Organic Farming

The Center's soil scientist, Kim Stearman, and a multidisciplinary team of professionals recently began exploring the use of organic farming methods.  These researchers foresee that this work will lead to a multitude of other branch-off research projects in the future.

Organic farming has been "one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture for more than a decade," growing at 20 percent per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The number of acres certified as organic farmland doubled between 2002 and 2005, and in 2005, the U.S. had 8,493 certified organic pasture and cropland operations.

What is Organic Farming?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program says that organic farming entails:

  • "Use of cover crops, green manures, animal manures and crop rotations to fertilize the soil, maximize biological activity and maintain long-term soil health.
  • Use of biological control, crop rotations and other techniques to manage weeds, insects and diseases.
  • An emphasis on biodiversity of the agricultural systme and the surrounding environment.
  • Using rotational grazing and mixed forage pastures for livestock operations and alternative health care for animal well-being.
  • Reduction of external and off-farm inputs and elimination of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and other materials, such as hormones and antibiotics.
  • A focus on renewable resources, soil and water conservation, and management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological balance."

    Transitioning to Organic Production.  USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), 2006.

Other Resources

Sustainable Agriculture:  Definitions and Terms, by Mary V. Gold USDA, NAL, Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, 1999.


Information accessed at Oct. 19, 2007.  Current link is



 Historic Agriculture Products  (PDF file)


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