What is OATS?

The Organic Agronomy Training Series (OATS) is a collaboratively managed, science-based train-the-trainer program for agricultural professionals working with organic or transitioning producers in the United States.  The group seeks to grow domestic organic production by strengthening the educational support network of agronomists, certified crop advisors, extension agents, and technical services providers serving certified organic grain producers.  We’ll offer in-person trainings, vetted resources and replicable educational packages.

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What will be covered in OATS trainings?

OATS will increase the skill and impact of extension staff, agency personnel, consultants, advisers, educators, and technical service providers on organic production systems and USDA-NOP regulatory compliance. The program will build participants’ knowledge base in all key areas of certified organic production:

  • Basics of organic production: weed control, nutrient management, crop rotation, pest management

  • Systems thinking & long-term strategies for success in organic production

  • Managing risk during transition

  • Organic certification process & record keeping

  • National Organic Program (NOP) rules & regulations

  • Organic marketing and crop diversity

  • Networking with other organic-focused professionals

  • On-farm & hands-on experiential learning on organic operations



In short, there is a need.

Organic agriculture continues to grow.
Sales of organic products in the U.S. have grown from $3.6 billion in 1997 to nearly $50 billion in 2017.

Supply is not keeping up with demand.
While organic food sales make up approximately 5.5% of total U.S. food sales, less than 1% of farmland is dedicated to organic production. Much of the domestic supply shortfall is being satisfied with imported organic grain.

There is a lack of trained support professionals available to organic producers.
Recent research by the U.S. Organic Grains Collaboration identified a shortage of technical service providers who understand organic production and are set up to work with growers seeking support

And, those professionals matter.
A 2012 survey of 4,778 medium- to large-sized corn farmers in the Midwest rated chemical dealers, seed dealers, and consultants as the most influential actors in farm decision making, topped only by family members. In order to support farmers as they assess the opportunities and risks associated with transitioning acreage to organic grain production, these key influencers need access to information, resources, and training on organic grain production

Especially for organic production.
Despite the potential financial returns offered by organic grain price premiums, organic production presents unique risks, particularly with navigating the 36-month transition. Farmers cite one-on-one technical assistance and support from consultants as top needed resources or support mechanisms for navigating the transition.


How did OATS come about?

OATS was initiated in 2018 by a diverse group of stakeholders including industry, non-profit, agency, and independent agronomist partners. In the pilot phase, the Upper-Midwest was divided into 3 regions, each offering training in 2019 with a common curriculum and support materials.

In the future, the OATS planning team will expand these trainings to more regions of the US and tailor the curriculum to address the diversity of cropping systems in different regions


Regional Trainings

All of the 2019 OATS trainings are completed. We’ll keep the links below active as there’s additional information about each region that may be of interest. Stay tuned for more training opportunities in 2020!

OATS West:  March 26-27, Bismark, ND
OATS East:  July 24-25, Crawfordsville, IN
OATS Central:  August 14-15, La Crosse, WI

How do I get involved?
For more information about OATS contact Mallory Krieger at 740-505-2033 or training@organicagronomy.org

The OATS consortium members include:
Pipeline Foods, Organic Trade Association and the Organic Grains Council, Clif Bar, Grain Millers, Albert Lea Seed House, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Iowa State, University of Minnesota, North Dakota State University, Purdue Extension, The Land Connection, Agrisecure, KAM Ag Solutions, MOSES, Rodale Institute

The Organic Trade Association supports OATS as fiscal sponsor with funding from industry-invested GRO Organic voluntary research, promotion, and education program.