This Week's Highlights:

  • Organics 3.0, an initiative of IFOAM - Organics International, is raising the bar to prove environmental stewardship claims behind the organic brand.
  • This year's harvest of organic crops in western Canada is estimated to be 85% complete and advancing quickly this week, with many farms reporting having now wrapped up 2018 field operations.
  • Based on our experience, nearly everyone interested in regenerative organics can learn a lot, and benefit their organizational initiatives by taking the Nutrition Farming course. 
Sustainable Grain Heads to Ottawa
 
Sustainable Grain was represented by Derrick Coupland at the recent Canadian Organic Trade Association (COTA) policy conference and Parliament Hill lobby day last week. Derrick came back energized and well-informed about new developments on the cutting edge of the regenerative organic global movement.

Of special note was an update on IFOAM-Organics International “Organics 3.0”.  The new movement or next generation in organics was initially presented at BIOFACH, a large international gathering of the organic industry held in Germany in February of this year. This movement of evolution in the organics space highlights 6 key features to drive the change:

1)    A culture of innovation
2)    Continuous improvement towards best practice
3)    Diverse ways to ensure transparency and integrity
4)    Inclusive of wider sustainability interests
5)    Empowerment from farm to the final consumer
6)    True value and cost accounting

Through these 6 features the organization is developing further objectives and specific details on accomplishing these goals.  Further, the 6 key features of Organics 3.0 align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The vision for the next generation of the organics industry (farmer, industry, consumer) is to elevate expectations, create inclusiveness beyond ‘certified organic’ and look at sustainability holistically, while ultimately reflecting fair economic return through the value chain.  Driving this forward will be innovation and technology and a broader and far more inclusive industry through mind-set and evolved value-chains.  
2018 Organic Grain Harvest Update
 
Thanks to much-improved weather across the Prairies last week, many farms are finally wrapping up the 2018 harvest. Some quality downgrading has occurred, but anecdotal reports are that it was less severe than expected. It’s estimated that overall 85% of organic crops in western Canada are now off.
 
2018 yields are reported to be average. Areas that experienced the worst of the hot, dry summer saw the impact with yields coming in below normal. Sporadic hail events took their usual toll.

Organic crop yields are understandably less than their conventional counterparts in western Canada. There is a very wide range in reports from transitioning and organic farmers about 'how much' less though. It seems to depend heavily on the time that has passed since the last application of commercial fertilizer, and the degree to which regenerative techniques have been deployed to help control weeds and to naturally increase soil fertility within the organic field crop production system of the farm.

What is 'Nutrition Farming'?

An Important Learning Opportunity - opinion written by Brenda Tjaden
 
Next month in Winnipeg, soil health pioneers Graeme Sait and Joel Williams will be offering the Nutrition Farming program, geared towards farmers, agronomists and organic industry stakeholders. The course is being hosted by our friends at Ag Solutions and we strongly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about regenerative and organic farming.
 
Farmers Joe and Wendy Wecker of Sedley, Saskatchewan are arguably western Canada's leading thinkers in regenerative organic field crop production. I was inspired to sign up for this course when I met Joe and his family in 2017.

But right before it was time to head off, I started questioning this idea, for me, a career market economist to sit with actual farmers and agronomists for 4 days of soil chemistry? I hardly passed my aggie undergrad science courses 25 years ago. It seemed like a stretch, and one that I admit I was tempted to back out of.
 
As it turned out, I was greatly rewarded for showing up. The relationships alone have more than paid me back for the course fees. Within the first half-hour of the first day, it became clear this course would be a critical step in my journey towards building new environmentally-conscious food value chains. Graeme and Joel expertly cover all aspects of how modern consumers expect farmers to maintain soil health and raise food that is legitimately safe and nutritious. What’s more, they left us with a clear view to make farming really fun.
 
Alex Boersch, another Nutrition Farming champion, recently left a trading career in Toronto to return to his family's commercial grain farm near Elie, Manitoba, driven by a vision for regenerative organic. Inspired by the life-changing knowledge he has gained from taking the course last year, Alex says, "This knowledge needs to get out there. Our food production and consumption system is broken. Climate change is a serious reality, and the only answers that will have an impact quick enough to make a difference are in agriculture."
 
These statements are all true, yet the establishment in western Canadian agriculture isn't openly acknowledging them, let alone actively working towards solutions. Yet, there are signs that things are really starting to change now. Online and at workshops like this, awareness and efforts are moving quickly to solve issues related to soil degradation in conventional cropping systems.
 
Based on his extensive network of like-minded farmers, Joe Wecker estimates that thanks to participation in past Nutrition Farming courses, well over 800,000 acres worth of small, medium and large-scale grain farms across western Canada have been implementing regenerative soil-building techniques with success. It's helping many to transition land to certified organic with minimal weed pressure and yield drag. All of this adds up to more sustainable long-term economic viability, which is pertinent to every type of farm today.

Alex Boersch further stresses that, "as a farmer I would love to get paid for quality rather than just quantity on both organic and conventional systems. This course is an essential stepping stone for achieving success in creating market value for soil health."
 
Education is needed across the industry to support farming's move towards environmentally-conscious food production. We simply weren’t taught this stuff in university; in fact, most of us paid a hefty tuition to learn some bad habits there. While the regenerative organic movement gains momentum all over the world, there are precious few locally-hosted events like this that can offer a comprehensive deep dive into soil health awareness and food nutrition, and practical tactics that can be deployed immediately on farms in western Canada to make a difference. 
 
Please contact me directly for more information. If there are enough followers of Sustainable Grain willing to sign up, we may qualify for a discount. Email me at brenda@sustainablegrain.ca to learn more or send me a text at (204) 296-6265.

We're happy to help.

Have further questions? Drop us a line by emailing our founder, Brenda Tjaden at brenda@sustainablegrain.ca or visit our website at sustainablegrain.ca

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