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TOPP Success in the Northwest, Midwest, and Southeast

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Photo: Attendees at Carter Clark’s Hazelnut Field Day learned how mentorships can support the growth of the organic hazelnut industry.

TOPP Mentoring Supports Growth of NW Organic Hazelnut Industry

Partnerships made possible through USDA’s Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) are providing farmer training, education, and outreach activities across the country. Northwest regional partner Oregon Organic Hazelnut Collective (OOHC) and Northwest regional lead Oregon Tilth welcomed over 75 farmers to Carter Clark’s Hazelnut Field Day in Aumsville, Oregon. At this educational event, attendees learned about plant and soil nutrient balancing techniques and the benefits of TOPP.

Organic hazelnuts make up a small portion of the Oregon hazelnut industry. According to the 2021 Organic Census, certified organic hazelnuts make up 276 acres in Oregon. But as more hazelnut growers in the state transition to organic, the industry is quickly expanding. Mentorship among hazelnut growers is one of the key reasons for the growth, and TOPP has played a large part in increased mentorship. The first ever NW TOPP mentorship pairing is kicking off now between two hazelnut growers, with many more on the horizon. With the addition of transitioning producers who participate in mentorship programs, the number of acres for certified organic hazelnuts is expected to increase by 40 percent.


Photo: Joannée DeBruhl (right) and mentees Melissa Wilcox and Sara Hunter from their time in the Michigan Sustainable Farm Mentors program.

Michigan Farmer Shares Knowledge of Organic Production Through TOPP Mentorship

Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA) and the Organic Farmer Training Program at Michigan State University are connecting 30 Michigan farmers with mentors through USDA’s Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP). As the TOPP regional lead, MOSA also works with local partners to offer technical assistance, workshops and gatherings for hundreds of farmers considering the transition to organic.

Michigan farmer Joannée DeBruhl is looking forward to serving as a TOPP mentor for farmers who are starting to transition their operations to organic. Joannée has managed her own certified organic farm raising vegetables, herbs, small fruits, and eggs and is currently leading a non-profit teaching farm in southwest Michigan.

Joannée has mentored many farmers over the years, including farmworkers on her farm and aspiring farmers in the Michigan Sustainable Farm Mentors project. When asked why she is interested in serving as a mentor, she was quick to explain how she loves working with new farmers, highlighting their strengths, and helping them tackle the issues that they are struggling to manage. She shared her incredible experience with farm mentors over the years and how she wants to share everything she has learned, including spreadsheets and other tools to help other farmers succeed.


Photo: Attendees watch a tillage demonstration at a TOPP Organic Farm Field Day event in Georgia.

  Organic Farm Field Day Strengthens Farmer Networks in Georgia

Funding provided through the USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) is helping to strengthen farmer and technical assistance networks in Georgia. In support of the program, University of Georgia (UGA) Extension teamed up with TOPP Southeast Regional Lead Florida Organic Growers (FOG) and Georgia Organics to host an Organic Farm Field Day.

Representatives from UGA Extension, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and FOG held in-depth conversations about soil health, nitrogen availability, post-harvest processes, using the Organic Material Review Institute lists, and tools to reduce tillage with eleven farmers (certified organic and transitioning to organic), two students (one pursuing a master’s degree and one a doctorate), and two service providers from Georgia Organics.

Representatives from FOG expressed excitement about the progress they’re seeing in Georgia influenced by TOPP. The organic farm field day and other similar TOPP events offer participants the chance to teach and learn from others as they spend time maximizing their strengths. Participants discussed how their unique operations affect implementation practices and expressed a desire to learn from and visit each other. They walked away energized about hosting educational and community-building events on their farms.

About the Transition to Organic Partnership Program

The USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) is investing up to $100 million over five years in cooperative agreements with non-profit organizations who are partnering with others to provide technical assistance and wrap-around support for transitioning and existing organic farmers. USDA is building partnership networks in six regions across the United States with trusted organizations serving direct farmer training, education, and outreach activities.

For more information on upcoming TOPP events, mentorship opportunities, and farmer resources in your region, visit Visit USDA’s TOPP Success Stories page to read about the exciting work being done in communities throughout the United States.

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