University of Illinois Listening Sessions Conducted with Organic
Listening sessions were conducted as part of the ongoing process
of University of Illinois Extension and the University of Illinois
Organic Task Force to obtain farmer input on research and outreach
programming needs. Two listening sessions, one in Lincoln and
the other in DeKalb, were conducted this summer. People participating
in the listening sessions identified a need for education and
research in areas such as increasing consumption of locally-grown
food, reducing pesticide drift problems, interpretation of local
and national regulations, and information on transitioning to
organic agriculture and the future of organic farming as more
corporations try to buy into this niche market.
Listening session participants also identified a need for consumer-friendly,
easy to access directories, including organic farmers, supplies,
consultants, and markets; along with information on machinery
and implements necessary for organic farmers. There were a number
of issues (i.e. pesticide drift, GMO pollen) related to the "interface"
between conventional and organic producers that needed further
research and education. Information on alternative crops (i.e.
amaranth, mulberries) is needed so farmers can move away from
the corn/soybean model and disconnect from farm subsidies.
Farmers at the listening sessions felt that the University of
Illinois should be coordinating field days and on-farm research
related to organic agriculture. It should encourage farmer participation
in research and recognize the research already being conducted
by organic farmers. There were a number of concerns about the
funding sources and focus of current University of Illinois research.
Also the participants felt too little UI research farm acreage
was dedicated to organic farming.
Overall, participants in the listening sessions were willing
to give the University of Illinois a chance to play a role in
organic research and education, but want to see some results soon.
Examples of outcomes the Organic Task Force is starting to foster
include organic field days, on-line databases, participatory research
with organic farmers, and a directory of local organic farmers,
farmer markets and specialty stores, and allocation of land on
the South Farms to organic research. For further information or
to provide input contact the Task Force Co-chairs Martha Bazik
firstname.lastname@example.org or 309/796-0512, or John Masiunas email@example.com