Organic Farming

Study organic farming and learn to farm animals or crops using organic, biodynamic, eco-farming techniques.

Course Code: BAG305
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
Get started!

Organic Farming can  be more Profitable than Mainstream Agriculture

....if you know what you are doing!
In the past organic farm production was often considered as being only for radicals or hippies. Now it is seen as a viable economic move – with benefits to the farm soil, to the environment, and to the purchasers of the products. 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.


Demand for organic produce has boomed over recent years and supermarkets from Australia to England now devote significant shelf space to organic produce, and organic certification schemes have emerged and flourished.  

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

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

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • 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, either a real visit or virtual visit if that is not possible
  • 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.

Learn from Experts in Organic Farming

Our principal, John Mason is author of over 45 books including titles Farm Management & Profitable Farming (published by Kangaroo Press / Simon and Schuster), and Sustainable Agriculture (published by CSIRO / Landlinks Press)
Tutors and course developers include a team of internationally renowned experts who have worked in agriculture throughout both Australia, the UK, and beyond. (see our staff list at )

What is Organic Farming?

There are many definitions of organic farming. A commonly accepted definition is “farming without the addition of artificial chemicals”. An artificial chemical is one that has been manufactured or processed chemically; for example super phosphate (one of the world’s most important fertilisers).

Organic farmers cannot use any chemical herbicides at all. Some fertilisers and soil treatments are acceptable if they are from natural sources, for example rock phosphate, lime and gypsum. Most artificial pesticides are prohibited; the exceptions being substances which have mild effects on the environment, such as soap and winter oil. The routine use of animal vaccines is not permitted, although some certifiers allow the use of vaccines under certain conditions.

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


Organic farming works with nature, rather than against it. It recognises the fact that nature has many complex processes which interact to control pests, diseases and weeds, and to regulate the growth of plants.

There is a variety of ways of growing plants that work with nature rather than against it. Some techniques have been used for centuries. Some of the most effective and widely used methods are outlined here.


Theoretically, it is better for the long-term welfare of the land to avoid a monoculture approach to farming. Monocultures tend to utilise the same nutrients from the soil and deposit the same "pollutants" into the soil; causing nutrient deficiencies and pollutant toxicities. When several different plants, and/or animals are growing together, the waste products of one will often be used by another; and the nutrients used by one, may be replenished by the activity of another.

Most farms still operate as a monoculture (or series of monocultures); but problems associated with such practices are increasingly having an impact on the financial long-term viability of those farms.

Some poly-culture options which have benefited farms to date include:

1. Agro-forestry
Growing trees in paddocks provide shade for animals, and then eventually the trees can be harvested and sold for timber, woodchip or firewood.

2. Animals grazing in orchards
Sheep, free-range poultry or other animals can be grazed below fruit or nut trees.
Alternative farmers increase the efficiency of their land by diversifying harvestable product. One example is to have a marketable plant species (eg. pecan nut trees) and allow fowl to free-range beneath. Both pecans and fowls are harvestable. It provides a mutually beneficial situation. The trees provide shelter for the birds and the birds return the favour by fertilising the trees, eating suitable insects/pests. To ensure the birds do not eat the nuts, they can be kept locked in pens till after harvest.
Almost any animal can be used in this type of production system. Cows, sheep, deer, etc - are all possibilities. The farmer only needs to ensure the animals will not eat or destroy the trees/plants, and that the plants are not toxic to the animals.

3. Inter-row cropping
Inter-row cropping involves establishing the principle crop in rows then to plant another crop between them. A slow crop such as corn may be planted with lettuce between the rows. Compatibility of the two crop species is important. Do they need the same amount of watering and fertilising? How will light affect the two crops? Is one root system more dominant than the other? These questions will need to be answered for each combination.

Long-term fruit tree crops may be planted with vegetables between the rows. In this case, consider the spread of the tree roots. Most tree fruiting plants do not appreciate root competition. Spacing used in most fruit tree orchards adequately allows for a row of vegetables to be planted.

