Updated 07 October 2014

How do organic farms work?

The aim of organic farming is to produce food that is free from all artificial, man-made additives and preservatives. Find out why it is a risky business to be in.

The aim of organic farming is to produce food that is free from all artificial, man-made additives and preservatives. Organic farming is a much more time consuming and risky business than conventional farming.

Organic farmers work with nature and not against it. A fully functioning organic farm is a balanced, self-contained ecosystem, wherein animals, birds and insects actually help to control pests.

Organic farming makes use of the following natural methods:

  • Crop rotation – crops are rotated from one season to give the soil a chance to renew itself
  • Natural animal and plant manures
  • Approved environmentally friendly pest control
  • Homeopathic remedies
  • Good animal welfare – animals should enjoy a comfortable, free-range life
  • Hand weeding
  • Biological pest control

A fertile soil is very important

Organic farmers are concerned with the "bigger picture", namely the health of the soil and the ecosystems on their farms. This is why organic farming is touted as sustainable and conventional farming has been labelled unsustainable.

Natural, untouched soil is teeming with microbiotic organisms. These organisms live happily amongst the natural plant life and the inorganic minerals that make up the soil's substrate. Pesticides and inorganic fertilisers destroy these microbiotic organisms and the soil becomes merely an anchor for plants.

Now the conventional farmer will constantly have to tend to his soil and crops by using man-made chemicals, because the crop cannot survive on its own and the soil cannot regenerate. Soil fertility becomes an imported commodity.

On an organic farm, soil fertility is a biological process. Although his start-up costs are very high, the organic farmer saves money in the long run as his farm will naturally generate the necessary nitrogen and nutrients. The nutrients that are consumed by the animals are returned to the soil as manure.


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Gut health »

Can't lose weight? Blame it on your gut

Our nutrition experts weigh in on why gut health is such an important factor in weight loss, on World Obesity Day.

Sleep better »

Yes, there is such a thing as too much sleep

A new study confirms that too little sleep can impair your brain, but interestingly, too much sleep is also a problem.