Expert advice available for organic grain growers

wheat (Photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

By Laura Rance
OrganicBiz staff

The Prairie Organic Grain Initiative has launched a new toll-free telephone number to provide advice to organic, transitioning, and interested grain and field crop producers across the Prairies.

Organic experts are available to answer producer questions on organic grain and field crop production, transitioning to organic production, certification, agronomy, marketing, and post-harvest handling.

There has been a lot of interest from agronomists, farmers, organic inspectors and agricultural government workers. – Iris Vraisman

To talk to an organic specialist, call 1-800-245-8341 and leave a detailed question, or email [email protected] (include your name, number and location). An organic specialist will reply in one to three business days. More information and resources may be found at the initiative’s Pivot and Grow website.

Pivot and Grow, which is part of the organic grain initiative, is also putting on a training program, with the University of Manitoba, for agronomists who deal with organic grain farmers.

“There has been a lot of interest from agronomists, farmers, organic inspectors and agricultural government workers,” said Iris Vraisman, project co-ordinator for the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative. Sessions started in Moose Jaw March 21 followed by Lacombe, Alta. March 23.

A one-day session will be held on June 16 at the Ian N. Morrison Research Farm near Carman, Man. Participants will be given 12 months of support via social media and the Internet, with a followup meeting in June 2017.

It will also hold a field day on Aug. 9 at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s research and development centre at Swift Current, Sask. Along with presentations from organic experts, there will be a tour of field trials, including ones that focus on water and soil conserving tillage systems; intercropping on Brown soils; cover crops; polyculture; winter annuals; successful perennial native grass and legume mixtures; and forage pea mixtures with oat and barley for greenfeed production.

More information on both events can be found in the website’s Events section.

Providing a basic grounding in organic agronomy to a wide cross-section of the sector is important to sustainable growth in organic agriculture, Vraisman said.

“This training is necessary because there are few agronomists/consultants who are trained to work with organic/ecological farmers.

“As demand for organic and organic acres grows, more farmers are looking for more agronomists who can work together with organic farmers,” she said. “Training agronomists is one of the various ways that we can support organic farmers.”

Rotation planning is key, but so is building diversity through management. “For example, when thinking about weeds, farmers need to use a combination of multiple cultural and multiple mechanical forms of weed control,” she said. “Additionally, in organic/ecological agriculture it is important to have knowledge of ecology and the natural systems of the farm.”

The Prairie Organic Grain Initiative is a $2.2 million, four-year program aimed at expanding and supporting the organic field crop sector on the Prairies. The federal government is contributing $1.2 million, with food companies and industry partners contributing $1 million.