How to be an organic farmer

Organic farming is based on a sophisticated knowledge of entomology, soil science, botany, energy flows and the complex rotations of animals

So, you're thinking of being an organic farmer…

Becoming a successful organic farmer doesn't happen overnight. The conversion to Certified 'A' Grade organic generally takes about three years, so it requires commitment, training and knowledge. Full organic certification also means you'll have access to all the organic markets. You'll need to develop a farm plan.

Over the last couple of decades the organic movement has been increasing in popularity. More and more information has come to light exposing industrial (read: ‘traditional') farming as unsustainable, energy-intensive, cruel and violent. Many consumers are now starting to demand a more holistic and wholesome alternative – one that cooperates with nature, rather than brutalizing and poisoning it.

Formal qualifications

Your journey towards being an organic farmer will require you to get your hands dirty both figuratively and literally. Regarding formal qualifications, the Diploma of Organic Farming offered by TAFE NSW is designed to meet the needs of owners and managers of organic farming enterprises. This qualification reflects the role of personnel working within an organic farming enterprise who manage standards and develop and maintain organic supply chains. It's suitable for people currently working or who wish to find employment on an organic farming enterprise.

As well as learning how to grow and harvest organic produce, it's also about successfully marketing that produce to provide income for a family. In other words it's learning about both farming practices and marketing strategies. And starting literally from the ground up requires a certain amount of patience, as it usually takes a couple of cycles before the new system kicks in and yields start to increase.

The Diploma of Organic Farming can be studied at Riverina Institute's National Environment Centre and at Wollongbar Campus and Coffs Harbour Education Campus, both part of North Coast TAFE. There are no entry requirements.

Organic farming internship program

Another pathway is via the Organic Federation of Australia (OFA). This is a not-for-profit member-based peak body with the objective of building organic and biodynamic businesses across the country. OFA runs an internship program that links eligible students with existing organic farms, and works closely with both Riverina Institute and North Coast TAFE in delivering these hands-on courses. To be eligible you must have completed or be enrolled in either a Diploma in Biodynamic or Organic Farming.

There's still a fairly widespread tendency in our society to view organic farming with a sceptical, almost nostalgic eye. As if it's a quaint relic from the past with no real future as an alternative to the industrial farming behemoth. But organic farming is based on a sophisticated knowledge of entomology, soil science, botany, energy flows and the complex rotations of animals. The kind of knowledge that has only recently become available. There's little doubt, then, that the wisdom and sustainability of organic farming firmly positions it as the farm, not of the past, but of the future.