Organic farming finally realising its worth

ORGANIC FARMING is delivering 32% more jobs per farm on average across the UK compared to non-organic farms, a survey has revealed.

Commissioned by the Soil Association (SA) in conjunction with the Transport and General Workers Union (T&GWU) the Organic Works survey was carried out by the University of Essex. It said if organic farming was adopted by all UK farmers it would produce an additional 93,000 on-farm jobs. Currently organic farming is practised on 4% of UK farmland.

The independent research found organic farmers are younger - the average age surveyed is 49, seven-years younger than their non-organic counterparts. They were also shown to be more optimistic about the future of farming - 64% expected their family to take on the farm compared to 51% for non-organic farmers.

The survey said organic farmers were more entrepreneurial, with three times as many organic farms involved in direct or local marketing schemes than non-organic farmers.

The majority of additional jobs (81%) on an organic farm were generated by the system of husbandry required by organic farming the survey revealed. The higher levels of employment in organic farming, it was revealed, could not be replicated in non-organic farming by developing local marketing initiatives. The University of Essex survey found that 30% of all UK organic farms were engaged in on-farm processing or direct marketing. Out of 97 farms that produced organic meat, 45% were involved in these activities.

Peter Melchett, SA policy director, said the findings for organic farming countered the trends for UK agriculture generally which has seen the number of farm workers drop by nearly 80% over the last 50 years.

He said: "This younger, energetic generation of organic farmers are revitalising agriculture and boosting their local economies offers a dynamic and viable future for UK agriculture. We will be asking Defra's new Secretary of State, David Miliband, to do all he can to support the energy and efforts of his organic contemporaries."