More than 150 years ago, Michigan State University was the first academic institution in the nation to teach scientific agriculture. Today, the university remains at the forefront of the field as it makes the grade in organic farming research and education.
MSU recently earned a perfect score—one of just six universities in the nation to do so—in the first Organic Land Grant Assessment released by the Organic Farming Research Foundation.
The foundation is the only national nonprofit organization to track and report on organic programs and activity in the U.S. land-grant system, assessing responsiveness to the educational and research needs of its constituents, including the growing organic sector. According to the foundation, the organic industry in the United States has quadrupled in growth in the last decade, a testament to the nation’s ability to meet growing consumer demand with trained organic farmers and applied research.
The 2012 report measures the level of commitment to organic agriculture by land-grant universities based on research, education, and outreach efforts. The assessment also sheds light on the need for public investment in organic research and education in order to prepare for future organic food production challenges. MSU’s organic-focused research and education work includes:
Growing organic knowledge
MSU’s contributions to organic farming include research and academic programs that advance the areas of marketing and management of organic agriculture, year-round vegetable production, weed ecology, pest management, tillage practices, and sustainable cropping systems. The Organic Pest Management Laboratory conducts teaching, research, and outreach in a variety of Michigan and Great Lakes agricultural commodities and provides economically viable pest management solutions.
Cultivating the MSU Student Organic Farm
Founded in 1999, the MSU Student Organic Farm has grown to a 10-acre, certified organic teaching and production farm. The farm operates a Community Supported Agriculture program, uses passive solar hoop houses to grow food throughout the year, sells produce at a seasonal on-campus farm stand, and provides fresh produce to some campus dining facilities. The bounty is not limited to fruits and vegetables. Students and staff have incorporated chickens, pastured pigs, and bees into the farm’s ecosystem. Individuals interested in working in the organic agriculture sector can earn a certificate through the farm’s Organic Farmer Training Program, a nine-month intensive program in year-round organic farming.