Farming Organic in Canada   Producers
Guest Speakers

Maria Rodale

Maria Rodale
CEO of Rodale Institute and Author of ‘Organic Manifesto- How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep us Safe.’

People today are more confused than ever about organic food. Is it more nutritious? What’s the difference between organic and natural? Isn’t it more important to eat “locally” produced food? Why are organic foods so expensive? Doesn’t the higher price make it elitist and therefore an unrealistic choice for working families? Is it possible to grow enough food to feed the world organically? With so much conflicting information, how can we possibly make the right choices?

In ORGANIC MANIFESTO: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep us Safe  Maria Rodale—journalist, activist, and mother—cuts through the confusion and misinformation to provide an indispensable and highly readable look at why chemical-free farming unquestionably holds the key to better health for us and for the planet.

Maria is the granddaughter of Rodale founder J.I. Rodale and was named chairman of the company in 2007 and CEO in 2009. She will travel from her home in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to attend Organic Connections.

Graham Strong
Graham Strong
Advocate for biodiversity and cultural activist from New South Wales, Australia, Graham Strong speaks on Regenerative Agriculture.

Strong is a producer, an advocate for biodiversity and a cultural activist from New South Wales, Australia. In keeping with our conference goals of “helping producers survive the current hard times” and “fostering a healthy environment and culture”, he will share his experiences from ‘Arcadia' a 4520 acre sheep and cropping operation  that incorporates biological farming practices, tourism and art.  

Arcadia’ has been in the Strong family for close to 100 years.  In the late 1980’s the rise of the rise in Salinity killed a wide area of trees beside the family farm. To deal with escalating salinity and other ecological problems in the area, he and other local farmers formed the Strontian Road Landcare Group. During these meetings, Graham learned much about natural systems and began to think differently about his farming practices. He and his family replanted wide areas to native vegetation and found ways to integrate production into the local patterns of nature. Just 5 years after starting his re-vegetation work, predatory insects living amid the growing expanses of native vegetation, were significantly reducing pest insect problems.

The Strong’s also host WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) as well as regular farm tours and a Farm Stay/Bed and Breakfast program using a 110 year old church that they moved to their property. 

Graham will also share his work incorporating Land Art on rural landscapes through The Meridian Project, Geoglyph’s or images in the land modeled and inspired by the Nazca lines in Peru. Their Meridian Festival encourages community engagement that is a powerful force for change. 

Dag Falck
Dag Falck
Organic Program Manager, Nature’s Path Foods Inc.

Dag Falck, Organic Program Manager for Nature’s Path Foods promotes organic as a means to achieve personal and environmental health while providing a sustainable income for producers.  With 15 years experience as an organic inspector, and on behalf of Nature’s Path he is an active participant in private, NGO and government organic initiatives for returning to healthy environments, clean and healthy food, and great natural taste.  He was the recipient of the Canadian Health Food Association Organics Achievement Award in 2008.

Are Natural claims riding the Organic Wave for free?
Natural label claims are now growing faster than the organic label.  This talk will examine what the customer is getting from products labelled “Natural”, and why marketers are benefitting.   Organic and Natural foods marketing grew up together and no doubt this supported the growth of both in the early days.  Is it still a symbiotic relationship benefitting both?  And how can we best safeguard the hard work gone into building organic production to where it is today?


Tom Cowell
what role the substitution of Organic with "Natural" products is playing in the demand for organic grains?

Tom Cowell is General Manager of Growers International Organic Sales Incorporated (GIOSI). Tom has been involved in the grain industry in Western Canada for over 20 years and the last eight of those have been in the organic sector. Tom is active in the marketing of the organic grains handled by GIOSI and therefore has a strong understanding of the market fundamentals for organic grains. In addition to his role at GIOSI
he has been active in organic industry associations such as the Federal Government's Organic Value Chain Round Table where he served as the Chair on Regulatory issues and is also currently an elected Board Member of the Organic Trade Association where he also participates as a member of the Canadian Advisory Council for COTA.

In this talk Tom will strive to provide insight on what role the substitution of Organic with "Natural" products is playing in the demand for organic grains? What is being done/ What isn't/ and What needs to be done will be discussed and explored?"

