I have been empowering people with organic information for a while now, and I have had encounters with farmers who want to transition to organic farming. Usually you could see the glitter in their faces when they are explaining their desire to become organic farmers but for some, once you tell them about the transition period, the excitement wears out as some do consider the whole experience as a little bit daunting.
“Truth be told, transitioning from conventional to organic farming requires changes. The most important one being the farmer’s mindset” ~ The Organic Guy
For those who don’t know, a transition Period requires that land be managed according to the organic standards and principals for a period of 36 months or basically 3 years prior to harvesting the first crop that can be labelled as organic. What? How can that be? That’s a bit long? And to be honest, those are legit questions to ask, but in a nutshell, the 3 years period is meant to allow your farm to adjust from the heavy use of synthetic chemicals, to building an ecosystem sufficient enough to support its self. Truth be told, transitioning from conventional to organic farming requires changes. The most important one being the farmer’s mindset.
Here are the four strategies that might fit your Transitional efforts;
1. Full Transition: Here, all livestock and land are transitioned at once. Basically, you dive head first into organic farming.
2. Gradual Transition: This involves transitioning one field at a time with the intention of eventually certifying all the livestock and land. It’s on the fence option, but it’s the safe one.
3. Immediate Transition: Here, you Certify livestock and land with minimal or no transition period. This usually fits land that is under conservation agreement and has not been actively farmed for three or more years.
4. Split Transition: The aim being to manage some land conventionally and some land organically as a long-term strategy. It is often combined with “gradual” transition strategy but the intent being to simultaneously maintain both organic and conventional land.
In the Conventional system, farmers often involve the use of Quick-fix remedies that don’t really address the cause of the problem. Farmers transitioning generally spend too much time worrying about replacing synthetic input with allowed organic product instead of considering management practices based on preventative strategies. Here, Farmers with little or no farm experience will find the transition to organic the most difficult. A primary consideration is the need for technical production information.
“In the Conventional system, farmers often involve the use of Quick-fix remedies that don’t really address the cause of the problem”. ~The Organic Guy
For a successful transition period, here are some of the requirements and operations that you may have to make a top priority while transitioning. Recordkeeping by certified operations must be top notch, Organic production and handling system plan, Soil fertility and crop nutrient management practices, Crop rotation practice standard, Crop pest, weed, and disease management practices, Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production and many more.
Importance of Transition Period
1. During this period of 36 months, it allows the land to recover and re-adjust from the heavy use of synthetic chemicals that the land may have been soaked with, hence restoring the soil microbial activities thus preparing it for sustainable food production over time.
2. The transition period provides the farmer with time to try and work out what the farm can grow better and what different rotation programmes would better suite the land for its maximum production
3. This period also helps the farmer to gradually change their mindset of farming, from the use of quick fix remedies to considering the best management practices that maybe relevant to a particular problem.
4. The transition period helps the farmer to properly plan and predict the average cost that the farm may take to be properly engage on its operations over time.
Tips for a successful transition period
1. Plan for your transition: Well, in one way or another. We have all heard that whenever setting goals, they should be SMART, and y’all know what it means. Same case here, your transitional plan must be clear with realistic goals. The plan must clearly identify various steps to be taken in making the transition to organic and have realistic time frames. Look at your farms strengths and weaknesses and Consider ways to improve the farms weaknesses, while building on strengths. During the early part of the transitional period, yields are often depressed and premium prices for certified organic products are generally not obtainable. Take that into consideration while doing your plan.
2. Understand Organic Agriculture basics & standards: The Organic farming system is a holistic way of farming that relies on sound practices focused on preventative strategies. Thus it’s imperative that as a new organic producer you understand the “organic standard” and know what is allowed and/or prohibited. You must become familiar with sound and sustainable agricultural practices. Or otherwise if one fails to meet the requirements, the transitional period could be lengthened and certification delayed. Since these standards are the ones that guarantee product integrity to the consumer.
3. Ensure proper soil management: soils are considered the heart of organic farming. Thus having a healthy and vibrant soil, is one foot into a successful organic farming venture. Fields with good drainage, good level of fertility and organic matter, adequate pH, biological health, high legume content, and with less weed and pest pressure, are excellent assets. Also, under the organic production system, farmers must be able to recycle nutrients through proper nutrient management practices i.e. use of manure and compost, crop rotations, cover crops, and also ensuring reduced nutrient losses due to leaching or over-fertilization.
4. Proper records keeping: Record keeping is one of the most important requirements to maintain organic integrity. As a Farmer, you are expected to keep detailed production, processing and marketing information. This information includes everything that enters and exits the farm. After which Third party, independent certifiers require the above mentioned documentation when inspecting the farm operation. Once the record-keeping requirements are understood and the reporting procedure established, paperwork becomes routine and eventually helping to maintain the organic integrity.
“This is the period which farmers need to spend time testing and searching for cultural and biological practices following the laid organic standard to reduce pest pressures while building the soil’s capacity back.” ~ The Organic Guy
Just like it’s never easy while fighting for a worthy course in life, Transitioning to organic is going to be a little challenging especially during the first year due to suppressed yields and sometimes frequent occurrence of pests and diseases. But the good bit being this period will pass of which will be followed by yield higher than even in the conventional system.
This transition effect is usually attributed to the required time for change in chemical, physical and biological properties of the soil that are necessary to enhance nutrient cycling, plant growth and development of biological pest control within the system. This is the period which farmers need to spend time testing and searching for cultural and biological practices following the laid organic standard to reduce pest pressures while building the soil’s capacity back. This period is really critical as it can prepare you to a great leap into organic farming, a journey am sure you will enjoy every bit of it.
Signed with love ❤️
Always #BeOrganic 💯