How to become an organic farmer

This article was co-authored by Steve Masley. Steve Masley has been designing and maintaining organic vegetable gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 30 years. He is an Organic Gardening Consultant and Founder of Grow-It-Organically, a website that teaches clients and students the ins and outs of organic vegetable gardening. In 2007 and 2008, Steve taught the Local Sustainable Agriculture Field Practicum at Stanford University.

There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 32,750 times.

While prospects in farming are on the decline in general, the demand for synthetic-free foods that haven’t been genetically modified have actually encouraged the growth of organic farms. Both crops and livestock have been raised without artificial means for millenia. However, in the modern era, you need to have your farm inspected and officially certified as “organic” before you can market your products as such.

How to become an organic farmer

Steve Masley
Home & Garden Specialist Expert Interview. 20 March 2019. Raise dairy herds and livestock with 100% organic feed, supplements, and medications. Expect a lengthy transition period from non-organic to organic farming before being able to market yourself as “certified organic.”

  • Non-GMO crops must be grown on land that hasn’t been treated with synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides for three full years before they can be considered organic.
  • Dairy herds can be switched from non-organic to organic after a year-long transition that is supervised by a certifying agent.
  • Poultry must be raised exclusively by organic means from their second day after hatching onward.
  • The mothers of livestock must be treated only by organic means no later than the last trimester of pregnancy for the newborn to be considered organic.

How to become an organic farmer

Organic farming is the new gold. Trust me when i say this. It used to be the only method of farming. This was before Synthetic and conventional system of farming took over the world.

The main aim of the conventional system of farming is to get farm produced faster with higher yield. This has caused great harm to the environment and living organism.

Due to the recent outbreak of many chronic disease. Scientist have discovered that food is the main culprit of some these disease.

The way these food items are grown and the type of fertilizers, growth hormone. Genetically modified organism, antibiotics, pesticides are the fundamental reasons for these chronic disease.

This has awaken our interest. The need to grow food that is beneficial to both the environment and the consumer.

What is Organic farming

Organic farming supports the cultivation and raising of plants and animals. This system of farming is Eco-friendly (Do not damage or cause harm to living organism).

Biological systems like crop rotation helps to maintain soil fertility. It also helps to reduce diseases and pest. Compost, green manure and bio pesticides are also ways of maintaining soil fertility.

Organic Farming helps to preserve soil nutrient. It is 100% toxin free and produces high quality yield. it is also cost effective because there will be no need to buy synthetic fertilizers.

Organic farming aims to produce high quality farm produce without depleting soil fertility.

How to become an organic farmerApple Farm

Organic Farming is Lucrative

Like i earlier mentioned, Hundreds of opportunities abound in organic farming. The world needs more organic farmers to produce farm products.

Around the globe. There has been a recent swift to organic food. more people are going organic.

This is due to the recent breakout of the health benefit of eating organic food items.

Starting an organic farm will be a wise decision. Especially for vegetables and diary products. Organic products are more expensive than conventional products. But people are still searching for them every where to buy.

Poultry, Pig, Fish, vegetables are among some of the most lucrative aspect of organic farming. you can start any of these and grow them organic and sell to both resellers and end consumers. Take a look at why you should consider starting a farm.

Organic farm produce usually taste better than conventional farm produce. They are also more healthier than inorganic farm produce.

Produce are usually more expensive because they are pesticide free.

Secure a Land/Space

As in all types of farming, if you want to start an organic farm. You will need to get an empty land/space for the farm. if you are starting small, you can use your backyard space.

I advice you to start small and master the act before venturing into organic farming on a medium to large scale. You need to choose a good site with very rich soil.

The soil on the land where you want to start your organic farm should be a virgin soil. The soil must be without chemicals from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

If synthetic fertilizers has been used on the farm. then you have to wait for 3-4years when all the remains of fertilizers must have been washed out before you begin your organic farm.

Soil nutrient, organic matter content, moisture, structure and topography must be considered. It is important to also consider temperature and humidity as it relates to your type of organic farm.

Make sure that your site is access to the market. Also consider your budget because organic farming requires more labour and less machinery.

You will need to hire labourers to help out with activities like transplanting and harvesting.

Soil components and texture plays an important role in organic farming

Get Organic Seeds/stock:

To start an organic farm, you need to get organic and GMO free seeds,stem or root. There are certified GMO free planting materials for farmers who which to practice organic farming.

When it comes to livestock organic farming. You must get your stock from a reliable organic farmer or shop. Animals must be free from antibiotic and hormone modification drugs. They must have been fed only organic feed.

