Examination of Organic Grain Productivity to Support the Upper Peninsula Organic Livestock Industry

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is experiencing an agricultural renaissance, which is being fueled by a new generation of farmers wanting to return to the land. Although many of these operations would be considered small in scale, they are often direct to market enterprises managed within an organic system. Furthermore, many operations contain stacked enterprises, integrating both crop and livestock production.

As consumers continue to drive preferences within the marketplace, the demand for natural or organically produced meat has greatly increased, but no such grain market exists within the region to support this expanding industry. Organic grain production is virtually non-existent in the U.P., and sourcing outside of the region is quite costly and limits the growth potential for these operations – especially those wanting to market as certified organic.

This proposal is led by a team of researchers and Extension Educators from Michigan State University whose goal is to develop a framework of research and knowledge of organic grain systems in the region, and to determine the market potential for farm adoption. This will be achieved through both variety and crop management research, identification of need and marketing opportunities, and finally, dissemination of findings through field days and outreach materials.

Research will be hosted at an on-farm cooperator site, Guindon Farms (Cornell, MI) and at the MSU Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center North Farm, a farm incubator focusing on sustainable farm development in the region (Chatham, MI). Potential outcomes include the broader understanding of organic grain systems in the U.P., successful adoption of systems at existing farms with the potential for new start-up operations, and a more stable organic grain market to fuel the burgeoning organic meat industry.