Supporting the Transition to Organic Farming: A Farmer’s Insight
I grew up on a mixed family farming operation in Northern Alberta and our parents founded this farm through their blood, sweat and tears 65 years ago. They operated the farm in a holistic manner by plowing the land, rotating crops, using manure from the animals to enhance the soil and completed the cycle it provided. My brother and I took over the farm operation over 10 years ago and continue to operate in a similar way. We no longer raise any livestock but are now solely focused on cereal grain and forage crop production.
I determined we were generally following an organic regime so questioned why notbecome certified.
We didn’t do zero tilling.
We plowed green manure under.
We didn’t desiccate our crop pre-harvest
We didn’t fertilize due to our regular crop-rotation
As a result, our soil was confirmed from testing to be healthy and contained high levels of fiber from the forage crops and nutrients. I commenced the journey by attending meetings with several organic organizations and started research into the process of certification. The process looked overwhelming when one reviews all the federal legislation and international regulations. These were aspects that we weren’t involved in with conventional grain and hay production. With the help of the Alberta Organic Producers Association and TCO, a certification agency, I commenced the task of certification.
The CAN/CGSB standards were very detailed and the forms from certifier TCO combined with help from the local association was methodical. The step by step application process lead me through what seemed a mountain of paperwork. Breaking this process down lead us to understand our own operation much better, the development of a business plan, management plans, record keeping, cost of operation and recovery, inventory tracking, input management and working with our partners was beneficial. Working with our neighbors and contractors to ensure equipment was cleaned to prevent the spread of weeds and disease was meet with cooperation, as it was of mutual benefit.
Certification (once broken down) turned out to be much easier than expected, given the support and established processes in place, by those who came before us. Other organic producers were willing to provide time and leadership and the organic community was helpful in easing this transition. Preparing a plot plan of the farm and laying out the fields developed into a coding system for inventory management which gave us better tracking of our inventory. This led to a bin management system that improved through the coding system and trucking records became more complete. This detail supports complianceand enhances the commodities produced by Canadian producers. When one hears of contaminated grains in the marketplace, the foundation of the process for becoming certified organic reaffirms why these elements are being done. Understanding that helps when completing the application which ultimately enhanced our farming operation. I encourage anyone who is farming in an organic manner or is considering the transition to contact a local association or certification organization.
About Richard Pysyk:
I grew up on a family farm in Northern Alberta. I learned there thevalue of good wholesome work, (including rock picking). Following high school I received a Poly Tech College Degree in Architecture, then worked for Architectural and Engineering firms for over 7 years. I worked on major hospitals, correction centers and vast array of other projects. This was followed by 28 years with another firm as Director of Properties and Capital Development covering the entire province. That taught me my technical skillset, the importance of detailed design, time and cost management, processes to control complex issues, schedule and record management all of which are applicable to today’s Faming. Today on our grain and forage crop farm, I am active in field work, marketing, quality control, IT, forecasting, budgeting, maintenance scheduling and resource management. All critical elements in today’s farming environment. Our farm looks forward to continuing to produce milling grain for many years to come.