The feed, compost, and organic manure must also come from a reliable organic source. Feed ingredients must be organic without any form of compromise.

Organic seed/stock are the fundamental inputs in organic farming

Get knowledge on Organic Practices

This is the most important aspect of starting an organic farm. You need to be knowledgeable about how things work around an organic farm.
To be successful in organic farming you need some training.

You can get training from a successful and experienced farmer. Someone who is highly skilled in organic farming.This will help you to will learn the basic principles and techniques that will help you succeed in organic farming.

You can also attend seminars and conferences on organic farming and learn from farmers who practice organic farming. Not everyone who says they are organic farmers practice it to the bone. some farmers compromise the system.

The right knowledge is the key to success in organic farming

Disease and pest Control

As an organic farmer, you must posses the ability to observe. Paying attention to details to enable you prevent farm crisis before they breakout.

Diseases and pest control in Organic farming involves the use of bio-pesticides. There formulated from plant materials that posses these component.

These pesticides helps to keep diseases and pest away. There harming the natural environment or altering the quality of crops and animals. Example of a popular plant is neem.

Disease and pest in organic farming are better avoided by choosing healthy crops. Organic farmers grow crops that are resistant to certain diseases and pest. You can also get a detailed Guide in this training manual

It is important to farm crops/animals that thrive in location t to improve overall performance

Harvesting/Sales

Harvesting period in organic farming is usually longer than other methods of farming. This is because nature there are no growth stimulating hormone. Organic products are FARM TO TABLE products.

The farmer must ensure that measures must be able to preserve product from the farm. These products should get to the organic shop, market or end consumer fresh.

Various market and marketing strategies exist in Organic farming. Make sure you explore different alternatives and stick to what works for you.

Most certified organic farms in Africa export their produce to the European Union(EU). There is always a ready market for organic farm produce because there is always a ready market.

How to Become Certified Organic

Certifiers are responsible for making sure that USDA organic products meet all organic standards. There are five basic steps to organic certification:

  1. The farm or business adopts organic practices, selects a USDA-accredited certifying agent, and submits an application and fees to the certifying agent.
  2. The certifying agent reviews the application to verify that practices comply with USDA organic regulations.
  3. An inspector conducts an on-site inspection of the applicant’s operation.
  4. The certifying agent reviews the application and the inspector’s report to determine if the applicant complies with the USDA organic regulations.
  5. The certifying agent issues organic certificate.

To maintain organic certification, your certified organic farm or business will go through an annual review and inspection process. If your operation is not located in the U.S., see our International Trade page to learn about your options for organic certification.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does Organic Certification Cost?

Actual certification costs or fees vary widely depending on the certifying agent and the size, type, and complexity of your operation. Certification costs may range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Before you apply, ask your certifier for a fee structure and billing cycle. Typically, there is an application fee, annual renewal fee, assessment on annual production or sales, and inspection fees.

Once you are certified, the USDA Organic Certification Cost-Share Programs can reimburse eligible operations up to 75 percent of their certification costs.

Is There a Transition Period?

Yes. Any land used to produce raw organic commodities must not have had prohibited substances applied to it for the past three years. Until the full 36-month transition period is met, you may not:

  • Sell, label, or represent the product as “organic”
  • Use the USDA organic or certifying agent’s seal

USDA provides technical and financial assistance during the transition period through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Or, access a variety of funding options, conservation programs, and other programs and services for the organic sector on the USDA Organic Portal.

For help getting started, review:

Jennifer Chait is a former writer for The Balance Small Business who covered organic businesses. She runs a family-oriented blog on green living.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows that farming is not just a rewarding career, but a smart and potentially financially successful career choice as well, especially if your goal is a niche area such as organic farming. It can seem a little overwhelming when you first decide to be an organic farmer, especially since the path to organic farming is different for everyone. Still, below are some general ideas about how to get to the organic farming career finish line.

Personal Commitment

How to become an organic farmer

One of the most important aspects of becoming an organic farmer is to make sure you have the drive needed to accomplish your goals. No matter what path you choose, if you’re not personally dedicated to this career choice, there’s little chance you’ll succeed. Farming, in general, is a tough career path. Organic farming, with certifications to gain and many rules and standards to follow, can be extra difficult. Once you’re sure that you want to become an organic farmer, check out the options below to get started on this career path.

Educational Path to Organic Farming

In the past, most farmers learned the trade after growing up on family farms. It isn’t the case anymore. In 2010, there were 1,202,500 farming jobs out there, and most of those farmers did not grow up on the farm. So how do many farmers learn the trade? Through education.

