Change to organic agriculture, improve an existing farm, start a farm or work in farm supplies and services. Learn about sustainable farming.

Course Code: BAG305
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Study how to grow animals and plants organically

  • Learn organic farming for both crops and livestock
  • Improve farm sustainability, longevity and reduce your environmental footprint

How Viable is Organics?

Business intelligence firm, IBIS World, predicted Organic Farming in Australia should achieve revenue growth of 15.1% in 2010-2011 (making it the fastest growing industry in Australia). Ref: SP Magazine, Sept-Oct 2010

All kinds of agricultural products are produced organically - vegetables, fruit, grains, meat, dairy, eggs and fibres such as cotton and wool. Many processed foods can also be produced organically (e.g. bread).

Organic farming has been adopted by some farmers for economic reasons, others for ethical or sustainability concerns. Whatever the reason for going organic, there is no doubt this method of farming is here to stay.


Why Organics?

An organic approach can contribute toward making a farm more financially viable in several ways:

  • First, it is a low input way of farming. You do not need to invest so much money in expensive chemicals and fertilisers. However, any declines in initial production are balanced against these reduced costs.
  • Second, it is less likely to result in land degradation than many other production methods; hence the long-term cost of sustaining production is less.
  • Thirdly, public demand for organic produce has markedly increased over recent years.

Some of the reasons for the increase in public demand for organic produce are:

  • Organically farmed food tastes better, according to many consumers.
  • Organic food is produced without GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms).
  • Organic farming places emphasis on animal welfare.
  • Organic systems aim to reduce dependence on non-renewable resources.
  • Organic production aims towards sustainability in the environment.
  • Food safety scares, such as Mad Cow Disease.

To be recognised as being an organic producer you need to abide by guidelines that are set by various bodies in each country (e.g. Biological Farmers Federation of Australia, Organic Farmers and Growers UK). Guidelines exist for the production of vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat and grains, as well as storage, transporting, processing and marketing facilities.

One of the problems with marketing organic produce, particularly fruit and vegetables, is that most people believe that slightly blemished looking produce indicates that it is of poorer quality. However, as organic produce has become more readily available and more widely marketed, the public are becoming more aware that such superficial blemishes do not indicate poor quality, but in many cases may indicate better flavour.


Consumers will often pay a higher price for organic produce than non-organic produce, consequently profits can be improved. However, it should be noted that without good cultural knowledge of the crops/animals a farmer is producing, serious losses can occur.

Organic farming is not a 'lazy farmer’s' technique. A lot of work is involved in utilising integrated pest management and hygiene above and beyond most normal farm enterprises.
Once an organic production management system is in place, however, and operating, it tends to stabilise over a period of time and becomes easier to manage.  

Some of the most important features of organic production, as recognised by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), include:

  • Promoting existing biological cycles, from micro-organisms in the soil to the plants and animals living on the soil.
  • Maintaining the environmental resources locally, using them carefully and efficiently and re-using materials as much as possible.
  • Not relying heavily on external resources on a continuous basis.
  • Minimising any pollution both on-site and leaving the site.
  • Maintaining the genetic diversity of the area.

Practices which are typical for organic systems are composting, intercropping, crop rotation and mechanical or heat-based weed control. Pests and diseases are tackled with naturally-produced sprays and biological controls (eg. predatory mites). Organic farmers generally avoid the use of inorganic fertilisers and synthetic chemical herbicides, growth hormones and synthetic pesticides.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Organic Farming -
    • scope
    • nature
    • history
    • types of organic farming
  2. Integrated Farm Management Systems -
    • rotation design
    • cash crops
    • managing waste
    • permaculture
    • polyculture
    • biodynamics etc
    • Organic Management Issues -
    • certification
    • environmental concerns
    • marketing
    • PR
  3. Organic Soil Management and Crop Nutrition -
    • composting
    • mulching
    • green manuring
    • cover crops
    • organic fertilisers
  4. Weed Management -
    • selecting appropriate techniques of control
    • weed identification
  5. Pest and Disease Management-
    • Animals
    • Plants
  6. Livestock Management I-
    • Beef
    • Dairy
    • Sheep
    • Pigs
  7. Livestock Management II -
    • Poultry
    • Goats
    • Alpacas
    • Ostriches
    • Deer
  8. Pasture-
    • Pasture Varieties
    • Management Principles
    • Intensive systems
    • nitrogen fixation
    • correct seed mix
    • risks with legumes
  9. Crops -
    • Wheat
    • Plant Fibre
    • Hay and Silage
    • Mung Beans
    • Sesame seed, etc


  • Discuss the scope and nature of organic farming in today's world.
  • Select appropriate organic management systems for different organic farms.
  • Understand the environmental, economic and political issues concerning organic farming.
  • Explain the role of living organisms and decomposing organic matter in creating and maintaining an appropriate soil
    • condition for successful organic farming.
  • Contrive and apply appropriate weed management practices for an organic farm.
  • Select and apply appropriate pest and disease management practices for both animal and plant production on an organic farm
  • Design an appropriate system for organic production of cattle, sheep and pigs.
  • Design an appropriate system for organic production of poultry and other miscellaneous animals.
  • Design an appropriate system for organic pasture management.
  • Explain the broad-acre organic production of a grain or legume crop.

What You Will Do

  • Investigate Organic industry such as, Certifying Organisations, Producers or organic farming groups in your locality or region
  • Determine allowable inputs to an organic farm certifying in your area
  • Discuss how an organic farm requires more labour than a conventional farm
  • Visit an organic farm, (real or virtual visit)
  • Prepare a plan for an organic farm.
  • Describe the conversion process for one of the organic farms
  • Investigate organic market potential
  • Prepare a compost heap
  • Prepare a diagram of a healthy soil food web
  • Prepare a weed collection (25 weeds -either pressings or illustrations)
  • Determine appropriate weed control within allowable organic farming limits.
  • Describe the life cycle of three animal parasites
  • Describe habitat requirements of various predatory insects
  • Survey one or more farms regarding animal production systems
  • How can the animals above be integrated into a vegetable or fruit production system
  • Determine organic solutions to different farming problems
  • Investigate different pasture management systems.

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Peter Douglas

Over 50 years experience in Agriculture and wildlife management.
Former university lecturer, Wildlife park manager, Animal breeder, Equestrian.
Peter has both wide ranging experience in animal science, farming and tourism management, and continues to ap

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and edito

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

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