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        North Dakota | Activity 2.4: Agricultural Industry - Organic versus Non-Organic

        Students watch a video about organic farming and learn about the differences between non-organic and organic farming. Students discuss the benefits and setbacks of organic farming. 

        Lesson Summary

        Students watch a video about organic farming and learn about the differences between non-organic and organic farming. Students discuss the benefits and setbacks of organic farming. 

        This lesson is part of Great States | North Dakota Unit 2: Geography & Climate, an exploration of how physical geography impacts human life and how human life impacts physical geography.


        Time Allotment

        30 minutes

        Learning Objectives


        4.2.11: Describe the effects of changes in industry, agriculture, and technology in North Dakota (e.g. energy production, transportation, farming methods)

        4.5.5: Identify different patterns of land use in North Dakota (e.g., land use in urban, suburban, and rural areas, mining, agriculture, manufacturing)

        4.6.1: Explain how background and history influence people’s actions (e.g. farming methods, hunting methods, economic decisions)



        1. Discuss with students what an environmentalist is. Ask if anyone can define it, and talk with students about how an environmentalist is someone that fights to protect our natural world. Ask students if any of them know what the word organic means? If they buy organic fruit or vegetables, how were they grown? Tell students they will learn more about the organic farming process later.

        2. Explain that they will be watching a short video about one example of organic farming in North Dakota. Instruct students to jot down notes about organic farming because after the video there will be a discussion about it.

        3. Play the video, Stewards of the Land: Podoll Organic Farm up until 4:29.

        4. Explain that since farmers depend on the land and the environment for their livelihood, of course they want to conserve and protect it. But organic and non-organic farmers go about their farming in different ways. These terms refer to the ways farmers use agricultural products and produce their crops.

          Organic farmers depend on natural ways to get the most crops out of their land while still employing sustainable, healthy agricultural practices. Ask students what practices they learned about in the video.

          These practices include but are not limited to:

          • Rotating crops (not planting the same crop in the same place over and over)

          • Diversified farming methods and crops (growing many different crops, like the Podoll’s)

          • Tilling/hand weeding

          • Natural fertilizers (compost, manure)

          • Working around the natural cycles of the crops

          • Natural pest solutions (traps, using birds/insects)

          • Giving livestock organic feed and outdoor access

          • Resource conservation (soil, water)

          • Reducing pollution (not using harmful chemical agricultural methods)

        5. Talk about non-organic farmers with the students. They use chemical fertilizer as opposed to natural solutions that organic farmers depend on. Instead of tilling the land to get rid of weeds or picking weeds by hand, non-organic farmers spray chemical herbicides to kill off the weeds. They do not necessarily focus on ways to elongate the sustainability of the land or local resources, such as soil and water. The focus is largely on the specific crop(s) they want to produce and how they can get the most of it from the land every year.

        6. Explain that tending an organic farm can be difficult work! Ask students if they can think of any reasons why farmers might not want to plant an organic farm.

        7. Talk about problems farmers face when trying to create an organic farm. It’s typically a more expensive process to stay organic, because of the investments and time needed to initiate natural solutions. It takes a little bit more work to make sure the produce is healthy and pests aren’t getting to it. Rather than spraying chemicals, organic farmers are out in the land tilling the soil or setting up natural pest solutions, such as introducing birds or other insects that eat the pests. Explain that it requires more work to produce a lower amount of crops for the season. Organic food often costs more since it requires more effort and produces a lower crop yield. The farmer might not be able to make as much money as she could have if she used regular pesticides and non-organic methods. The potential loss makes it difficult for some farmers to commit to doing what is best for our environment. Organic farmers also have to pay for the organic certification as well as locate the right buyers for their products. Remind students that organic farming is not a new phenomenon: it was what farmers did for years and years. Chemical and non-natural methods were only recently introduced in the last hundred years.

        8. North Dakota’s Department of Agriculture provides a wealth of information, tools, and reimbursement programs to help organic farmers be successful. Tell students the Podoll’s farm is still operating today! Their business Prairie Road Organic Farm in Fullerton, North Dakota is still focused on providing other organic farmers the organic seeds they need to plant their own crops. They actually won an award in 2014 for all their organic farming work.

          The organic farming industry is growing, not only in North Dakota but also in the United States as a whole. In terms of food production, organic farming is one of the fastest growing sectors. The demand for organic food exceeds the current supply.

        9. Ask students to discuss some of the benefits and setbacks they learned about organic farming. How does organic farming affect the environment? The farmers? The consumers? Have them recall information from the video and class discussion to complete their task.

        Answer Key


        • Sustainability / environmentally friendly

        • Doesn’t use harmful chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides

        • Healthy, natural food for consumers

        • Less pollution

        • Conserves resources (water, soil, etc)

        • Healthier livestock

        • High demand


        • Sometimes more difficult work than non-organic

        • More expensive than non-organic

        • Limits production (lower crop yield)

        • Some need help getting started to overcome obstacles

        Learn more about North Dakota Government’s organic farming resources here.

        Keep up with the Podoll’s through their blog here.


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