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More Reasons for Minnesota Farmers, Consumers to “Go Organic”

April 18, 2008

Wabasso, MN – Farmers across Minnesota say they're encouraged about a new program launched by the University of Minnesota, and they hope consumers will be, too. Paul Sobocinski is the state policy organizer for the Land Stewardship Project. He explains it will increase both research and outreach efforts for the fastest-growing segment of agriculture.

"It provides new opportunities for farmers, in terms of educational opportunities for those who are looking at both organic and sustainable agriculture -- new ways in which farmers can compete and enhance their farming operations."

The goal of the program is to help farmers switch to more healthful and environmentally-conscious farming practices. The university's contributions include creating new faculty positions to focus on organic food systems, increasing the services at extension offices, and providing more funding for research. Sobocinski, who also is a farmer and livestock producer near Wabasso, believes it will help the state meet the market demand for healthy, locally-grown foods.

"Many farmers are moving in that direction, based upon the growing demand for consumers. Organic food production is increasing every year, substantially. This is very helpful, in terms of farmers who want to make the transition, to have the tools and the resources. It's also something that's very good for the environment, and for farmers who are protecting water and soil resources for the future."

Sobocinski calls the university's plan "a balanced approach," that will help educate a new generation of agriculture students and attract new farmers to organic crops.

"It increases the opportunity for farmers who are looking at making changes in their operations, with an ethic towards stewardship, with more opportunities and resources to make the change. And the benefit to the consumers is more choices."

Funding was approved by the legislature last year. More information is available at www.landstewardshipproject.org.

Jim Wishner/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - MN