Organic Agriculture

Beginning with early organic research in the 1970s, WSU had been an active participant in the pursuit of information, tools, and organic solutions to agricultural production and sustainability challenges. CSANR bolstered this legacy by establishing an Organic Crop Research Grant Program with funding from USDA between the years of 2002–2011, analyzing the trends of Washington state organic statistics, and connecting the public to organic agriculture resources, information and experts. CSANR continues it’s investment in organic agriculture research through the BIOAg Grant Program—which has expanded the eligible research activities to include livestock as well as biologically intensive strategies that are effective for both organic and conventionally managed farms and ranches.

More information on past organic research grants can be found in the CSANR Grants Database.

History of WSU Organic Ag

The organic food industry has been growing at a rate of 20-30% per year for the past 10 years in the U.S., with a commensurate increase in land farmed under certified organic management, and an increased need for research on organic farming practices and systems. In Washington State, organic acreage has increased 8-fold since 1993 and the organic food industry is valued at over $200 million per year. The organic sector supports thousands of businesses of all sizes, with extensive positive repercussions for rural communities. Organic systems generally lead to improved environmental performance and farmworker safety thus lessening the need for the public sector to bear these costs. Organically approved products, often developed by small businesses, need testing for efficacy and registration. Conventional growers also benefit from the development of organic practices and products, which they are increasingly adopting to deal with pesticide resistance and regulatory constraints and because adoption of these methods can lead to reduced costs, improved biological performance, and enhanced environmental protection.Washington State University has a solid history of involvement with organic farming.  One of the first organic studies (David Holland and Stephen Kraten, 1970s) compared energy usage by organic and conventional grain production systems.  In 1980, the USDA Study Team on Organic Farming (led by Bob Papendick, USDA-ARS researcher based at WSU Pullman) produced “Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming”.  In 1981, the first organic farming symposium at the American Society of Agronomy national meetings (organized by Lloyd Elliott and Dave Bezdicek, WSU) led to the publication of “Organic Farming: Current Technology and Its Role in a Sustainable Agriculture,” available from the American Society of Agronomy as an ASA Special Publication.

Today, Washington State University continues to play a key role in organic research and education.  In 2002, CSANR published a survey (pdf) of organic research and education at WSU that identified almost 50 faculty and staff who were involved in organic research and education projects.  Also in 2002, CSANR received federal funding for its Organic Research program. In 2003, an organic working group was formed at WSU with the purpose of increasing research, networking and outreach opportunities and impacts.  In 2007, WSU began offering a new undergraduate Organic Agriculture Systems major. WSU established an organic teaching farm (certified organic in 2004) which is in the process of moving and expanding into a 30-acre state of the art student learning center known as the Eggert Family Organic Farm.

WSU Organic Land

The WSU Organic Working Group set the goal of establishing certified organic land or organically managed land at every WSU Research facility. At this time, 25 acres are certified organic and three acres are in transition to organic and used for research purposes at four locations in the state. An additional 100 acres are certified organic and leased for commercial production.WSU Vancouver Research and Extension Unit was the site of the first certified organic land at WSU. Dr. Carol Miles and Martin Nicholson certified 3 acres for mixed vegetable production land in 2001.

  • WSU Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center in Wenatchee has 100 acres certified organic apples currently managed for production which are to be replanted for research purposes as funds become available. Certified prior to 2002.
  • WSU Spillman Farm in Pullman has 11 ½ acres of certified organic land that is used for the organic wheat breeding program.
  • WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center: Six acres of certified organic vegetable land including a long-term organic systems research trial, an additional six acres scheduled for organic transition, and three managed organically but not certified. First certified in 2002
  • WSU Prosser Irrigated Agriculture Research & Extension Center: three acre organic hops yard
  • WSU Organic Farm: 30 acre farm in Pullman. A 2012 gift from the Eggert Family enabled the move and expansion of the organic farm from the former four acre site at Tukey Orchard.
  • WSU Mt Vernon Research and Extension Center: Five acres of vegetable land that was certified organic in 2006 and 2.6 acres managed organically but not certified. Additionally, three acres of wine grapes will be established to transition to organic.

Additional organic research is conducted by WSU scientists on privately-owned certified organic land.

Ongoing WSU Organic research projects, activities and opportunities


Many resources are available to help understand the certification process (see below). Any USDA accredited certifier can be used in any state. In Washington, the WSDA Organic Food Program certifies over 90% of the organic acres. Both WSDA and OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) maintain Brand Name Material Lists to help growers and processors choose inputs that are in compliance with the NOP.

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