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Transitioning to Organic Crop Production

by Randy Shannon

Farmers choose to transition to organic agriculture for many reasons. These might include seeking a better price for their crops, or a desire to lessen their reliance on agricultural chemicals. Some are attracted to organic production methods, which use natural tools and the strengths of a farm’s own ecosystem to build a sustainable farming operation.

In the United States, agricultural products sold as organic must meet the requirements of the 1990 organic law and the organic regulation passed in 2002. These state that if a farm’s gross sales of organic products in one year are over $5000, or a crop is sold as livestock feed or for further processing, then the farm must be certified by an approved agency. See the MOSES Fact Sheet on organic certification or the Guidebook for Organic Certification for more information on certification.

Organic farming is about much more than what you cannot use. It is a proactive management system based on ecologically-sound practices along with the use of allowed inputs. Soil fertility is managed not only to

feed the current year’s crop, but to continuously build organic matter and improve soil tilth. This can be done through the use of green manure plowdowns and crop rotations as well as the use of animal manures, plant materials and compost. The balancing of soil nutrients using natural, mined rocks (lime, rock phosphate, etc.) also is permitted. A good crop rotation as well as balanced, living soils, tends to produce healthy crops with minimal disease and insect problems.

Most certification agencies recommend you contact them for a certification application packet at least six months before you expect to sell organic crops. This allows you time to complete the application, and allows the agency time to review your application and return with any questions. Time is needed for an inspector to

visit your farm during the growing season to assure that you are abiding by the organic regulations. You will not be able to sell crops as organic until you receive your organic certificate from the certification agency.

Read the entire in-depth article HERE. 

From the Organic Broadcaster newspaper, published by the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). (excerpts reprinted by permission)