'Good Bugs'

Educating the public on what it means to be organic

Organic agriculture has become a common part of American eaters’ daily language and plate. But what does organic mean and, more importantly, what do organic farmers do to get those tasty fruits, vegetables and animal products to our plates?

Matthew Grieshop, director of the Grimm Family Center for Organic Production and Research at Cal Poly, partnered with Moses Mike, an assistant professor in the Agricultural Education and Communication Department, and his agricultural communications students during fall quarter 2022 to help provide produce buyers and consumers with answers to those questions.

The pilot project developed a series of short videos to provide insight into why there are sometimes “good bugs” on organic produce.

“Organic produce growers do not use synthetic pesticides to kill the 'bad bugs' (pests), instead they rely as much as possible on biological control – using 'good bugs' to eat the pests,” Grieshop said. “One result of this is that sometimes we find 'good bugs' on our produce (e.g., ladybugs, lacewings, and syrphid flies). If you find these on your produce it provides extra assurance that your food is free of synthetic pesticides. You can even release these critters into your own garden or houseplants to benefit from the services they provide.”

The project rapidly grew to help provide consumers with answers to questions about the history of organic agriculture, explain how organic certification works, as well as offer first-hand insight into production practices. The student-produced videos will be delivered through social media outlets in the coming months.

To further elaborate on the project, Mike’s current class of students is developing 10 podcasts on organic agriculture featuring interviews of organic experts from around the state. “Students are learning skills in three important areas of communication: interpersonal communication skills, media production skills and technical production skills,” said Mike. “All three areas are critical for the current digital media market and transferable across industries.”

California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), the largest certifier of organic products in California, is working directly with the students and providing funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recently announced Organic Transitions Program.

“The overall goal of the project is twofold: to train Cal Poly students to be Organic Ambassadors in their future careers and to develop high-quality social media products to help Americans better understand this fast-growing agricultural sector,” Grieshop said.


Watch one of the student videos created for social media: bit.ly/organicagsocial


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