Date of this Version
Organic farming is an important and growing part of the U.S. food system. The organic sector has grown by at least 20% per year for the past two decades, and currently shows no indication of slowing in this growth. There is increasing consumer concern about where and how food is produced, and people want to be assured access to safe and healthy food products. Interest and concern about food security, and discussion about the merits of a local food system as compared to the vulnerable globalized marketplace are also becoming increasingly important. In Nebraska we have only limited local information for farmers seeking recommendations on organic farming practices and systems design. Most of our information resides in the organic farming community, or comes from other states.
This collection of resources and references is designed for educators and specialists in Cooperative Extension and other organizations to become better prepared to answer questions from clients in Nebraska. It is also designed to be a first primer for farmers interested in organic farming to become acquainted with the regulations and practices necessary for certification and for designing an efficient organic farming operation. We recognize both the importance of science and the value of farmer experience in bringing the best information possible into this resource handbook. Often the experience comes first, followed by research to validate the practical results in the field or to study the mechanisms of crop growth and response to different systems. This information can be used to design future organic systems.
Organic farming is a complex challenge but a promising alternative for Nebraska farmers seeking additional income through adding value to their natural resources on the farm. In addition to the vagaries of weather and uncertain markets that face all farmers, organic production and marketing includes another series of requirements that must be met in order to be officially certified. The new National Organic Program (NOP, since 2002) provides some uniformity to these requirements and forms the basis for standards discussed in this handbook.