The minimal education most organic farmers, ranchers, and other organic agricultural managers have is a high-school diploma. Most successful farmers nowadays have much more education under their belt. If you just want to farm, hands-on experience may be all you need, but if you want to farm organically and successfully, getting an agriculture degree from a university is wise.

Almost all general state university systems have some land-grant college or school of agriculture in place, so your choices are vast and no longer limited by where you live.

At the very basic level, most agricultural students, depending on what they’d like to grow or raise, study issues such as growing crops, land conditions, plant diseases and livestock care including the basics of veterinary science.

There are many other topics you can study in college to prepare for a career in organic farming. For example, you can complete a course of study in business agriculture, farm management, dairy science, plant science, agricultural economics and much, much more.

Hands-On Experience

As a prospective organic farmer, rancher, and agricultural manager, it’s likely that you’ll eventually spend some hands-on time working under an experienced mentor, even if you also go to college for agriculture or livestock. Book learning, while very useful, especially for the more complex areas of farming, cannot replace hands-on time on a farm.

Most colleges with agricultural programs have hands-on experience in place via a university farm or land and/or offer internships as part of their program or can help you find a non-campus associated internship or farming workshop.

There are also volunteer opportunities on organic and conventional farms, farm caretaking positions available, plus government projects, such as Beginner Farmer and Rancher Competitive Grants Program, that can help increase learning through internships or apprentice programs.

It’s important to note that hands-on learning experiences are few and far between. There are rarely enough positions to go around. That said, although you’re interested in organics, it may be wise to take a conventional farm internship if that’s all that’s available. You’ll still gain valuable skills and be in the farming loop when an organic opportunity comes along.

Certification Options

Clearly, as an organic farmer, you’ll eventually need to become certified organic. However, that’s down the road a bit if you’re just starting out. In the meantime, there are other certification programs in place that can help round out your education as you learn to farm and help you show that you’re a competent farmer.

For example, the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers offers many types of education options for appraisal, farm management and consulting, and continuing education seminars, but some require years of work experience and a bachelor’s degree. MOSES offers various conference workshops, and you can usually locate on-going conferences and workshops related to farming in your neck of the woods as well.

An organic farmer grows a range of crops without the aid of chemicals, pesticides, or non-organic fertilizers.

If you’re interested in farming, but want to provide produce that is free from chemicals that could be harmful, then you may be interested in organic farming.

The demand for organic produce is rapidly increasing.

In recent years, more and more people have become aware of the risks of eating foods grown with fertilizers, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals.

To become an organic farmer, you’ll have to learn how to best grow and harvest food.

Organic farmers also have to meet a strict standard set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and go through an involved process to have their produce certified as organic.

Education Requirements to Become an Organic Farmer

To work as a farmer, there is no formal education required.

Having a good understanding of agriculture is a good start.

If you’re still in high school, you might like to get a weekend job as a farm hand.

Most farmers either learn on the job, working for somebody else, or grow up in farming families where they learn how to farm at an early age.

A good place to learn about farming is at your local farmer’s market.

Talk with the local farmers about how they grow their produce, and whether they implement organic farming techniques.

Most will be happy to have a chat with you.

This can also be a good way to find a part-time job and get some work experience.

If you’re already a farmer and looking at growing organic produce, you need to be certified to label your produce as organic, made from organic ingredients, or 100% organic.

You must work with an organic certifying agent to do this.

The first thing you will need to do is prepare an organic production plan.

This must detail all of your farming processes, and list where you get any supplies that go into production.

You must also state your plan to maintain your organic practices and keep up the integrity of your organic farm.

You must have a system in place to ensure that you always meet the USDA organic farming standards.

If you have organic and non-organic sectors of your farm, you must show how you intend to keep these separate.

On providing this plan to a certifying agent, it will be open to review.

The agent may return to you with further questions, ask you to make changes to the plan, or approve it as it is.

Organic Farmer Job Description

An organic farmer spends their time planting and harvesting crops, attending to their farm, selling their produce, and sometimes marketing themselves.

A day in the life of an organic farmer is not too different from that of a regular farmer, however they need to take some extra precautions to ensure that the integrity of their organic produce is maintained.

Here are some of the duties of an organic farmer:

  • Planting and harvesting crops
  • Ensuring proper organic practices are met
  • Protecting crops from pests
  • Repairing and maintaining farm property and equipment
  • Selling produce
  • Marketing the farm’s produce
  • General farm duties

Organic Farmer Salary and Career Path

Many who are looking to become an organic farmer will start off as a farm hand working for another farmer.

With a few years of experience they will be ready to start their own farm.

Land must be pesticide free for 3-5 years, so it may take some time to find the right property, as well as being able to save up enough money to make the purchase.

