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Excerpt from Part 1: Getting Started

1 What is organic farming?

              Organic farming is a system of farming based on ecological principles, using nature as its model. This means an organic farmer recognizes that all living things are interconnected and interdependent. For example, the organic farmer understands that crop life is connected to the soil life below ground, and that the soil quality of forage land affects the health of livestock. The organic farmer aims to work compatibly with natural living systems and cycles.

              Organic farming is much more than just farming without chemicals – and for this reason, it should not be approached in terms of replacing chemical inputs with biological inputs. The key to success is to adopt a whole-system management approach. Since all parts of the farm ecosystem are interconnected, the organic farmer recognizes that every management decision will affect the system as a whole. Thus management practices are carefully selected to:

  • produce crops and/or livestock with minimal disruption to all forms of benign and beneficial life on the farm;
  • foster biodiversity that will, in turn, provide a natural system of checks and balances;
  • sustain soil fertility and enhance nutrient cycles by building levels of organic matter and stimulating biological activity in the soil.

              Using this approach, the organic farmer strives for long-term viability of the farm by sustaining a healthy farm ecosystem.

For more from Part 1: Getting Started and information about defining organics, order Gaining Ground: Making a Successful Transition to Organic Farming from the Publications page.

Next Excerpt Reasons Farmers Choose to Transition

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