more events


The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers: Keeping the Dream of Farming Alive

As older farmers retire, fewer young farmers are stepping in to take their place. The number of beginning farmers dropped 20 percent in the last five-year census period, and the average US farmer now tops 58 years of age. more

CIAS Mini-Grants Support Graduate Student Research in Sustainable Agriculture

CIAS supports innovative graduate student research addressing the challenges faced by small- and medium-sized farms and food businesses. Awarded annually, our competitive mini-grants aid students as they initiate their research in sustainable agriculture and food systems. more


Announcing the 2019 Market Farm Madness Champion!

Hoophouse is your 2019 Market Farm Madness champion! They withstood high winds, late snow storms and controversy over cost share payments to win the tournament. more

more madness

Organic Agriculture Research Symposium

The inaugural OARS was held February 25-26, 2015 in conjunction with the MOSES Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, WI. OARS 2016 will be held in conjunction with the EcoFarm Conference in Asilomar, CA.

View the 2015 OARS proceedings

The first Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS) focused on building a solid foundation for organic agriculture, in order to provide healthy food for the future in a sustainable and ecologically sound way. The event highlighted research on organic farming systems, seeds and crop varieties suitable for organic production, holistic livestock care and feeding, soil health, organic markets and more. Researchers from all over the world presented their work at this event.

OARS 2015 was co-sponsored by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, the UW-Madison Agronomy Department, the USDA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, The Organic Center and Ceres Trust.


Download a detailed, printer-friendly schedule (PDF)
Download the conference program (PDF)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

12:00-1:00pm Registration
1:00-1:30pm Welcome and introduction
1:30-3:00pm Concurrent workshop session 1
• Farming Systems: Seeing the Big Picture
• Organic Seeds: What is at Stake?
3:00-3:30pm Break and poster viewing (coffee, tea and refreshments provided)
3:30-5:00pm Concurrent workshop session 2
• Organic Research: An International Perspective
• Plant Breeding for Organic Farmers 1: Back to the Future
• Biological Control: Working With Nature
5:00-6:00pm Reception and poster presentation (non-alcoholic beverages and refreshments provided)
6:00-7:00pm Keynote: Chuck Benbrook
The Benefits of Organic Agriculture: Evidence-Based Results

Wednesday night dinner on your own

Thursday, February 26, 2015

8:00-8:30am Registration and networking (coffee provided)
8:30-10:00am Concurrent workshop session 3
• Holistic Livestock Care and Feeding
• Soil Health: Back to Basics
• Organic Markets: Quality and the Consumer Connection
10:00-10:30am Break and poster viewing (coffee, tea and refreshments provided)
10:30am-noon Concurrent workshop session 4
• Farming Systems: Putting it all Together
• Plant Breeding for Organic Farmers 2: Creative Partnerships and Emerging Varieties
• Economics of Organic: The Bottom Line
Noon-1:00pm Lunch (provided)
1:00-3:00pm Listening session 1: Identifying Research Needs and Gaps
3:00-3:30pm Break (coffee, tea and refreshments provided)
3:30-5:00pm Listening session 2: Strategic Planning and Bridge to MOSES Organic Farming Conference


Symposium presenters

Keynote Speaker: Charles Benbrook
Benbrook is Research Professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, where he leads a project quantifying the impacts of farming systems, technology, and policy on food nutritional quality, food safety, agricultural productivity, economic performance, natural resources and the environment.

Brian Baker
Baker is an independent consultant specializing in organic and sustainable agriculture. He has been part of the Organic Research and Extension Initiative’s Value Added Grains project since 2011. Baker has worked as an International Research Networker for the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) in Frick, Switzerland. Prior to that, he was a Senior Research Fellow of The Organic Center. As a founder of the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), he filled many roles, culminating in his position as Research Director. Dr. Baker has taught classes on organic farming and sustainable agriculture at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the University of Oregon, and the State University of New York at Alfred.