Derek Lynch
Derek Lynch, PhD
Canada Research Chair in Organic Agriculture, Nova Scotia Agricultural College

Derek Lynch is Associate Professor and CRC in Organic Agriculture at NSAC.  Derek’s research, much of it conducted on commercial organic farms, focuses on organic production and understanding the ecological and environmental impact of agriculture systems. Nationally, Derek has been very involved in the development of the new Canadian standards for organic agriculture and serves as chair of the Research and Innovation working group on the national Organic Value Chain Round Table.

Linking the farm process to the organic farm product: The overreaching goal of the Canadian organic standard is to develop farm enterprises that are ‘sustainable and harmonious with the environment’.  But do organic farms achieve these goals?  Synthesizing research results from Canada and abroad, Derek will present the case that the environmental benefits of organic agriculture are significant and worthy of support. Organic thus offers a new and holistic approach to the traditional concept of ‘value added’. The challenge is to help consumers and policy makers make these connections.

Maureen Bostock
Maureen Bostock
Board member of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Author: Growing Potatos Organically: From market garden to field crop
Maureen Bostock farmed in northwest British Columbia for 10 years before moving in 2002 with her partner, Elizabeth, to Sweet Meadow Farm in Balderson, Ontario. There she grows certified organic vegetables on 6 ½ acres which are sold at the farm gate, at the Perth Farmers? Market, to a local alternative grocery store and to other organic/local distribution programs in the area. She works part time as an organic inspector in the eastern Ontario region and is a member of the Independent Organic Inspectors Association. Maureen is a board member of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario and represents EFAO to the Canadian General Standards Board Organic Technical Committee which oversees changes to the Canadian Organic Standards. Maureen has written Growing Potatoes Organically: From market garden to field crop, the second publication in the COG Practical Skills Handbook series.

Paulette Millis
Rah! Rah! Raw Food Storage!”

“Join Paulette Millis, author and nutritional consultant, and learn how to quickly and easily make and store health promoting pickles, and many other vegetables without sugars and vinegars.   Lacto-fermented pickles are far less acid and build a healthy bowel, and a healthy immune system.  Watch your health and vitality increase as you use the fall bounty to easily  make  these foods to add to your diet.”
Paulette Millis speaks, trains, and writes about good nutrition.  She has 20 years experience helping people through life issues and healing challenges.  She is the author of the best sellers Eat Away Illness  and Cook Your Way to Health,  and numerous articles and columns.  Paulette is a Registered Orthomolecular Health Practitioner (ROHP), a Registered Nutritional Consulting Practitioner (RNCP) and  a Registered Social Worker.  “When it comes to nutrition, Paulette believes in the old saying “Everything in moderation”.

Contact: Paulette Millis, 306.244-8890
Andy Hammermeister
Andy Hammermeister
Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada

Dr. Andy Hammermeister grew up on a mixed farm in Saskatchewan and now is Manager of the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. Since 2002, his organic research has included: crop rotations, soil amendments, a variety of field crops and most recently black currants. Andy is currently managing the Organic Science Cluster ( , a large national organic research initiative advancing the science of organic across Canada.

Organic Research Rocks Agriculture!
Organic agriculture and food is facing more public scrutiny than ever. Consumers are seeking justification for their purchasing decisions amid expanding choices and marketing shifts. Meanwhile, organic producers are adjusting to the new realities of commoditization of organic products while dealing with the triple threat of fertility, weeds and weather. How is organic science serving the organic sector in Canada? This presentation will provide an overview of key organic research initiatives in Canada's Organic Science Cluster and beyond, and provide an opportunity for discussion about where organic research should be directed.

Steve Shirtliffe
Steve Shirtliffe
Associate Professor
Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan

I was raised on a grain and oilseed in Manitoba. After completing my B.Sc. in Agronomy I returned home to farm for the next five years. In 1992 I returned to the U of M where I received my PhD in 1999. Currently, I am an associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan. My position involves teaching, research and extension. My research program has projects in the areas of weed ecology and agronomy. Past and current projects have focused on the control of volunteer canola, oat agronomy and weed control in organic agriculture. In 2007 I was awarded a 5 year research chair for organic crop production from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture.

