Professional Development Program






PAGE 95 / 102

Unit 3: Systems in Action

What is organic agriculture?

In defining organic agriculture, it’s useful to consider first – “Is organic agriculture something new?” Think about that question for a moment and answer it for yourself. Then click on the question below for more information.
Is organic agriculture something new?

This is a bit of a trick question. In one sense, we can think of organic agriculture as something quite ancient, the type of agriculture that existed for millennia before the development of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. On the other hand, organic agriculture as it is practiced today is something totally new and innovative. While adhering to the basic concept of farming with nature, organic farmers and ranchers today are using the results of science-based research and cutting edge technologies to manage their land and livestock.

The term “organic farming” was first used around 1940 in the book Look to the Land, by Lord Northbourne, a British agriculturalist and author. Based on his concept of the farm as a living organism, he described a system of agriculture that was in tune with the ecology of its surrounding environment. These concepts did not originate with Northbourne, as he himself acknowledged the contributions of Sir Albert Howard, a British scientist who spent years observing traditional systems in India. Howard’s book, An Agricultural Testament, advocated agricultural systems reliant upon returning crop residues, green manures and wastes to soil, and promoted the idea of working with nature by using deep-rooted crops to draw nutrients from the soil.

PAGE 95 / 102