The Transition to Grow Organically?
Once you decide to seriously look at organic production, one of the challenges is what to do first. I suggest going slow and doing your research.
The first stage of transition to organic is to look closely at yourself and your abilities. Why do you want to do this? What do you need to learn? What crops or livestock would you want to grow? What would be the issues to produce them organically? In many cases, yields will drop during the transition and then increase for several years. Once fully organic, yields may still be lower but prices for certified organic products are higher. You will need to factor in slightly more labour and more tractor time. For most crops, the cost of production for organic is very similar to conventional production. However, this varies with the crop or livestock species.
Do Your Homework
Now is a good time to develop organic information. Attend field days in your area and talk to other organic farmers to observe their successes and challenges. Most fertilizer and pest control inputs that are used in conventional production cannot be used in organic. In some cases there are alternative products for fertility and pest management. There must be a greater reliance on planning to avoid or minimize the problems by changing the production system of crop rotations, tillage, planting timing, resistant varieties, biological pest controls, etc. There must be a greater reliance on a multiple-pronged integrated approach to problem solving.
Investigate potential organic markets. Organic markets can operate much differently than their non-organic counterparts. In many cases, marketing organic products will take more time. Larger buyers require you to be certified organic. In the future, CFIA will require all organic food products sold out of the province or imported into the province to be certified according to the new Canada Organic Products regulations.
The Canadian Organic Standards must be applied to the production area for 36 months prior to harvest of the organic crops. Only substances and inputs as specified by the Standards can be used during the transition and for certified organic production. Farms must apply for Organic Certification annually, beginning in the year prior to production of the certified organic products. In other words, you need to apply in 2008 (so they can inspect the 2008 crop while it is growing) for transitional status on land that you plan to certify for organic in 2009.
You can start with part of your farm and gradually transition the whole farm. Start with your best and most looked at field to manage and observe the transition. Cereals and forages are often the best crops to reduce costs and risk during the transition.
There are numerous resources available on the internet and from various associations.
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