According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) conventional farming is a career choice on the decline. However, organic farming is a whole other deal. BLS notes that smaller farming market niches are not on the decline, but experiencing more success and profits as time goes on. The BLS Farming Outlook Guide notes:
“Many [farmers] are finding opportunities in horticulture and organic food production, which are among the fastest growing segments of agriculture.”
So, if you want to make it as a grower, organic is a smart path to take. You’ll see greater job security and be able to collect a greater share of consumers’ food dollars than traditional growers do.
An added perk of becoming an organic farmer is that you’ll grow an awesome skill set. Then, if organic farming doesn’t pan out as you thought, or you’re unable to withstand the physical stress of farming, the knowledge you gain while growing organically may be able to translate into other organic agriculture career opportunities such as teaching, training, farm management, certifying and more.
Lower Initial Investment
Starting an organic production operation is not without costs. Unlike conventional growers, organic certification costs will be an issue and you may need to invest in better land and special equipment.
That said, typically farming organically doesn’t require the same high capital investments that conventional farming does. Especially when you consider how expensive massive amounts of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified seed stock can be. As an organic farmer, you’ll avoid these costs from the get-go and may not need to borrow as much money when you’re getting started.
High Premium for Organic Goods
Organic Trade Association (OTA) findings from their 2011 Organic Industry Survey show that the organic industry grew to a whopping $28.6 billion+ in 2010, showing awesome growth for this particular agriculture sector.
Organics are also becoming more and more popular with consumers as time goes on, and many organic converts become customers for life. Plus, research shows that organic consumers are willing to pay a higher price if it means they’re getting high quality organics.
Lastly, organic retailers are selling more organic products as time goes on. For instance, the Food Marketing Institute has recently noted that organics are sold in 73% of all conventional grocery stores, while Natural Foods Merchandiser says that nearly 20,000 natural foods stores carry organic products.
Overall, if you’re growing organic, demand for your products will withstand even a poor economy and more often than not nowadays, organic consumers are willing to pay more for quality.
Organic production should never be confused with eco-friendly production. Eco and organic are not the same thing. Still, as an organic producer, you’re naturally going to experience some ecological perks, such as:
- Water conservation and protection.
- Reduced use of inputs, such as diesel and fertilizer that may harm the earth.
- Improved and protected biodiversity.
- Minimized or eliminated the use of toxic substances that harm the planet.
- Decreased risk of global warming triggers.
Drought Resistance Crops
Drought and the high costs it can incur is a top concern of many growers, organic or conventional. However, organic crops are known to be more drought resistant naturally than conventional crops. This is mainly because often chemical fertilizers are water-soluble, so you need more water to grow conventionally.
If the worst happens and water is limited, organic growers are lucky enough to come out much better than their conventional peers. Considering that a study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, shows that we may be facing extreme drought issues within just 30 years, this is good news for organic growers.
Healthy soil is technically considered an ecological or eco-friendly perk of organic farming, but because organic is such a significant issue, it should be considered a major organic farming advantage all on its own.
As a grower, soil health should be a key concern but soil health holds importance that goes far beyond healthier crops. Soil affects the entire world and organically grown crops support better soil health overall.
First off, clearly, to grow healthy food, you have to start with healthy soil. Soil treated with harmful pesticides, chemicals, and other inputs is not as healthy as soil that knows how to thrive without chemicals. In fact, a big study by USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), shows that organic farming builds up organic soil matter better than conventional no-till farming. Just one little teaspoon of compost-rich organic soil can host as many as 600 million to 1 billion helpful bacteria from 15,000 species while chemically treated soil carries just 100 helpful bacteria.
Beyond organics building soil that’s healthy and thriving, organic farming helps to combat serious soil and land issues, like erosion. Erosion isn’t usually at the top of anyone’s worry list, but maybe it should be. Erosion can kill off whole farmlands, wetlands, habitats, streams, and entire ecosystems, not to mention spread disease and ruin food security.
Luckily, research shows that organic agriculture helps fight erosion much better than conventional agriculture. One major study recently found that organic fields may feature as much as eight more inches of topsoil than chemically treated fields and experience only one-third the erosion loss.
Awesome Marketing Opportunities
As an organic producer, you’ve got all sorts of naturally enticing marketing tools at your disposal, least of all the perky green (or black) USDA organic seal. Consumers are really starting to learn more about the seal and will look for it while shopping.
There are many easy and low-cost ways to market organics, including plenty of DIY ideas you can implement. Cause marketing and organics go nicely hand-in-hand, giving you another angle to tackle when marketing.
Although organics often practically market themselves, it’s always smart to brush up on more marketing tactics. Check out the links below for tips.
As an organic producer, you’ll have to stay on top of all the latest organic innovations, policy and methods. In some ways, this can be a hassle. It’s tough to stay on top of new research and news all the time.
Still, in the end, what happens is you’ll learn a lot – ongoing, which keeps your mind working, ideas fresh and allows you to benefit from further education. The National Organic Program (NOP), many colleges and plenty of local workshops are at your disposal when it comes to updating your knowledge. Plus, don’t underestimate the benefits of hands-on training. It’s nice to have a career where you’re always learning new skills.