Field Days for Women Organic Farmers: A Success Story


Educating women farmers about certified organic production

Coordinator: Melissa Matthewson, Southern Oregon Research and Experiment Station, Central Point, OR
Project location: Southwestern Oregon

Many women enjoy learning environments that are geared for women only. Recognizing this interest, the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Small Farms program, with OFRF support, sponsored four on-farm field days hosted by and for women organic and transitioning farmers.

Certified organic farming is increasing in southwestern Oregon as many new farmers transition to organic production with the knowledge that they will see increased returns and marketing opportunities. The field days for women producers were designed to increase peer-to-peer networking and mentoring between farmers as well as to augment educational opportunities and problem solving related to certified organic production.

Photo of the first field day of the series

Eighty women farmers attended the four field days that were held on three certified organic farms and one transitioning farm. Each farm day began with a farm tour by the woman organic producer followed by presentations by agricultural professionals and discussions about various topics. Participants gained experiential, hands-on education about organic farming production principles and the challenges to achieving organic certification in southwestern Oregon.

This project was developed based on input from members of the League of Women Farmers. Project coordinators gathered information from these women about the issues they were having on their farms and documented the educational resources they said that they needed.

Field day-sponsoring farmers and topics presented:

June 14th, 2009
Mary Alionis of Whistling Duck Farm, Applegate, Oregon
Whistling Duck Farm grows certified organic vegetables on 10 acres and sells them through local farmers’ markets, restaurants, grocery stores and their own on-farm store.
Topics: Organic soil fertility and farm certification:

  • Cover cropping, composts & other organic soil inputs, and incorporating crop residues;
  • Organic systems farm plan & recordkeeping including field maps, soil fertility plan, pest & disease plan, seeds & plant stock, mapping out production, farm logs, etc.;
  • Demystifying the organic certification process, organic rules & regulations, why certification matters to your farm business including necessary information on certifying both crops & livestock;
  • Organic soils research from OSU including information on nitrogen contribution of cover crops, conservation tillage for organic production, and impacts and evaluation of cover cropping.

July 30, 2009
Suzanne Willow and Lanita Witt of Willow-Witt Ranch, Ashland, Oregon.
Photo of Willow-Witt Ranch pigsWillow-Witt Ranch produces high quality, locally grown meat and dairy products while offering opportunities to experience sustainable agriculture in the unique environment of Southern Oregon's wild high country.

Topics: Challenges in organic livestock production:

  • Basic organic livestock care, parasite management, vaccines, preventative medicine
  • Poultry nutritional needs, exploring alternative organic grains & feeds for poultry, and organic standards for poultry production
  • Organic pasture management & rotational grazing
  • Sourcing quality certified organic hay and organic feed

August 30th, 2009
Melanie Kuegler of Blue Fox Farm, Applegate, Oregon
Photo of squash and onions harvested at Blue Fox Farm.Blue Fox Farm grows certified organic vegetables on six acres in the Applegate Valley selling their produce at farmers’ market, grocery stores, and restaurants throughout the Rogue Valley. They also run a hybrid CSA program.
Topics: Season Extension & Recordkeeping:

  • Marketing organic vegetables, history of organic farming in Oregon, distribution;
  • Niche marketing and developing new markets for your farm products

September 27th, 2009
Maud Powell of Wolf Gulch Farm, Little Applegate, Oregon
Wolf Gulch Farm grows certified organic seed on four acres in the Applegate Valley selling their seed to major seed companies across the U.S. including Seeds of Change, Johnny’s and Fedco. They also produce organic vegetables for sale through the Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative.
Topics: Seed production, farm tour & seed cleaning demonstration:

  • Seed breeding 101, varietal selection, opportunities and challenges of retailing seed;
  • Significance of the organic seed movement, GMOs, sourcing organic seed, the future of seed growing.