Guest Post: Planning is Key to Successful Organic Farming
Organic farming can be a game-changer for some operations. Organic row crops often offer significantly higher premiums—sometimes 2-3 times that of conventional, so making a transition to organic practices can change the future of an operation.
Putting yourself in position to claim those higher premiums does mean some extra work, though. The 36-month process to transition acres is a major consideration, so the key for any operation looking to swap over is to start well. Failure to plan is one of the biggest pitfalls to avoid when transitioning to organic farming.
How can you successfully plan when transitioning to organic?
One of the most important things is to be reasonable about the number of acres you choose to start your transition. Organic farming takes high management, so taking on too much to start can lead to getting behind, feeling discouraged and falling behind financially, since transition crops will be sold at conventional prices during the transition period.
Starting too small, though, delays your ability to fully take advantage of those premiums you’re after. It also makes it difficult for you to take advantage of scale opportunities in scenarios such as specialty equipment purchases.
There’s no definitive answer as to what the perfect number of acres is. The key is to figure out how many organic acres your operation can maintain and how many acres it will take to give you a sense of the scalability of the organic process.
Another important thing to plan for is crop rotation, which is important both for risk mitigation and weed control. But rotation in an organic system is a little different.
Many farmers think they can just plant soybeans as a transition crop. If it doesn’t work out, you won’t have as much invested.
But in organics, you have to know your risk with every crop—how it will impact your operation, not only economically but agronomically, too.
Crop rotations, which should ideally be planned five years ahead, depend on three main factors: field conditions, accessible markets and what works the balance sheet.
Thinking about organic farming?
Executed well, the transition to organic row crop farming can increase your profit potential. If organic farming interests you, contact AgriSecure for information on how to get started on your operation.