Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service - (MOSES)

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Photo of a Wisconsin farm, orginally posted on the Wisconsin Public Radio Website 2-21-2014. Source: [https://www.wpr.org/wisconsin-sees-five-year-decline-number-farms-acres-farmland

Expanding Organic Market

Although the number of organic farms remains low at approximately 4% of farms. They are growing in numbers because the younger generation is increasing purchasing organic products. According to the Pew Research Center "About six-in-ten U.S. adults younger than 30 (61%) say that organic produce is better for health than conventionally grown varieties, as do 57% of those ages 30 to 49. In contrast, 45% of seniors (those ages 65 and older.)" [1] These numbers are rising yearly and organizations such as MOSES play an important role in meeting the growing demand.

What is the Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service

The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) is a nonprofit organization, located in Spring Valley, WI. Its mission statement states "MOSES educates, inspires, and empowers farmers to thrive in a sustainable, organic system of agriculture." [2] They offer year-round training ranging from large conferences to programs that support women farmers and teaching children farm safety. Finally, the website provides a listing of current issues within the organic community and organizations that advocate for policies that are beneficial to organic farmers.

MOSES History

The organization grew out of the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference who held a yearly conference to educate farmers on organic agriculture. In 1990 there was only about 90 people in attendence. By 1999, the conference hosted over 1000 people. Because of the growing interest, they decided to expand to year-round educational program and MOSES was created. They now have a staff of ten people, and the conference is the largest in the country reaching over 3,500 every year. [3] In 2016 Faye Jones stepped down as the executive director of MOSES. She held the role since the founding of the organization. In September of 2016 her replacement, John Mesko, was named. Mesko earned a bachelor's degree in agronomy and a masters degree in farm management he also owns a farm in Minnesota which he operates with his family. He believes "every farmer wants to be sustainable the thing we have to remember is, there's a range of sustainability. It's not a line in the sand."[4]

Yearly Conference

The yearly conference is held at Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The 2018 conference will feature an exhibit hall with approximately a 170 vendor, host 6 workshops sessions with over 60 topics, three keynote speakers, and offers roundtable discussions. Also available is a continuing education program Organic University. All of the information about the conference is accessible through and an application for your phone. MOSES offers tickets for the full three-day event, or you can purchase one-day tickets. If you purchase your tickets to the event early, there is a discount along with group and children’s price rates. Finally, wants to make sure everyone has access to the event and offers scholarships which are funded through donations. For a full listing of the 2018 prices, please go to their webpage. https://mosesorganic.org/conference/pricing

Keynote Speakers

The 2018 conference will include three keynote speakers [2] speakers Melinda Hemmelgarn, a resisted dietitian, and host of the nationally syndicated “Food Sleuth Radio” show. Chris Blanchard who is host the Farmer to Farmer Podcast and works at the Purple Pitchfork farm a business consulting firm. Finally, John Mesko the Executive Director of MOSES will present.

Organic University

For an additional fee MOSES offers Organic University, a daylong class that focuses on one topic, this allows in-depth discussion. The course includes a book, breakfast, lunch, and snacks. The eleven classes that will be offered in 2018 are listed below.

  1. Growing Profits on Vegetable & Livestock Farms [3]- Jim Munsch, Deer Run Farm & John Hendrickson, University of Wisconsin
  2. Successful Biological Orcharding [4]- Michael Phillips, Lost Nation Orchard
  3. From the Ground Up: Organic Pastured Beef [5]-Laura Paine, Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, Kent Solberg -Sustainable Farming Association of Minn.
  4. Land Access Boot Camp [6] - Brett Olson, Renewing the Countryside, Rachel Murray, Land For Good & Tess Brown-Lavoie, Land For Good
  5. Maximizing Hoophouse Production [7] - Andrew Mefferd, Growing for Market
  6. Assessing Soil Health [8]- Justin Morris, USDA – NRCS & Joel Gruver, Western Illinois University
  7. Ecological Weed Management [9] - Dave Mortenson, Penn State & Matt Liebman, Iowa State
  8. Food Safety, GAP & FSMA for Veggies [10] - Annalisa Hultberg, University of Minnesota, Kelly Maynard, University of Wisconsin, Laura Frerichs, Loon Organics & Teresa Wiemerslage, Iowa State
  9. Maximizing Health and Profitability in Organic Dairy [11] - Francis Thicke, Radiance Dairy & Guy Jodarski, Organic Valley CROPP Cooperative
  10. Organic Transition for Commercial-Scale Farms [12] - John Mesko, MOSES, Dave Bishop, PrairiErth Farm, Bob Yanda, Midwest BioAg, Kellee James, Mercaris & Ross Duffield, Rodale Institute
  11. Growing & Marketing Food-Grade Small Grains [13] -Thor Oechsner, Oechsner Farms, Harold Wilken, Janie’s Farm Organics & John Wepking, Meadowlark Farm

Programs Offered by MOSES

In Her Boots

In Her Boots is a program which offers educational programs that are targeted towards women, who are rapidly entering the farming profession. Programs are designed to encourage sharing of information. According to Lisa Kivirist, who started the Rural Women's Project at MOSES, "This kind of environment works well for women," which Kivirist refers to the discussions held in the field. "It's in a circle, not a lecture hall. Farming can be a lonely business, especially for a woman." [5] Although this program is target towards women men often attend. The program has received praise from past attendees and presenters. Host Alison Parker has state about the program: “I love having the opportunity to share my farming story and experiences with other farmers, particularly beginning women farmers... Increasingly, female farmers today, like me, create innovative approaches to farming. We all thrive and grow by supporting each other in collective efforts to transform our food system.” [6]

