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Farmer Wisdom on Growing Organics

“It was difficult to figure out what percentage of what crop to grow for our particular market, learning how to manage transplants and sourcing small-scale equipment. Salad greens are best during the transition period as the volume per square foot is so good. They’re easy to market, in constant demand. Consumers have no idea what a transition crop is. Organic is the way to go if one wants a viable farm on a small scale.”

- Anthony Cetinski, BC

"We use a lot of plowdowns because we learned that long-term profitability is gained by taking a field out of production with green manure once in a while." – Réal Samson, QC

“I thought disease would be more of a problem. For example, Ascochyta in lentils is a big problem in conventional production, but in organic production, it’s not a problem at all. The soil is starting to work again; the biology of the soil is suppressing disease. I don’t even have wheat midge any more. Their natural predator wasp goes after them. I used to have thousands of grasshoppers, now they don’t affect me. They don’t go after my flax or lentils.” – Cal Cowan, SK

"Because of the methods we’re using, we do not need to expand our land base of 110 acres. We manage our resources very carefully to remain viable, take on very little debt and have no long-term debt. We are always looking for new ways to use resources to lessen costs." – David Ling, PEI

“Plow down as much as possible to build soil fertility. Use green manures, cover crops, underseeding, crop rotation. Our soil structure improved, resulting in better yields, better moisture retention, better drainage of excess water, better fertility and tilth, and higher levels of minerals and bacteria.” – Kenny Irving, BC

“I’m not a fan of soil testing. It’s a carryover from conventional thinking. The important thing is to watch the organic matter levels, to make sure you’re not mining your soil. Have primarily forage-based crops and use lots of compost. My mixed grain yields have increased significantly, I now have better tilth and weed control.” – Larry Bender, ON

“A broader rotation and no inputs are the best strategies against pests and diseases. Wheat midge was a problem here for the conventional growers but none of us organic growers have had a midge problem so far due to these strategies.” – Ray Bauml, SK

“Have lots of diversity out there. Have an eco-reserve and include planting trees in the middle of every section, to harbour the beneficials and balance the bad guys. We have ten acres set aside just for that.”

– Robert Guilford, MB

For more farmer wisdom and information about Canadian organic farmer experiences, order Gaining Ground: Making a Successful Transition to Organic Farming from the publications page.