Changing weed populations under long-term organic crop production 
The hypothesis of this study is that the weed population dynamics differ between organic and conventional cropping systems. It is believed that weeds are more common under diverse organic cropping systems but less problematic.  The overall objective of this experiment is to determine how weed population dynamics differ between organic and conventional cropping systems and rotations.
Martin Meinert
Martin Meinert, CA, MBA
organic farmer

Martin Meinert is an organic farmer in Southwest Saskatchewan . He received the Century Family Farm award in 2010.  He has grown a variety of crops including Kamut, HRSW, durum, oats, barley, large green lentils, fall rye, perennial Fall Rye, caraway, camelina, brown flax, chickling vetch, yellow peas, forage peas and various forages (yellow clover, alfalfa and several grasses).  He is a chartered accountant who works offseason providing consulting, financial and tax services to various agricultural clients.  He strongly believes in on farm research and has cooperated and/or been involved with trials through the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, the SPARC station in Swift Current, OCIA Research and Education, OCIA Chapter 8 and ADOPT.  “If you try in on your farm, you know whether it works or not” or “what you have to do to improve the results.”

ADOPT projects
Martin currently manages two ADOPT projects.  One deals with Canada Thistle and the impact of depth of tillage/method of tillage.  Tillage was performed with a cultivator and noble blade.  Tillage depths of 3” 6” and 9” were done during 2010.  The other project deals with the timing of the termination of Yellow Blossom Sweet Clover and its impact on N fixation and moisture usage.  Timings were approximately 12” high, 18” high, 30% bloom and full bloom.  The weather and amount of moisture during this year had some effect on this project.

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Farm-to-Table Project Director

Bruce was born and raised on a diversified farm and ranch on the prairies of northeastern Montana.  The family farm raised cattle, hogs, sheep, poultry, and dryland and irrigated small grain crops and hay.  He worked eight years managing food manufacturing plants before moving back to eastern Montana.

Bruce’s background and experience in value-added agriculture, food manufacturing, and business management have given him a different perspective of the agricultural future of the northern Great Plains.  Bruce’s current projects include the Farm-to-Table Project, developing a culinary arts program at the local community college, a regional food and agriculture development center, a small food manufacturing business that uses local foods, a local foods restaurant and microbrewery, a community garden, a local foods store, a Farmers Market, two high tunnel projects, and an agricultural marketing cooperative.

How feeding ourselves can save our communities and our lives.
Can we feed ourselves?  Why should we?  How do we do it?  What would a local food system in this part of the world look like? - This presentation will highlight some of the efforts of a group of dedicated volunteers to re-establish local food systems on the prairies of eastern Montana and western North Dakota and how moving from producing “food ingredients” back to producing “food” can help reverse the steady deterioration of rural economies and rural communities.

Amy Jo Ehman
Amy Jo Ehman
Amy is a food columnist in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix and is heard talking about local food on CBC Radio

Amy Jo Ehman has been a champion for Saskatchewan-grown food since 2005, when she and her husband John pledged to eat locally for a year. Five years later, they’re still going strong! In May, she published a book inspired by that culinary adventure, Prairie Feast: A Writers’ Journey Home for Dinner. She is a food columnist in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix and is heard talking about local food on CBC Radio. Amy Jo grew up on the family farm at Craik and lives in Saskatoon.

Many consumers want more than good food. They want the assurance their food is rich in nutrients, safe from foreign additives, produced in a manner that sustains the environment and, when possible, tells the story of the farmer who produced it. That’s a tall order in this mass-produced, impersonal, adulterated food environment in which we live. Speaking from personal experience, Amy Jo relates her stories of connecting directly with producers and how that relationship could grow on a community scale.  Prairie Feast: A Writer's Journey Home for Dinner by Amy Jo Ehman, now in bookstores. For book news and events, go to the book blog:

Cathy Holtslander
Cathy Holtslander
the kind of agriculture and food policies that would make Canada a better place

Cathy Holtslander is an animator for the Peoples Food Policy Project. She works for Beyond Factory Farming, Canada's advocacy group for sustainable livestock production. She has been promoting organic agriculture in Saskatchewan and Canada through her involvement with SOD and the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund Committee for many years. She is also on the board of GRAIN, an international NGO that supports small farmers' efforts to maintain control over agricultural biodiversity and farmland.

The People's Food Policy Project is part of a powerful, vibrant food movement across Canada that is reclaiming and rebuilding our food system. The People's Food Policy Project is creating a food policy based on the principles of food sovereignty, that will ensure the provision of healthy food for all, will create a place for citizens in shaping food policy and programs, and will support the web of relationships among peoples and the natural world in which we live. How do we get there from here? And what can you do to help make it happen? Join Cathy Holtslander for a “kitchen table” discussion about the kind of agriculture and food policies that would make Canada a better place for farmers and eaters alike.

