The Centre has played a central role in the development of organic food and farming research, policy and standards since 1980. It applies modern scientific knowledge and research expertise to find ways of maximising food production sustainably, by –
- Carrying out scientific and practical research into all aspects of farming, based on organic principles, with impartiality and independence of mind.
- Expanding knowledge of cyclical and sustainable systems of farming and advising farmers, landowners and related institutions on the commercial application of such systems.
- Evaluating and disseminating information about organic farming and its relevance to food quality, pollution control, appropriate technology, energy efficiency, soil fertility, human and animal welfare and the conservation of the countryside.
The object or purpose of the Progressive Farming Trust, the Charity that operates as the Organic Research Centre, is the advancement of public education by the promotion, encouragement and advancement of knowledge of and research and experiments into agriculture, biological (organic) husbandry and technical, economic and social sciences or intermediate technology whether within the United Kingdom or otherwise.
This is reflected in our Mission Statement from our Corporate Plan 2010-2012:
As a registered Charity, the work of the Organic Research Centre is for the public benefit. While the Charity was initially established for the advancement of education through research, our work also addresses other key public benefit concerns identified by the Charity Commission, including the advancement of health, the advancement of environmental protection and improvement (in particular the promotion of sustainable development and biodiversity; the promotion of recycling and sustainable waste management; and research projects into the use of renewable energy sources) and the advancement of animal welfare through research into improved livestock production systems. Our focus on key societal concerns such as sustainable food production systems, biodiversity and ecosystem services, environmental protection, climate change, food security, animal welfare, food quality and health means that public benefit lies at the heart of what we do.
Areas of activity
In pursuit of these goals, our activities are split into four main areas: Research, Information Services, Policy and Administration.
ORC’s research programme focuses on organic/agro-ecological approaches to food and farming in order to:
ORC believes, and has demonstrated, that organic agricultural research should be conducted within established and well-functioning organic systems, on a scale large enough to include the range of interactions inherent within diverse agro-ecosystems. Much of the research we carry out is field-based on commercial farms reflecting the importance we place on a participatory/farming systems research approach.
The research programme is co-ordinated by Dr Bruce Pearce with support from our Principal Scientific Advisor Prof. Martin Wolfe, Crops Team Leader Dr. Thomas Döring, Socio-economic Team Leader Dr. Susanne Padel and other members of the research team.
The aim of our business-oriented work is to communicate organic principles and best practice and to disseminate technical and market information to producers, consultants, food businesses and others, so as to improve both business performance and the delivery of public goods (climate change, animal welfare, biodiversity etc.). We do this through:
- direct one-to-one consultancy and advice
- small and large group training and demonstration events, including our annual organic producer conferences
- publications such as the ORC Bulletin and the Organic Farm Management Handbook, and
- working with producers and other to facilitate the sound development of the organic sector primarily in the UK but also internationally.
Our wider public-oriented education and public relations programme aims to educate and inform students, school children, consumers and civil society more generally about the issues affecting the sustainability of primary food/energy/fibre production and to engage with the media on relevant food, farming and sustainability issues.
The information programme is co-ordinated by Prof. Nic Lampkin with support from Dr Bruce Pearce, Senior Programme Manager, Roger Hitchings, Principal Consultant with responsibility for Advisory and Education activities and other members of the Information Services team.
Policy and debates
We seek to engage with and influence policy-makers at local, national and international level in order to ensure that the potential of organic/ agro-ecological approaches is recognized in relevant policy debates, including climate change, food security, biodiversity, animal health/welfare, food quality/health and agri-environmental/rural development, and to ensure that appropriate policies are developed to reflect this.
Our policy work is co-ordinated by Prof. Nic Lampkin with support from Lawrence Woodward as Principal Policy Advisor and other members of the Policy team.
Facilities and administration
Our activities in this area are focused on the development of the farm and buildings estate of ORC at both Elm Farm and Wakelyns Agroforestry sites as a resource to support the above activities and on ensuring that ORC’s administration and governance systems are operated efficiently and transparently to recognized quality management and regulatory standards. These activities are the responsibility of the Administration team.
Help us getting there!
To achieve the aims and objectives outlined above, we need to strengthen our position and effectiveness as the leading independent UK research and development institution for organic food and farming, by:
- extending our areas of operation and impact while ensuring that boundaries and focus of work are realistic with respect to available staff and financial resources;
- building collaborative links with other organisations
- increasing the size of the organisation in terms of staff and other resources
- increasing and diversifying our funding sources