Teaching Organic Farming As Times Change
I can’t believe it is August already! The first study weekend for the distance learning Organic Farming postgraduate is in mid-September. This semester I am teaching the ‘Organic Farming Profession’ module, which provides a lot of organic background: philosophy, principles, regulations, history, state support, and the market. The information in this module provides necessary context for the later modules more directly related to farming, like soil science, crop production, marketing, and financial management.
I am going to have to go through the course material and update it in the next few weeks. This is usually a fairly short exercise – some figures from the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report, and IFOAM’s figures on European production are enough for the changes in the market and area farmed.
But this year I am going to really have to have a good look at all the material. The prospect of Brexit has raised a lot of questions, and in Scotland this is compounded by a strong remain vote. What does this mean for the UK’s organic standards based on an EU Regulation? What does it mean for the financial support that currently comes from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy budget? What does it mean for the marketplace, where exporting could be more difficult, and what will it mean for the cost of imported inputs like organic soya?
The other, ‘static’, parts of the module (philosophy, principles, and history) will be seen with fresh eyes. We may end up existing within a different policy and regulatory framework, but the principles will remain the same. And when there is so much future uncertainty it is useful to look to the past. Where did the organic movement come from, and what drove it forward to where it is today? The organic movement has changed since its inception, and it looks like this could be a new chapter for organic farming in the UK.