Foster Warriner

Foster Warriner
Any fool can make money in good times - knowing what to do in tough times may be the more valuable skill

Foster began farming with his parents in 1975.  He worked five years as an accountant before returning to farm full time in 1983.  He and Anita were married in 1989 and they started farming organically in 1997.  They have three children aged 16, 14, and 7 and an adult adopted daughter. Foster and Anita now farm 2800 acres of certified organic land near Alameda Sask.  They raise grains, oil seeds, legumes, and garden extensively.  Guests (especially those who can pull weeds) are always welcome.

Hard Financial Questions to Ask Yourself
Good decision making depends on having top quality accurate information. How can farmers make good decisions about rotations, crop mixes and sales decisions if they aren't aware of the financial implications of each? How does one go about determining a farm's cost of production? Any discussion that gives us another way of looking at these questions with a few simple tools can give us a new point of view.  Any fool can make money isn good times - knowing what to do in tough times may be the more valuable skill.

Gwen Simpson
Gwen Simpson
Owner, grower of Inspired Market Gardens near Carvel Alberta.

IMG sells sustainably-grown Herbs, Edible and Cut Flowers, Heirloom Tomato Plants, Specialty Greens, plus a number of Value-Added Products.  IMG hosts and partners events such as Rural Drives, Specialty Tastings, and the ‘World Basset Races’. Gwen combines her farm enterprise with writing, research, consulting and speaking, and is an instructor with the Organic Master Gardener program in Stony Plain.

Is all diversification good?
Inspired Market Gardens has just completed its 6th season of operation.  Although our principal products are herbs and flowers, we have tried a myriad of different produce and products (plants, fresh-cut, mixes, bundles, value-added), packaging (bins, bags, boxes, containers, jars), and marketing (farm store, farmer’s markets, events, wholesale, shows, partnerships, clusters), on-farm and off.  What has it taught us?  What worked, what didn’t?  And where, throughout all this trial and error, is the bottom line?

Gene Kesler
Gene Kesler
Clear Creek Organics
"Climbing the Organic Value Chain"

Gene returned to the family farm in Pangman Saskatchewan in 1979.  He has been a full time farmer - and full time community volunteer (earning the Provincial Volunteer award in 2005) -  ever since.  His farm consists of 2500 acres of grain, hay and pasture land, certified organic since 1997. When his son Ken showed interest in coming back to the farm Gene decided to "retire" to the position of CEO of Clear Creek Organics that produces and markets fresh and  processed  meat.

Climbing the Organic Value Chain; The production of organic meat is just the first step in climbing the value chain. Developing partnerships, compliance to regulations and marketing  are barriers that organic farmers  need to address to add value to their production. Clear Creek Organics have initiated the process in terms of organic beef products. The session will cover how Clear Creek met some of the challenges and will address future plans for the company including production opportunities for organic producers.

Sheila Hamilton, Sunworks Farm

Sheila Hamilton
Opportunities in Livestock

Sheila and her husband Ron own Sunworks Farm near Armena, Alberta. They raise a variety of organic poultry and livestock which they direct market at Farmer’s Markets in Edmonton and Calgary.  The farm has a mentorship program and holds an annual Family Farm Day for customers.  Sheila has a passion to get good food to the people.  She wants families to start connecting with their food source and feels that good, healthy food consumed around the table is the basis for a caring community.

Opportunities in Livestock
Sheila will speak of her experiences raising livestock and direct marketing.  She will discuss adapting your production and the products that you sell to the part of the country you live and market in, the pros and cons of diversification of livestock on one farm, and how big do you need to be to make a living on the farm.

