Education Committee 3/24 call notes

Participating in the call were Michelle Wander, Ellen Phillips, Jane Heim, Carol Elder, and Abu Khan.

The group decided to include notices for eOrganic webinars in a monthly email to members.

Ellen noted that there are two audiences within IOGA: new farmers and current farmers. New farmers have more basic education needs, as they are just getting started. Current farmers are established, and so need more advanced topics. Both should be considered in IOGA’s educational activities.

Abu suggested a third audience: university students. Some will become new farmers; others are organic and local food consumers. If there is interest, Michelle suggested that Abu propose to the Planning Committee that a committee on organic and sustainable education be created. IOGA could facilitate networking among student groups at SIU, UIC, UIUC, and WIU. Jane will check to see if there is a group at NIU. Activities could include field trips to the various university student farms and discussions. Carol could include portraits of the student groups in the blog, and the web site could list news and events sponsored by the student groups. Abu and Michelle will assemble a list of student contacts and organize a call.

The committee decided that IOGA should collaborate with other organizations on field days this summer and focus its energies on organizing outstanding workshops at the January specialty growers conference. Michelle will talk with Joel Gruver at WIU to explore partnering on an organic row crops field day. The second field day included in the grant proposal could be student farm exchanges in the fall, or possibly co-sponsoring one of the UI Extension Sustainable Ag Tours if any are hosted at an organic operation. Jane and Ellen noted that they are starting a northern Illinois sustainable agriculture network, beginning with a June 20 potluck at Jane’s farm.

Since eOrganic has many webinars and articles on general organic topics, the committee decided that replicating those topics is not a wise use of resources. However, IOGA does have a unique resource in the information on spray drift. Therefore, IOGA will work to create an eOrganic article on spray drift. Jane will lead the effort, together with Anita Poeppel from the Spray Drift Committee. Spray drift will also be suggested as a topic for the January conference.

Key communication tools will be the web site blog and email. Carol will develop a list of potential partners for collaboration, including publications and web sites where IOGA information can be included. She will also work with the web designer to add a better calendar tool for the IOGA web site.

Discussion on the organization and timing of an advanced organic course was tabled until later.