Keep on learning!

studentsResults in organic agriculture like high yields, low economic and environmental costs, high product quality and improved soil fertility can be good, but this is not always the case. Farmers, and others working in the organic industry, where ever they live, should always be focussed on how to improve their work. Farming, which involves producing food and maintaining soil fertility and the landscape, is a big responsibility for everybody involved. Worldwide, people are moving to the city and away from agriculture. There are less people on the land to produce food for the rest of the population. These farmers have to produce more, and at a better quality, often for lower prices. Organic producers aim to farm in a way that it is sustainable, in balance with nature and results in produce that meets quality market criteria. The successful farmers are learning farmers. Through networks of learning groups, together with researchers and consultants, they try to gain more knowledge, improve their work and introduce innovations. The same is true for people involved in processing, marketing, certification, research and training. As in all other businesses, you have to improve your work, otherwise your business (or your farm) will not be sustainable in the long run. Organic farming is by definition farming in progress, it is a process of development.

A recent large meta-study showed that, on average, crop  yields on organic farms are 80 % of conventional yields. Where organic agriculture is combined with good agricultural practices, the results are good.  My experience as a consultant and trainer in organic projects in many countries is that the organic production itself can be much better than before or the neighbours’, due to training and information exchange. Nowadays there are around ten million people working in the organic industry. Organic agriculture has been expanding over the years and has had a huge impact on thinking about agriculture and environment, the use of agro-chemicals, the need to maintain soil fertility and communications between farmers and consumers. But good education in organic agriculture is needed to continue this progress. This applies to professionals, already working in the business, and to newcomers, students, young farmers and others.  This issue of Ecology & Farming is about education and training in organic agriculture. It is the first attempt we know of to provide an overview. We hope to get a lot of reactions, and we will update our readers on these on our website and in the magazine. The organic industry should be an attractive field for young people who are looking for an interesting and meaningful job. And there will be plenty of new jobs in the organic sector in the coming years.

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