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Gaining Ground - Excerpt from Part 1: Getting Started

2 Why farmers choose to make the transition

Why go organic? What is the motivation? Conventional farmers convert to organic production for many, overlapping reasons. According to a recent study, the following are key reasons why conventional farmers go organic. These results are similar to the findings of the research conducted by Canadian Organic Growers for this book.

  • Concerns about the effects of chemicals on personal health and the impact that conventional farming has on soil quality and the environment (89%). In addition, 39% of farmers interviewed stated that health problems within the family had stimulated them to consider making the transition.
  • Dissatisfaction with conventional farming practices (61%).
  • Declines in family farms and rural communities (33.5%), related to lack of long-term economic viability of conventional agriculture and lack of interest of young people to stay in farming.
  • Health and food quality concerns

“Going organic was the best move I ever made. I wouldn’t be farming any more if I was still using chemicals. [My wife] had a sense of the need for clean, healthy food and wanted our farm to produce this type of food. She was very encouraging and supportive. I listened to her and should have listened to her sooner. It’s a problem that too few men listen to their wives about food quality. The women know about these things.” - Robert Dagenais, SK

  • Dissatisfaction with conventional farming practices and returns

“The last year of conventional, we spent more dollars per acre on chemicals than we paid for the farm. I was getting to the point where I was hating to go to the field sometimes because I hated what I was doing. As soon as we made the decision to go organic that was gone – sort of like being born again!” - Ken Marisett, ON

“The organic approach has taught us so much about soil life, animal health, cause and effect. We continue to discover on a daily basis.” - Florent Lapierre, QC

  • Viability of family farms and sustainable rural communities

“Ours has been a family farm for over 200 years. In the 1960s to ’80s we had a large poultry and beef production. Then we started to realize that conventional production was unsustainable, not working the way it should for a family farm, and looked for an alternative that would be more meaningful for the farm, for the farm family, for the community around us and hopefully for consumers.” - Larry Slipp, NB

“Changing to organic production has given us back ownership of our operation.” – Réal Samson, QC

- A. Hall and V. Mogyorody Organic Farming in Ontario. University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario; Study Funded by Social Science and Humanities Research Council

For more from Part 1: Getting Started and more reasons to go organic, order Gaining Ground: Making a Successful Transition to Organic Farming from the publications page.