Several organic farmers have told us that the most difficult step in transition to organic is the mental change that must take place before anything happens in the field. This of course is only the first step in a long process. The official rules for certification provide some guidelines for the conversion process. But these are not specific to any particular farm, and groups such as the Organic Crop Improvement Association include many farmers who are happy to act as mentors for others who are just starting out. We recommend that people start on the learning curve as soon as possible, so that they can sort out the many available publications and design a strategy that is appropriate for their farm.
Use the presentations, videos and online resources below to answer questions about increasing soil fertility using organic methods. Visit the Organic Resources page for more information.
Farmweek.tv takes a look around Churchtown Farm near Strangford, Co down on one of the few beef, sheep and grain farms to go organic in the last decade.
Transitioning with Row Crops
This introduction to the Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems (SAFS) project, an interdisciplinary, participatory research experiment, examines the transition from conventional farming systems to low–input and organic production of a typical Sacramento Valley row crop rotation on a 20–acre site.
From the site: “In 1988, the Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems (SAFS) project was established at the University of California’s Davis campus to study the transition from conventional to low–input or organic farm management in the Sacramento Valley. The original 28–acre replicated experiment on UC Davis’s main campus was unique within the nation. Now located at a joint research site with UCD’s Long Term Research on Agricultural Systems (LTRAS) with an expanded mission and research goals, the project continues to involve hands–on practitioners (e.g., farmers and farm advisors) in planning, executing, and interpreting all facets of the research, as well as providing a bridge to the farming community. Close ties to the agricultural community keep the farming philosophy realistic and the focus on meaningful research questions.”
Transitioning a Dairy Operation
The University of Minnesota’s Extension Dairy includes many resources for people interested in successful transition to organic dairying.
From the site: “The University of Minnesota organic dairy program is taking big steps to help farmers turn over their herds to organic dairy farms. The West Central Research and Outreach Center is converting half its dairy herd to organic production. By carefully recording the process, it can help Minnesota farmers move more easily into this growing and profitable practice.”
Meeting Your Needs while Transitioning
Meeting Your Needs while Transitioning (PowerPoint presentation), although focused on farmers in New York State, includes a considerable amount of good advice for transitioning horticultural farmers in any area of the country. Logistical, biological, mental/social and financial needs are all discussed.
UNL Extension – Tough Questions about Transitioning
This comprehensive presentation from University of Nebraska—Lincoln Extension asks the tough questions that producers interested in transitioning should consider, and offers possibilities for weed and pest management, planning and marketing.
What to Expect during Transition
Montana State University’s Extension publications, known as Montguides, answer many questions asked by new organic producers. One 2009 resource, titled “From Conventional to Organic Cropping: What to Expect during the Transition Years,” offers several suggestions and further resources.
At its website, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) disseminates invaluable information for those interested in organic and sustainable farming.
From their site: “Transitioning to Organic Production” lays out many promising conversion strategies, covering typical organic farming production practices, innovative marketing ideas and federal standards for certified organic crop production. With special sections on livestock production and profiles of four organic producers."
A great overall resource for dairy farmers, the New York Organic Dairy Initiative intends “to provide technical support and farm business planning needed to add value to milk through organic certification.” Supported by Cornell University, this site includes many great tools, including the Organic Dairy Transition Worksheet, designed to help farmers consider all variables when calculating profitability as they transition to organic production.
Transitioning to Organic Links
Already farming and interested in transitioning from conventional to organic? Own or rent land that you'd like to certify? Need more information so you can support farmers and students of sustainable agriculture? Look here for great sites about all aspects of transitioning to organic farming, including videos, PowerPoint presentations and other online resources.