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Exploring New Careers and Growing the Organic Sector

Posted by Laura Gallagher, Program Analyst, NOP in Initiatives
Jan 19, 2023
Tuskegee University staff and a student assemble a modular wash station

In the field and at organic organizations across the U.S., students grew new career skills in summer 2022.

The organic agriculture sector is growing every year, creating a need for a larger diverse, equitable, and inclusive organic workforce, now and in the future. The Agricultural Marketing Service, National Organic Program (NOP), launched the Human Capital Capacity Building Initiative to meet that need.

As a partner in the Initiative, Tuskegee University started an experiential organic agriculture program. Students spent mornings completing farm tasks and afternoons learning about soil science, pest management, horticulture, agribusiness, and nutrition. Dr. Franklin Quarcoo, the program director, was impressed with students’ achievements, saying, “It is exhilarating to see the transformation from individuals who had little or no experience in farming to individuals who can hold intelligent discussions on organic farming, operate basic farm equipment such as cultivators and weed eaters, set-up and fix leaks in drip irrigation systems, apply organic fertilizers, manage weeds, as well as harvest, grade, and market organic fruits and vegetables.” The program also sparked students’ thinking about their eventual careers, including options in organic.

Careers in organic are wide-ranging. Farmers, ranchers, researchers, consultants, agribusiness professionals, inspectors, certifiers, and policy advocates all play an important role in helping the sector thrive. Exploration through internships can generate interest in these jobs. With USDA support, the Organic Farmers Association (OFA) matched student interns from Historically Black Colleges and Universities with organic organizations. Interns learned about organic certification, engaged in research, and analyzed policy. While interns gained career skills, hosting organizations developed strategies to continue recruiting diverse candidates.

Together, these programs are inspiring the next generation of organic professionals and shaping a more equitable and inclusive organic sector.

Learn about all the successful Human Capital Initiative partners and explore program resources through NOP’s Organic Integrity Learning Center.

Category/Topic: Initiatives