If you're thinking about making the switch to organic farming, it's not as easy as just planting crops and refusing to use pesticides on them. Organic farming is a whole different type of culture with its own set of rules.
It is important that farmers first understand how the farming process is different from traditional farming. We advised these entrepreneurs to attend classes such as the one that took place from Feb. 4 to Feb. 5 called "Thinking of Transitioning to Organic." These types of programs address everything from the type of organic certification requirements needed to how to manage financial risk.
Here are some ways farmers can transition to organic farming:
1. Create a business plan
First and foremost, farmers simply can't become organic farmers by not using pesticides, as we mentioned above. They'll find this to be a futile effort that not only leads to little success but could put them out of business. Prior to making the full switch, farmers need to create business plans detailing everything from expenses to processes.
2. Become certified
Once farmers have created business plans, they need to get certified to ensure they're operating in full cooperation with the USDA's organic regulations. These regulations, or standards, indicate what it means to place the word "organic" or the "USDA organic seal" on sold produce, feed or fiber products.
3. Know about the transition period
If you've constantly used pesticides or other prohibited substances, you'll need to wait three years before becoming USDA and organic certified.
4. Understand what it means to be "organic"
Being in organic farming doesn't mean farmers simply stop using pesticides. There is much more to the practice. Some general principles of organic farming include protecting the environment, minimizing soil degradation and erosion and decreasing pollution. This could mean changing up farming practices to prevent run-off into local lakes and switching machinery over to devices that use sustainable energy rather than pure gasoline. Other general rules-of-thumb include recycling and, as we just briefly mentioned, always using renewable resources when possible.
5. Answer the following: Why go organic?
Are the farmers going organic because they want to save the environment? Or because providing people with chemical-free produce is important? It's crucial to understand the audience.
6. Know how to export organic products
Selling and exporting organics can often be a bit different than selling non-organics. Farmers need to make sure they meet the requirements and standards of the country they're trying to export to. For example, products being shipped to the U.S. must meet the requirements set forth by the 2009 Canada-U.S. equivalency agreement.