Why Transition to Organic Farming?
Strong Consumer Demand
Organic food and beverage sales are the fastest growing sector in agri-food today, as consumers are increasingly concerned with how their food is produced.
*Source Canada Organic Trade Association
Canadian Organic Trade Association (COTA): COTA produces valuable market reports for the Canadian organic industry. From the flagship Canadian Organic Market Report to specialized reports like Organic Food Processing, this research equips businesses and policy makers with valuable market insights and trends for the sector.
Organic Production on the Prairies is Increasing
You won’t be alone! To learn more about the organic production ‘by the numbers’, have a look at the Organic Agriculture in the Prairies Data reports located here.
While each operation is different and profitability is based on a number of factors, in general, organic operations can be more profitable due to reduced input costs and higher prices for commodities. It is easier to make a living off less land, so you don’t have to ‘go big or get out’. It is encouraged to establish your organic farm plan, do market research and calculate costs of production.
Organic Crop Production Costs: An EXEL or PDF worksheet for calculating estimated costs of production on organic operations can be downloaded from the Manitoba Agriculture website. *Note: There are many worksheets on this site, so ensure you select the one entitled “Organic Crop Production Costs”.
Current Organic Grain Prices: Organic Price Quotes updated monthly, along with market commentaries.
Environmental and Health Benefits
There is more and more evidence of the benefits of organic agriculture on environment and human & animal health. The following organizations offer a wealth of scientific research to support these benefits.
Where do I begin?
Start by doing as much research as you can into organic production methods, to help make an informed decision as to whether organic production will be a good fit for you and your operation. A good place to start is our Production Resources web page. As with any new business, there are many factors to consider to ensure success. A strong organic farm plan ensures a sound approach.
Also referenced on our Production Resources page, the Pivot & Grow website will provide you with great information and resources to support you through the transition process. (click on the pivot icon below)
Also helpful is the Organic Value Chain Roundtable‘s three publications:
- Organic Advantage: Transition to higher profits – Field Crops.
- Organic Advantage: Transition to higher profits – Beef Production.
- Organic Advantage: Transition to higher profits – Vegetable Production.
Learn about the Transition Period
The Canadian Organic Standards require that land be managed according to the organic standards for 36 months prior to harvest of the first organic crop. This period is known as the transition period.
Specific transition requirements are in section 5.1 of the General Principles and Management Standards. During transition, production must meet all of the many standards requirements, including but not limited to the following.
- The land must be managed as organic for 36 months prior to the first organic harvest and during the last 12 months of this period, it must be under the supervision of an organic certification body (i.e. that the farm has been reviewed and approved as a transitional organic farm).
- The operation shall aim at a complete transition of its production. During the transition period, the operation
can maintain, in addition to the production in transition, a non-organic system of production (split operation) that shall be entirely separate and identified separately, pending its incorporation into the overall transition process.
- Production units must have distinctly-defined boundaries. Boundaries must be readily visible and defined on a map.
- Buffer zones between organic and non-organic production must be at least eight meters wide and this production may not be used or sold as organic. This can include permanent hedgerows, windbreaks, permanent roads or physical barriers.
- Production units cannot alternate between being organic and non-organic production. If you have a problem with a field it cannot be rotated between organic and non-organic.
Familiarize yourself with the Organic Standards & Regulations
Visit our website for more information and to access the Canadian Organic Standards-General Principles and Management Standards, and Permitted Substances Lists. You will need to have a solid understanding of what is and isn’t allowed under organic management.
Familiarize yourself with the Certification Process
Contact a Certification Body to get the process started
Visit our website for list of accredited certifying bodies in Saskatchewan and Canada.
It will be helpful for you to connect with the Organic Community, for news, events, and other information. A great place to start is to sign up to our newsletter. And you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
SaskOrganics holds a number of events throughout the year: Webinars, field days, workshops, Conferences and Trade Shows. These events are great ways to keep the education process going as well as network with other organic or transitioning producers as well as industry representatives.
Get to know an organic neighbor! If you know someone in your area that is an organic producer, this can be one of your most valuable tools for expanding your knowledge. Other organic farmers are usually happy to share knowledge and experience (even mistakes!) with you as they were once in your position.
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture Crops and Irrigation Branch has prepared some information about planning for your transition period through preparing fertility and weed management strategies. You can access the information here.
Start your organic transition on a high note. Dr. Martin Entz from the University of Manitoba Natural Systems Agriculture Department has written a good article about preparing adequately for your transition through addressing fertility and weed control so you set yourself up for a successful first organic harvest. You can read the article here.