Organic Farming Systems Research on the Urban Edge.
Craig Cogger1, Marcia Ostrom2, Andy Bary2, and David Muehleisen2. (1) Washington State University, Washington St. Univ.-Puyallup, 7612 Pioneer Way E, Puyallup, WA 98371, (2) Washington St. Univ.-Puyallup, 7612 Pioneer Way E, Puyallup, WA 98371
An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Washington State University has come together with urban edge farmers in the Puget Sound area to address their resource challenges. Farmers initially provided input and ideas through listening sessions, focus groups, farm visits, and a formal survey. Researchers continue an active engagement with farmers through field days, farm walks, and on-farm research. Based on ideas from organic farmers in western Washington we developed an experiment comparing 12 management systems for organic vegetable production; including three cover cropping systems, two tillage regimes, and two types of nutrient source. The experiment was established in 2003 as part of a project funded by the USDA Initiative for Future Agricultural and Food Systems. Additional funding is from SARE and WSU. Measurements include soil physical and biological properties, soil C and nutrients, crop and cover crop performance, and weed and pest pressure. Economic comparisons of the systems are planned. Satellite experiments include interseeded cover crop strategies, cereal-legume blends for fall cover crops, and local organic materials as sources of N. Through this work we developed guidelines for N fertilization with local organic materials. We have observed short-term effects of amendment choice and tillage on soil physical properties and cover crop on biological activity. In addition to providing a sound scientific study on organic systems management, the methods used in this project push the boundaries of farming systems research methodology. This is a farmer-directed project combining many different research disciplines. Partner farmers have determined the parameters of the university study according to their research needs and are testing promising alternatives on their own farms. Our next step is to work with partner farmers to develop clusters of farmer-centered on-farm research projects focused on identified priorities such as weeds, cover crops, and nutrient management.