Development of Technical Training and Support for Agricultural Service Providers and Farmers in Certified Organic Dairy Production Systems through eOrganic

Monday, July 22, 2013: 5:00 PM
Springs Salon A/B (Desert Springs J.W Marriott Resort )
Cindy Daley , Chico State University, Chico, CA
Heather Darby , University of Vermont Extension, St. Albans, VT
Sarah Flack , Sarah Flack Consulting, Enosburg Falls, VT
Audrey Denney , Chico State University, Chico, CA
Debra Heleba , University of Vermont Extension, Burlington, VT
Over the past ten years, organic dairy production has been the fastest growing sector of the organic market, yet there has been a lag in the development of science-based information for producers. Still greater is a lack of agricultural service providers knowledgeable of allowed practices on certified organic dairies.  To increase organic dairy production systems knowledge among agricultural service providers, eOrganic’s dairy team has been developing and delivering organic dairy content as part of a USDA–NIFA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) project., the organic agriculture Community of Practice for, publishes science-, experience- and regulation-based organic agriculture information online. To date, 107 organic dairy peer-reviewed articles and videos have been published to the site. Over 1330 farmers and stakeholders have participated in 17 organic dairy webinars offered over the past 3 years.  As a result 81% of participants said they better understood the topics addressed in the webinars, and 68% said they would make a change on the farm or in their work. An additional 12,330 people have viewed the webinar recordings on our YouTube channel. In 2012, "An Introduction to Organic Dairy Production" online course was developed for training of students and service providers. The course is composed of 10 modules addressing a range of topics related to organic dairy production, including certification, soil health, pasture and forages, herd health and nutrition, milk quality, and calf management. Each module has required readings, a narrated powerpoint presentation, and recommended additional resources. During the 2012 fall semester, the course was piloted with a group of 57 undergraduate students at California State University, Chico. Students took the course either entirely online, or online with supplemental in-person instruction. An end-of-course survey revealed that all students gained knowledge on all topics covered through the course. All but one student indicated they would use the information learned in the future, mostly as they prepare for their careers in agriculture. Further, student grades and course evaluation data revealed that students performed well in online and in-person instruction sections of the course. The course has been recently published to eXtension's Moodle campus and is available for farmers, educators, and service providers. As a result of our efforts, a network of providers knowledgeable about organic dairy production will better provide assistance to current and/or aspiring organic dairy farmers, helping them gain information to guide farming decisions and ensure success of the organic dairy community.