Biodynamic Farming

Biodynamic farming and gardening is a natural practice developed from a series of lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in 1924. It has many things in common with other forms of natural growing, but it also has a number of characteristics which are unique.

It views the farm or garden as a "total" organism and attempts to develop a sustainable system, where all of the components of the living system have a respected and proper place.

There is a limited amount of scientific evidence available which relates to biodynamics. Some of what is available suggests biodynamic methods do in fact work. It will, however, take a great deal more research for mainstream farmers to become convinced widely of the effectiveness of these techniques, or in fact for the relative effectiveness of different biodynamic techniques to be properly identified.

Principles of biodynamics:

  • Biodynamics involves a different way of looking at growing plants and animals.
  • Plant and animal production interrelate. Manure from animals feeds plants. Plant growth feeds the animals.
  • Biodynamics considers the underlying cause of problems and attempts to deal with those causes rather than dealing with superficial ways of treating problems. Instead of seeing poor growth in leaves and adding nutrients; biodynamics considers what is causing the poor growth - perhaps soil degradation, wrong plant varieties....or whatever? It then deals with the bigger question.
  • Produce is a better quality when it is "in touch" with all aspects of a natural ecosystem. Produce which is produced artificially (eg. battery hens or hydroponic lettuces) will lack this contact with "all parts of nature", and as such the harvest may lack flavour, nutrients, etc., and not be healthy food.
  • Economic viability and marketing considerations affect what is grown.
  • Available human skills, manpower and other resources affect what is chosen to be grown.
  • Conservation and environmental awareness are very important.
  • Soil quality is maintained by paying attention to soil life and fertility.
  • Lime, rock dusts and other slow acting soil conditioners may be used occasionally.
  • Maintaining a botanical diversity leads to reduced problems.
  • Rotating crops is important.
  • Farm manures should be carefully handled and stored.
  • Biodynamics believes there is an interaction between crop nutrients, water, energy (light, temperature), and special biodynamic preparations (ie. sprays) which result in Bio-dynamically produced food having particularly unique characteristics.
  • Plant selection is given particular importance. Generally biodynamic growers emphasise the use of seed which has been chosen because it is well adapted to the site and method of growing being used.
  • Moon planting is often considered important. Many biodynamic growers believe better results can be achieved with both animals and plants if consideration is given to lunar cycles. They believe planting, for example, when the moon is in a particular phase can result in a better crop.

Permaculture Systems

Permaculture is a system of agriculture based on perennial, or self perpetuating, plant and animal species which are useful to man. In a broader context, permaculture is a philosophy which encompasses the establishment of environments which are highly productive and stable, and which provide food, shelter, energy etc., as well as supportive social and economic infrastructures.

In comparison to modern farming techniques practised in Western civilisations, the key elements of permaculture are low energy and high diversity inputs. The design of the landscape, whether on a suburban block or a large farm, is based on these elements.   

There are nine key guiding principles of permaculture design:

1. Relative location
Place components of a design in a position which achieves a desired relationship between components. Everything is connected to everything else.

2. Multiple functions
The designer will determine a number of different functions for a design (eg. produce fruit, provide shelter). When a design is prepared, each function is then considered one by one. In order to make the design achieve a "single" function, the designer must:

  •     deal with several different components which influence that function
  •     make different and distinct decisions about each of these components
  •     Every function is supported by many elements.

3. Multiple elements
In permaculture, the term "element" is used to refer to the components of a design such as plants, earth, water, buildings. A design must include many elements in the design to make sure functions are achieved. Every element should serve many functions.

4. Elevational planning
The design must be on a 3-dimensional basis, giving consideration to length, width and height of all elements (ie. components). Particular emphasis is given to energy impacts.
5. Biological resources
-Priority is to use renewable biological resources (eg. wood for fuel) rather than non renewable resources (eg. fossil fuels).
-Design so that biological resources are reproduced within the system.

