Over the last few years, organic farming has experienced a resurgence in popularity. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that organic farming practices are more efficient and environmentally friendly, and consumer demand for organic products is increasing. Many online organic farming courses are available to help farmers take advantage of this trend. These courses can provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to operate an organic farm.

Why should you be interested in organic farming?

The goal of organic farming is to create a sustainable system that does not harm the environment. Organic farming relies on using organic matter to increase soil fertility, such as compost, manure, and green manures. Natural predators and parasites are also used to control pests instead of synthetic pesticides. Moreover, organic foods are thought to be more nutritious than conventionally grown foods.

Organic farming pros and cons

Even with its cons, organic farming has advantages in consumer demand, which greatly affects profits and returns. Take a look at the section on organic farming’s profitability to find out.

Still, organic farming’s advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and it is better for the environment.

ProsCons
Healthier and more nutritious for consumersCompared to conventional farming, organic farming is more expensive
Ensures soils and groundwater are not contaminatedRegulations can be challenging to adhere to
No synthetic pesticides are used, which is better for farmers’ healthPest management can be challenging
Provides protection to beneficial organisms from pesticidesAdditional costs associated with organic certification
The composting and reusing of organic waste is safeCrop yield and quality fluctuate greatly but tend to be lower
Organic products are becoming more popular among consumers

Organic farming standards & using the label “organic”

The USDA’s (U.S. Department of Agriculture) regulations are similar to Canada’s and UK’s organic farming standards, and the label “organic” is controlled. The UK has a list of approved organizations that control and award the label “organic”. 

The organic farming of vegetables and fruits cannot involve the use of synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, growth regulators, or sewage sludge. In the same way, organic farming of livestock must accommodate the nutritional and behavioral needs of animals (e.g. animals must be able to go outdoors) and not use antibiotics and growth hormones. It is even necessary to feed livestock organic feed.

Also, hydroponics and aeroponics do not qualify as organic farming.

Farms in Australia are not required to have organic certification to label their products as organic, but they must be able to justify their claims. In Australia, organic farming standards are voluntary and private organizations issue these certifications.

Generally, it takes 1 to 3 years for farmland to become organically certified in most countries. You can find more information below:

Organic farming market growth, profitability & career prospects

In 2020, the global organic farming market was worth USD $96.1 billion (AUD $144.3 billion / CAD $129.1 billion / GBP £77.5 billion). The market is predicted to reach USD $183.8 billion (AUD $275.9 billion / CAD $246.8 billion / GBP £148.2 billion) by 2027. Furthermore, organic farming has a lower environmental impact, which appeals to today’s eco-conscious and health-conscious consumers who are willing to pay more for organic food products. 

Specifically in the US, organic goods have grown in popularity and registered double-digit growth since the 2000s. A similar trend is evident in the growth of market values around the world. This naturally means that careers in organic agriculture would also be sought after.

Organic farming yields per acre & higher returns

Even though organic farming yields per acre are lower than conventional farming, corn and soybeans return higher returns to farmers. Because consumers were willing to pay much more for the two organic crops, organic farmers were able to offset the higher costs, leading to superior profits. It is therefore important to be selective and strategic in your crop selection when farming organic crops; this is something you can learn from organic farming courses.

Difference between organic vs
conventional yield 
Difference Organic consumer prices vs
conventional prices
Organic Corn41 bushels per acre lowerUSD $5 to 10 per bushel higher
Organic Wheat9 bushels per acre lowerUSD$1 to 4 per bushel higher
Organic Soybean12 bushels per acre lowerUSD $10 to 15 per bushel higher

For other profitable forms of farming, check this list out.

How would organic farming courses help?

Organic Farming Courses

Organic farming courses can help you avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes. The courses will teach you how to apply organic farming standards, manage pests that could compromise crop yields, and learn about marketing. You might be surprised to learn that organic farmers tend to be younger and are more hands-on when it comes to marketing to consumers directly. And that is what you might have to become good at.

Take a look at these four organic farming courses, including university and government programs.

1. Bachelor of Science in Horticultural Science (Organic Horticultural Systems)

University of Florida
CourseBachelor of Science in Horticultural Science (Organic Horticultural Systems)
InstitutionUniversity of Florida
LevelUndergraduate
Duration4 years
CertificationBachelor Degree
FeeUSD $114,632 (AUD $172,069 / CAD $153,940 / GBP £92,439)
Delivery ModeOn-campus in Florida, USA

Suitable for career farmers and anyone interested in a career in horticulture science (with a specialization in organic systems).

2. All About Tomatoes: A Gardener’s Guide to Growing Tomatoes Organically via Skillshare

CourseAll About Tomatoes: A Gardener’s Guide to Growing Tomatoes Organically
Instructor & PlatformTiffany Selvey (Organic Garderner) via Skillshare
LevelBeginner
Duration30+ min
CertificationShareable certificate
FeeSkillshare subscription (access all course with just one fee)
Delivery ModeOnline

Suitable for beginner hobbyists, Tiffany’s course takes you through growing different varieties of tomatoes organically.

3. Sustainable Agriculture via edX

Sustainable Agriculture (edX)
CourseSustainable Agriculture
Institution & PlatformState Bank of India (SBI) via edX
LevelBeginner
Duration4 weeks
CertificationShareable certificate
FeeFree / Upgrade with certification available at USD $149
Delivery ModeOnline

The course cover sutainable agriculture as a broad topic, and introduces organic farming and techniques such as crop rotation that qualify as organic farming.

4. Is Organic an Option for Me? by USDA National Organic Program

ResourceIs Organic an Option for Me?
InstitutionNational Organic Program, USDA Organic
LevelBeginner
Duration1+ hours
Certification
FeeFree
Delivery ModeOnline materials

Suitable for career farmers looking to make the transition into organic farming.


Sources
  • Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24968103/
  • Code of Federal Regulations: Agriculture (Part 205), https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-7/subtitle-B/chapter-I/subchapter-M/part-205?toc=1
  • Organic food: UK approved control bodies, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/organic-food-uk-approved-control-bodies
  • Global Organic Farming Market Size, Share & Industry Growth is anticipating a prosperous growth reaching USD 183.8 Billion by 2027- BlueWeave, https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2021/08/10/2277558/0/en/Global-Organic-Farming-Market-Size-Share-Industry-Growth-is-anticipating-a-prosperous-growth-reaching-USD-183-8-Billionby-2027-BlueWeave.html
  • Australian Competition & Consumer Commission: Organic claims, https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/groceries/organic-claims
  • Canadian General Standards Board: Organic production systems (General principles and management standards), https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2020/ongc-cgsb/P29-32-310-2020-eng.pdf
  • Organic farming: how to get certification and apply for funding, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/organic-farming-how-to-get-certification-and-apply-for-funding
  • USDA Organic, https://www.usda.gov/topics/organic
  • Global Organic Farming Market Size, Share & Industry Growth, https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2021/08/10/2277558/0/en/Global-Organic-Farming-Market-Size-Share-Industry-Growth-is-anticipating-a-prosperous-growth-reaching-USD-183-8-Billionby-2027-BlueWeave.html
  • Despite Profit Potential, Organic Field Crop Acreage Remains Low, https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2015/november/despite-profit-potential-organic-field-crop-acreage-remains-low/

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