THE CANADIAN ORGANIC INGREDIENT STRATEGY
In the spring of 2021, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau announced an investment of $297,330 for the Prairie Organic Development Fund to help farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario to improve their business knowledge. Click here to read the release.
In 2021-2022, the four organic association project partners, which include Organic Alberta, SaskOrganics, Manitoba Organic Alliance and the Organic Council of Ontario, delivered on-line business training workshops. In this COVID year, all training was on-line and sessions covered a broad range of business topics, including marketing, record keeping, managing labour, cost of production as well as organic production basics. 2,487 people registered for the training sessions in the four regions. Most of the events were recorded, which means that the the information will reach even more people as producers discover this treasure trove of free resources.
A sampling of the recorded events is linked here:
Crunching the Numbers: Business Management on Organic Farms, originally broadcast on January 20, 2022. Workshop presented by the Manitoba Organic Alliance.
Organic Vegetable Certification 101, originally broadcast February 1, 2022. Workshop presented by the Manitoba Organic Alliance at the 2022 Direct Farm Marketing Conference.
Organic Grain Markets Webinar Spring 2022, originally broadcast April 13, 2022. Workshop presented by SaskOrganics.
Organic Grain Markets Webinar Harvest 2021, originally broadcast October 20, 2021. Workshop presented by SaskOrganics.
Introduction to Certified Organic Production and Record Keeping, originally broadcast April 19, 2022. Workshop presented by SaskOrganics.
Greenlander! Expanding the use of Cover Crops in Organic Vegetable Production, originally broadcast December 11, 2021. Workshop presented by the Organic Council of Ontario in association with the 2021 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario Virtual Conference.
Reduced Tillage in Organic Field Crop Production, originally broadcast December 11, 2021. Workshop presented by the Organic Council of Ontario at the 2021 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario Virtual Conference.
Grain Buyers Meet and Greet-Expanding Your Market, originally broadcast December 11, 2021. Workshop presented by the Organic Council of Ontario at the 2021 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario Virtual Conference.
Cost of Production of Organic Field Crops, originally broadcast on March 9, 2022. Workshop presented by the Organic Council of Ontario and the Canadian Organic Growers.
Easing Organic Record Keeping, originally broadcast on March 29, 2022. Workshop presented by the Organic Council of Ontario.
Considering the Benefits and Challenges of Different Approaches to Labour in Organic Production, originally broadcast January 26, 2022. Workshop presented by the Organic Council of Ontario at the 2022 Guelph Organic Conference.
Less is More: Reducing On-Farm Food Waste in Organic Vegetable Production and Exploring Alternative Packaging, originally broadcast January 26, 2022. Workshop presented by the Organic Council of Ontario at the 2022 Guelph Organic Conference.
Integrated Weed Management in Organic Production, originally broadcast January 28, 2022. Workshop presented by the Organic Council of Ontario at the 2022 Guelph Organic Conference.
Talking Shop: Farmer Social Series with Steve Kenyon, originally broadcast March 15, 2022. Workshop presented by Organic Alberta.
Talking Shop: Farmer Social Series with Heather Kerschbaumer, originally broadcast March 22, 2022. Workshop presented by Organic Alberta.
Talking Shop: Farmer Social Series with Derek Axten, originally broadcast March 29, 2022. Workshop presented by Organic Alberta.
Talking Shop: Farmer Social Series with Allison Squires, originally broadcast April 5, 2022. Workshop presented by Organic Alberta.
Talking Shop: Farmer Social Series with Steven Snider, originally broadcast March 1, 2022. Workshop presented by Organic Alberta.
The Prairie Organics 2022 Virtual Conference also received vital support from the PODF Innovations Fund. Check out the presentations here.
In 2021-2022, the Manitoba Organic Alliance produced a series of podcasts on topics of keen interest to organic producers. Listen to the pods here:
Carbon Sequestration with guest Kris Nichols from KRIS Systems
Plant Breeding with guest Aabir Dey from the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security
Intercropping with guest Scott Chalmers from Westman Agricultural Diversification Organization
Transitioning to Organics with guest Nic Podoll from the Rodale Institute
Biologicals with guest Dale Overton from Overton Environmental Enterprises
PLANS FOR 2022-2023
PODF has exciting plans to introduce a number of new resources designed to improve organic production and to connect organic producers to one another. The four partner associations are all planning IN-PERSON meetings beginning this summer with farm tours. Both Organic Alberta and SaskOrganics will be hosting conferences supported by the Innovations Fund.