Some organic farmers will stay in their career their whole life.

Others will move on to other types of farming.

Some may become agricultural managers, work in conservation projects, or conduct research.

The median salary of an organic farmer is $45,000 a year.

It’s important to note that the earnings of a farmer can vary substantially.

Market prices, weather, and crop performance can all affect the amount of money a farmer earns.

It’s likely that salaries can change from year to year.

Many farmers will receive government subsidies to balance out this risk.

If you’re interested in farming, as well as organic growing and lifestyle, then you might consider a career as an organic farmer.

Providing the community with healthy, chemical-free food can be very rewarding.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

How to become an organic farmer

The increase in health risks by contaminated foods has encouraged many farmers to switch to organic farming. The practices involved in organic farming don’t permit the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and hence, are completely natural. These practices also enhance the quality of soil, promote biodiversity, and preserve the environment.

Well, if you want to become an organic farmer, this article can be of great help. Given below is a step-to-step guide for putting organic farming into practice.

1. Learn Everything About The Term ‘Organic’

Learn the concept of the term ‘organic’ before opting for organic farming. Get to know that organic farming will involve 100% natural crop production without genetic modification and synthetic components. Moreover, it will raise livestock with natural feed and medications. Also, if you are a conventional farmer, you need to become ‘certified organic’ to sell your products.

How to become an organic farmerHow To Become An Organic Farmer: A Helping Guide

2. Get Organic Farming Internship

Get hands-on experience by joining a certified organic farm and by working there for a period. Working on a farm will make you familiar with techniques of organic farming such as planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and so on.

3. Get A Degree In Organic Agriculture

Although the experience will help you start an organic farm, getting an apt education will make you a successful farmer. So, pursue an organic agriculture degree to learn about crop production, food science, organic marketing, etc. Prepare a list of colleges that offer a degree in organic farming. Get detailed information on admissions, cutoffs, courses, etc. before choosing a specific institution.

4. Device An Organic System Plan

You need to submit an organic system plan to a certifying agent in order to obtain organic certification for your farm. So, create an organic system plan depending on factors like the size of your farm, crops, etc. Visit the website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and search ‘OSP Template’ to know what you need to submit to the agent. Also, download the application from the website.

5. Meet A Good Certifying Agent

Find agents from the USDA’s website to get your farm certified. Acquire information about your local agents, their address, fee structure, and so on. Finalize the agent and meet him for paper formalities.

6. Get Your Farm Inspected

Arrange a meeting with your agent or a third party and get your farm inspected. The investigation can be a long process that requires taking samples of your products, testing them, evaluating results, etc. Remember to keep patience until you receive your certification.

7. Accept Organic Certification

Receive your certification from your agent. If you didn’t pass, query him about the same and make changes accordingly. You can apply for a second inspection in case you fail to receive the certification.

How to become an organic farmerHow To Become An Organic Farmer: A Helping Guide

8. Maintain Your Certification

Apply for recertification every year to maintain the status of your organic certification. This is required to prove that you continue to practice organic farming. If you do any alternations to your farm, make sure to inform about the same to your agent.

Bottom Line

Becoming an organic farmer is not difficult if you are well-aware of the concept of organic farming, have adequate knowledge of its techniques, and have working experience. Also, you need to know how to earn organic certification and maintain the certification for the consistent business.

How do you start an organic garden for beginners?

  1. Select Your Site. Choose a location that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day.
  2. Use Great Soil. Excellent soil filled with nutrients is one major key to a successful organic garden.
  3. Pick the Perfect Plants.
  4. Water Wisely.
  5. Feed Your Plants.
  6. Maintain With Mulch.
  7. Rotate Crops.
  8. Clean Up Debris.

How do I become a organic farmer?

Here’s how you can start your own organic farm: The first step is to get a land. So, I took some 6.5 acres of my land and then we fenced it. Secondly, you need to start using the organic manure. The main ingredients for preparing the manure are cow dung, cow urine, goat dung, and green manure.

How do you start a garden from scratch?

How To Start A Garden On A Budget

  1. Pick the Seeds. The very first step is to pick out the best seeds you can while sticking to your budget.
  2. Prepare the Soil. After you pick out the perfect seeds, it’s time to prep your soil.
  3. Plant the Seeds.
  4. Water Well.
  5. Thin out the Garden.
  6. Observe and Clean up.
  7. Harvest and Enjoy!

How do you start a sustainable garden?

