Organic farming is a form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost, and biological pest control. Organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides (which include herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides), but it excludes or strictly limits the use of various methods
(including synthetic petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, plant growth regulators such as hormones, antibiotic use in livestock, genetically modified organisms, human sewage sludge) for reasons including sustainability, health, and safety. Livestock and poultry are allowed to roam and graze in open air pastures, rather than confined in tight indoor spaces with no access to the sun, fresh air, or grass.
Due to loopholes in USDA policy, companies (such as Horizon/Dean Foods/White Wave,) are selling “organic” products to consumers that do not completely meet organic standards. Products that come from these large factory farms are not, in fact, from animals that partake in their natural, outdoor habitat, or eat a natural diet, rather they are simply fed organic grains. They are not free to roam and graze in pastures under the sun, rather they are kept in CAFOs, concentrated animal feeding operations- a production process that concentrates large numbers of animals in relatively small and confined places, and that substitutes structures and equipment (for feeding, temperature controls, and manure management) for land and labor.
"An organic farm, properly speaking, is not one that uses certain methods and substances and avoids others; it is a farm whose structure is formed in imitation of the structure of a natural system that has the integrity, the independence and the benign dependence of an organism"
—Wendell Berry, "The Gift of Good Land"
Urban agriculture or urban farming is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around villages, towns, or cities. Urban agriculture can reflect varying levels of economic and social development. In the global north, it often takes the form of a social movement for sustainable communities, where organic growers, ‘foodies,’ and ‘locavores’ form social networks founded on a shared ethos of nature and community holism. These networks can evolve when receiving formal institutional support, becoming integrated into local town planning as a ‘transition town’ movement for sustainable urban development. In the developing south, food security, nutrition, and income generation are key motivations for the practice. In either case, more direct access to fresh vegetables, fruits, and meat products through urban agriculture can improve food security and food safety.
Truly Living Well - Truly Living Well grows better communities by connecting people with the land through education, training, and demonstration of economic success in natural urban agriculture. TLW continues to be a nationally recognized leader in natural urban agriculture. They demonstrate sustainable and economically viable solutions for helping people to eat and live better.
Truly Living Well thrives because they understand that natural urban agriculture is about more than growing food in small spaces. Connecting people with the land builds positive personal relationships and establishes an ethic of community and environmental stewardship.
Below are links to several organic farms. If one is in your area please visit a local farmer today!
White Oak Pastures – Starting in 2009, White Oak Pastures decided to close the circle by planting a small-scale organic farm on the property.
Today, Ryan Carnley, our Organic Farm Manager and Mary Bruce, Assistant Farm Manager, tend to the farm full-time. In 2011, we cultivated 5+ acres in addition to a half-acre heirloom fruit and nut orchard. Of the 5+ acres, 80 percent will include more than 40 different kinds of vegetables, all planted and harvested by hand. We manage a 200 share CSA, with drops in three states, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, along with a wholesale boxed vegetable program with chefs and grocers.
All of the fertilizer is compost which was produced on the farm. White Oak Pastures does not use pesticides, GMO’s, or synthetic fertilizers. Tractors are run from Biodiesel that is made from cooking grease and tallow from our On-Farm Dining Pavilion.
Thorpes Organic Family Farm – Welcome to Thorpe's Organic Family Farm! We farm over 2,000 acres of land and grow over 300 varieties of certified organic fruits, vegetables, and grains. We also raise and sell organically fed beef and pork, in addition to many baked goods and organic citrus from our grove in Florida. Our products are sold directly from the farm, as well as through our summer and winter CSA shares.
Sequatchie Cove Farm – Is a diversified farm of 300 acres nestled in the shadow of the Cumberland Plateau, located 35 minutes northwest of downtown Chattanooga. The farm is bordered by the Little Sequatchie River and is surrounded by thousands of acres of pristine Tennessee wilderness. The farm is run by Bill and Miriam Keener, Kelsey and Ashley Keener, Miriam’s parents Jim and Emily Wright, and an assortment of seasonal helpers from their community and beyond.
Deardorff Family Farms – Is a 4th generation farm based in Oxnard, CA. We farm about 500 Certified Organic acres and about 1000 Conventional acres throughout Ventura County, with a few partner growers in Northern and Southern CA. Fresh Picks was launched in August of 2013, with the goal of allowing our community direct access to the produce we grow. We are similar to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which emphasizes a direct relationship between the farmers and the people of that community, both with the goal of incorporating fresher, healthier produce into people’s food choices.
Hoe Hop Valley Farm – Hoe hop valley farm is located in Parksville, TN. near the Ocoee River and bordering the Cherokee national forest. Operated by Walter and Candyce Bates along with their children. We are committed to a "beyond organic" style of farming that leans away from heavy use of fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics and genetically modified feeds. Our animals get sunshine, fresh pastures, spring water and personal attention that only a small family farm can provide.
LEARN HOW TO FARM AND BECOME AN ORGANIC FARMER
A great way to do this is to get a job on a farm or become an apprentice on a farm, where you will learn the skills you need to grow food organically.
The best place to find a farm apprenticeship is through the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.
Specifically, you must learn about:
- Kinds of soils, which soils are suitable for raising crops, and how to prepare the soil for planting.
- Tilling, planting, weeding and harvesting crops. You should also know to control pests and irrigate crops.
- How to deal with weather, how to predict what the weather will be and how it will affect crops.
- How to care for livestock.
- The challenges of working outdoors.
Consider getting an education
You not only need to be knowledgeable in agricultural practices but in business as well. Organic farmers, like anyone else, must run their farms as businesses if they expect to earn a living. There are several organic farmer training centers around the country that focus on offering a practical education for aspiring farmers. Many farmers also have college degrees, including advanced degrees like a Master's in Business Administration for
Write a production plan to show to the certifying agency.
The plan should include:
- A description of practices and procedures that you and your employees will follow on your farm.
- A list of each substance you will use, including their sources and where they will be used.
- How you will monitor your farming practices to make sure you comply with the requirements for organic farms, including your record keeping system.
- How you will market your produce.
You must apply to a certifying agency, which will review your production plan and then have someone visit your farm to ensure you're following the correct practices for organic farms. There are several certifying agencies to choose from depending on what kind of farming you do and the state you reside in.
- The National Organic Program (NOP) is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's accrediting agency. The NOP accredits all agencies that certify organic farms.
- Your state's agriculture department.
- Private certifying agencies, such as Quality Certification Services, Global Organic Alliance, and Agricultural Services Certified Organic.
Experience organic farm life
Do you desire to experience organic farm life? An organization called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms) International enables people to live and volunteer on a variety of organic properties. Volunteers (WWOOFers) help on the land and home for 4-6 hours a day and hosts provide the food and accommodation. If you want to have hands-on experience, learn and share organic and sustainable ways of living then WWOOF might be for you. Visit
WWOOF International to learn more about opportunities available on organic farms nearby or abroad!
Work and travel with Hippohelp
Another site that can help you find positions on organic farms is Hippohelp. Hippohelp is a map-based platform connecting hosts with travelers willing to work in exchange for food and accommodation. Hippohelp is all about cultural exchange, not only organic farming. On this platform, you'll find a wide range of volunteer opportunities such as teaching a foreign language, eco-construction, and babysitting.
Hippohelp is completely free to use for all members and the map-based interface makes it possible to easily scout for both travelers and hosts in your surrounding area or wherever you plan to travel.