6. Energy recycling
 -  Energy use should be minimised.
 - Waste energy should be harvested (eg. often pollution can yield useable energy).
 - Design the system to optimise collection of energy by plants and animals. (eg. Using plants that catch light, produce bulk vegetation and then rot to provide a store of nutrients). This way energy is caught, stored and reused in the system.

7. Natural succession
Design in a way that plant and animal life is always rich by ensuring new organisms emerge as old ones die.

8. Maximise edges
The edge of two different areas in a system has more things influencing it than other parts of the system. This is because there is greater diversity there with components of two different areas having an effect. As such design of an edge is more critical, and potential for an edge can be greater.

9. Diversity
Design should be a poly-culture (i.e. a system where a greater number of species are growing together). This ensures greater biological stability.

Design can be seen to have two elements: aesthetics and function. In other words, design (of any kind) can be influenced to varying degrees by the aesthetics or appearance of what you are trying to achieve; and/or by the function or purpose to be served by what you are trying to design.

Permaculture concentrates on function and gives low priority to conventional ideas of aesthetics. As such, a permaculture system does not need to look 'nice', but it does need to serve its intended purpose.

Reference: Permaculture Design Course Handbook by Mollison et al.

Crop Rotations

Crop rotation consists of growing different crops in succession in the same field, as opposed to continually growing the same crop. Growing the same crop year after year guarantees pests of a food supply – and so pest populations increase.  It can also lead to depletion of certain soil nutrients. Growing different crops interrupts pest life cycles and keeps their populations in check. Crop rotation principles can be applied to both broad acre and row crops alike. The principles may even be applied to pastures.

In the United States, for example, European corn borers are a significant pest because most corn is grown in continuous cultivation or in two-year rotations with soybeans. If the corn was rotated on a four or five year cycle, it is unlikely that corn borers would be major pests. This kind of system would control not only corn borers, but many other corn pests as well.

In crop rotation cycles, farmers can also sow crops that like legumes that actually enrich the soil with nutrients, thereby reducing the need for chemical fertilisers. For example, many corn farmers alternate growing corn with soybeans, because soybeans fix nitrogen into the soil.  Thus, subsequent corn crops require less nitrogen fertiliser to be added.


This course has the potential to transform the way you think about farming.

  • Your knowledge and understanding of organic methods will grow.
  • You will begin to see possibilities for applying ideas and techniques from various organic farming approaches; perhaps on a property you already own or work on, and maybe elsewhere

For some this course will expand your potential for employment or business, for others it will be an opportunity to learn more about an idea that you have a passion for, and to explore ways to use what you learn in your daily living.

You are likely to never view farming quite the same way after completing this course; and with that different outlook as a foundation, your knowledge and experience of organic farming can only grow as you move forward.

Whether you are a farmer or hobby farmer or consultant - this course will benefit you.

Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
ACS is a Member of the Permaculture Association (membership number 14088).
ACS is a Member of the Permaculture Association (membership number 14088).
ACS is a Silver Sponsor of the AIH; and students studying designated courses are given free student membership. ACS and it's principal have had an association with AIH since the 1980's
ACS is a Silver Sponsor of the AIH; and students studying designated courses are given free student membership. ACS and it's principal have had an association with AIH since the 1980's
Long-term member since 1986.
Long-term member since 1986.
ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.
ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason has been a member of the International Scociety of Horticultural Science since 2003
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason has been a member of the International Scociety of Horticultural Science since 2003
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

Simply click on the ENROL OPTIONS button at the top of this screen and follow the prompts.

You can see the course price at the top of this page. Click 'enrolment options' to see any payment options available.

You can pay by Credit Card, PayPal, Afterpay or bank transfer.

