Eliot Coleman’s definition of organic

UNDERSTANDING ORGANIC FARMING – SEVEN POINTS – Eliot Coleman

colemanThe popular press defines organic farming by the toxic chemicals it rejects.

A more accurate portrayal defines organic by the biological systems it embraces.

  1. Real organic farming is based on the creation and maintenance of a biologically active fertile soil.
  2. Organic farming succeeds because of the benefits derived from that fertile soil.

Successful production of pest-free plants and animals with active immune systems is a direct outcome of farming a biologically active fertile soil that has been shown to induce pest and disease resistance in the crops. Pesticides are rejected because they are not needed where # 1 is done correctly.

  1. Extensive modern scientific research into the marvelously complex soil micro-biome is revealing the vital ecological processes that support organic agriculture. This research underscores the intuitive brilliance of the founding organic farmers.
  2. As a bonus, truly fertile soil produces food of the highest nutritional quality. This was the foremost initial aim of the soil care techniques that became organic farming.
  3. Soil fertility does not require inputs from off the farm. It can be endlessly self-renewed with farm-derived compost, crop rotations, green manures, cover crops, grazing livestock, and other time-honored soil-care practices that nurture the boundless energy and logic of the earth. Real organic farming focusses on redesigning agricultural production methods rather than merely substituting organic inputs for chemical inputs.
  4. Deep rooting grass and legume pastures in the rotation help to maintain fertility and make available the almost inexhaustible mineral supply from the lower levels of the soil. Grazing livestock benefit the soil; pasture raising benefits the livestock.
  5. Most significant of all, since the biological systems of the real organic farm are powered by ecologically sound management – rather than by purchased inputs – this food production system is accessible at no cost by farmers everywhere and can thus feed the planet with exceptional food in perpetuity. That clear path to a bounteous well-fed future for mankind will remain neglected if we allow any misunderstandings about – and subversions of – the foundational concepts of real organic farming to go unchallenged. CAFOs for livestock and hydroponic fruit and vegetable production are NOT organic.

Do you agree?


If you want to explore this topic in more depth and learn some practical skills along the way, check out our fall online class,

STOCKSCH 320 – Organic Vegetable Production Online

All of our online classes cost $482/credit…. for more information, click on the class link above.

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