On September 16th, the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group hosted Thor Oechsner, owner of Oechsner Farms and founding partner of Farmer Ground Flour and Wide Awake Bakery, as the fifth speaker in the Sustainable Agriculture Seminar Series. An energetic farmer with a good sense of humor, Thor enlightened and entertained the audience with the story of his farm, mill, and bakery.
Organic milk, meat, poultry and eggs represent some of the fastest growing sectors of the organic market. Because agricultural feed ingredients in the diets of certified livestock must be organically produced, growth in the retail organic market has resulted in increasing demand for organic feed grains and forages, creating opportunities for Pennsylvania growers. Typically, there is a price premium for organic feed grains. In the past, prices for organic feed grains have reached 50 to 150% above conventional prices.
Researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences have been awarded a $2.3 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate how certain cover crops and rotations can improve production of organic commodities. The study's goal is to determine whether diverse cover crop mixtures -- as opposed to a single-species cover cropping -- can enhance ecosystem functions in a corn-soybean-wheat cash crop rotation that produces organic feed and forage, according to project leader Jason Kaye, associate professor of soil biogeochemistry.