Growing organic produce

September 12, 2018 | Luxembourg’s business sectors | Emilie Di Vincenzo

A profitable alternative in agriculture

There’s hardly anything glamourous about the everyday work of a farmer. Due to relatively low prices they often need to accept for the goods they produce, in certain circumstances they may not even make an adequate income.

However, adjusting to market conditions and deciding to become an organic farmer might open up new prospects for them and allow them to increase their revenue. Organic produce is more popular than ever. How does one become an organic farmer? What does the future of this sector look like?

The ideal thing to do would be to market the produce oneself, as consumers really value having a direct link with the grower of the produce they’re buying.

More than anything else, this job is physically demanding

It must always be borne in mind that a farmer who is passionate about his or her profession does not receive compensation for every single one of the hours he or she puts into agricultural labour. There is no precisely defined rhythm when it comes to growing organic produce. This is a job that requires complete physical fitness and a tough constitution if you hope to be successful. Depending on one’s own goals, there are several alternatives to choose from: food production (cereals, maize, fruit, etc.), animal husbandry (cattle, pigs, poultry), or even milk production/dairy farming. Key factors to consider in organic farming are short product cycles and direct marketing. The ideal thing to do would be to market the produce oneself, as consumers really value having a direct link with the grower of the produce they’re buying.

In order to be able to handle the various demands of this profession, not only must the grower of organic produce be capable of handling the physical stress of the job, but one also needs to be adept at knuckling down and getting one’s hands dirty. The ability to make decisions independently is also important, and one needs to be able to competently perform all the skilled manual tasks that arise on the farm. An organic farmer needs to be capable of working at irregular times and will be busy on the farm even during holiday times. And of course, he or she has to have a strong affinity for animals and the outdoors.

If the farmer decides to raise livestock, he or she needs to pay special attention to the animals’ health.

How does one become a grower of organic produce?

First of all, one needs to have obtained a vocational aptitude diploma (DAP), as this is an essential requirement if one hopes to achieve the status of organic farmer. Anyone who is interested in this profession must have successfully attended 9e classes (third year of secondary education) and received a positive assessment from the faculty. The three-year training alternates between courses at the technical secondary school and the completion of various internships. A concentration in agriculture during one’s basic education is also recommended, though it is also advisable to specialise in the organic produce industry as quickly as possible.

Upon entering the working world, the budding farmer must be able to demonstrate that he or she has decided to acquire the “bio” label for organic produce and to hold on to it. A grower of organic produce arranges with state authorities to undergo regular examinations, examinations that require a fee. At the end of this process the farmer receives the “bio” label. However, if a farmer does not comply with the necessary standards, he or she risks being denied certification or having it revoked until the requested modifications have been made.

In the course of his or her ordinary work, an organic farmer will not employ chemical fertilisers or pesticides. No chemical agents or dyes are to be used, either. If the farmer decides to raise livestock, he or she needs to pay special attention to the animals’ health. It is also absolutely crucial to follow the proper specifications in this regard.

Concerning the actual practice of this profession, it’s important to remember farmers do not always own the land that they farm. They may lease parcels of land and plant their first seeds there. Once the operation begins to expand, it’s quite common to employ additional labourers to help out.

In order to better market their produce, organic farmers need to be able to adequately voice their concerns.

How does one raise awareness among consumers?

In order to better market their produce, organic farmers need to be able to adequately voice their concerns. In Luxembourg, various strategies to help advise these agricultural operations are currently underway. There, the IBLA (Institut fir Biologesch Landwirtschaft an Agrarkultur) was founded in 2008, in connection with the development of two organic labels. The purpose of this combined organisation is to promote the development of organic agriculture in Luxembourg. There’s also one more association, the Cooperative of Organic Farmers of Luxembourg (BIOG).

One more association was formed in 2013: BIONA brings together several organic farmers operating in various nature parks. On top of this, the state agency Administration des Services Techniques de l'Agriculture awards a prize to one innovative organic operation.

As a general rule, organic farmers will only be successful if they’re able to offer quality work, concentrate fully on a project, inform potential buyers about their produce, and market themselves and what they have to offer. A precise understanding of all relevant regulations is absolutely necessary, as a farmer is only able to keep the “bio” label if he or she complies with all the requirements set out by the government.

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