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5 May 2011

OFRF Organic Farming Grants
Total $2.7 Million Over 20 Years

Next deadline for applications is May 16

For Immediate Release

Sandra Marquardt, On the Mark PR

Santa Cruz, CA (May 3, 2011) –The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is proud to announce it has awarded 314 grants totaling close to $2.7 million as it begins its 21st year.

OFRF most recently awarded 7 new grants totaling $75,000 in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Dakota, Washington, and Ottawa, Canada as part of its spring 2011 grants cycle (see descriptions below). Funded projects include breeding an “Organic-Ready” corn that resists GMO pollen and developing biological control for the apple flea weevil plaguing Michigan’s organic apple growers. OFRF funds both research and educational projects.

“OFRF grants are as vital today in developing research into cutting-edge topics of interest as they were in 1990 when OFRF was founded,” said OFRF’s new executive director Maureen Wilmot.

By having an open call for proposals and welcoming all applicants including farmers and ranchers, OFRF’s grants have long been responsive to emerging issues of concern to the organic community. OFRF grants have empowered farmers to conduct their own research and helped numerous researchers gain additional funds for organic research. OFRF estimates that over $5 million additional funds have been leveraged by their grant recipients to date.

“OFRF sprinkles a little bit of water and allows us to seed an idea, enabling us to become highly successful in acquiring big commitments of both federal and state money," said Dr. Sean Swezey, extension researcher at the University of California - Santa Cruz. Swezey is the recipient of a recent OFRF grant to study pest management in organic Brussels sprouts. He also has the distinction of being awarded more OFRF grants than any other individual.

While the organization’s grant program may appear small compared to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $18 million per year organic research program, it remains the only source of small grants to fund organic research on a nationwide basis open to all applicants.

OFRF awards grants through a competitive process and proposals are considered twice a year. Upcoming deadlines are May 16 and November 15, 2011.

Details on applying are available on the OFRF website at Prospective applicants may contact Grants Program Director Jane Sooby by phone at 831-426-6606 or by email at

OFRF’s Spring 2011 Grant Awards

Sean Swezey, Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, University of California—Santa Cruz, California: $14,990. Approximately 90 percent of Brussels sprouts are grown in California. The crop grows in the field for 9 months, making it highly susceptible to insect attack. This on-farm study is the first and only project ever to develop organic biological control strategies for key Brussels sproutspestsdiamondback moth and cabbage aphid.

Frank J. Kutka, Seed We Need, Dickinson, ND: $11,500 (Award made in partnership with the Clif Bar Family Foundation.) Contamination with GMO pollen is an increasing problem for organic corn growers. This project will breed “Organic-Ready”corn varieties that contain a naturally occurring trait which makes it difficult for GMO pollen to enter the corn silks. Investigators will create corn breeding populations that can be used to develop GMO-resistant corn hybrids.

Carol Miles, Washington State University Mount Vernon Research Center, Mount Vernon, WA: $12,984. Organic tomato, eggplant, and watermelon production in Washington is limited by soil-borne diseases such as Verticillium wilt, a soil-borne disease that persists in the soil for years. Grafting with resistant rootstock is an organically-acceptable technique for disease management used internationally with excellent results. This project will study efficacy and costs of grafting the plants and explore inexpensive and small-scale appropriate grafting techniques.

Matthew Grieshop, Center for Integrated Plant Systems, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI: $10,229.  Apple flea weevil is an emerging pest in Michigan that threatens the organic apple industry throughout the Great Lakes region. This study will compare weevil control potential of biopesticides and cultural methods on three certified organic apple farms. Because the weevil lives in the soil for about half of its life cycle, researchers think that using a weed flamer and cultivation may effectively manage it.

Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance, Port Townsend, WA: $12,021.
(Award made in partnership with the Clif Bar Family Foundation.) While the organic standards require that organic farmers use organic seed, only 20% of them report doing so for all their crops. Availability of varieties that perform well under organic growing conditions is a major constraint. This project will create a Participatory Plant Breeding Toolkit toenhance growers’ and researchers’ abilities to breed organic seed that is well-adapted  to organic systems.

Kristine Swaren, Canadian Organic Growers, Ottawa, Ontario: $7,125.  In 2000, OFRF supported publication of theOrganic Livestock Handbook, ahighly popular guide to organic livestock production. Changes in organic standards and evolving knowledge about managing livestock make it an ideal time to update and revise this manual. The handbook will cover many kinds of stock including dairy, beef, bison, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, and even bees!

Jack Kittredge, Northeast Organic Farming Association/Mass.,  Barre, MA: $6,000. NOFA has published The Natural Farmer, an award-winning organic journal featuring articles useful to farmers, for over 22 years. This grant will allow NOFA to create an online library of articles on organic growing featuring over 100 articles that are searchable by topic, author, or key word. Topics will include marketing, production, farm labor, animal feed, and soil-building.

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