale Institute, with a guaranteed market for organic grain from Bell & Evans. This program is part of Bell & Evans’ commitment to sourcing 100% of their organic grain from domestic producers. Learn more: Contact Rodale Institute Organic Crop Consulting Services, Consulting@RodaleInstiute.org or 610-683-1416.

• PURIS, a manufacturer focused on non-GMO, organic, plant-based ingredients is collaborating with Rodale Institute to research how their signature Yellow Field Peas can improve soil health during an organic transition. Growers who are interested in transitioning and participating in this research project will have access to PURIS unique seed and a secure market at contracted prices. PURIS also offers yield protection for their pea growers, ensuring protection against crop failure. Learn more: Purisfoods.com

Transitioning to organic doesn’t need to be complicated. Opportunities for support and investment are increasing every day, and Rodale Institute, alongside their partners, is committed to helping every farmer achieve their goals.  

Farmers interested in transitioning their land to organic and participating in one or more of these opportunities can contact Rodale Institute’s Organic Crop Consulting Services to get started. Reach out at Consulting@RodaleInstitute.org or 610-683-1416.

Margaret Wilson is the content creation and media relations specialist at Rodale Institute. Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit headquartered in Kutztown, Pennsylvania dedicated to growing the organic movement through rigorous, solutions-based research, farmer training, and consumer education. Rodale Institute’s mission states that, through organic leadership, we improve the health and well-being of people and the planet. Learn more at RodaleInstitute.org.