What does organic mean and how does it work?
Organic production is a holistic system designed to optimize the productivity and fitness of diverse communities within the agro-ecosystem, including soil organisms, plants, livestock and people. The principal goal of organic production is to develop operations that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment.
Organic production is regulated federally through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and provincially through the Organic Agricultural Products Act whereby food, feed, or seed products represented as organic must be certified according to the Canadian Organic Systems: General Principles and Management Standards. These standards outline the organic standards for all types of organic farming and food production. Certified organic farms and food processors must also abide by the Canadian Organic Standards: Permitted Substances list.
Certified organic farms and food processors are inspected annually by 3rd party Certifying Bodies. This system ensures integrity of the Canadian Organic label across Canada and in the global marketplace. When clarification of the standard is necessary, individuals can request an interpretation from the Organic Standards Interpretation Committee. This committee includes representatives from across the organic sector.
The Canadian Organic Standards are reviewed on a regular basis to support continual improvement of the standard and of the sector. The next review will take place in 2020. Find out more information through the Organic Federation of Canada.
The Organic Sector in Manitoba
In 2017, Manitoba had 220 certified organic farms in the province with 117,000 acres under certified organic management. The largest sectors in organic farming in Manitoba is forage production and cropping. Over the past few years growth has been mainly in organic wheat, oats and barley production. Organic hemp has also been a growing portion of organic acres in Manitoba. The number of organic livestock producers remains fairly stable while acreage of vegetables and fruits has been increasing. (Source: Canadian Organic Trade Association, Organic Agriculture on the Prairies, 2017 Data)
Manitoba has seen significant growth in the organic process sector going from 50 companies in 2015 to 70 in 2017.
Research in Organics
The University of Manitoba boasts a strong research program for organic agriculture led by Dr. Martin Entz and his team of researchers and students. Their work focuses on:
- Organic cropping systems
- Long-term organic vs conventional crop production systems
- Farmer participatory organic crop breeding
- Crop-livestock integration
- Conservation agriculture
History Of Organics In Manitoba
Organic farmers and processors have long recognized the benefit of organizations designed to support organic agriculture. In 1975 the Organic Gardeners and Farmers Association was formed nationally. Three years later it was renamed as Canadian Organic Growers or COG.
In 1988, fourteen individuals with an interest in the future of organic agriculture in Manitoba established the Organic Producers Association of Manitoba. OPAM is an incorporated not-for-profit cooperative which provides organic certification services, unites the organic community and promotes organic agriculture in Manitoba.
In 2000, a Manitoba chapter of COG was established and named the Organic Food Council of Manitoba. OFCM is registered as a charity with a mission to promote local, organic food through education and community building.
As organic sector grew, the need for an organization to lobby provincially became clear. In 2009, OPAM and OFCM partnered to found the Manitoba Organic Alliance (MOA) to be the “Voice” of the Manitoba organic sector. Then, in 2014, MOA, OFCM and OPAM signed a Memorandum of Understanding, outlining the roles which each of these organizations take in collectively advancing the capacity of Manitoba’s organic sector.
Under this agreement:
- MOA is the voice of organics, bringing the organic sector together to identify needs and develop solutions, presenting those solutions to government, and coordinating projects to develop the sector.
- OFCM promotes the benefits of organic food and organic production to the general public and to farmers, through education, materials, events and community building.
- OPAM offers certification services and collaborates on networking opportunities for farmers.