Organic farming has been on the rise globally. Statistics by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that this form of agriculture is practiced in 187 nations. 72.3 million hectares of agricultural land are used for organic farming. Organic farming is more sustainable than traditional farming. The wider variety of plants and lack of pesticides results in better soil quality, enhances biodiversity, and reduces pollution.
The demand for organic products has pushed more farmers to produce food without using artificial chemicals (like fertilizers and pesticides). If you are looking to start an organic farming business, it’s a great move. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Describe a few broad organic farming goals
It is important to understand what organic farmers do. Several forms of organic farming exist, some certified and others not.
Develop a list of broad goals for your research into organic farming. You should examine the following issues:
- Which organic values do you adhere to?
- Are you interested in learning about farming or meeting a specific need?
- Do you want to go organic to protect the environment? If so, what kind?
- Would you prefer to run a big or small operation?
- How do you plan to achieve your economic goals? Is it more important to you to make a lot of money or to live off of it?
In general, consider what organic farming means to you and why this might make a good (or a bad) career choice for you. A first-year plan can help you visualize the path. You can use this plan as an exercise to gain an understanding of what being a farmer might entail in theory, without it being concrete.
2. How Ready Are You to Think Like a Business Owner?
It’s important to determine whether organic farming is a really viable business or a simple hobby for feeding your family when defining your broad objectives. It is fine to run a farm for business, pleasure, or any other reason, but there are vast differences between the two.
You might be more interested in small family farms, organic gardening or small hobby farms if your motives include helping others before yourself; if you’re solely interested in growing food for your family, you might be interested in hobby farms. Alternatively, if you want to make profits, then farming is likely right up your alley.
3. Analyze Your Strengths & Weaknesses
Every farmer has strengths and weaknesses, whether they are new or experienced. In order to succeed, you need to know what skills you already have, what you need, and be prepared to expand your skills as needed.
Depending on the type of farming you’ll be doing, you’ll need specific skills. For instance, organic food growers need to know how to select crops, find seeds, grow, harvest, and control pests, while prospective ranchers and dairy farmers need to understand veterinary science and how to take care of livestock.
4. Research the Market
Sales of organic food in the U.S. have been increasing massively over the last decade and have surpassed $50 billion. More people are switching to organic food, but take time to understand the market before you set up shop.
Research your target market, your competitors, and determine how you’ll sell your products. You can choose to sell them at farmers’ markets, supermarkets, to catering companies, restaurants, or to fruit and vegetable sellers. Identify the best option with continuous demand.
5. Be Time-Efficient
If you plan to supply your organic food to restaurants and retail outlets that need fresh produce frequently, you must be time-efficient. Plan well to ensure you have enough supply when you receive the orders. You need to deliver products on time to avoid delays or disappointing your customers.
Farming is not easy and can take up a lot of your energy. Avoid trying to handle everything and hire a delivery guy to make deliveries on time. The Good Patch, a company known for its organic sleep patch and hangover patch, advises food entrepreneurs to plan their schedules well and hire workers to help run things when needed.
6. Keep Up with the Trends
More consumers are switching to organic food because it is healthier. Approximately 58% of U.S. consumers prefer organic products and are willing to pay more for these products.
If you are supplying a restaurant or a supermarket chain, monitor the trends to see what consumers are buying. These businesses are more likely to order food products based on customer demands. Every season, plant popular food products to meet market demand.
7. Get Certified
Organic farm products get certified if they have been grown using the proper farming practices. In the U.S., these standards are set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
To become a skilled organic farmer, you can join some certification programs and get educated on the proper farm management techniques. Certification is important if you want your products to be sold in retail stores and popular restaurants and supermarket chains.
Starting an organic farming business is an intensive process. You’ll have to take classes and learn all you can about the farming technique and will also have to look for customers. But the good news is there’s a ready market for your produce. In recent times, consumers are shifting towards organic products because they are healthier. Therefore, if you grow the right food, you will reap the benefits.
8. Manage the finances
There is one major issue that affects almost every factor above – farm finance. Starting an organic farm will be difficult without money.
Buying land, equipment, and infrastructure require loans for most new farmers. If you are seeking a lender, find one that belongs to the Farm Credit System, a federally-sponsored organization. A state department of agriculture can provide some financial planning assistance and certain loan programs.
Prepare your marketing plan so that you will be able to achieve the highest price for your produce. It is likely that the regulator with whom you register will provide you with marketing advice. A member of the UK’s largest control body, The Soil Association, can access fact sheets developed by the organization.