The Old Kitchen Cupboard Ltd.
Get The Facts On Organic Foods
Why buy "Certified Organic" products?
* Organic products are healthier for your body.
* Helps protect the environment, reduces chemical pollution.
* Energy conservation, saves energy used to produce synthetic
pesticides and fertilizers.
* Contributes to improved and stable soil conditions, that forms
a chain of healthier soils, healthier foods and healthier people.
ORGANIC FARMING IN ONTARIO
FACTSHEET - Courtesy, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food
(Hugh Martin, Soil and Crop Adviser, Elgin County, Ontario)
Organic farming is a method of crop and livestock production that involves a lot more than eliminating pesticides, fertilizers,
antibiotics and growth hormones (except those that are allowed by the production standards of certified agencies). Organic
farming is a system of farming design and management practices,
based on sound ecological principles, that seeks to create ecosystems with a diverse mix of mutually dependent life forms.
Organic farming promotes the use of crop rotation and cover crops, and encourages balanced host/predator relationships. Organic
residues and nutrients are recycled. cover crops and
composted manures are used to maintain soil humus.
Preventative insect and disease control methods are practised including the use of improved genetics and resistant varieties.
Integrating weed management and soil conservation systems are also valuable tools on a organic farm. When necessary , some
"natural" or non-synthetic pesticides may be allowed. These products must be registered for use in a specific
crop pest situation by federal and provincial regulations and allowable for use within the organic crop production standards.
All grains, forages and protein supplements fed to livestock must be organically grown. Organic food production prohibits
the use of highly soluble or synthetically compounded mineral fertilizers, synthetically compounded pesticides, growth
regulators, antibiotics, hormones, colouring or other artificial additives, ionizing radiation, and recombinant genetic
manipulation of plants or animals. Prohibited products and practices must not be used on certified organic farms for at least
three years prior to production of the certified organic products.
A more encompassing definition has been developed and accepted by the organic food industry, and future federal legislation
and standards are expected to complement this definition. For more information contact, Canadian Organic Unity Project, 1019
McMillan Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3M
0T5. In addition, each certification agency issues a set of Organic
Production Standards and should be contacted for more information. Many organic farmers believe that a successful organic
system begins with the soil - a healthy soil produces healthy plants and in turn healthy livestock and people. They regard
soil as a living organism of inter-dependent processes and life forms. Organic farming may not be for everyone. Certainly
some crops are more challenging than others to grow organically. There are, however, many successful organic farmers in Ontario.
They are in almost every county and nearly every commodity is being produced. " A sustainable agriculture is one that
over the long term: Enhances environmental quality and the resource base on which agriculture depends; Provides basic human
food and fibre requirements; Is economically viable; and Enhances the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole."-
(American Society of Agronomy) Organic farming is one type of sustainable agriculture, but sustainable agriculture also includes
many methods of farming that use low rates of farm chemicals, not allowed by organic standards, when necessary. Examples are
IPM programs that reduce pesticide use and weed control programs that use banded herbicide and inter-row cultivation.
A base philosophy of sustainable agriculture is to use chemical methods as a secondary method rather that a first approach
to pest control and fertility management.
According to a 1986 survey by Agriculture Canada, two of the main reasons farmers choose organic production methods is
for "the health of their family" and because "it is better for the soil". Farmers are concerned about
the environment and issues such as well contamination, river and lake pollution, and soil degradation. Manufacturing,
transportation and pollution are threats, be they from accidental causes or from normal use. There is also a concern to reduce
energy use in agriculture, since many farms chemicals have energy intensive manufacturing processes that rely heavily on
the use of fossil fuels. Some farmers view organic farming as part of the solution. Organic farmers generally find their
new methods and farming operations to be profitable and rewarding.
Certified organic is a registered trademark of the Organic Crop
Improvement Association (Ontario) known as OCIA. A number of
associations in Canada have standards and inspect farms to validate that certified organic farms meet their associations
standards. These standards have minor differences from one association to another and most are based on the standards as set
by the Organic Food Producers Association of North
America (OFPANA), and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). Products from certified organic
farms are frequently labelled and promoted as certified organic produce. In the USA, the Organic foods Act of 1990 established
a minimum standard for the certification of organic food. In Canada, there are currently negotiations to establish similar
standards for a Canada Organic designation.
