How to Become an Organic Farmer
An organic farmer grows a range of crops without the aid of chemicals, pesticides, or non-organic fertilizers. If you're interested in farming, but want to provide produce that is free from chemicals that could be harmful, then you may be interested in organic farming.
The demand for organic produce is rapidly increasing. In recent years, more and more people have become aware of the risks of eating foods grown with fertilizers, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals.
To become an organic farmer, you'll have to learn how to best grow and harvest food. Organic farmers also have to meet a strict standard set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and go through an involved process to have their produce certified as organic.
Education Requirements to Become an Organic Farmer
To work as a farmer, there is no formal education required. Having a good understanding of agriculture is a good start. If you're still in high school, you might like to get a weekend job as a farm hand. Most farmers either learn on the job, working for somebody else, or grow up in farming families where they learn how to farm at an early age.
A good place to learn about farming is at your local farmer's market. Talk with the local farmers about how they grow their produce, and whether they implement organic farming techniques. Most will be happy to have a chat with you. This can also be a good way to find a part-time job and get some work experience.
If you're already a farmer and looking at growing organic produce, you need to be certified to label your produce as organic, made from organic ingredients, or 100% organic. You must work with an organic certifying agent to do this.
The first thing you will need to do is prepare an organic production plan. This must detail all of your farming processes, and list where you get any supplies that go into production. You must also state your plan to maintain your organic practices and keep up the integrity of your organic farm. You must have a system in place to ensure that you always meet the USDA organic farming standards. If you have organic and non-organic sectors of your farm, you must show how you intend to keep these separate.
On providing this plan to a certifying agent, it will be open to review. The agent may return to you with further questions, ask you to make changes to the plan, or approve it as it is.
Organic Farmer Job Description
An organic farmer spends their time planting and harvesting crops, attending to their farm, selling their produce, and sometimes marketing themselves. A day in the life of an organic farmer is not too different from that of a regular farmer, however they need to take some extra precautions to ensure that the integrity of their organic produce is maintained. Here are some of the duties of an organic farmer:
- Planting and harvesting crops
- Ensuring proper organic practices are met
- Protecting crops from pests
- Repairing and maintaining farm property and equipment
- Selling produce
- Marketing the farm's produce
- General farm duties
Organic Farmer Salary and Career Path
Many who are looking to become an organic farmer will start off as a farm hand working for another farmer. With a few years of experience they will be ready to start their own farm. Land must be pesticide free for 3-5 years, so it may take some time to find the right property, as well as being able to save up enough money to make the purchase.
Some organic farmers will stay in their career their whole life. Others will move on to other types of farming. Some may become agricultural managers, work in conservation projects, or conduct research.
The median salary of an organic farmer is $45,000 a year. It's important to note that the earnings of a farmer can vary substantially. Market prices, weather, and crop performance can all affect the amount of money a farmer earns. It's likely that salaries can change from year to year. Many farmers will receive government subsidies to balance out this risk.
If you're interested in farming, as well as organic growing and lifestyle, then you might consider a career as an organic farmer. Providing the community with healthy, chemical-free food can be very rewarding.
*Salary Information provided by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics