By Gary Sliworsky, Ag rep, Emo
The following is the second of a two-part article on some of the myths and realities of organic production provided by Hugh Martin, organic crop production program lead for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs:
6. Pest control–what can growers use?
Organic farmers are encouraged to use crop rotation, pest-resistant varieties, mechanical methods, and physical barriers such as row covers among many other strategies to keep pests from attacking the crops.
Encouraging biodiversity and non-crop eco-reserves on farms also encourages beneficial insects, birds, and other beneficial organisms on the farm.
Organic farmers also accept some damage and lower yields.
7. Organic is better for the environment.
Research in this area still is gaining momentum. Studies have found, for instance, that organic farming systems have potential for carbon sequestration.
They are energy-efficient, largely due to less use of nitrogen fertilizers.
It also has been found that organically-managed soils exhibit larger earthworm, microbial, and mycorrhizal populations than conventionally-managed soils.
Biodiversity of wildlife species, and their frequency of occurrence, also have been found to be greater on organic farms.
8. Why do consumers buy it?
Organic consumers typically are looking for more than a product. They are looking for added value traits that are linked to the product.
They may feel their buying decision can make a difference as a solution to their ecological concerns. They see organic food as healthier (no pesticides), a preferred taste, or no GMOs.
Many prefer to buy direct from the farmer while some just want to buy a new product.
The main barriers to buying organic are the higher prices, limited availability, product quality, and a lack of understanding on the meaning of organic labels.
It is interesting to note that about 50 percent of all organic food sales are purchased by only five percent of consumers, but more than 60 percent purchase organic occasionally.
9. Why do farmers grow organic?
The primary factors for most organic farmers is usually the health and safety of their families and employees, and environmental motivations.
Profitability and economic factors are important, but most surveys put these well down the list of reasons they became organic.
Lower yields, lack of information, costs of transition, and marketing issues all make organic farming challenging but personally very rewarding for successful organic farmers.
10. Where do the organic standards come from? How do we know it is organic?
Organic standards are the result of extensive consultations both nationally and internationally. They have continued to evolve since the first organic standards in the 1970s.
Governments in more than 70 countries provide oversight to the certification processes, and Canadian standards are substantially equivalent to the major standards in the U.S. and Europe.
Look for recognized organic certification.