Organic news bytes

Consumers want organic, so why are farmers wary?

Paying $8 for a small box of breakfast cereal might seem outrageous. But an increasing number of Canadians are willing to pay 10, 20 or 40 percent more for certain grocery store items, if the food is produced organically.

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One Earth Farms acquires two beef brands

Toronto-based One Earth Farms is looking to broaden its reach with the acquisition of western beef brand Chinook Organics and its private label, Diamond Willow Organics.

Once a corporate grain farm, One Earth Farms left behind crops after its acquisition of beef producer Beretta Farms in 2013.

Since then, One Earth Farms has purchased Canadian Premium Meats, Heritage Angus Beef and Sweetpea Baby Food. One Earth Farms also owns a Toronto-based catering company called Beretta Kitchen.

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Grocery Stores Are Running Out of Organic Milk

About once a week the phone rings at the Dill Pickle Food Co-op in Chicago’s artsy Logan Square neighborhood with the same question: Got milk? Organic, to be exact.

“I’ll have people call up and say, hey, I know the truck’s comingon Tuesday, can you put aside three half-gallons?” said Dana Bates-Norden, 33, who works as the buyer of perishable goods for the store, which in 2014 started selling out of the glass-bottled milk it gets from Midwest organic dairies within two days. “When I first started two years ago, I felt like I ended up having to write off a lot of organic milk, and now, I really can’t keep it in stock.”

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True North on the verge of official federal certification

Manitoba is within weeks of having a modern federally certified livestock slaughter plant, says Calvin Vaags, owner and operator of True North Foods near Carman.

“We are currently operating right now as a provincial plant but we are actively working towards our federal certification and it shouldn’t be that far away. I am estimating a month to six weeks,” Vaags told the recent annual meeting of Manitoba Beef Producers.

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Exploring the transition to organic farming

Transitioning to organic farming presents challenges, but the benefits may outweigh them, said speakers at a session on organics at Ag Days last month.

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Biotech bits

U.S. approves first biotech apple that resists browning

U.S. regulatorson Fridayapproved what would be the first commercialized biotech apple, rejecting efforts by the organic industry and other GMO critics to block the new fruit.

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New organic farmer forum

4 Organic Farm Talk logo compressed small

Organic Farm Talkwas started by organic Saskatchewan organic producers Cody Straza and Allison Squires.This is a space where organic producers can come together and exchange knowledge and ideas about organic farming practices and other related issues. This site also provides an area for consumers who are interested in learning more about organic farming to ask their questions directly to organic producers. Everyone is welcome to join! This site is also mobile friendly so you can check it while you're on the go or in the field. Clickhereto sign up.


Register your farm to avoid spraying

This is your annual reminder to send an email or a quick letter to Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship to get on the no-spray list. This list is shared with Municipal Pesticide programs so that they are aware of your farm's organic status when spraying roadside weeds. The contact person at CWS isThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship, Box 80, Building 1218, 123 Main Street, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 1AS.

Just to be sure that all of your bases are covered, you should also make contact with your local aerial sprayer to ensure that they program your farm's GPS coordinates into their systems.


Organic food processing survey

The Food Development Centre and MAFRD, in partnership with the Canada Organic Trade Association are conducting a first ever national survey of the specific challenges that organic food manufacturers face in bringing value-added organic food products to market.

If your business manufacturers organic processed food products to sell at Farmers' Markets, retail outlets or through any other sales channel, we would love to hear from you. Results of the survey will be used to help improve the business environment for organic food processing in Canada.

Clickhereto go to the survey


New farmer survey

Hello farmers and friends of farmers!

If you are currently farming, want to be a farmer, or have recently exited farming, we need to hear from you! Please take a few minutes to complete this survey to support the next generation of farmers in Canada.

The National New Farmer Coalition and the University of Manitoba have put together a survey to assess the needs of new farmers in Canada where it concerns policy and educational opportunities. The results from this survey will be used to develop a National New Farmer Policy Platform that we aim to share with all levels of government. It will also document the sources of new farmer learning and make suggestions on how to improve this training in Canada. In order to give weight to our recommendations, we need as many farmer voices as possible.

Please forward this survey to everyone in your farming/foodie network.

Clickhereto go to the survey

Farm profiles

Ranch pencils out profit with bale, swath grazing

Steve Kenyon uses a lot of multi-purpose farm equipment, and he doesn’t own any of it.

As well, the no-till drill, the fertilizer spreader, the combine and the heavy harrows all look remarkably alike.

They are all cows.

The owner of Greener Pastures Ranching Ltd. near Westlock, Alta., has been ranching for 18 years and has never owned a tractor. Nor has he owned any cattle for the last several years, although he manages 1,500 head on 3,500 acres of leased land.

He has fed cattle for 56 cents per cow per day at best and $1.24 per head per day at worst by custom grazing on his own land and that of other pasture owners and farmers.

