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What is an Organic Farm?

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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2016
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An organic farm is a farm that does not use chemicals for treating pests, ridding the area of weeds or for fertilizer. Organic farming can have different definitions to different people. The international organization IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement) is an umbrella organization that sets forward suggestions that many countries use when considering what they consider an organic farm.

The fundamental principle of organic farming is enhancing and improving the health of the soil. Healthy soil grows crops that are less likely to develop diseases and better able to withstand stress. Organic farmers improve soil through rotating crops, growing cover crops, composting and mulching. They do not use chemical fertilizers but may use processed natural fertilizers such as seed meal.

While conventional farming relies heavily on chemical sprays and treatments, organic farming takes a different approach to pests. On an organic farm, a certain amount of pest damage is tolerated. Beneficial organisms and natural predators may be released on the farm. Rotating crops keeps bugs such as the potato beetle, which have one favorite food source, from developing a significant population.

Pests are also controlled by row covers and netting. One of the most significant ways that an organic farm can have a successful harvest is to cultivate plants that are designed to grow well in the area. Growing plants that are not well suited for the climate stresses them and makes them much more susceptible to damage from pests.

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An organic farm treats weeds without chemicals as well. The oldest, and still the most effective way to treat weeds is manually. While this may work on a smaller farm, most organic farms fight weeds by planting cover crops and mulching around plants. One technique used to increase the nutrients in the soil and keep the weeds to a minimum is planting nutrient-rich cover crops in the aisles between the plants the farmer hopes to harvest.

An example of this is planting alfalfa, a grass that sends nitrogen into the soil, between rows of corn. During the growing season the corn and alfalfa do not compete with each other for nutrients. The alfalfa also prevents weed seeds from taking hold in the soil. At the end of the season, the corn is harvested and the alfalfa is plowed into the soil. Once in the soil, it decomposes, improving the quality of the soil for next year’s planting.

Organic farms are often more work than conventional farms, but they provide intangible benefits, such as a reduction in the amount of water they need, a reduction in the contamination of ground water by pesticide runoff and less soil erosion.

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Feryll
Post 5

We have a neighbor who has chickens and he sells organic farm eggs. The eggs are a bit darker in color and they taste a bit different from what I was accustomed to eating. However, now that I am used to the organic farm eggs I wouldn't want to go back to the supermarket eggs that I was eating.

Animandel
Post 4

I would love to see more organic meat farms. When I go to the grocery store, I am beginning to see more meats with the organic labels on the packages, but unfortunately these meats are much more expensive than the other meats. Maybe as more and more farms use organic meat production the prices of organic meats will fall and more people will be able to afford to eat healthier meats.

Drentel
Post 3

@Laotionne - Farmers didn't just wake up one day and say to themselves let's start using pesticides and other chemicals just for the fun of it. There is a reason why these chemicals are so widely used my farmers all over the world.

The advancement in the use of these chemicals on farms is what allows farmers to grow enough food to feed the world even as the amount of available farm land continues to decrease because of various types of developments and because of land being declared as protected areas.

When organic farms can produce the same quantity and quality of fruits and vegetables that farms using chemicals can produce then maybe we can stop using the chemicals. Until then, you will see chemicals like pesticides continue to be utilized in agriculture.

Laotionne
Post 2

This is an amazing article. I had no idea so much could be done naturally and in this way making the need to use chemicals on the farm out of date. Why aren't more farms using these natural methods to produce food? Surely, these organic farms are much better for our health and much better for the environment.

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