The Organic Center was founded in 2002, and is a non-profit based in Washington DC in the United States with the mission of convening and conducting credible, evidence-based science on the environmental and health impacts of organic food and farming and communicating them to the public. The Center communicates up-to-date studies on sustainable agriculture and health, and collaborates with academic and governmental institutions to fill gaps in knowledge about organic.

The current scientific staff includes Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs, and Dr. Tracy Misiewicz, Associate Director of Science Programs. Dr. Shade directs the Center’s programmatic activities and has worked on a number of diverse research programs ranging from applied solutions to on-farm challenges to methods for improving environmental impacts of agriculture. Dr. Misiewicz leads the Center’s reports compiling current science on critical issues affecting organic food and farming, and heads the Center’s grant development program, and has written many successful scientific and educational grants to support research and outreach on issues of importance to organic stakeholders.

The Center’s process includes the following steps:

Identifying gaps in our knowledge

One of the most important things that the Center does is identify areas where there are gaps in knowledge about organic. The Organic Center does this through many channels: by holding discussions at grower meetings, meeting regularly with their scientific advisory board, conducting an annual survey, and holding one-on-one and group meetings throughout the year.

Put together a research team

Often, scientists do not talk with industry or farmers, so the research addressing challenges keeping the organic sector from growing would not happen without a bridge between the voices behind those needs and academia. The Organic Center is that bridge in the United States.

The Center finds research teams by identifying labs that are working on cutting edge issues, and by reading papers to find people who are publishing in the most impactful journals. Many of the scientists on their teams have never worked in organic before. This can have cascading effects on increasing research in organic, because once labs start working in organic they 1) continue to do projects in organic and 2) train students in organic

Develop a project

Project development is important, because the research needs to be directly impactful to organic stakeholders and have meaning to the target audience. The Organic Center engages stakeholders throughout the process, and starts by putting together an advisory board that can include farmers, researchers, industry members, extension agents, government agencies, and other non-profits. This group helps provide guidance for the project to make sure it is relevant.

Find funding

Many of the projects the Center collaborates on require funding from multiple sources, because grants and industry funding are limited.

Project management

The Organic Center does project management throughout the lifespan of the research. They make sure the project sticks to a timeline and provides clear deliverables that can apply to solve challenges. They also provide any skills needed to complement the researcher’s expertise areas.

Communication

When it comes to Communication the Organic Center is the main outreach entity for organic science in the United States. They use extensive networks, put on webinars and workshops at regional and national meetings, newsletters, press releases, social media, develop web pages for each project, and more.

The Center also goes a step beyond traditional farmer and consumer communication to reach policy makers in the United States.

Leverage results

The Center leverages the research results into actionable next steps. They use the findings not only to solve the initial challenge areas that the project addressed, but also to identify new gaps in knowledge, which starts the cyclical process over again.