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The Organic Farming Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Running a Certified Organic Farm

Pinned on June 22, 2013 at 9:05 am by Pedro Ochoa

The Organic Farming Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Running a Certified Organic Farm

The Organic Farming Manual is a comprehensive guide to growing, certifying, and marketing organic produce, grains, meat, and dairy. Beginning farmers committed to launching an organic operation and experienced farmers hoping to transition from traditional farming techniques will find all the information they need. The organic certification process is lengthy and demanding, but author Ann Larkin Hansen clarifies every USDA requirement and offers complete advice on selecting equipment, tending the land, caring for animals, and marketing farm products.

Readers will also find profiles of successful organic farmers throughout the book. Their experiences provide inspiration and valuable tips for first-time farmers looking for real success stories. Hansen’s thorough coverage of the subject and the positive words of established growers will set countless farmers on a healthful, organic path.


Al says:

Next level from hoobby farm books This text book has an abundance of information about organic farming and certification. It explains the different types of farming, equipment use, soil types, and certification process. I personnel consider this book as “the next level to the basic organic hobby farm books”, It gives you detail information on what is required and how to do certain things. This book also gives you real life examples of organic farming operations and the examples carries you through their struggles, mistakes, and accomplishments, which I considered very helpful.

gail says:

enjoyable reading, lots of info, but… I did not buy this book, it was a gift from the author who is an acquaintance. I met Ann through a now defunct sustainable farm network. I’ve been to her farm a few times, have a general idea of her operation, and know her reporting for a farm newspaper exposed her to many farm people and their ideas. I have 20 years experience with sheep, was honored to be married to a lifelong, 2nd generation (in the US) dairy farmer, and still live surrounded by multi-generational dairy farmers. I wish I had seen this book prior to publication so errors could have been corrected, and the numerous half true/half not-so-true, confusing statements rewritten. I closely read the sections on animals and crop production, and skimmed the other sections.This book is very comprehensive, and I would recommend it to someone considering farming who has no knowledge of what farming is about, or is interested in how organic certification impacts the farm operation. But as the drive within grows to actually farm, I would recommend not using the information in this book as the sole basis for a decision because that information may not be true. The other problem with this book is its upper Midwest, opinions that are presented as facts, may not work in other areas in the country. Ann does write a few times to check local conditions, but that warning should have been put on just about every page.On to some examples of the information that caused me to give this book two stars. A potentially deadly, half-truth is written in chapter 12, the “Benefits and Drawbacks of Silage” section. Ann writes, “Storing silage in an upright silo has its own dangers. If the top of the silage freezes or the unloader breaks down, the farmer has to climb up the silo, open doors along the side to find the silage level, and try to fix the problem. But fermenting silage gives off nitrogen dioxide, a deadly gas that is heavier than air, so a layer of it will sit on top of the silage. You can’t see it and you can”t smell it, and if it doesn’t drain off when you open the door, it will kill you in minutes.”Ann is correct, silo gas will kill. The correction: no one should ever begin climbing the inside chute of a fermenting silo, enter the adjoining feed room, or open the outside roof door without FIRST ventilating the silo for at least 30 minutes with the blower used to fill the silo. Continue running the blower as long as someone is working in a fermenting silo. Silo gas can be present in the area without opening any doors on the silo because if the silo is almost full the gas can actually build up, spill over the top (the inside chute is open on top) and drop down into the feed room. This condition is present only as long as the feed is fermenting, but depending on crop, harvesting, and filling conditions that process can take weeks. Yes, silos have to be climbed to fix the unloader (a rare occurrence), open doors and readjust the unloader blower chute, and knock frozen silage off the walls, but silos are used because the ability to quickly put up large volumes of feed and little feed loss are huge economic benefits.It is also written in this section, “The biggest advantage of silage is you can cut it one day and put it in the silo the next.” The amount of time between cutting hay and ensiling it depends on moisture level in the plant, machine used to cut the crop (does it have conditioning rollers and how much are they crushing the stem) and windrow width. At times it is possible to cut one day and ensile the next, but a heavy first crop cutting may have to lay two or three days to achieve the desired moisture level. An overly mature hay crop may be cut in the morning and chopped that afternoon.In the sheep section it is written, “Sheep have the same gestation period as swine, just less than four months….” The truth is sheep gestation depends on breed and is 142 to 152 days, about five months. I found many statements in this section objectionable. For instance, “Since sheep quite frequently have twins and triplets, birthing complications are more common than cattle.” Lambing ease, mothering ability, and number of lambs can easily be high priority culling standards, and my experience tells me this statement is wrong. I recommend purchasing the as the book to own if getting into sheep, it is worth the money. (It isn’t written from the organic viewpoint, but sheep are sheep, they don’t know if they are organic or not.)There are also a few terminology mistakes. Milking inflations are not “inflators.” Referring to a dairy cow that exhibits dairy characteristics as “skinny” is a fallacy. Looking at a dairy cow as dairy would be like comparing a wide receiver (dairy) to a lineman (beefy), it’s about body type not condition.In chapter 7, the Forage Crops section,…

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