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The Organic Transition


The Taylor family of Kenaston, Saskatchewan, is taking certified organic farming very seriously. They are demonstrating leadership in the industry and are helping to promote institutional change.

The Taylor family of Kenaston, Saskatchewan, is taking certified organic farming very seriously. They are demonstrating leadership in the industry and are helping to promote institutional change.

Many people have the impression that organic farming is all done on small-sized farms. However, the Taylor certified organic farm is 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) in size one of the largest in the province. It's located in the beautiful "Allan Hills," about 80 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon. Growths of native poplar, willows, chokecherries and Saskatoon berries contribute to the natural beauty of the area.

Arnold Taylor and his wife, Sharon, have farmed in this location since 1972 and have raised six children there. Along with their son, Doug, daughter-in-law Tracy and their three children Calvin, Kaitlyn and Morgan they occupy the two homes on the farmyard. Doug is the only farmer. He says growing certified organic crops is a real challenge. It's one he obviously enjoys.

The Taylors' farm has been certified organic since 1991. In addition to the challenges of growing certified crops, the Taylor farm is in the drought area that is affecting western Saskatchewan and large areas of Alberta this year. Arnold suspects that although his yield will be down, his crops have survived the drought just as well or better than some of the chemical farms in the district.

In this crop year, the Taylors have about 720 hectares in cereals, oilseeds and legumes, 320 hectares in plowdown clover and lentils for soil improvement and 60 hectares of summerfallow. They grow spelt and kamut (grain varieties that go back to ancient times and are grown for people like me who are allergic to wheat), Canada prairie spring (white) wheat, hard red spring wheat, three kinds of lentils, oats, flax, clover, peas, fall rye and mustard a total of 14 crops. They also raise a certified organic herd of 70 cows.

Saskatchewan Organic Industry

There are about 1,000 certified organic farmers in Saskatchewan cultivating about 400,000 hectares in total. There are 10 voluntary certification organizations in the province. The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate is the umbrella organization that presently represents six of the eight Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) chapters.

In addition to OCIA, there is the Canadian Organic Certification Co-operative Ltd (COCC), which represents processors, marketers, consumers and individual certified organic farmers (members-at-large).

The Taylors are very active in the certification organizations that organic farmers have created. Arnold and Doug are members of OCIA Chapter Five, the Canadian Organic Livestock Association (COLA) and the Marysburg Organic Producers Inc, which is an organic marketing group. In addition to all their other involvement in organic movements, they recently provided a full-day organic field trip to a busload of 55 certified organic farmers from all over Saskatchewan who toured their farm. Sharon, Tracy and some neighbouring women supplied a wonderful organic supper on a beautiful evening. Doug took the guests for a ride in a horse-drawn buggy around the farm.

Arnold is the president of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD). He is also a member of the elections committee of OCIA International. He says that under present conditions, interest in organic farming is growing rapidly. Chemical farming is not working. Weeds have built up a resistance to herbicides and the cost of commercial fertilizer is soaring. "Chemicals are like booze. Farmers need a support group to help make the change to organic," Arnold said. He is hoping that consumers who want unpolluted food will start supporting chemical farmers to help make the change.

Organic Farmers to Take Class Action

The Saskatchewan government passed legislation in their last session that will permit citizen groups to take "class action" as of January 2002. Arnold said his organization, the SOD, is seriously considering taking class action against transnational corporations who are promoting GMOs. He said, "The widespread use of GMO-canola developed by transnational corporations such as Monsanto has resulted in contamination of the environment with seed and pollen from this crop. The contamination has progressed to the extent that very few organic farmers in Saskatchewan will consider growing canola for fear of losing sales and even their certification. It has become next to impossible to certify any canola being grown in Saskatchewan as being GMO-free. Therefore, as a result of the unconfined release of GMO-canola into the Saskatchewan environment, canola has all but been removed from the crop rotations of organic farmers. This has caused great harm to organic farmers because organic farming methods rely on diverse use of crop rotations to control weeds and pests and to build soil fertility.

"Our members' legal, equitable and statutory rights have been infringed and they are entitled to be compensated for their losses. Our members feel particularly threatened by and vulnerable to the proposed introduction of GMO-wheat in the province of Saskatchewan. If wheat goes the way of canola it is reasonably certain that the livelihood and way of life of organic farmers in Saskatchewan will be destroyed.

"Our members are gravely concerned that secret test plots of GMO- wheat are already being grown and tested at various sites in Saskatchewan this year. It is imperative that immediate measures be taken to ensure that pollen and seed cannot stray from these crops and contaminate the environment."

The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate has set up the "SOD Organic Agriculture Protection Fund." The address is Box 1, Lisieux, SK, SOH 2RO. Arnold hopes the SOD Organic Protection Fund will receive wide public support so a possible class action can be launched early in the new year. The group is also looking at the possibility of filing an injunction to prevent the introduction of GMO-wheat and is interested in protecting the rights of both organic farmers and consumers.



Innovation for Good

Innovation for Good

Neil ZevnikNeil Zevnik