Diane Knight
Diane Knight
Dr. Diane Knight is a Professor in the Department of Soil Science at the University of Saskatchewan, and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture Research co-chair in Soil Biological Processes.   Diane has been involved with organic research since 2001, focusing her research on biological controls of nutrient supply and availability.  Most recently, she has been examining improving phosphorus availability and uptake, as well as the role of annual legumes as green manures or cash crops in organic systems.
Jessie VanderPoel
Jessie VanderPoel

Jessie VanderPoel is the new junior trader with Grain Millers Inc. Jessie grew up in Eastern South Dakota on a cattle feedlot. She attended South Dakota State University and received a degree in Animal Science. After graduating college, Jessie returned back to her family’s operation to help manage their cattle and hay business, where she gained practical and technical agronomical knowledge in South Dakota crops. Her husband, Scott, is in his first year of veterinary medicine school at the University of Minnesota. They now reside in St. Paul, MN.

Leonard Piggot
Leonard Pigott
Holistic Management

Raised on a mixed farm in southwest Saskatchewan, Leonard now ranches at Dysart Sask. He holds degrees in Arts and Science and Agriculture from the University of Saskatchewan. He’s also been a Registered Educator with the Non-Profit Center for Holistic Management in Albuquerque, New Mexico for over twenty years. He knows this process will have a positive and lasting impact on your life.

HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT:  Holistic Management is a decision making framework that incorporates financial planning, land planning, grazing planning, biological monitoring and team building. The process increases soil health, reduces erosion, improves biodiversity and returns land to productivity by working with Nature. It is not a “quick fix” but it is guaranteed to correct the problems that plague societies around the world.

Kim Tomilin
Kim Tomilin
Perennial Forage Crop Rotation Comparisons

Kim Tomilin farms 1450 ac of certified organic grains, perennial forages and specialty crops in northeast Saskatchewan. The Tomilin farm transitioned into organic production in the mid 1990s to improve environment and food quality and health. Kim feels being involved in producer groups and organic research is important to the growing future of organic food production. He is on the board of directors of Parkland Organic Crop Improvement CO-OP OCIA Chapter #6 an organic producer group and is assisting in their ADOPT demonstration project.

Perennial Forage Crop Rotation Comparisons in Organic Cropping Systems.
For organic producers the GMO contamination of alfalfa seed stocks is a real possibility and serious concern. Having alternatives to alfalfa for the future is a priority. This project examines two varieties of cicer milkvetch and bird’sfoot trefoil as alternatives to alfalfa. The project is supported by ADOPT and by an OCIA Research and Education Micro Grant.  The project is being conducted on the Sparling Farm, which is northeast of Preeceville. Ryan Sparling is doing the work to set up and conduct the project.

Anne Kirk
Anne Kirk
The science is in!

Anne Kirk grew up on a grain and oilseed farm in Manitoba.  After completing a B.Sc. in Agronomy she continued on to graduate school at the University of Manitoba and received a M.Sc. in 2009.  Anne’s M.Sc. research focused on selecting wheat cultivars for organic crop production.  Currently, she works as a research technician at the University of Manitoba with research focusing on organic soybean and dry bean production and organic wheat breeding.

The science cluster is supporting the Glenlea long-term crop rotation study for investigations of crop performance, pest interactions, soil quality and economic performance.  At the end of the funding period, a full 20 years of data will be available for analysis.  Results from 2010 showed that the highest yielding cropping system was an organic one!  Wheat in the forage-grain rotation with manure added yielded 42 bushels per acre – which was 3 bu/acre more than the closest conventional crop.  Analysis of soil carbon at Glenlea has shown that organic systems have more carbon in the subsoil than conventional systems. 

The science cluster is supporting a series of no-till and low-till experiments. Previous research has demonstrated that terminating green manure crops with the blade roller is a good alternative to tillage since it conserves water, reduces arable response weed growth and maintains adequate grain yields of following crops.  However, Vaisman et al. (2010, in review) discovered that lack of tillage significantly reduced soil N supply.  Current studies with the blade roller are focused on learning more about how to “construct” a more weed suppressing mulch and on mulch decomposition characteristics.  Other on-going projects include a long-term organic no-till study that was initiated in 2008, late season cover crops and using ruminant animals to process green manure crops, thereby reducing the need for tillage. 

The science cluster is supporting small scale organic wheat breeding programs in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and an organic oat breeding program in Manitoba.  The organic breeding programs focus on the needs of organic producers which appear to differ from those of conventional farmers.  Although differences arise in areas of plant nutrition, weed control and soil abiotic and biotic properties, the organic breeding programs will use many of the same breeding objectives and methods as conventional programs.  A previous study found that selection environment was found to affect yield, with organically selected populations yielding higher than conventionally selected populations under organic management.




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