By BOB RIGGS
LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Organic Assoc. of Kentucky (OAK) is self-described as a member-driven nonprofit, where the members work together to promote organic farms and farmers in Kentucky, share information among themselves, guide organic agriculture research programs and educate American consumers about organic food and farm products.
Early this January, OAK was one of several agriculture trade groups participating in the 2013 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show in Lexington. Cheryll Frank, director of OAK, reported the organization is growing. There were 372 members before the conference, but the list of people who joined in Lexington has not been processed yet.
Larry Brandenburg, president of OAK, said the conference is considered the winter meeting of the organization. It is an opportunity for members to network and discuss future business, which focused on the state of organics in Kentucky and into organic growing methods.
Forefront in members’ minds is OAK’s upcoming third Organic Conference on March 1-2 at the campus of Berea College, where the Agriculture and Natural Resources Program operates a working organic farm. The annual conference is where they elect new officers and vote on business.
Brian Geier is secretary of the OAK board. In 2009, he was a research assistant at Kentucky State University, and it was there he and other workers birthed the idea of creating a special organization to promote organic agriculture in the state.
“We thought we needed an organization that could guide priorities for research and extension agents’ work,” Geier said. “Then, in January 2010, a group of farmers, grocers, nursery people, university workers and Kentucky Department of Agriculture people got together and formed a steering committee.”
The group hosted its first organic conference in 2011 at the Western Kentucky University campus in Bowling Green. That event featured an address by Amish dairy farmer and author David Kline, and a series of workshops on organic production methods.
Frank said the first day of the March program at Berea will include training on permaculture, healthy soils, high tunnel greenhouses and humane pork production.
That final topic will feature organics spokesperson Atina Diffley. To learn more, visit http://oak-ky.org or call 502-535-6787.