Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The University of Tennessee creates an organic farming initiative

This story was written by Chloe White
As U.S. organic food production is increasing at a steady pace of about 20 percent a year, UT has launched an organic farming initiative to "jump-start organics in Tennessee" and "help keep family farms in the family," said Annette Wszelaki, UT Extension commercial vegetable specialist.

Organic production can increase profits by reducing the use of off-farm inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides, she said.

There are currently 21 acres under cultivation at the 90-acre organic research farm at UT's Agricultural Research and Education Center off of John Sevier Highway. Fourteen acres are under transition to organic farming. It typically takes three years for a plot of land to be certified suitable for organic production, Wszelaki said.

The organic research farm was dedicated to organic crop production in fall 2007, and crops tested have been mainly vegetable crops, including carrots, beets, peppers, tomatoes, squash and watermelon.

"Nothing has been unsuccessful," Wszelaki said, noting that the first year was low-disease, which is "unusual for any farm system."

Meanwhile, the Organic and Sustainable Crop Production program is a statewide initiative aimed at involving more Tennessee farmers in organic production.

Read the entire story in the Knoxville News Sentinal.

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