Resources in the works for delivery in the winter months include fact sheets, videos, farmer profiles and an app to help farmers better match crop nutrients across their rotations.
THE PRAIRIE ORGANIC
The Prairie Organic Grain Initiative was a 4.5 year (2015-2019), $2.2 million dollar program dedicated to building resilience and stability in the Canadian organic grain sector. The project focussed on the four streams described below. Click here to view the final evaluation report produced by Tapestry Evaluation and Strategy.
GOAL: To bring new entrants into organic farming
APPROACH: Focus groups were held in Saskatchewan to study the perceptions of mainstream farmers of organic farming. Participants were also asked what they considered to be the key barriers to transitioning to organic. The marketing company behind the focus groups identified characteristics of producers who they thought would be ideal candidates for recruitment. The target farmer should have a business focus, strong management skills be open to new market opportunities. Once the target was identified, a strong business case was built to counter each of the key concerns raised by producers in the focus groups. This business case formed the centrepiece of a communications strategy that was then rolled out in main stream media and in the places where farmers gather such as at conventional farm shows. The program also included a training program for new entrants, including a 1 800 Organic Expert line, farmer-to-farmer mentoring programs, farm clubs, transition workshops, a new website, field days and conferences. Throughout, the approach has been to provide opportunities for new organic farmers to network and learn from long-time organic producers.
Focus groups with mainstream producers in Saskatchewan
Media materials for new organic growers and a marketing campaign to reach prospective organic growers
Attended 15 conventional farm shows
PivotandGrow website developed to host extension materials and to communicate directly to producers about training events
Downloadable Transition Starter Kit for new organic growers
1-800 Ask an Expert phone line to match new farmers with expert advice
B-2-B Directory to help new growers find input suppliers, grain buyers and other resources
Between 2015 and 2018, the number of organic producers in the three Prairie provinces increased by 36% from 1290 to 1756
GOAL: To scale up organic grain production and improve grain quality by transferring the latest science and practice related to organic best management practices to organic producers.
APPROACH: Our extension strategy had four areas of focus:
Crop rotations for weed and fertility management
Preferred extension methods involved peer-to-peer learning, and matching farmers and exemplary practitioners together to transfer the latest science and methods. Extension methods employed a mix of one-to-many activities such as conferences, farm clubs and tours and one-on-one activities such as agronomist farm visits and the 1-800 Ask an Expert phone line
New extension tools, including an Enviroscan Research Assessment which is an analysis of relevant scientific studies and its companion Organic Agronomy Research and Extension Database searchable list of relevant published papers, a new edition of Canadian Organic Growers' Organic Field Crop Handbook, an on-line Green Manure Tool, and production fact sheets
Hosted 8 conferences, 21 workshops, 12 coffee-shops, monthly stakeholder calls, 33 field days and 21 farm clubs
Developed one-on-one extension platforms including the On-Farm Nutrient Management program
Supported On-Farm Research Trials
Through extension events, we reached 5,863 conventional and organic producers
Between 2014 and 2018, Prairie organic acreage, not counting transitional acreage, increased by 30% from 1.4 million acres to 1.8 million acres.
Acreage planted to organic field crops increased by 49% in the three year period between 2015 and 2018.
MARKET DEVELOPMENT STREAM
GOAL: To accelerate sales of Prairie organic grains by providing opportunities for organic producers and grain marketers to attend international trade fora
Created an Exporter Directory to link organic producers to export markets
Attended 13 international trade events with 71 Canadian organic businesses (producers, processors and importers/exporters)
As a result of this outreach, Prairie operators met with 188 international buyers, 30 of which are now purchasing Canadian organic grains
GOAL: To build tools to to improve industry benchmarking
APPROACH: In the conventional world, producers have instant access to up-to-date grain prices and Statistics Canada carefully tracks the grain inventory. In the organic sector, relevant data are much harder to find. The quest for better data began by starting with the basics. The goal was to collect and disseminate basic data which could be used to benchmark the health of the organic gains sector and to improve price transparency to help level the playing field between producers and buyers
Check out the latest Organic Agriculture in the Prairies report (2019 data)
Previous Organic Agriculture in the Prairies reports are also available
Collection and aggregation of current pricing information from grain buyers and improved dissemination to producers has created a more transparent marketplace for organic growers
Grain Quality Needs Assessment with organic grain buyers