On the farm
Organic farmers try to work with nature when they produce crops and try to keep their farm animals as close to nature as possible. Organic farmers strive to produce food and at the same time try to preserve their surrounding landscapes by using systems as close as possible to those that occur in nature.
They prefer to work with on-farm inputs instead of using external inputs. For example, to create a healthy soil environment from the use of manure and by building up soil organic matter (humus) to act as fertility agents. This can also help to minimise soil erosion and nutrient and water loss. Inputs such as manure and animal feed will in principle come from the same farm on which they are used, or from neighbouring farms.
Organic farmers try to preserve nature as much as possible by using practices that are hands-on but at the same time low-impact on the environment, such as weeding mechanically instead of using herbicides.
- Responsible use of energy and natural resources
- Maintenance of biodiversity
- Maintenance of regional ecological balances
- Enhancement of soil fertility
- Maintenance of water quality
Organic farmers respect animals through:
- Promoting animal health and welfare
- Meeting the specific behavioural needs of animals
To achieve these goals, organic farmers have for decades relied on recognised agricultural practices, such as maintaining livestock health by providing regular exercise and access to pasture through free-range systems, and contemporary scientific knowledge, such as monitoring nutrient levels to ensure they are correct for optimal growth.
Organic farming practices also rely on a mixture of strict compliance with the legal requirements set out for using the organic logos and labelling and innovation according to the individual circumstances of each farm, based on the underlying principles of organic farming. For example, the EU Regulation on organic farming states that:
Fertility and biological activity of the soil shall be maintained and increased by multi-annual crop rotation including legumes and other green manure crops and the application of livestock manure or organic material, preferably composted, from organic production.
Within this legal framework – and using their practical knowledge and skills – an organic farmer might choose just one, or a combination of several, or all of the above methods to increase soil fertility, depending on which approach is most suitable to his or her farming system. But you, as the consumer, can be confident that whichever methods he or she chooses it was designed to work in harmony with nature and be beneficial to the environment.
The end result of observing these meticulous practices is the production of fresh and tasty foods which can include:
- Fruits such as strawberries, apples and oranges
- Vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots and broccoli
- Milk from cows, goats, sheep, buffalo or other animals
- Eggs from chickens, quail or other poultry
- Meat such as lamb, beef, chicken and pork
- Grains such as oats, rice, wheat and barley
These can be enjoyed in their natural state or after processing.
All organic farmers in the EU are subject to regular on-farm inspections – at least once a year – to ensure they abide by their legal requirements, so they can market their products as organic and earn the right to use the EU organic logo or one of the private organic logos.
Organic products are not only popular among consumers, they are also being grown by large numbers of farmers throughout many areas of the EU. The latest Eurostat figures produced by the European Commission show that the organic area out of the total utilised agricultural area (UAA) of the EU was about 4% in 2005, when there were 25 EU Member States. According to Eurostat, there were 157,852 organic producers in 2005, which was a significant increase of 13.4% on the 2004 level.
Across the world almost 31 million hectares are used for organic production on at least 633,890 farms, representing some 0.7% of total agricultural land. Seven of the world’s top 10 countries in terms of the percentage of total agricultural land used for organic production, can be found in the EU, according to the World of Organic Agriculture 2007.