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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an organic farmer?
Organic farmers produce livestock and crops without using pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, growth hormones, and antibiotics.
The main goal of organic farming is to build businesses that are sustainable and friendly with the environment.
Most farms and businesses that grow, handle or process organic products need certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Most of the time, knowing the methods of organic farming is not enough if you want to be a successful organic farmer.
You also need to be an organized person with good business and communication skills.
How much does an organic farmer make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers was $67,950 in May of 2018.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t record separate data for organic farmers.
How much an organic farmer actually makes, depends on the region and can vary from year to year.
How much does it cost to become an organic farmer?
Although there are no educational requirements, organic farmers usually hold a degree.
Many universities and colleges offer organic agriculture programs.
Bachelor’s degree programs designed for organic farmers usually cover topics such as food science, farm marketing, crop production, and soil management.
The average annual out-of-state costs for agriculture programs are around $35,700 but tuition varies depending on the school you choose.
Some organic farmers also hold a master’s degree in agriculture business management.
If you want to build an organic farming business, you should also take into account the costs of managing the enterprise.
Production costs are typically higher for organic products than for conventional products because organic farming involves more labor, higher costs for organic fertilizers, and higher crop loss.
Organic farms also pay an additional annual United States Department of Agriculture inspection and certification fee of around $400 to $2,000 a year; exact costs vary depending on the size and type of your operation.
What is the demand for organic farmers?
The demand for organic farming is growing, as does the demand for specialists in this field.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are more than 22,000 certified organic businesses in the U.S. and there were approximately $43 billion retail sales of organic foods in 2015.
How long does it take to become an organic farmer?
There are no educational requirements to become an organic farmer but there are many bachelor’s degree programs that can help you understand the methods of organic farming and the business aspects of managing an organic operation.
A four-year bachelor’s degree program can help you gain the knowledge needed to start your own organic farming business or to get a job at an organic farm.
U.S. organic farms and businesses can also receive free training and outreach materials through the National Organic Program.
Some organic farmers also hold a two-year master’s degree in agribusiness.
If you want to build your own organic farm you should start by getting certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Once you start building the farm you have to wait 36 months until you are ready to sell and label your products as “organic”.
Organic businesses also undergo an annual recertification process.