A lot of questions strike up in our minds when we think of starting something new. Similar is the case when one tries to start an organic farm.
Farming is considered as one of the oldest human professions. Regrettably, this noble job of producing food has somehow went out of fashion. In most countries, farming and agriculture in general is seen as a one-way ticket to poverty and drudgery. Young people are abandoning the countryside to seek better opportunities in urban areas.
In recent years, however, we meet more and more young people who are taking farming as a profession and as a practical source of profit. This is mostly because of the change in the perspective of how young people see farming.
This positive view of agriculture has increased with the growth of global population. A bigger the population means more people to feed, and therefore more food to produce. Organic food is also gaining popularity due to its high nutritional benefit.
Along these lines, the need to produce food locally is also seen as a sustainable solution to the ever increasing food requirement.
Different peoples have different perspectives on what they think they must know while planning to start an organic farm. From a management and marketing perspective, this writer is enumerating what he thinks must be the 8 factors that we must consider while setting up and maintaining an organic farm.
1. Learn the basics of organic farming
Learning the basics of natural and organic farming is the first step in starting an organic farm. This definitely gives hints of what one may expect and where one should be starting from. It is helpful to invest in a pre-hand research.
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It is also important to be engaged in conversations with people who are already in the business. Participate in organic farm training programs and farmer-meet-up symposiums. The experience of another farmer who went through a similar phase is very helpful in making the exploratory process a lot smoother.
The internet also plays a huge role as there is a massive playlist tutorials, videos, and online forums about organic farming. Books relating to organic farming is also a massive resource worthy of consideration.
2. The site is key
The site plays a vital role for any venture to be successful. An organic farm’s location usually determines how the venture will turn out.
The organic farm site should be near a clean water source: water is a non-negotiable resource for crop growth and health. If the water source is far, it is much more difficult to manage the irrigation process. For a newcomer, this is a tedious consideration to make but is also crucial for the success of the venture.
The proximity of the farm to the marketplace also plays a big role in the sustainability of the farm. The farm’s closeness to the market allows for the easy transport of produce for selling. Also, this helps save costs when transporting materials to the farm.
However, site selection should also be aligned with the purpose of the organic farm. If the farm is not for a commercial purpose, the role of the above-mentioned factors will potentially decrease. The purpose of the farm also determines its size.
The soil at the AGREA Farm used to be sandy and salty. With proper land preparation, it became perfect for growing high-value crops and other farm produce.
3. Match the land with what it is best for
While deciding on what can be grown in the land, it is extremely important to assess the site’s soil condition as well as the resources available. A plant that is indigenous to the landscape, temperature, elevation, and available resources is much easier to manage than growing a plant that is foreign to the area.
However, there are also practical ways in growing crops and animals that are not native to that specific area. Take note, though, that this might be a little challenging for first-time organic farmers.
There are also instances when the available land area is comparatively insufficient for the wide range of crops that the farmer is planning to grow. In these cases, there are many tried-and-tested workarounds for limited farming space such as vertical gardening, container farming, and intercropping, among many others.
4. Know your market
It is very important to know the type of market that a farmer is catering for. Some agricultural products may not be sellable in a certain type of market. This consideration is very helpful in making the venture sustainable.
Find out what agricultural products the market needs, what is the market’s buying capacity, and how often does the market buy such produce. It is also important to figure out how the farmer will sell products to the market. Keep a backup marketing plan, too.
5. Prepare the soil and make good compost
All good organic farm produce start with good soil. The soil’s condition directly complements the plants growing in it. Inorganic soil treatments potentially harm the environment, the plants that grow in the soil, as well as the consumers who eventually eat the food.
Good soil means soil with nutrients necessary for the growth of plants. Good soil is a mixture of compost, leaf and grass clippings, and manure, among other vital compositions.
Farmers generally benefit when they make their own compost onsite. It is easy to make and saves a lot of money. Compost helps conserve water, cut down on weeds, and keep wastes out. This step iscrucial when one starts farming.
There are certain techniques that need to be considered depending on the plant and farm condition. Also, one organic farming technique may not necessarily work for all plants in the farm.
6. Take care of what you plant
The process of growing a crop is a lengthy one. Organic farming takes time and it required more attention compared to conventional farming. There are certain techniques that need to be considered depending on the plant and farm condition. Also, one organic farming technique may not necessarily work for all plants in the farm.
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Water is a must for plant’s growth and health. Regular watering is necessary for the plants to grow. Generally, plants are watered 2-3 times a day depending on their type as well as the location where they are being grown. Watering the plant in the morning is very helpful as mornings are cool. Due to this, the water does not evaporate fast.
Weeding is another important maintenance task. Weeds grow in good soil and these unwanted plants get nutrients that are supposed to be for crops.
7. Seek a mentor and network with people
This might look like it is not directly related to the things we are discussing, but seasoned organic farmers believe that this is crucial. There are many instances when farmers get lost in their pursuit of organic farming, and they do not know what to do next. Books and online tutorials may help in unexpected situations, but nothing beats expert advice from a living breathing organic farmer.
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It is also very important to network with people who can help in selling farm products. These people also connects organic farmers to the right markets.
The dedication involved in an organic farm is a demanding one, but in time, the fruits (and vegetables) of a farmer’s labor will be ready for the picking.
8. Patience plays a key role
Some people who plan to start an organic farm wish they get organic fruits and vegetables overnight. Sorry to break the bubble, but this is not even close to what happens in reality. Growing organic crops is a slow and tedious process. A lot of times, organic farming does not go as planned. An organic farmer must be physically and mentally ready of unexpected scenarios that will arise. The farmer’s set goals must be reasonable.
Working in the farm is an everyday affair, and organic farming slow step-by-step process. The farmer needs to be persistent and patient.
READ: Take the Organic Agriculture NCII Course at the AGREA Farm School
While the results of an organic farm might seem attractive, the process of setting up and maintaining the farm is a tough one. It takes hard work, patience, persistence, and huge loads of optimism. The dedication involved in an organic farm is a demanding one, but in time, the fruits (and vegetables) of a farmer’s labor will be ready for the picking.