Is it Economically Feasible?
Farming is never easy. In organic farming, farmers choose not to use some of the convenient chemical tools that are available
to other farmers. Management, therefore, becomes even more critical to the success of the farm. Cereal and forage management
systems tend to adapt to organic systems quite readily due to relatively low pest pressures and nutrient requirements. Soybeans
also quite well but weed can be greater challenge. Corn is frequently not grown on organic farms because of the challenge
of weed control and fertility, especially nitrogen requirements, but it can be successfully grown after a forage legume or
if manure has been applied. Yields on these crops can be variable, depending on the success of the manager. During transition,
yields can be as low as 50% of before, but after
a 3 to 5 year transition period, yields usually climb back to 80 to 100% ofprevious levels. In fruit and vegetable crops,
the challenge are greater and vary from crop to crop. Some crops and managers have been very successful, while other managers
with the same crop have had problems. Some insect or disease pests are more serious in some areas of the province than in
others. A few pest problems have very few organic solutions. Marketable yields of organic problems have very few organic solutions.
Marketable yields of organic horticultural crops will be below non-organic yields; some of thesecrops are slightly below and
others are significantly lower. Many organic producers have also had successes doing some on-farm processing to add value
to the product. An example is to make jams, jellies, juice or pies.Livestock products can also be produced organically. Antibiotics,
growth hormones and insecticides are prohibited. If an animal is sick and antibiotics are absolutely necessary for the animal,
antibiotics will be administered and the animal will be segregated from the organic livestock herd and sold from the herd
as non- organic stock. Vaccinations and deworming products are generally frowned upon by organic farmers. Some standards allow
some of these products, but some organic associations prohibit them. You should always check with the certifying agency to
see if the product you want to use is allowed. In some provinces, some vaccinations are required by law. Provincial and Federal
law always takes priority over association standards. Are Price Premiums Available? "Certified Organic" produce
can usually qualify for a higher price than organic products. These premiums vary with the crop and depend on whether you
are dealing with a processor, wholesaler, retailer or directly with the consumer. There is no set premium level and it can
be whatever is negotiated between the buyer and the seller. At the farm gate, premiums frequently vary from 10-30%. Chain
stores may charge 50-100% at the retail level, but frequently retail premiums are less. Higher prices are necessary to offset
the higher production costs (per unit of production) of management, labour and lower yields. These differences vary with the
commodity. Some field crop producers, particularly cereals and forages, report very little change in yield while some horticultural
crops, such as tree fruits, significant differences in marketable yield have been observed. There are also higher marketing
costs as the markets currently have to be sought after, and this frequently requires greater transportation per unit of production.
There is, however, a greater demand than supplycurrently for most organic products of suitable quality. Many larger markets
require large quantities of consistent supply.Livestock feed is also a market for organic grains and forages to supply some
of the province's organic livestock producers. many organic farms operate with mixed crops and livestock enterprises and only
receive premium for a small part ( if any) of the overall production.
What is the transition Period?
The first few years of organic production are the hardest. This is called the transition period when both the soil and
the manager have to adjust to the new system. Insect and weed populations also adjust to the new system. Due to the unstable
nature of the yields and the fact that price premiums are frequently not available because the products do not qualify as
"certified organic," cash flow can be a problem. For this reason , farmers are usually encouraged to convert to
organic production slowly. Try 10 to 20% the first year, (always pick one of your best fields to start off with) and then
expand your organic acreage when you are more comfortable and confident in your new system. It may take over 5 years to become
totally organic, but in the long run it is more successful than a more rapid conversion especially if financial restraints
are a consideration.
Alternative Agriculture, National Academy Press, 1989, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW,Washington, D.C.
Journal of Alternative Agriculture, Institute of Alternative Agriculture. 9200 Edmonston Road, Suite 117, Greenbelt,
Maryland, 20770 Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, Haworth Press, 10 Alice Sheet, Binghamton, New York. 13904-1580
Organic Farming. Nicolas Lampkin, 1990 Farming Press Books, Ipswich, LPL 1RJ, United Kingdom Organic Field Crops Handbook,
1992, Canadian Organic Growers Organic Gardening Magazine, Rodale Press, Box 14. Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 18099-0014 The New
Farm, Magazine or Regenerative Agriculture, Rodale Pres
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