Preparing Your Farm for Organic Conversion
Preparing your farm for organic conversion
Converting your farm into organic production is a commitment that requires careful planning for success. Every farm is different, so it’s important to understand the requirements of the organic standards and prepare for any changes you and your team will make on your farm.
We have supported thousands of innovative farmers and growers across the UK to convert their farms to organic. Following these steps will help you to start preparing your farm or holding for organic conversion.
1. Familiarise yourself with our conversion guides and the Soil Association organic standards
Farming organically will inevitably result in changes to your day-to-day farming practices. It’s important for you—and your team—to understand the potential changes to the way you farm and grow. Read our conversion guides to find out more about the requirements of organic conversion and production.
The Soil Association Standards set out the comprehensive requirements for organic farming and growing so you can produce and sell your products as organic using our symbol. Our dedicated Producer Certification team can explain how the standards fit in with your unique farming system and talk you through the certification process.
2. Identify organic conversion and maintenance payments
Financial support and ongoing maintenance payments are currently available to many farming businesses to assist with conversion to organic and running an organic farm. The availability of payments will depend on where you're based:
Remember, most of the organic conversion and maintenance payment schemes have limited applications windows and strict deadlines.
3. Learn from other organic farmers and growers
We have compiled Case Studies from a diverse range of farmers and growers which provide a range of helpful information including the process of converting, different routes to market and the various opportunities for grants and government funding.
The Soil Association regularly hosts farming and growing events across the UK, look out for national organic conferences, too, which are always very sociable, informative and inspirational events to be involved with.
Plus all of our producer certification officers have a background in farming and would be happy to answer any of your questions about organic conversion. Find out more about our dedicated Producer Certification Team.
The conversion period
Organic production is governed by UK and EU legislation. This specifies a ‘conversion period’ whereby you must manage your land (and any animals) according to the organic standards for the required period of time, before you can market land or products as organic. The conversion period provides time for you to start establishing organic management techniques, build soil fertility and biological activity, as well as to develop a viable and sustainable business.
The conversion period for land is typically two years, although there is scope to reduce this by up to four months if you can demonstrate you have managed the land according to organic standards before entering conversion, in exceptional circumstances a reduction of up to 12 months can be issued subject to approval from Defra. Perennial’s will also require a further twelve months on top of the standard two-year period before the crop can be harvested as organic.
The conversion period can start from the day we receive your completed application form, or you can set a specific date in the future. You can convert your farm in stages, or you can convert the whole farm.
Selecting the right date for your conversion can be very important for future cropping plans and will depend on your farm and specific enterprises. We will provide tailored support on your conversion options when we know more about your farm enterprises, to best support you in making these decisions.
We have provided more detailed information about the specific requirements of organic conversion and production in sector specific guides: