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Organic Farming and Industry

Organic farming has been practiced in Saskatchewan since European settlers arrived in the late 1800s. In general terms, it is a holistic system of production designed to promote the health and diversity of biological communities within the agro-ecosystem. In practical terms, it involves the production of agricultural products without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and prohibits the use of animal growth hormones and antibiotics. Organic agriculture has spent much of the past century on the fringe of the agricultural mainstream, as the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers have dominated farm production. In recent years, however, increased consumer demand, driven by serious food health scares and concerns for the environment, have allowed organic farming to re-emerge as a viable alternative to conventional farming.

Today, Saskatchewan is a world leader in organic production, with over 1,000 certified organic producers and approximately 226,600 ha of organic farmland, of which 156,000 is for grain production (as of 2003). The major organic crops grown in the province include Wheat, Barley, oats, Flax, lentils, peas, clover, and WILD RICE. Although small, there is a growing organic livestock component. In addition to production, Saskatchewan is home to ninety-four certified enterprises, eighteen of which are processors, which produce a range of products including flour, oatmeal, oilseed products, bread, cereal mixtures, meat products, and neutraceuticals. Total sales of organic products originating in Saskatchewan are estimated to exceed $30 million. Despite the presence of a vigorous processing sector, most of Saskatchewan's organic grains and oilseeds are exported, primarily to the United States, Europe, and Japan.

To be labelled organic, all production must be inspected and certified by a recognized certification body. Unlike the European Union and the United States, which have mandatory standards, the Canadian organic industry currently operates under a voluntary set of standards. There are four major certification bodies operating in the province: Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA), Pro-cert Organic Systems (Pro-cert), the Canadian Organic Certification Co-operative (COCC), and the Saskatchewan Organic Certification Association (SOCA). As the largest producer of organic products in Canada, Saskatchewan is home to numerous industry associations, most notably the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD) and the Canadian Organic Livestock Association (COLA).

Simon Weseen

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Further Reading

The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD). 2000. Organic Farming on the Prairies. Moose Jaw: Grand Valley Press.
This web site was produced with financial assistance
provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan.
University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
Ce site Web a été conçu grâce à l'aide financière de
Diversification de l'économie de l'Ouest Canada et le gouvernement de la Saskatchewan.