Conservation Opportunities for Organic Farmers – Jorgensen’s Organic Farms
Franklin County Ohio farmer Val Jorgensen owns Jorgensen Organic Farms growing herbs, flowers, salad mixes, honey, pastured livestock, and many value added products. In the past 10 years she has transformed this land that once grew conventional corn and soybeans into a highly diversified organic oasis in an area of rapid suburban development.
In 2002, Val had her first experience with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service through Mary Ann Core, the conservationist assigned to help producers in Franklin County. Mary Ann encouraged Val’s goals of transitioning her farm to organic production and developed an Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) conservation contract to help her with financing the conservation measures that would help Val complete this transition. This program, EQIP, still exists and NRCS is looking for people like Val who would benefit from professional advice and EQIP financial assistance to make their operation not only organic, but also environmentally sound.
Seasonal high tunnels are a popular conservation and production practice available to eligible growers. Mary Ann helped Val obtain her first high tunnel through an EQIP contract last year. Val found that extending her growing season has helped with her marketing because she can offer a steady supply of locally-grown fresh produce to local chef’s, which in turn helps their marketing efforts as customers appreciate locally-grown, organic food.
One caution Val shares about entering into an EQIP contract, “Don’t do anything that doesn’t align with your business plan.” There’s a commitment to manage and maintain the conservation practice. Conservation practice management and management for organic certification complement each other, but are not always identical.
Interested? Talk to your local conservationist, there’s a Mary Ann serving every county in Ohio. Find your local NRCS office on the web at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app