Organic farmers grow robust crops without using toxic and persistent pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers or GMOs. They do this by building up the soil with natural inputs and managing weeds and pests through cultivation, biological controls (such as pest predators), and diverse crop rotations.
They raise healthy livestock without growth hormones, antibiotics or slaughter by-products. Instead, they provide organic feed, verdant pastures, and ample living room. Organically raised animals are allowed to behave naturally, which reduces stress and encourages strong immune systems.
Organic farmers proactively manage their fields, continuously building organic matter and improving the condition of the soil. Tools of the trade include cover crops, crop rotations, animal manures, and compost. Natural, mined rocks, such as lime, also can be used to balance the soil.
Balanced, living soils produce healthy crops with minimal disease and insect problems, and support strong livestock. The result is nutritious, good-tasting, health-promoting food, and nontoxic fiber for clothing and other textiles.
To learn more about specific organic farming practices, such as weed management, click on “Farming>By Topic” and select a category to read related articles reprinted from the Organic Broadcaster newspaper.
Findings about organic ag from the 2012 Census of Agriculture
- Organic agriculture producers were much more likely to report direct-to-consumer sales than conventional producers. While only 7 percent of all U.S. farms sold agricultural products directly to consumers, 42 percent of organic farms reported direct sales to consumers.
- Organic farms were more likely than other farms to participate in non-traditional markets: 30 percent marketed products directly to retail outlets, 16 percent produced value-added products, and 13 percent distributed products through CSAs (community supported agriculture).
- Organic farms were more likely than other farms to invest in on-farm renewable energy producing systems, such as solar panels and wind turbines.
- Organic farms were also more likely to sell crops, such as fruits and vegetables, than livestock and poultry products. Almost 90 percent sold crops, while a slightly fewer than 50 percent sold livestock or poultry products.
- Organic producers were more likely to be beginning farmers, with 27 percent starting farming in the last 10 years, compared to 18 percent of all principal farm operators.
- Organic operators were younger, with 26 percent under 45 years old, compared to 16 percent of all principal operators.