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Michigan State University

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

Image of indoor gardens 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

Image of organic farm food stand 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.

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Promoting products made in Michigan

The MSU Product Center works with Michigan businesses to develop and commercialize locally grown food products. Recently, the Product Center teamed up with Meijer and Kroger stores in Michigan to feature local food vendors’ products, including organic foods and beverages, in select locations throughout the state.

Sharing resources with Michigan growers

Image of indoor gardens Agriculture is a major industry in Michigan, and the state’s farming community has always looked to MSU for the latest research and education programs that address growing practices, including organic farming and animal agriculture. MSU’s Organic Farming Exchange website provides farmers with the latest comprehensive information about organic agriculture, certification, and educational opportunities. Through the university’s Organic Farming Mentor Program, individuals new to the practice of organic farming are paired with experienced organic growers who share their knowledge through farm visits and hands-on learning experiences.

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