Varying Challenges of the Different Types of Organic Farming
written by: BStone•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 4/27/2010
From organic beef to corn, each crop requires a specific approach to sustainable farming. Learn about the different types of organic farming.
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All types of organic farming use the same basic methods. Organic foods are grown and produced through sustainable, eco-friendly means. Chemicals, pesticides, and genetic engineering are never used to optimize crops. Natural fertilizers are used, providing nutrient-rich, organic material into the earth, rather than synthetic chemicals. Efforts are made to sustain soil over the long-term, instead of just over the next several years. Organic farmers often practice crop rotation, and may even plant multiple crops to benefit the land.
The results of these efforts are healthier food for the people, and a more sustainable environment. Farmers do often have to sacrifice financial benefits in the short-term, making switching to organic methods very challenging for some producers. They also have to work harder to maintain natural means. The end result however, is the eco-friendly solution to the problems caused by years of conventional farming practices.
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Any food that is labeled as organic has to meet basic requirements to become certified. Each individual type of crop has specific requirements and challenges, inherent to the nature of the product.
The specific needs of organic beef farming are to cater to the health and natural environment of the animal, thereby producing an eco-conscious product through humane methods. Livestock are able to be outdoors, with fresh air, natural sunshine, and green pastures. What they eat is completely organic and vegetarian. They cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones. Even the mother of an organic-raised calf must have been consuming organic feed for the latter part of the gestation period.
Organic farming for fruits and vegetables is similar for most crops, and challenging. The principles are to use chemical-free methods, to actively replenish the land, to reduce the use of fossil fuels, and to focus on high-quality products. Right now organic produce is significantly more expensive than non-organic fruits and vegetables, making purchasing these foods difficult for many consumers. Until organic farming practices are given more support, and high prices subside, the demand for these crops will be limited. Because organic crops, such as tomatoes or berries, are not produced on a wide-scale level, the need for transportation is high. The further a batch of organic apples travel, the more fossil fuels that are burned.
Organic farming for food staples, such as rice, corn, soybeans, and wheat does have its challenges. It is still more costly for both the farmer and the consumer, as with other types of organic farming. As these crops have an inherently higher demand, more rice is produced in the world than oranges for example, the need for the production of organic grains is vital for a sustainable world. It is also more difficult to use organic methods for massive commercial crops. Small local farmers of organic produce may be successful. A commercial wheat farmer is going to have to work that much harder to use sustainable methods, and to compete with less expensive non-organic wheat in the marketplace.
Organic dairy farming is not without its financial and logistical obstacles. Conventional commercial farmers have invested small fortunes into the equipment and needs of traditional practices. A study done by the US Department of Agriculture, found that most successful organic dairy farmers own small establishments, with less than 100 cows. In the long term, using chemical-free pastures for feed, and humane living methods, which require more labor, will produce a superior product which everyone will benefit from.
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Future of Organic Food
As consumers continue to learn about the benefits of eating organic foods, for their own health, and for the well-being of the environment, demand will grow. Also, the more organic farming becomes a public issue, the more likely it will be that governments will step in to support the transition from conventional to natural practices. Ultimately, the methods and types of organic farming are the future of food production, as sustainable practices are not a luxury, but a necessity. How long and how difficult the road is to get there depends on all of us.
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Mcbride, William D. and Catherine Greene. "Characteristics, Costs, and Issues for Organic Dairy Farming." (Economic Research Report, November 2009) (USDA)
National Organic Program <http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop>
Organic Trade Association <http://www.ota.com/organic/foodsafety/OrganicBeef.html>
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photo by: I love Butter (CC/flickr) <http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdickert/539619380/>
Would you like to know which produce is better for you? Well, you first need to educate yourself on organic farming, the types and methods, and the advantages organic farming provides. You will also learn the difference between traditional and organic farming methods as well as a cost comparison.