A section of Cal Poly Pomona’s Spadra Farm has received organic crop production certification after a three-year effort by the Huntley College of Agriculture.
To receive certification under USDA standards, the college had to document that it had not used synthetic pesticides or fertilizers on the 10-acre plot for at least three years.
In addition, the college must follow organic practices, such as crop rotation, organic seed sources, approved inputs, on-farm nutrient cycling and biodiversity.
“California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) certifying agency reviewed our plans and application and determined that we have complied with the federal standards,” said Eileen Cullen, the plant science professor who has collaborated on the certification push for the past three years. “We are now certified organic on that 9.5 acres of Spadra Farm. Farmer and staff partners from Orange County Produce have been instrumental in growing organically on the Spadra Farm parcel to fulfill organic certification within the urban boundaries of Los Angeles County”.
CCOF is a nonprofit organization that certifies organic farms, livestock operations, processors, retailers, private labelers and restaurants under the USDA standards.
Creating an organic production plot at Spadra provides students with learning opportunities in addition to traditional production methods.
The Department of Plant Science offers a 3-unit class – PLT 4450: Social and Scientific Aspects of Organic Agriculture – that covers the origins, philosophic framework, biological processes and production practices of organic agriculture. The course also includes discussion of organic livestock production, pest management, soil fertility practices, certification and inspection marketing, and field trips to organic farms.
Students have already begun working on the plot.
Assistant Professor Aaron Fox’s students have participated in a California Department of Food and Agriculture-funded Healthy Soils Demonstration Project which aims to show the benefits and costs of building healthy soils using compost and incorporating cover crops between vegetable cash crop plantings.
Assistant Professor Priti Saxena’s students are working on a project with UC Davis and the Organic Seed Alliance to evaluate and identify tomato breeds for hybridization. The goal is to grow tomatoes suited for the Southern California climate and organic production practices.