BASIS has launched a Foundation Award in Organic Farming to provide a comprehensive introduction to organic crop and livestock production for farmers, growers and advisers.
BASIS chief executive Stephen Jacob says: “In the UK, the organic sector extends to some 3,500 farms covering almost half-a-million hectares of land and contributing to a market estimated to be worth £2.8 billion in the UK.
“Yet, until now there was no accredited short course qualification for those who are farming organically, who are considering converting to organic or are advising the sector.”
An organic production system can provide farmers with a number of benefits, including access to new markets with premium prices, enhanced biodiversity and reduced reliance on inputs.
However, there are also unique challenges including organic certification requirements, more complex management and the need to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare.
The BASIS Foundation Award in Organic Farming has been developed in conjunction with Organic Farmers and Growers and Abacus Agriculture.
It is divided into five distinct modules dealing with soil management, crop production, livestock production, conversion planning and legislation.
The overall aim is to equip candidates to develop a holistic understanding of organic production systems.
The award also deals with challenges such as suppressing weeds, diseases and pests.
Training will be available through a network of independent BASIS-approved trainers.
Candidates will be required to undertake four to six days of formal training together with independent study before taking an examination which includes 40 multiple choice questions plus three ‘short answer’ questions.
It is a level four award, accredited by Harper Adams University.
Entry While previous experience with organic systems will be valuable, there are no entry requirements for this foundation award.
Therefore, the training will not only be useful for those already working in the sector as farmers, managers or advisers; it will also benefit those starting out on a career in agriculture and those working in conventional agriculture looking to broaden their knowledge.
Some of the principles of organ ice farming can also benefit those currently working exclusively in conventional farming.
Addressing issues such as improving soil management and enhancing biodiversity are common goals for the whole industry.
Andrew Burgess, agricultural director of Produce World, has been involved in both organic and conventional farming for 24 years.
The company, with its partner growers, produces some 150,000 tonnes of field vegetables and potatoes, of which around half is organic.
He chairs the NFU’s organic forum and is a trustee of the Soil Association.
Mr Burgess welcomes this BASIS award, particularly as a starter for those considering conversion to organic growing.
“Fear of the unknown is perhaps the biggest obstacle to people starting organic production,” he says.
“Organic production is very technical.
Success depends on intensive management and a sound knowledge of natural cycles. Organic farming depends far more on biology.
“I welcome this foundation award and hope BASIS will build on this with more advanced courses.”