Organic Farming 101

2010 Apprentices Preparing A Bed

Organic Farming is easily a subject you could spend a life-time studying . . .
and maybe you will.

Introduction to Organic Agriculture

(MOSES) Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service’s Fact Sheet on Organic Farming.

Wikipedia entry on Organic Farming

Acres USA: Acres U.S.A is “North America’s oldest, largest magazine covering commercial scale organic and sustainable farming.” Their archive of most-requested articles is full of useful resources.  They also distribute a wealth of books and dvds about a wide-range of topics in organic farming, from Eco-Philosophy to best-practice guides on soil care, insect control, marketing organic produce and much more.

Acres USA recommends the following books for New Farmers:

Eco Farm by Charles Walters

The Biological Farmer by Gary F Zimmer

Foundations of Natural Farming by Ph.D. Harold Willis

Organic Vs. Industrial Farming

Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial Report site. This website provides reports on Rodale’s 30-year experiment comparing organic and conventional growing systems. Crop yields, soil health, energy, economics and human health concerns have been (and continue to be) systematically studied and compared.

Fatal Harvest: the Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture Ed. Andrew Kimbrell.  A big coffee-table book of journalism and essays about the consequences of industrial Ag (for human/ worker health, rural communities, ecosystems and local economies. Featuring pieces by food-movement leaders like Vendana Shiva and Wendall Berry.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. Omnivore’s Dilemma is a very literary introduction to the questions ‘what should we eat?’ and ‘why does it matter?’.  Pollan explores the origins of four meals (McDonald’s burger and fries, Whole Food’s Supermarket Pastoral fare, dining on a chicken from a small, uber sustainable farm, and one he hunted and foraged himself).  It is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Special Topics in Organics

Biodynamic Agriculture: Biodynamics is a system of farming developed by the German educator/philosopher/mystic Rudolf Steiner (also the inventor of Waldorf Education). Biodynamics shares much with more mainstream organic ag, with emphasis on a belief in subtle celestial and terrestrial influence on biological systems, leading to practices such as planting according to the lunar calendar, and applying special preparations to soil and plants, such as ground crystal and manure fermented in cattle horns.  A very big, and fascinating subject.

To learn a little more you might check out The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association’s webpage.

Permaculture: Permaculture, an ecological design system developed by the Australian ecologist-farmer Bill Mollison during the 1970s; the term is a fusion of ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’.  Permaculture design aims to develop gardens and farms that mimic natural systems, like forests and prairies, that thrive with minimal human investment of work and non-renewable resources.   Permaculture design is Another HUGE topic.  I suggest you check out for a good starting point.