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Certified Organic: A Sustainable Initiative

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The media recently jumped on the report that the federal government spent $914,000 to establish an organic research and education centre at Nova Scotia Agricultural College last July.

The media recently jumped on the report that the federal government spent $914,000 to establish an organic research and education centre at Nova Scotia Agricultural College last July. The reason the Minister of Agriculture, Lyle Vanclief, gave for locating it in Truro, NS, is because it would be halfway between Canadian producers and European buyers.

While it can't be denied that this is a step in the right direction, there are other organic efforts that have been taking place across the country quietly and without much hype. The Back to the Farm Research Foundation here in Davidson, SK., is one such initiative.

Founded in 1973, we were certified as organic on Jan. 8, 2002 by the Canadian Organic Certification Co-Operative Ltd. Our research and demonstration farm, which was established March 2, 2001, remains the first certified organic research and demonstration farm in Canada. One of our policies is to develop self-sufficient farms and communities that will produce and store all the foods that can be produced in that community with a minimum amount of energy.

This year we had a busy spring, seeding test plots and developing a five-year budget for the research and demonstration farm and the organic information centre with the help of Grant McWilliams, head of Saskatchewan Industry and Resources in Moose Jaw. Our five-year budget is $1,460,500, which includes the cost of employing a staff of eight and building a 40- by 77-foot straw bale, solar-heated building with a demonstration greenhouse.

A recent article in the Winnipeg Free Press quoted an international group of petroleum specialists who stated that global supplies of crude oil will peak as early as 2010 and then start to decline, ushering in an era of soaring energy prices and economic upheaval.

At the rate we are burning fossil fuels, there is little doubt in my mind that these experts are right, and eight years is a very short time to prepare for such a major event. The reason our foundation is building the straw bale office and information centre is to demonstrate methods of energy efficiency in housing, greenhouse production and livestock and poultry housing.

In the interest of promoting chemical-free, sustainable agricultural practices, the information centre itself will serve two main purposes. It will provide information on where to buy and how to sell certified organic products. (One of the problems today is that supermarkets are still obsessed with marketing non-organic products and rarely advertise the few they do carry.) The centre will also provide production information for certified organic farmers, gardeners or individuals who wish to become certified organic producers.

Qualified information centre staff will answer questions, develop a library system and send questionnaires to all the certified organic farmers and gardeners in the province to ask them about their farms. The best source of information on organic farming and gardening is other organic farmers, so we plan to co-ordinate a program that allows farmers to act as resource people by answering questions about their areas of specialty. Certified organic farmers who agree to take part in the program will be registered in their particular soil zone and with all the pertinent data related to their farming area. They will be able to help their neighbours make the transition to organic farming and solve other growing problems that arise.

Behind the information centre will be a demonstration herb garden supervised by at least one staff member who is knowledgeable in growing herbs. We would also like to support other certified organic research and demonstration farms that may be organized throughout the province.

What our foundation is proposing is nothing new. All early pioneers needed the help of their neighbours to function on their homesteads. Early homesteaders will tell you that life was very exciting because there was a continuous exchange of information at local schoolhouse dances, programs, parties, ball games, auctions and picnics. Life was never dull.

If you want to participate in an exciting initiative, join the organic farm movement. Get involved and support this certified organic research and demonstration farm. Make your cheque payable to the Back to the Farm Research Foundation, Box 69, Davidson, SK, S0G 1A0. All donors will receive a charitable income tax receipt. Phone: 306-567-4260.

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