Advantages of Organic Farming
Advantages and Benefits of Becoming an Organic Producer
Food producers experience many advantages in organic farming that conventional growers don't. Beyond an expanding market demanding organic products, there are several other benefits to organic farming. Here are eight reasons to consider organic farming over conventional methods.
According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), conventional farming is on the decline. However, BLS notes that smaller farming market niches are experiencing more success and profits. The BLS Farming Outlook Guide notes:
"Many [farmers] are finding opportunities in organic food production."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service reports that "organic farming is one of the fastest growing segments in U.S. agriculture."
Because many consumers are turning to organic products to support a healthier lifestyle, organic farmers can collect a greater share of consumers' food dollars than traditional growers do.
An added perk of becoming an organic farmer is that you'll develop a skill set that can be used if it turns out organic food production isn't for you. These skills translate into other organic agriculture career opportunities, such as teaching, training, farm management, certifying agent, and more.
Lower Initial Investment
Starting an organic production operation is not without costs. Extra expenses over conventional farming are organic certification costs, and the potential need to invest in better land and special equipment.
Nevertheless, organic farming doesn't typically require the same high capital investments that conventional farming does. Especially when the expense of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified seed stock is factored in. As an organic farmer, you'll avoid these costs from the beginning, and may not need to borrow as much money to get started.
High Demand and Willingness to Pay for Organic Products
Organic Trade Association (OTA) reported that sales in the organic industry exceeded $50 billion in 2018. Increased interest in health, as well as concern over the environment, are leading many consumers to switch to organic products. Research shows that organic consumers are willing to pay a higher price for safer, higher quality organic products.
Sales of organic food products can expand beyond the local farmers market or grocery store to include restaurants, giving an organic farmer a large market to target.
Current health, environment, and animal treatment concerns suggest the organic trend will continue, making it a niche that can withstand a poor economy.
Organic production should never be confused with eco-friendly production. Eco and organic are not the same thing. With that said, an advantage to organic farming is that there are ecological benefits, such as:
- Water conservation and protection
- Reduced use of toxins in the soil, such as diesel and fertilizer that may harm the earth or leach into water supplies
- Improved and protected biodiversity
- Decreased risk of global warming triggers
Drought is a top concern of many growers, organic or conventional. Drought ruins crops, which means no income, or reduced income.
The benefit of organic crops is that they are known to be more drought-resistant than conventional crops. This is mainly because many chemical fertilizers are water-soluble, which means the crops need more water to grow.
If the worst happens and water is limited, organic growers generally fare better than their conventional peers. This is an important consideration because a study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research shows that we may be facing extreme drought in the future, which means communities may have to rely heavily on organic farms for their food.
Healthy soil is technically considered an ecological or eco-friendly perk of organic farming, but because healthy soil is a significant issue, it should be considered a major organic farming advantage on its own.
As a grower, soil health should be a key concern, but soil health holds importance that goes far beyond healthier crops. Soil affects the entire world, which means that organically grown crops support better soil health overall.
First off, healthy food starts with healthy soil. Soil treated with harmful pesticides, chemicals, and other toxins is not as healthy as soil that is not covered in these inputs. In fact, a study by USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), reports that "organic farming builds up organic soil matter better than conventional no-till farming." Just one little teaspoon of compost-rich organic soil can host as many as 600 million to 1 billion helpful bacteria from 15,000 species, while chemically treated soil carries just 100 helpful bacteria.
Growing Marketing Opportunities
As an organic producer, you can benefit from a variety of marketing tools, such as the green (or black) USDA organic seal. Consumers are learning more about the seal and looking for it while shopping.
Although organics practically market themselves, it's always smart to brush up on more marketing tactics. There are many easy and low-cost ways to market organic products, including the local farmers' markets, co-ops, restaurants, schools, and online. You can use cause marketing to attract consumers that are concerned about the environment, animal treatment, and other causes.
The USDA offers a variety of financial perks to organic farmers through its Farm Service Agency, such as certification reimbursement, financial assistance to create conservation buffer zones, and financial assistance for crops lost due to natural disaster.
To help you stay on top of current organic farming trends and information, the USDA, the National Organic Program (NOP), many colleges, and environmental groups offer courses and training.