MSU scores a perfect “8” in organic

Universities tend to view outside rating systems with some skepticism. We’re good critics and whenever others think they can rank academic, research or outreach programs on the basis of a few criteria, we immediately jump to those criteria and find fault. We’re especially critical of rankings when they don’t make us look good, and we’re not so critical of rankings that say we’re the best.

I’m pleased to pass along a good-news story on rankings that came my way yesterday from John Biernbaum, Michigan State University professor of horticulture, in which MSU was listed as one of six land-grant universities that were lauded for their commitment to serving the needs of a growing organic agriculture industry.

The ratings were developed by the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), and evaluated land-grant universities on eight measures tied to such criteria as the presence of a student organic farm (which MSU has), faculty and staff dedicated to working on organic production (John’s one of those) and whether they maintain facilities for conducting organic research (MSU’s are both on- and off-campus). MSU earned a passing grade on all eight criteria. Only five other institutions met all eight standards.

Whether you like ranking systems or not, it’s heartening is to reflect back on where we were 10 years ago and where we are today. We HAVE made a concerted effort – in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, in MSU AgBioResearch and in MSU Extension – to assure that we are conducting the research, outreach and education that are needed to help this sector of Michigan agriculture grow and advance.

At times stakeholders see investments in one sector of research or Extension as a disinvestment in some other area. Certainly our resources are limited, and balancing our resources with needs in an agricultural system as diverse as Michigan’s is a challenge. But if the OFRF thinks we’ve made progress in this particular area, I’m pleased to agree with them and at the same time say that we’re not done yet. There’s more work to be done and we are committed to advancing this sector along with other sectors of Michigan’s rich agricultural heritage. Thanks to Dr. Biernbaum and many others at MSU, we’ve made progress. And with more work from them and others, we’ll get even better.

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