Eric Bietila
Bietila is a Master’s student in the Agroecology Program at UW-Madison. His research focuses on the use of organic no-till methods in small scale vegetable production and plant-growth promoting traits in native rhizobacteria. He has enjoyed many years of experience working on organic and biodynamic farms and as an activist concerned with agriculture and environmental justice. He plans to pursue a doctoral degree examining how farming practices affect the ability of beneficial plant-associated bacteria to colonize plant roots.

Abbe Hamilton
Hamilton’s Maste’rs degree research at Penn State compares farmers’ motivations to plant cover crops with the actual ecosystem services those crops provide. She is also interested in determining the current and ultimate limitations to cover cropping in the Mid-Atlantic region through farmer interviews, and the differences in cover crop needs among different types of farmers. She hopes to help determine the limits of cover cropping as a useful conservation tool. Abbe also contributes to the weed ecology operations of the ongoing Cover Crop Cocktails project.

Brad Heins
Heins is Assistant Professor of Organic Dairy Management at the University of Minnesota’s West Central Research Center in Morris. The Center has a 110-head herd in a certified organic system, and a 140-head herd in a conventional grazing system. Heins’s research and extension program focuses on best management practices for organic dairy production, management intensive grazing, supplementation strategies for organic cattle, crossbreeding, and group rearing of calves in an organic system. He serves on the Minnesota Organic Advisory Task Force.

Erin Hill
Erin Hill is a research assistant with the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University. Her Ph.D. in Crop and Soil Science (2014) focused on how cover crops impact nutrient cycling and weed pressure in organic dry bean systems. Erin’s M.S. research in horticulture explored the impacts of competition and allelopathy of hairy vetch and cowpea cover crops on weed communities in pickling cucumber. She has been a member of the Midwest Cover Crop Council since its inaugural meeting in 2006 and has served as the web administrator of since its 2008 launch. In addition to cover crops, Erin’s research and extension interests include sustainable and organic weed management, weed ecology and herbicide resistance management.

Ken Johnson
Johnson is Professor of Plant Pathology at Oregon State University. He teaches courses in introductory plant pathology and plant disease management. His research program is concerned with economically important diseases of horticultural crops with an emphasis on bacterial pathogens including fire blight of pear and apple. With fire blight, Dr. Johnson’s recent projects have focused on integrated non-antibiotic control, improved pathogen detection, and induction of acquired resistance in fruit trees to mitigate the damage caused by this disease.

Keefe Keeley
Keeley hails from the Kickapoo Valley of Wisconsin. He is currently a PhD student in the Environment and Resources program of the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. In Wisconsin, he has worked in various capacities on diversified organic farms, as well as with the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection in local food system development. He has also studied, and served with farmers in a dozen countries worldwide. Currently, as Executive Director of the Savanna Institute, he works with farmers on participatory research, education, and outreach about agro-ecosystems that mimic native oak savannas of the upper Midwest.

Lisa Kissing Kucek
Kucek strives to build stable food systems for future generations. Her work focuses on empowering farmers to build agricultural systems that can withstand climate change, uncertain fossil fuel supplies and resource degradation. Using the tools of participatory plant breeding, she helps farmers select crops that meet their needs in sustainable farming systems. As a graduate student at Cornell University, she collaborates with organic farmers to breed new genotypes of wheat, spelt, emmer and einkorn for the Northeast United States.

David M. Lowestein
Lowenstein is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His current research involves predator-prey interactions in brassicas and the impact of environmental and social variables on pollinators and natural enemies in urban neighborhoods. David has collaborated with a diverse group of stakeholders from ginseng and cucumber growers to overseeing citizen science projects led by urban gardeners and growers. Upon graduating, David hopes to continue work on insects in agricultural systems and on efforts to enhance biocontrol and pollination through a combination of research and extension.

Alexandra Lyon
Lyon is a PhD candidate in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Science at UW-Madison, and a research assistant in the Organic and Sustainable Research Program run by Dr. Erin Silva. Alexandra’s research explores the practices and priorities of organic vegetable growers in the Upper Midwest in relation to seed and plant breeding, and how participatory variety trials can help address these farmers’ needs. In 2012 she helped launch the Student Organic Seed Symposium, an annual event aimed at supporting graduate student involvement in organic seed and plant breeding. She earned her M.S. in Agroecology from UW-Madison in 2008.

