Ontario developing online organic extension hub

(OrganicBiz photo)

By Dave Bedard
Glacier FarmMedia staff

The Organic Council of Ontario is spearheading a new online hub through which it plans to provide member services as well as organic ag extension and information for the general public.

The OCO last week officially announced the start of development work on what’s been dubbed the Organic Resource Hub — and federal/provincial Canadian Agricultural Partnership funding of up to $74,898 for that work.

The Hub, for short, is expected to be available for test use this winter before a “final launch” in March 2021, OCO said.

“Organic agriculture is a knowledge-intensive, management-intensive endeavour. When farmers transition to organic, they often lose many traditional sources of information and support,” OCO chair Rob Wallbridge said in a release June 24. “The Hub will help fill that gap.”

“OCO receives dozens of unique inquiries about organic production systems each month,” council acting executive director Cassandra Rizzotto said, and the Hub “will make it easier for operators to make better, evidence-based decisions for their businesses.”

In its release, the council cited responses from its 2017 survey of 580 organic and non-organic farm operators on sector challenges and opportunities, which identified the top three priorities for sector growth as “general extension services, transition supports, and navigation of the Canadian Organic Regime.”

All three of those will be addressed through the Hub, the OCO said.

Hub users will be able to access existing services such as member accounts and the OCO’s Organic Directory, plus new services such as a Data Portal and Knowledge Base, the council said in May.

The Data Portal is expected to provide cost-of-production resources, as well as “comprehensive reports” on various segments of organic production like grains, fruits and vegetables, some of which will be exclusive to OCO members while others will be publicly available.

“This investment will offer organic farmers improved access to resources that will help them grow their businesses and remain competitive,” federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in OCO’s June 24 release.

The new hub “will provide key information to organic farmers to help them be even more productive and profitable,” Ontario’s Ag Minister Ernie Hardeman said in the same release.