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First Canadian Agricultural Research Farm Receives Organic Certification

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The organic research and demonstration farm operated by the Back to the Farm Research Foundation at Davidson, Sask. is the first agricultural research farm or station in Canada to receive organic certification. We received our organic certification certificate on Jan.

The organic research and demonstration farm operated by the Back to the Farm Research Foundation at Davidson, Sask. is the first agricultural research farm or station in Canada to receive organic certification. We received our organic certification certificate on Jan. 8, 2002 from the Canadian Organic Certification Co-Operative based at Swift Current, Sask.

On March 6, 2001, after 55 years of farming, the last 32 years as organic, I retired and rented my farm to the Back to the Farm Research Foundation for the annual property taxes. I continue to reside in the house and have access to the garden. The research foundation has access to all of the farmland and the farm buildings. Almost 600 acres of the 640-acre farm have been seeded to alfalfa and timothy hay with some Russian rye grass. Thirty-five acres are cultivated. Unfortunately, in 2001, we experienced a severe drought in the western part of Saskatchewan and no test plots were seeded.

Central Location

The farm is in a good location for a certified organic research and demonstration farm. It borders the four-lane Highway #11, five kilometres (three miles) south of Davidson, the midway town between Saskatchewan's two major cities, Regina and Saskatoon. It is also on a direct route from Florida to Alaska.

The Back to the Farm Research Foundation was sponsored by Local 614 of the National Farmers Union on Nov. 27, 1973. It is chartered as a non-profit organization and can issue receipts for charitable donations. We have been financed on charitable donations for the last 28 years.

Our main programs have been working in the policy areas of health, agriculture and the environment. In 1983 we sponsored the Canadian Organic Producers Marketing Co-operative Limited. It was the first organic marketing co-op in Canada. We set up a cleaning and processing plant at Girvin, Sask., and marketed certified organic cereal grains, oilseeds and legumes to the United States, European and Canadian markets. Unfortunately, we went bankrupt in 1992. In December 1991, while in Ottawa making a presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture, I tried to sell organic products to the head chef of the House of Commons, Rhonda Warle, but no luck. The present head chef, Jud Simpson, told me a few days ago that they have had certified organic food on their menu since September 2001.

Future Projects

The organic and demonstration farm now has three main objectives or projects. We hope to do research on intercropping, or what is sometimes called the science of allelopathy. It means growing two or more crops in the same field at the same time for the purpose of controlling weeds and pests or for soil improvement.

Pesticides were designed for biological warfare during the First and Second World Wars. They were created to kill people or vegetation and were never intended for agricultural purposes. It was reported in the Western Producer last spring that 22 weeds in Canada are now resistant to herbicides.

As soon as we can afford it, we will start raising certified organic poultry and livestock under the healthiest conditions possible without growth hormones and antibiotics. This will demonstrate how it can be done as nature planned it, and as it was done prior to the introduction of pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics in the early 1940s.

Public Education

We will establish an information centre in a building built out of straw bales, solar-heated or heated with a heat pump and a small greenhouse for research and demonstration purposes. My wife, who was a librarian, died in November 1999 and left me a small inheritance. She worked in reference services in the Saskatchewan Provincial Library and believed that it was important to provide as much information as possible to all people. We will dedicate the information centre to her. The centre will provide information on organic farming and gardening and where to find organic food. It will also display and maybe sell non-perishable organic products. We will have a herb garden for the purpose of demonstrating to visitors the identification, growing methods and purpose of herbs in human, poultry and livestock diets.

Our research foundation has a 12-person board of directors elected from this community to make decisions. Our objectives are to develop self-sufficient, energy efficient communities, to grow the food here on farms and to eliminate the high cost of energy use of food shipped from California and Florida.

Slow Progress

The federal and all provincial governments are still promoting chemical agriculture. However, on July 12, 2001, Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief announced the funding of $845,000 for what is to be known as Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada at Badden, NS. We're still waiting for more information about this program and about whether it will be "certified organic."

The Back to the Farm Research Foundation has applied to the Saskatchewan Economic Development branch and Saskatchewan Agriculture for assistance, but it is very slow in coming. We welcome donations made to the Back to the Farm Research Foundation, Box 69, Davidson, SK, S0G 1A0.

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