10 Sustainable Gardening Tips to Make Your Yard More Eco-Friendly

  1. Practice Organic Gardening. Going organic is an important part of sustainable gardening.
  2. Mulch Your Landscape.
  3. Plant Natives.
  4. Lose Your Lawn (Or Part of It)
  5. Water Less.
  6. Grow Your Own Food.
  7. Plant Perennials.
  8. Save Seeds.

How much profit is in organic farming?

“Through this land, I want to prove wrong all those who doubt the profitability of organic farming. With a bit of hard work and understanding of nature, any farmer can earn a minimum of Rs 10 lakh per annum.

Who is father of organic farming?

The concepts of organic agriculture were developed in the early 1900s by Sir Albert Howard, F.H. King, Rudolf Steiner, and others who believed that the use of animal manures (often made into compost), cover crops, crop rotation, and biologically based pest controls resulted in a better farming system.

How organic farming is important?

Organic farming which is a holistic production management system that promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity is hence important. Many studies have shown that organic farming methods can produce even higher yields than conventional methods.

What month should you start a garden?

If you ‘re new to gardening, you may think the growing season doesn’t begin until April or May. But that’s not true — you can start planting seeds much earlier. In fact, you should! If you start the right crops now, you ‘ll likely be harvesting your own fresh veggies by April or May.

How do you start a rose garden from scratch?

6 Easy Steps for Growing a Romantic Rose Garden

  1. Choose wisely. Make sure the rose bush you plant already has at least one blooming rose.
  2. Build your own trellis.
  3. Create the right structure.
  4. Prepare the site.
  5. Pick a sunny spot.
  6. Know when and how much to water.

How do I start a small vegetable garden from scratch?

Here’s a little ten step primer for all of you first-timers:

  1. Start slow; start small.
  2. Build raised beds!
  3. Be creative.
  4. Play to your region.
  5. Build the beds now, so you can hit the ground running first thing next Spring.
  6. Use a barrier against weeds!
  7. Enrich the soil now.
  8. Protect your investment with mulch.

Is Growing vegetables at home sustainable?

Growing your own fruit, herbs and vegetables is much more sustainable than buying them from the supermarket as it means less food waste, no packaging and zero transport emissions. Your produce can also be organic as you control the amount of pesticides you use (if any at all).

How is growing your own vegetables sustainable?

Home organic gardening helps to reduce mass agricultural production, which is responsible for 25 per cent of greenhouse gases. It also absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere into your own backyard. The current processes used by agricultural food businesses are often not sustainable.

What makes a sustainable garden?

It does get watered but not regularly and mostly by rainwater or greywater, chemicals and fertilisers are very rarely used –even the organic ones, most of the materials used are reused or repurposed, plants are mostly sourced locally, and are climate suitable, it features some natives and some edibles, it has trees and

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    Farming is just a family business, right, passed on from generation to generation? Well, if In 2010 there was reported 1.2 million farming jobs in the U.S., we can pretty much guess that most of those farmers did not grow up on the farm. How does one learn this trade then? Why, she or he gets educated!

    Education

    Yes, you can study Organic Farming! Most Colleges that have Agricultural departments have Farming options as part of a bachelor’s of science degree program. Your degree may be in straight Agriculture, but in order to learn how to farm organically you will need to either find a school that has that specific concentration or center an internship (which is often required) around an organic farming experience. Farming in general is a tough path, and to learn how to do it organically you need to make sure you understand the difficult process of obtaining certifications and follow the rules and standards of this career path.

    At the basic level students will study topics such as growing crops, the fundamentals of livestock health, land conditions, veterinary science, plant infection, soil management and then continue to delve into the organic side of things such as sustainable practice, environmental implications, as well as how growing organically impacts farm economics.

    Certification

    This is the final step into calling yourself an Organic Farmer. Say you’ve been educated, you have hands-on experience, usually in the form of an internship, so now you are ready for the grueling process of making your farm certified organic.

    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets this standard; you know the little green seal on your supermarket produce that reads USDA Organic. This seal not only shows your commitment to the ethical practices of farming organically (you know, no pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides), but also growing in a way that relies on crop rotation, composting and in some cases taking it further to promotion of a process called Biodynamic Organic Farming, which is farming with the focus of using minimum machine-driven cultivation methods.

    Job Expectation

    Organic Farming is a practice that includes using traditional means of farming and marrying that with a scientific knowledge of ecology and modern technology. These principals are based on naturally occurring biological processes.

    Farming is hard work, and without all the shortcuts of modern technology, it’s even harder. Organic Farming isn’t just a job; it’s a life. You have to be prepared to live with the land, the plants, and the animals you work. Be prepared for disappointments, struggles, and exhaustion. But then, be proud of what you’ve made – healthy food that makes life better for people and the environment.