Jennifer MacAdam
MacAdam is an associate professor in the Department of Plants, Soils and Climate at Utah State, where she studies the production and management of perennial pastures for beef and dairy production. She is particularly interested in the value of tannin-containing perennial legumes for improved ruminant production, reduction of internal parasites, and reduced ammonia and methane emissions. MacAdam teaches an introductory course in plant physiology and plant anatomy, and authored the text Structure & Function of Plants, published by Wiley in 2009.

Virginia Moore
Moore is a master’s student in Agroecology and Agricultural & Applied Economics. Her current research investigates cover crop adoption by Wisconsin’s vegetable growers, and more broadly the socioeconomics of farmer conservation behavior. She will begin a PhD in Plant Breeding & Plant Genetics in the summer of 2015.

Mathieu (Mat) Ngouajio
Mat joined NIFA in 2013 after 12 years at Michigan State University as a professor and extension specialist. In 2009 he received the Outstanding Extension Specialist Award in recognition for his contribution to Michigan State University’s extension programs. At NIFA, Mat is a National Program Leader in the Division of Plant Systems-Production. He provides national leadership for research, education and extension activities relating to crop production and organic agriculture. He administers capacity projects and competitive grant programs including the Organic Transitions (ORG), the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI): Food Security.

Andy Petran
Petran is a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota, studying production horticulture in the Applied Plant Sciences department. His MS project explored interspecific grafting of tomato onto eggplant rootstock, and its potential to provide flood and drought tolerance. His current project is more delicious: strawberry season extension using organic practices. He hopes to finish up his degree in the next year or so, and will begin looking for work as a teaching professor focused on sustainable agriculture curriculum design.

Adrienne Shelton
Shelton is the Product Development Coordinator at High Mowing Organic Seeds, and a Seed Matters post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research includes policy analysis and advocacy to support public plant breeding programs at land grant universities. She earned a master’s degree in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics and a doctorate in Environment and Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is proud to have participated in the breeding and release of Who Gets Kissed?, an open-pollinated sweet corn bred for and with organic farmers. Shelton has been involved with the organic farming movement as a farmer, organizer, seed saver and breeder for 15 years.

Sarah Turner
Turner received her BS in Horticulture in 2009 and MS in Plant Breeding in 2012 from Texas A&M University, where she was part of the Potato and Vegetable Legume Improvement Program. She is currently a PhD student with Dr. Philipp Simon in the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where her research focuses on the genetic basis of top growth in carrots and the development of improved varieties for organic production systems. Sarah is most interested in breeding for higher nutritional content in food crops and adaptation to diverse cropping systems.

Jared Zystro
Zystro is the research and education assistant director of the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA). He has a master’s degree in plant breeding and plant genetics from the University of Wisconsin. Jared has worked in the organic seed industry for over 12 years, managing seed production at two farms and conducting research and education projects with OSA. He manages OSA’s regional development, conducts participatory breeding projects and variety trials, and teaches farmers about seed production and plant breeding through publications and at workshops, conferences and field days.

Thank you to the members of the OARS Planning Committee:

Charles Benbrook—Washington State University
Micaela Colley—The Organic Seed Alliance
Heather Darby—University of Vermont
Kathleen Delate—Iowa State University
Laurie Drinkwater—Cornell University
Lindsay Fernandez-Salvador—The Organic Materials Review Institute
Alice Formiga—Oregon State University
Tom Green—The IPM Institute
Douglas Jackson-Smith—Utah State University
Diana Jerkin—Organic Farming Research Foundation
Michelle Miller—University of Wisconsin
Joe Pedretti—Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services
Jane Petzoldt—the IPM Institute
Jim Riddle—Ceres Trust
Jessica Shade—The Organic Center
Eric Sideman—Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Erin Silva—University of Wisconsin
Deb Stinner—The Ohio State University (emerita)
Alexandra Stone—Oregon State University
Brise Tencer—Organic Farming Research Foundation
William Tracy—University of Wisconsin

Coordinator: Brian Baker