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Growing Organic

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There were 508 certified organic farms in B.C. at last count, and the numbers are growing every year with conventional farmers going organic and more people starting organic farms from scratch.

In its annual report, Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia, said the movement was gaining momentum. "While the number of conventional farms is decreasing, the number of organic farms in increasing… Over the past year, inquiries to the COABC office have doubled," wrote COABC president Glen Wakeling.

The COABC admitted there were still roadblocks to success, notably the regulated marketing sectors’ attempts to control the distribution of organic food and the presence of certifiers from outside the province, and even the country, attempting to certify B.C. farmers "using organic standards that are inferior to our own."

Overcoming these obstacles to continue success at home and abroad means constant vigilance, keeping organic standards in this province and Canada beyond reproach.

Every organic farm is audited annually, with an outside agency inspecting farms to ensure that standards are being met. "They look at our operation, the maps of rotations, and all of our sales records," says Harvey. "We have to guarantee quality, so there has to be a paper trail back to the grower."

Harvey feels that certification practices are slowly becoming harmonized to the point where an agreed upon global standard can one day be applied to everybody – the highest standard, rather than a compromised and convenient one.

"I’m always amazed by the level of care that goes into organic farming. For example, the Helmers – local organic potato farmers – rotate their crops every six years, so their soil is always the ultimate soil. That’s five years of composting and planting cover crops, and just taking care of the soil before they plant again."

Harvey says there are currently seven organic farms in the Pemberton-D’Arcy area, out of maybe 35 farms. A few years ago there were only five farms, and she has heard that others are looking into the possibility of going organic in the future.

"Organic farming is really the only agricultural sector that is growing at all, that farmers are being profitable at," says Harvey.

She credits the change to the growing awareness on the part of consumers, and to the farmers themselves – "The farmers don’t want to eat their own crops, with chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and they don’t want to feed it to their family."

At the same time that the federal government was contributing millions to organic farming, they were cutting funding to research genetically modified foods – a GM crop research lab at the University of Saskatchewan recently had its funding pulled by that provincial government.

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