February 8, 2008
Contact: Laurie Davis, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County, 518-962-4810;
Mike Davis, Cornell University E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm, 518-963-7492

Organic Grain Production Featured at February 25 Program in Westport

As interest in organic foods grows, the Cornell University E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm at Willsboro adds new crops to its organic production trials. Amaranth will join wheat, grain soybeans, alfalfa/grass hay, flax, and dry beans in test plots at the farm in 2008. On February 25 Baker Farm Manager Michael Davis will join Organic Agriculture Specialist Sarah Johnston of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Champlain Valley Milling owner Sam Sherman, and Beth Spaugh of Rehoboth Homestead for a free, 6-9pm �Going Organic in the North Country� workshop at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County in Westport.

Workshop co-organizer Laurie Davis of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County, says, �This workshop allows interested farmers to get the information directly from those who have the experience. Mike Davis of the E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm will share his experiences with the organic certification process, the production of several different crops, and how organic and non-organic crop production compare.�

In 1994, 20 acres at the E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm were set aside for organic crop trials with six acres dedicated to certified organic production. With funding support from the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, crops are evaluated for seeding rates and depth, row spacing, starter and sidedress fertilizer needs, weed and pest control, equipment, post-harvest handling and processing, and production costs vs. returns.

Champlain Valley Milling, a specialty organic flour mill in Westport, provides regional producers with a premium market for locally grown organic grains. Owner Sam Sherman purchases and processes winter wheat organically grown in the region and buys in grains from outside New York State to make flours.

Davis says, �Specialty flour markets have very specific requirements and it is essential that producers know which varieties will meet those requirements and understand how Northern New York growing conditions will affect their success at growing those varieties.�

The Baker Farm crop trials evaluate both established and new varieties from seed companies and from private and collegiate breeding programs, including those at Cornell University and North Dakota State University. Davis works with an independent laboratory to evaluate the Baker Farm�s harvested grain for protein and gluten strength for home baking and commercial mixing. Different varieties of wheat are processed into flours for breads, pastries, cookies, and cakes.

The non-organic production trials at the Baker farm provide a unique opportunity for comparing the two production styles. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County Agricultural Program Leader Anita Deming says each production style has its own marketing points.

�Organically-grown winter wheat, for example, increases in demand as organic products become of more demand in the marketplace. The hard white, high gluten wheat alternative to red spring what produces bread that is high in fiber and white in color. Marketing experts believe this variety will improve consumption of whole wheat bread by children thereby improving their nutritional intake,� Deming says.

Deming notes that winter wheat also returns a value to the local environment. She says,
�Winter wheat holds nutrients in soil over the winter and helps decrease soil erosion.�

Sarah Johnston, who formerly served as executive director of Northeast Organic Faming Association of New York, says, �Efforts across the North Country and statewide from organic crop trials at the Cornell E. V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm in Willsboro to on-farm organic corn and soybean trials are all building a foundation that will reduce the risk and make organic production a more certain agricultural business opportunity.�

Johnston will speak on the unique opportunities and challenges for organic producers, the factors driving consumer interest in organic products, the increase of certified producers in New York State from 274 in 2004 to 736 in 2007, and State Agriculture and Markets organic marketing initiatives.

The Going Organic in the North Country workshop is free. Call Cornell Cooperative Extension at 518-962-4810 to register. The workshop is also being offered with Sarah Johnston and other local farmers speaking February 26 in Malone and February 27 in Watertown.

Quick Facts on Going Organic in NNY
Provided by Northern New York Agricultural Development Program

Almost 15% (76) of the 528 farms certified organic by NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC at the end of August 2007 were in Northern New York. Those farms were in:
Clinton County � 2 Essex County � 9 Franklin County - 8
Jefferson County � 22 Lewis County � 6 St. Lawrence County - 29

State Organic Agriculture Specialist Sarah Johnston reports there are now 736 certified organic farms in New York State; an increase from 374 in 2004.