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Organic news bytes

B.C. to weed out false organic produce claims

The provincial government is moving to stamp out bogus organic claims being made by farmers that do not have third-party certification. New regulations will restrict the use of the word “organic” to describe only products that have been certified by a national or provincial certification program, effectively closing a loophole that had allowed B.C. farmers to use the term without being certified, provided they were not selling their products outside B.C. As part of the new strategy — aimed at providing consumers with assurance that products meet accepted standards — the province will create a new, streamlined provincial certification system.

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Musing on going organic

The scene ends in horror. No matter how many times I replay. Telling the farming community and anyone else who would listen that “I, Toban Dyck, am going organic” is like saying, “thanks for letting me spend a couple years on the family farm; now I’m going to plunge it into bankruptcy,” while wearing a clown costume. This is all in my head, of course, exposing more about me than those around me. But I don’t think I’m alone. I bet others share this fear, and perhaps this curiosity.

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U.S. restaurant chain suspends pork sales over welfare issues

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said it would suspend pork sales at one-third of its U.S. restaurants, following a routine audit that revealed one of its suppliers was not complying with its animal welfare standards.

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You are what you eat—and what it eats too

A dozen years ago, a New York Times Magazine article titled “Power Steer” changed the way Americans thought about meat. “We are what we eat, it is often said,” wrote author Michael Pollan, “but of course that is only part of the story. We are what what we eat eats too.”

A bit of an awkward phrase, perhaps, but a salient point, not lost on the thousands of Americans who collectively plunk down $380 million a year for grass-fed beef. When we eat animals, we are inheriting their diet—as well as several other aspects of their lives.

But what about when we eat plants? Plants don’t, strictly speaking, eat, but they are no less embedded in their ecological relationships than animals are. Perhaps most importantly, plants take up nutrients from the soil in which they grow, and the meal on offer varies tremendously depending on how that soil is managed. So does it matter, for human nutrition, what our plant-based foods eat?

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Organic wheat commands premium prices over conventional

Organic wheat is selling for 500 percent higher than conventional wheat and there is no indication it will drop soon.

Jay Crandall, a grain commodity merchant with Wetaskiwin Co-op, said the little organic wheat that is available is selling into the milling market for $20 a bushel, or $735 per tonne.

This year, organic feed wheat is selling for $16.50 per bu., or $610 a tonne, if it is available, compared to $585 a tonne last year. 

At the same time, conventional feed wheat is selling for $4 per bu., or $147 per tonne last year.

“The spread is very extreme this year,” said Crandall, who finds organic wheat for his customers. 

“The wheat market is very short.”

Wheat is the main feed in organic poultry rations. 

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Organic sector looking to strong future

When you hear the word “organic” do you think of vegetables, meat, grain or something else?
The diversity of Manitoba’s organic sector makes communicating with and serving its members a challenge for industry organizations, one the sector is well prepared to accept thanks to a recent planning session that left them invigorated and with a solid plan for the future.

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A fresh start for Saskatchewan organic industry association

Members of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD) met in Saskatoon to consider the organization’s future direction. Members voted unanimously to adopt a new set of bylaws resulting in new name, membership structure and funding model.

SaskOrganics is the new name for the revitalized industry association. From this point forward, everyone who is certified organic in Saskatchewan will be a member removing the requirement to purchase a membership fee to belong. Having all certified organic entities in the province as members will create a much stronger body and more representative voice to enable SaskOrganics to better fulfil its mission to advocate for a sustainable and thriving organic community through leadership in research, market development and communications. As an alternative to the membership fee funding model, SaskOrganics is working with Organic Alberta, Manitoba Organic Alliance and organic industry partners to establish a more sustainable funding mechanism - The Prairie Organic Development Fund (PODF) - for the organic industry on the prairies.

Predators, parasites, pests and the paradox of biological control

When a bird swoops down and grabs a caterpillar devouring your backyard garden, you might view it as a clear victory for natural pest control.

But what if that caterpillar is infected with larvae from a tiny parasitic wasp—another agent of biological pest control. Who should you root for now, the bird or the wasp?

A new study from University of Michigan researchers suggests that the gardener should cheer for both of them or, more precisely, for the struggle between the predator and the parasite. That kind of competition—even when it involves one creature killing and eating the other in what ecologists call intraguild predation—strengthens and stabilizes biological control systems, the U-M scientists found.

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Biotech buzz

Conventional ag wages losing war on organics

Conventional agriculture is fighting back in the public relations battle against the disciples of organic and non-genetically modified agriculture.

Unfortunately, it is likely too little, too late.

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Panic-free GMOs

It’s easy to get information about genetically modified food. There are the dubious anti-GM horror stories that recirculate through social networks. On the other side, there’s the dismissive sighing, eye-rolling, and hand patting of pro-GM partisans. But if you just want a level-headed assessment of the evidence in plain English, that’s in pretty short supply. Fortunately, you’ve found the trove.

Click here for to read a thoughtful series of blog articles