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Friday, May 30, 2008
Converting A Farm To Organic (The Soil Association)

Creating an Organic Farm by the Rule Book

The Soil Association (www.soilassociation.org) is an information resource on soil and organic foods. They are also a certification body and define requirements for organic farming in the United Kingdom. The guidance the Soil Association gives on organic farming methods, technology and requirements for farmers is very comprehensive and they also cover healthy eating guidance for consumers.

The Soil Association has identified the certification requirements for converting a previous non-organic farm into an organic one. By understanding these conversion requirements, the consumer also gains an insight into the criteria for organic grown produce that they buy in the supermarkets.

Converting to an organic farm is a very methodical process. For the farmer to achieve a certified organic farm, a soil management programme must be implemented, along with crop rotation in a cropping plan (i.e. switching the crop grown on a given piece of land routinely). The farmer will also need to stop all use of pesticides and fertilizers from the time the farm decides to go organic, and instead implement a pest, disease, and weeds control programme.

It will usually take two years before the farm can be certified as an organic farm, but this time can be reduced by between 4 to 12 months if the farmer meets an agri-environment scheme along with a recent soil analysis meeting organic standards, and upon the recommendation of a Soil Association inspector.

For the consumer, the Soil Association identifies the following benefits from an organic diet:

  1. Reduction in toxic chemicals ingested
  2. Elimination of the use of genetically modified foods
  3. Reduction of food additives and food colourings
  4. Increases in the natural vitamin, mineral and essential fatty oils supplement
  5. Potential for a reduction in the risk of cancer, heart disease, and allergies.
For the farmer, implementing an efficient organic farming business can mean higher farming profits because organic produce commands a higher price at the markets. In the European Union, organic foods must display a certification body symbol and an EU code number for it to be authenticated as organic and the consumer can see the certification on the food they buy.
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