Farmers who are considering going down the organic farming path have to consider whether it is worth the effort for them plus whether it is a financially viable course to take. There are so many things to consider when embarking on organic farming with specific rules and regulations to follow. Here we take a look at the facts surrounding organic farming so that farmers can make an informed choice when it comes to making such an important decision.
What is Organic Farming?
Farmers who choose to go organic do not use chemical fertilizers or feed their livestock with feed that contains artificial additives. Organic farming is wholly reliant on natural methods such as crop rotation and biological pest control rather than using harmful synthetic sprays and pesticides on crops. Organic farming is less efficient but the produce that comes from farming organically costs more therefore farmers can make a good profit if their farm is managed efficiently. With demand for natural goods on the increase now would seem like the perfect time for farmers to consider going organic.
An Optimistic Outlook
Looking at organic farming from a positive point of view we can see how choosing to farm organically can work.
- The environmental impact of farming organically is immense as natural habitats are not damaged by organic processes.
- Due to the use of natural manure soil is considered to be in better condition as a result.
- Organic farming produces healthier food for farmers’ customers.
- Farmers who farm organically are helping to preserve and encourage the bee population that is being decimated by chemical usage.
- The organic farming industry is worth over £1 Billion per year. Farmers must surely wish to have a slice of the takings?
A Negative Point of View
There are a few problematic aspects to organic farming therefore it depends whether as a farmer you would be up for the challenge are not.
- Controlling weeds can be time consuming.
- Pests are more of a problem when farming organically.
- Organic dairy farm cattle produce more methane due to their natural diet
- More water tends to be used by organic farms
- Crop yields can be up to 20% less than none organic farms
- Much of the UK’s organic food is imported. If there were more organic farms we feel sure this would not however be the case.
The Facts about Organic Farming
iaea.org covered this topic in detail and explains how farmers develop a healthy fertile soil by rotating crops when farming organically rather than using artificial chemical fertilisers that are prohibited. Organic farmers use natural compost or manure, while adding clover takes nitrogen from the atmosphere. Wildlife is encouraged by organic farmers in order to control pests and disease. The use of pesticides is practically a no go.
Rotating crops and animals helps to build fertile soil and rids the area of pests and disease in a natural way. Organic farmers do not use drugs, wormers or antibiotics but use natural methods such as moving animals to new pastures and keeping herd sizes and flock sizes down. Genetically modified crops and ingredients are banned entirely.
Organic Crops and Animals
Organic farms grow crops such as legumes that put nitrogen into the soil along with crop rotation. Green manure such as clover is also grown and ploughed back into the soil making it richer. Animals that are reared organically are sure of a better life as their welfare is put first. Organically raised animals have to be free range, while certain standards have to be met such as living conditions, transport, use of antibiotics and slaughter.
Organic livestock live better more stress free lives and therefore fair better when it comes to health issues. Rules governing organic livestock include
- Livestock must be reared living free range with space to wander about the fields
- Must have plenty of space to relieve the animals getting stressed
- Must be fed a natural diet that is GM free
- Only be given drugs when they are ill and at no other time
- Cannot be given growth hormones
- Cloning is strictly prohibited
EU Standards and Regulation for Organic Farmers
The production of organic food in the EU is strictly monitored and regulated by inspection, certification and labelling. Organic food has to be certified by one of the official control bodies before it can be sold as organic, indeed it is against the law to sell it if not. Changing to organic farming practices requires a big change in farming techniques, while the process can take up to three years once begun.
The organic market in the UK is the third largest in Europe therefore is well worth considering joining. Qualification as an organic farm requires the following
- Maintain the biological activity and fertility of the soil
- Increase the quality of your soil by rotating crops plus include legumes and green manure crops
- Livestock must be feed 100% organically on your own farm. Exceptions can be considered if feed is bought from an in conversion holding.
- Suckling animals must be fed by their mother’s milk
- Use livestock manure or organic material
- Do not use growth hormones, herbicides or pesticides
More information regarding organic certification can be found at the Gov UK website.
Where to Go For Advice
Farmers who are considering going down the organic route will need sound advice and help in order to do so. Here we list organisations who offer a wealth of information and advice for farmers and hopefully when all is considered you will know whether organic farming is for you.
Organic Farmers and Growers
The Old Estate Yard
Tele 0845 330 5122
Tele 0117 314 5000