Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) just completed their 2012 Organic Land Grant University Assessment. OFRF is a national, non-profit organization that tracks and reports on organic programs and activity in the U.S. land grant system. OFRF's goal is to make sure education, research, and outreach services are actually supporting the needs of certified organic farmers and ranchers.
The 2012 Organic Land Grant University Assessment offers an updated inventory of land grant organic activity via methods that measure an institution’s level of commitment to organic agriculture. Basically, the top universities are all using organic programs and funds to the best of their ability.
What the Top 6 Schools Have in Common
OFRF used a scoring system of up to 8 points when assessing universities. Each university was scored regarding their ability to maintain organic research land, cultivate student organic farm, organic minor, major or certificate options, and employment of a dedicated organic faculty or staff member. The scoring system was set up to include three main important points - organic research, extension and education.
Each of the top six schools received full points for having all of the following attributes:
- A certified organic research or student farm ground.
- Organic experiment station ground
- A student organic or “sustainable” farm—a training site.
- An organic major, minor or certificate program in place.
- An organic course of any kind offered.
- A dedicated organic staff or faculty person.
- Organic Extension resources available.
- An annual organic field day.
OFRF research doesn't stop with the naming of these top schools. This quantitative data OFRF has gathered in their report is meant to allow OFRF (and everyone else) to drill deeper into the following questions:
- What elements of organic research programs are most relevant to the urgent needs of organic farmers?
- What programs best train future organic farmers?
- To what degree do student organic farms build greater organic consumer awareness?
Keep reading to learn more about the six top schools.
Washington State University, Pullman lays claim to being the first university in the country to offer students a major in organic agriculture. Today they offer a B.S. in Agricultural and Food Systems with a major in Organic Agriculture Systems and an Undergraduate Certificate in Organic Agriculture. Additionally offered is a handy online certificate in organic agriculture that provides training in the agricultural sciences, including an understanding of complex agriculture and food systems.
Colorado State University, Fort Collins offers students an interdisciplinary Minor in Organic Agriculture that features unique opportunities to study the science of organic production. This program builds on a base of fundamental agricultural sciences with additional courses on organic agricultural methods, management and marketing.
It's no surprise that University of Minnesota, St. Paul has organic options, offering a Horticulture Major that features an Organic Horticulture and unique Local Food Program of Study. This program takes advantage of local and on-campus resources in order to provide students with a “hands-on” experience of the organic-food system. Organics from conception, to production, to marketing, to consumption are covered.
OFRF notes that University of Tennessee is the newest addition to the organic university scene, featuring a brand new Organic Production concentration of study within the Plant Sciences major plus an organic research farm for research and teaching and an 8-month organic farm internship program.
7. Next Best Organic Programs
Just because a school didn't make the top six, doesn't mean a school doesn't offer excellent organic programs, it just means they scored one point less somewhere in the system. As OFRF points out, "At the end of the day, it's not really about which university scores the highest grade. More, it's about the opportunity land grant universities have in meeting a rapidly growing demand with a well-trained supply of organic farmers."
Following are the nine universities that snagged almost perfect scores (a 7) placing them in second place.