Organic farming is an environmentally friendly form of agriculture whose aim is to produce “food, feed and fiber” that is free from all man-made additives and preservatives. It may be considered as a method of sustainable agriculture whereby it seeks to optimize the farming business while preserving biodiversity and ecological balance. In a nutshell, organic farming allows nature as far as possible to do what it does best.
When growing organic goods, farmers:
- will not use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers on crops,
- reject the use of synthetic hormones, antibiotics or other medications in their livestock,
- provide organic feed and allow access to the outdoors to their livestock,
- sustain soil fertility by using compost, animal manure, crop rotation (growing different types of crops in different seasons to maintain nutrients in the soil), cover crops (crops grown between seasons to prevent soil erosion),
- reject genetically modified crops.
To become a certified organic farmer, it takes about three years to transition from conventional farming techniques to organic methods – since the soil needs time to filter out any synthetic components - and it requires documentation of an organic plan along with additional paperwork and inspections. The rules set out by the organic regulators, such as the US Department of Agriculture and the EU Commission, are generally quite stringent. Moreover, these regulators appoint third party regulators, such as Ecocert and the Soil Association, to assist them in ensuring organic businesses become and remain fully compliant.
Once the farm has fulfilled all the necessary regulatory requirements, the products may then be allowed to bear a seal that informs the customer that the product is certified organic. The seal helps customers identify which product is organic and serves to build trust with the farmer. Please follow this link to view a description of the various regulatory bodies, independent organizations and their certifying seals.
Not only are there cost implications of becoming certified, but organic farmers generally yield 75% to 90% less than farmers applying traditional methods. Organic farming in general is much riskier. However, the demand for organic produce is growing rapidly and many customers are willing to pay a higher price for the benefit of their own health and the health of their families.