Yes! We have payment plans for most courses. Click 'enrolment options' to see the available payment plans.
We also have Afterpay that will allow you to pay for your course or payment plans in four instalments (if you are in Australia).

What do I need to know before I enrol?

There are no entry requirements that you need to meet to enrol in our courses, our courses are for everyone.
If you are under 18, we need written permission from your parent/ guardian for your enrolment to continue, we can arrange that after you have enrolled.

You don’t need to purchase any additional resources to complete our courses.

We aim to teach you the essentials without you having to purchase any specific computer program.
We recommend that you have access to a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, so that you can easily complete and submit your assignments.

You sure can. We are here to help you learn whatever your abilities.

Yes, if you are enrolling in a Certificate or Advanced Certificate, you might be eligible for credits if you have evidence of your previous studies or relevant experience. More information is here.

We recommend that you are able to browse websites, send emails and conduct online research. You will need to be able to type and submit your assignments.
If you have limited computer skills, we can make special arrangements for you.

This is possible, it depends on the institution. We recommend that if you would like to use our courses that you contact the institution first. Our Course Handbook is a good resource for this.

Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

Yes, if you don’t have access to the internet, you can receive the course as paper notes or on a USB stick for an additional fee. We can also make alternative arrangements for you to send your assignments to us.

We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

Yes, your tutor is here to help you. Simply post any questions you have in your portal or contact the office and we can pass on a message to your tutor.

We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

When you complete the course work and the exam and you will be able receive your course certificate- a Statement of Attainment. Otherwise, you can receive a Letter of Completion.

You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

Yes, our courses are built to be applicable for people living anywhere in any situation. We provide the fundamentals, and each student can apply their own unique flair for their own interests, region and circumstances with the one-on-one guidance of a tutor. There is also a bit of student directed research involved.

Employers value candidates with industry skills, knowledge, practical skills and formal learning. Our courses arm you with all of these things to help prepare you for a job or start your own business. The longer you study the more you will learn.

ACS has an arrangement with OAMPS (formerly AMP) who can arrange Professional Indemnity from Australian and New Zealand graduates across all disciplines. Ph: 1800 222 012 or email

Who are ACS Distance Education?

ACS Distance Education have been educating people for over 40 years.

We are established and safe- we have been in education for over 40 years.
We are focused on developing innovative courses that are relevant to you now and what you will need to know in the future.
We are focused on helping you learn and make the most of your experience.
You can enrol at any time, you can work on your course when it suits you and at your own pace.
We are connected to many industry bodies and our staff participate in continuous improvement and learning activities to ensure that we are ahead of what learning is needed for the future.

Our courses are not accredited by the Australian Government. However many of our courses are recognised and held in high regard by many industry bodies.

Our courses are written by our staff, who all have many years experience and have qualifications in their speciality area. We have lots of academic staff who write and update our courses regularly.

How do I enrol my staff/ sponsored students?

Yes, you can do a request for a bulk enrolment and request an invoice on our Invoice Request Form

We can prepare an invoice, quote or proforma invoice. Simply complete your details on our Invoice Request form

We can arrange bulk discounts for your course enrolment, please get in touch with us to discuss your needs.

Yes, we have many students who are in locked facilities, such as prisons or hospitals. We can cater by also offering paper notes at an additional cost.

What if I have any more questions or need more information?

We can assist you to find the right course for your needs. Get in touch with us via email ( call on +61 7 5562 1088 or complete our course advice form.

What if I change my mind?

Please get in touch with if you would like to be removed from our mail list.

If you would like ACS Distance Education to delete your information at any time (whether you are a customer or a prospective customer), please contact our privacy officer and we will process this ( ).

Course Contributors

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

Marius Erasmus

Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South Africa in wildlife management, dairy, beef and poultry farming.

Need Help?

Take advantage of our personalised, expert course counselling service to ensure you're making the best course choices for your situation.

I agree for ACS Distance Education to contact me and store my information until I revoke my approval. For more info, view our privacy policy.