What is organic farming?
Organic farming works in harmony with nature rather than against it. This involves using techniques to achieve good crop yields without harming the natural environment or the people who live and work in it. The methods and materials that organic farmers use are summarized as follows:
To keep and build good soil structure and fertility:
• recycled and composted crop wastes and animal manures
• the right soil cultivation at the right time
• crop rotation
• green manures and legumes
• mulching on the soil surface
To control pests, diseases and weeds:
• careful planning and crop choice
• the use of resistant crops
• good cultivation practice
• crop rotation
• encouraging useful predators that eat pests
• increasing genetic diversity
• using natural pesticides
Organic farming does not mean going ‘back’ to traditional methods. Many of the farming methods used in the past are still useful today. Organic farming takes the best of these and combines them with modern scientific knowledge. Organic farmers do not leave their farms to be taken over by nature; they use all the knowledge, techniques and materials available to work with nature. In this way the farmer creates a healthy balance between nature and farming, where crops and animals can grow and thrive.
On an organic farm, each technique would not normally be used on its own. The farmer would use a range of organic methods at the same time to allow them to work together for the maximum benefit. For example the use of green manures and careful cultivation, together provide better control of weeds than if the techniques were used on their own.
8 Benefits of Organic Farming
What would happen if what you’re doing at home with your small organic garden could be reproduced on a mass scale?
Here are eight benefits we might see:
1. The Promotion of Biodiversity
Organic methods such as rotating crops to build soil fertility and naturally raising animals helps to promote biodiversity, which returns health to each species. Organic farms are havens to wildlife, so our ecosystems are improved, as well.
2. The Reduction of Farm Pollution
No, there’s no such thing as “farm smog,” but conventional farms di create their own kind of pollution in the form of chemical pesticide and synthetic fertilizer run-off that harms the areas around them. With these chemicals removed from the equation, organic farming is far more beneficial and less impactful on our environment.
3. The Reduction of Toxic Substances in the Environment
Organic farming is not simply the substitution of approved input materials. It is the replacement of a treatment approach with a process approach to create a balanced system of plant and animal interactions. Over 900 million acres of land subjected to chemicals for fertilizer and pesticides, as well as other substances used in livestock farming. Any reduction of this number would have a benefit to the environment around us.
3. Better-Tasting Food
It’s not just imaginary: organic food actually can taste better than its conventionally farm-raised counterpart. One scientific reason for this is that some organic produce has lower nitrate contents than its non-organic version. This leads to sweeter-tasting fruits that also have been shown to contain higher levels of antioxidants. So it’s not really all in your head. Organic farming can lead to better flavor.
4. Better Soil
A Cornell University study estimates that conventional farming’s dependency on chemical fertilizers destroys topsoil, which generates a $40 billion annual loss. If organic methods were used – instead of chemical fertilizers and ammonia – we would instead see an increase in the healthiness of this topsoil, which in turn would produce fruit and vegetables higher in minerals and micronutrients.
5. Job Creation
The most recent statistics from the Organic Farming Research Foundation indicate that there are more than 10,000 certified organic producers in the United States. Compare that to the nearly 2 million conventional farms. However, the organic farms are more profitable – even though they often require more employees. It’s not difficult to equate the economic benefit and job creation that a shift to organic farming would create.
6. Assisting the Fight Against Climate Change
Because organic farming eschews chemical fertilizers and pesticides, it reduces nonrenewable energy use. It takes considerable amounts of fossil fuel to create the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides used in conventional farming. What’s more, organic farming increases the amount of carbon returned to the soil, which in turn lessens the impact on the greenhouse effect and global warming.
7. Safer Water
The runoff of chemicals from conventional farming seeps into groundwater supplies, and groundwater pollution has become a serious issue. Soil itself is a natural water filter. Organic farming enriches the soil, which not only removes the risk of groundwater pollution but can also act as a way to rehabilitate soil in areas where damage to water supplies has already occurred.
8. Preservation of the Culture of Agriculture
It is said that every culture shares one thing in common: Food. It is a universal celebration. Organic farming celebrates healthfulness and biodiversity. It removes damaging chemical toxins from our environment and our food. That is something to promote and foster!