Farmer to Farmer Mentoring Program

Because organic farms make up only 4% of all the farms in the country, it can be difficult for new farmers to find mentors who can help understand government regulations and grant programs. This program matches a mentor with a mentee, to apply to the program, you have to been farming one year. While making pairing MOSES tries to ensure the farms are located within a reasonable distance, with similar specialties. The mentor visits the mentored farm two times a year and is available via phone or email. This program is available throughout the Midwest and the Dakota’s. Both the mentor and mentored receive benefits for participating in the program including free registration to the conference, and access to MOSES Organic Specialist the mentor also receives a stipend. [7]

Certification Process

MOSES provides information and assistance to the farms going through the process of certification. To become a certified organic farmer must certain standards which vary depending on the produce or livestock being raised. MOSES webpage also suggests books and factsheets to read along with having an interactive Excel Spreadsheets. Finally, a directory [14] of organic farmers is provided.

  1. A farm must sell of $5,000 of a product labeled.
  2. Research markets as transitioning to land or animal feed
  3. Apply to organic certification agency early in the transition process they can answer questions and prevent mistakes that will delay your certification. This is an essential step because “Cropland must be free of prohibited substances for 36 months prior to the harvest of the first organic crop. If your land has been fallow, or if no prohibited materials have been used for at least three years, you or the previous operator can sign an affidavit to that affect” [8]
  4. Keep DETAILED records about which types of seeds and feeds you are using to prove you are in compliance with the governmental policies.
  5. Apply for Organic Citification Cost Share, which pays 75% of the cost up to $750 per certification


MOSES website states “We advocate for fair policies that encourage organic and sustainable production through our work with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Organic Coalition.” [9] then list current issues to act on and organizations to contact but the site does not detail the work they did, nor was any evidence of advocacy found upon research.

MOSES was contacted for further information on their advocacy practices. Bailey Webster, the Events Coordinator, responded to a personal email on 12-8-2017. Stating “we’re primarily focused on farmer training and education rather than policy work… the Land Stewardship Project … is complementary to ours and they do a great deal of policy and advocacy work. You can find out more about them here: http://landstewardshipproject.org/” However, they do a wonderful job of giving you the resource you need to contact your elected officials, that information for the Federal Government is listed below the advocacy agency suggested on the MOSES website.

Advocacy organizations MOSES collaborates with

  1. The National Organic Coalition (NOC) [15]
  2. National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)[16]
  3. Land Stewardship Project (LSP) [17]
  4. Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI) [18]
  5. Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) [19]
  6. Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) [20]
  7. The Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (RAFI) [21]
  8. Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) [22]
  9. National Organic Action Plan (NOAP) [23]
  10. The Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council [24]

Federal Government Representatives contact information

U.S. Capitol Switchboard:  202-224-3121
United States House of  Representatives [25]
United States Senate [26]

MOSES Contact Information

Mailing Address:
Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)
PO Box 339  
Spring Valley, Wis. 54767
Phone: 715-778-5775  
Toll-Free: 888-551-4769  
Fax: 715-778-5773
General Inquiries: http://info@mosesorganic.org
Website: https://www.mosesorgnic.org
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/MOSESorganic


  1. Pew Research Center Website, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/12/07/younger-generations-stand-out-in-their-beliefs-about-organic-gm-foods/ accessed (12-11-17)
  2. Midwest Organic Sustainable Educational Service Homepage, https://mosesorganic.org/about/history/, accessed November 30, 2017.
  3. Midwest Organic Sustainable Educational Service History Page, https://mosesorganic.org/about/history/, accessed November 30, 2017.
  4. Knutson, Jonathan. 2016. "New leader for organic, sustainable ag group." Agweek (ND), September 19. Newspaper Source Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed December 5, 2017).
  5. Todd, Brian. "Workshop focuses on questions, concerns from women farmers." Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN), August 16, 2017., Newspaper Source Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed December 6, 2017).
  6. Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) (2017). ‘In Her Boots’ training supports women who farm. [online] Available at https://mosesorganic.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/RadicalRoot-Boots2017.pdf (Accessed 5 Dec. 2017).
  7. farmer to farmer program [1], accessed Dec 7, 2017
  8. Midwest Organic Sustainable Educational Service Certification Page, https://mosesorganic.org/organic-certification/#GetCertified accessed 12-8- 2017
  9. Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service Policy Work Page https://mosesorganic.org/policywork/what-we-do, accessed 12-8-2017

Additional Published Resources

The Associated, Press. 2014. "Thousands of organic farmers gather in Wisconsin." Newswires, EBSCOhost (accessed December 7, 2017).

Bloom, Betsy. 2013. "La Crosse Center searches for a plan to stay viable." La Crosse Tribune (WI), October 28. Newspaper Source Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed December 7, 2017).

Hesselberg, George. "State's certified organic farmers lose subsidy." Wisconsin State Journal, The (Madison, WI), October 15, 2013., Newspaper Source Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed December 7, 2017).

Knutson, Jonathan. "Fraternity of farming." Agweek (ND), March 10, 2014., Newspaper Source Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed December 7, 2017).

Lusk, Victoria. "Organic products in demand, farmers transitioning." American News (Aberdeen, SD), February 06, 2017., Newspaper Source Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed December 7, 2017).

Marketwired. 2014. "Verity Corp to Introduce Proprietary Sustainable Solutions at Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin." Marketwire (English), February 26. Newspaper Source Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed December 7, 2017).

Tighe, Mike. 2015. "Rural life draws city couple to organic lifestyle in Vernon County." La Crosse Tribune (WI), February 25. Newspaper Source Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed December 7, 2017).

The Wisconsin Historical Society has additional information on MOSES in the archival records. Direct link to the information on MOSES: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-whs-audi01747a

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