Thinking of going organic?

Thinking of going organic?

It is a great time to go organic.

Take advantage of payment opportunities

The Basic Payment Scheme favours organic farmers with no requirement for greening, there is sustained growth in the organic market and a new generation of customers give farmers a range of promising options to explore. Plus the Countryside Stewardship scheme, open until the end of September 2016 for payments starting 1st January, guarantees all organic enterprises automatic qualification for funding.

Farm Business Survey data for England and Wales, analysed by the Organic Research Centre and the Soil Association,  shows the financial performance (Farm Business Income) of organic farms on average  out performed that of comparable non-organic farms between 2006 and 2105. There was an average annual advantage in this period of £28-68/ha for organic farmers over their non-organic counterparts. In addition, the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report also found that two thirds of licensees are predicting growth in the next year. This shows the trust and recognition commanded by the Soil Association symbol.

Organic really IS different

In February this year a new study was published that confirmed what you feed your animals affects not just their health and your farm but the nutritional value of milk and meat. This study joins another from Newcastle University published in the British Journal of Nutrition, that found significant differences, due to the farming system, between organic and non-organic food and that organic crops such as fruit, vegetables, cereals, and crop-based foods are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than non-organic crops. There is now more evidence than ever before to support a switch to organic, and data shows this is just what consumers are doing.

Join a growing market

The Soil Association’s 2016 Organic Market Report showed sales of organic products increased by 4.9% in 2015 whilst the value of non-organic sales actually decreased in the same time period.  The organic market value is expected to push through £2 million later this year. Organic licensees with Soil Association Certification are reporting even greater sales whilst over 1,000 new products have been registered through this certification body in the last 12 months, showing people are positive about the value organic certification can bring.

Consumers list choosing products free from pesticides as a key reason to buy organic [1]. People are increasingly making more healthy and environmentally friendly choices and a recent Mintel study found animal welfare is also high on the list of ethical shopper concerns. An organic farming system supports around 50% more wildlife and guarantees the highest standards of animal welfare. Organic businesses are finding new customers who are searching for these things, notably ‘millennials’ – people in their 20s and 30s who lead an aspirational lifestyle, are concerned about social and environmental issues and who have all the information they need instantly at their fingertips via the internet. 

Increased efficiency and yields

The environmental benefits of organic farming stretch much further than finding new sales outlets. As more and more chemical inputs are banned and restricted, or reduced in efficacy, it makes good business sense to choose organic farming.

A study in 2014 conducted by the University of California, Berkley and published by the Royal Society, compared organic and conventional yields and found that the gap was significantly lower than expected and highlighted that organic farming can be a very competitive alternative to industrial farming. The study looked at a new meta-dataset three times larger than previously used (115 studies containing more than 1000 observations). If more research is done into agro-ecological techniques it may find the yield gap reduces even further; with methods like inter-cropping and cover-cropping, farms become more ecologically diverse, benefit from more healthy soils and have the potential for even higher yields.

Innovative farmers

Farming is about innovation and working together to feed a growing population and safeguard our land and our environment for the future. The Soil Association is helping farmers innovate through the Innovative Farmers network, showing all farmers that by linking up and sharing ideas you can find new, practical solutions that are often more cost effective and less harmful to the land. Talking more about these alternative options in the media helps raise public awareness of where our food comes from and why it’s important to consider the farming method.

Approximately 10 million hectares of cropland is abandoned worldwide, every year, due to soil erosion and a loss of productivity [2]. Soil fertility (a reduction in soil organic matter and soil biota essential to effective soil function) is an increasing issue for all farmers. By looking at different farming techniques we can begin to rebuild the soil’s organic matter and structure, which will help improve soil fertility and increase the yield potential. For example, growing legumes helps to fix nitrogen for the next crop, reducing fertiliser costs and limiting exposure to input price volatility.

Before embarking on any particular farming system, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons. In a low-input organic system there will be fewer costs and exposure to input price volatility is reduced. By selling certified organic you may have some hurdles to face but there is generally a price premium for products. The Soil Association can help advise on the organic market and offers support for finding new routes to market through initiatives such as the Supplier Scheme which feeds into caterers with the Food for Life Catering Mark accreditation.

Thinking about going organic?

Soil Association Certification offers many business opportunities. From practical solutions to techniques to help improved yield, new routes to market and up to date research. By certifying with us, you’ll have a dedicated and experienced certification officer who will work closely with you as your business grows. You’ll also benefit from over 60 years organic farming experience with access to practical on farm support from our skilled and experienced technical experts, as well as our inspectors who are on hand to support you every step of way. 

Get in touch today to find out how to grow your business organically.