Organic farming recognizes the importance of soil health and soil protection required for healthy plants, soil fertility, and long-term productivity. Organic techniques can also help to restore degraded soils and reduce erosion.
More nutrition and flavor
Because of the healthy soil and the natural farming techniques, the food produced through organic farming is richer in minerals and micronutrients¹. The healthy organic plants are often much more flavorful than those produced through conventional farming.
Farm workers and communities are not exposed to toxic synthetic agricultural chemicals
Food keeps longer due to superior plant health and nutrition
The increased levels of plant nutrients and phytochemicals that are present in organic produce help to preserve the produce longer.
Resitance to pests and diseases
Healthy plants that are naturally grown in balanced soil are more resistant to pests and diseases.
Fertilizers typically created on-site by green manure and cover crops or composting and worm farming, reducing the required agricultural inputs. Biodynamic farmers use an inexpensive microbial solution spray for their crops.
Opportunity for specializing in niche crops and heirloom varieties
Unlike conventional farming which is heavily reliant upon commodity crops like corn and soybeans, organic farmers have many more opportunities to grow specialty varieties of crops that can demand a higher price.
Organic farming is more friendly to our climate because it:
Reduces energy requirements. Organic farming tends to rely more on physical and animal labor than fossil fuels. In the case of permaculture and biodynamic agriculture systems, good design significantly reduces the energy that is needed in the first place.
Supports natural ecosystems that store carbon such as forests and prairies.
Reduces the generation of greenhouse gases (due to a reduction in fossil fuel use during production).
Takes future generations into account
Organic farming is restorative and requires low inputs, and therefore does not destroy the land and natural resources for future generations. This is in contrast to many conventional farming techniques which reduce the natural capital values of our planet.
Cons of Organic Farming
In most industrialized countries, there are no subsidies provided to organic farmers. This potentially makes organic farmers much more financially vulnerable to bad weather events that could wipe out their entire crop for the year or if the crop itself fails.
Large industrialized farms
Most large organic farms still operate in an industrialized agriculture style, including industrial transportation of the food from field to plate.
Many organic farmers use approved organic pesticides and fungicides
Organic farmers may still use organic pesticides and fungicides that are approved for organic production. However, due to organic cultivation methods that protect the soil, the organic pesticides and fungicides are much less likely to runoff into water bodies.
More work is involved
In general, organic farming requires more manual and physical control of weeds and other cultivation techniques. However, with ecological farming methods such as permaculture and biodynamic agriculture, good and effective design dramatically reduces the labor that is required over time.
More observations required between crops and the farmer
Organic farmers must monitor their crops much more closely than conventional farmers such as through weeding.
Requires significant knowledge
Organic farmers need to have a good understanding of ecology and how the soil works, as organic production is highly dependent upon healthy soil and natural systems.
While conventional farmers generally have a well-defined market for their commodity crops and have a fairly simple field to market process, organic farmers can find it much more difficult to compete and market their products on their own. This challenge has lead to the development of collaborative farming co-ops, CSAs, and farmers markets that give farmers a better opportunity to get their products into the public’s hands (and mouths).
Arduous Certification Process
Unfortunately, the process of becoming a Certified Organic farmer is often arduous and filled with paperwork and regulations that conventional farmers don’t have to deal with. This has led to some farmers skipping the official certification process altogether as well as creating alternative certification schemes, such as Certified Naturally Grown.
Organic soil amendments
Organic soil amendments such as rock dust can be more expensive than conventional agricultural chemicals. However, as the soil becomes healthier naturally, the need for inputs should be reduced over time, and soil fertility requirements can be maintained on-site through compost and other ecological-based inputs.