Organic Farming FAQ
Q1. I have just purchased or hope to purchase a farm. I would like to farm it organically. Can you give me some information on crops that I can grow and what I need to do to be organic?
There are many things that will help you determine which crops can be grown on a farm, such as farm location, climate, and soil types. Your farming experience/knowledge and your time availability will also be factors in determining which crops are most suited to you.
For more information on local crop suitability for your soils and climate you should contact the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A first step to determining what you should grow is to determine what markets are available in your area and what you need to do to supply the quality and quantity that your customer or selling agency will require. Organic crops have some special needs and will require more effort to market them. Grains are generally easier to plant, harvest and market than fruits or vegetables. General information on organic farming is in the OMAFRA factsheet called Introduction to Organic Farming. The ministry also produces other publications on starting a farm. Also see the factsheets Starting an Organic Farm and Transition to Organic Crop Production.
Q2. I want to begin farming organically. How will this be different from the more conventional farming practices that I already use?
Organic production of crops is very similar to regular production for planting, harvesting. Varieties are usually the same. Fertility, weeds and other pests need to be managed in a more intensive way. Crop rotation and timing of mechanical cultivation are critical to success. The integration of livestock, to help supply manure/compost nutrients will also be a benefit. Consider joining several of the organic farming associations such as Canadian Organic Growers (COG) or Ecological Farmers of Ontario (EFO) to increase your network of organic farming contacts especially among other organic farmers in your area. The OMAFRA factsheet called Introduction to Organic Farming lists organizations and their addresses. For more information there is also a Directory of Organics available from COG, and the Guelph Organic Agriculture Conference that is held each January at the University of Guelph.
Q3. Are there regulations or standards for organic production?
The Canadian government implemented regulations for organic products on June 30, 2009. The regulations require mandatory certification to the revised Canadian Organic Standards (Canadian Organic Production Systems Standards: General Principles and Management Standards, and the Permitted Substances List) for agricultural products represented as organic in import, export and inter-provincial trade, or that bear the federal organic agricultural product legend or logo. There are several certification bodies serving Ontario farms and processors. Contact these organizations to get a information on how to be certified. The cost of certification is about $500-$1500+/yr per operation depending on your farm size and the complexity of your operation.
For more information on certification and addresses and links to details of the organic regulations and standards see the infosheet Organic Food and Farming Certification.
Q4. Is organic farming expanding?
In 2009 there were 716 certified organic farms in Ontario with approximately 115,000 acres of certified cropland. This represents a 50% growth in farm numbers since 1998 and farm acreage growth of 90% over that period. Growth of organic food sales in North America is reported to be 15-20% per year for the past 10 years and has grown from $5 Billion to over $27 billion during that period for North America. During this decade we have also see a growth in the availability and diversity of organic food products and market opportunities for producers.
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