So exactly what is organic farming? – the Soil Association defines it as follows:
“Organic farming recognises the direct connection between our health and how the food we eat is produced. Artificial fertilisers are banned and farmers develop fertile soil by rotating crops and using compost, manure and clover.”
More and more people are asking “What is Organic Farming” so can it be defined quite as simply as it has been above?
In fact, there are very strict regulations governing what farmers are able to do if they wish to be classified as organic farmers. In addition to the standards which apply to the food itself there is also a focus on the standards of animal welfare in place on the farm and importance is also given to the care of the environment and protection of wildlife.
One of the principle differences between an organic farm and one which is not organic is the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides. These are a complete no-no for organic farmers and use is made only of natural, organic fertilisers in order to comply with Soil Association standards. In fact, the Soil Association estimate that, if organic farming were more widely practiced in the UK, we would be able to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by more than 23%.
In addition to the total ban on chemical fertilisers, the use of drugs and other treatments such as antibiotics are prohibited and organic farmers are strongly encouraged to develop healthy and fertile soil by rotating their crops and by adding organic matter to the soil. These organic additions to the soil include compost and manure and use is also made of clover as a way of fixing nitrogen taken from the atmosphere as an alternative to adding it artificially.
The use of manure from farm animals together with composted residue of crops as well as food and farmyard waste ensures that very little is wasted unless it cannot be avoided. Manure normally has to be composted for at least six months before it can be used however farmers are able to use it on grassland sooner. It is possible to use compost made from household waste but only if it meets all of the applicable legal requirements.
Free range animals are the norm on an organic farm
Animals reared on an Organic farm are almost always kept on a free range regime and the welfare of those animals is of paramount importance.
There is a strong focus on crop and livestock diversity, including rotation over a number of seasons in order to break the cycle of disease and pests and to improve the fertility levels of the soil.
Needless to say, on an organic farm, the use and production of genetically modified crops is banned and GM ingredients cannot be used in any food production that takes place.