The Definition of Organic Farming

Farmers hands bundling bunch of dandelion greens
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How is organic farming defined? What are the requirements?

Unfortunately, there is no clear, universally accepted definition of organic farming. However, we can look at some basic ideas surrounding the term "organic farming."

In general, most consider organic farming to be a specific production system which aims to avoid the use of synthetic and harmful pesticides, fertilizers, growth regulators, and livestock feed additives.

The USDA has a similar set of guidelines: farmers use agricultural methods that preserve the environment and avoid synthetic farming and agricultural materials. 

Almost all organic farming systems rely on what some call, "alternative farming methods" such as crop rotation, mechanical cultivation, animal manures, green manure and integrated pest management to maintain healthy soil, grow healthy plants and to control pests and weeds. Oddly enough, these alternative farming methods are older, from a historical perspective, than newer farming methods that include using pesticides and other synthetic farming applications.

In the USA, the National Organic Program (NOP) provides the most commonly used definitions of organic farming. That said, USDA organic farming standards don't truly cover the maximum in sustainable farming practices. Some feel that organic farming methods should include sustainable practices, while some argue that sustainability is not a necessary component of organic farming, thus the non-universal acceptance of a clear organic farming definition.

Numerous U.S. states, regions and local farmers have additional organic farming standards in place that exceed basic NOP standards. Additionally, other countries have their established organic farming standards that differ from USA standards.