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Practical Skills Handbooks

Organic agriculture is knowledge-intensive. It requires a new way of thinking about food production. Instead of focusing on crop and animal yields, organic farmers think about the entire agro eco-system. As a result, organically managed soils have more organic matter, a greater abundance and diversity of microorganisms and better soil tilth.  Outside inputs such as synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, genetically modified organisms, growth hormones, and antibiotics are eliminated.


The Practical Skills Handbooks are resources for organic, transitioning and conventional farmers – anyone who wishes to reduce improve soil fertility, reduce chemical usage and practice more sustainable agriculture.


With a focus on practical methods, the latest scientific research, and profiles of successful organic farming operations, the Practical Skills series aims to help farmers expand their technical expertise for specific crops, livestock, and management practices, and become more proficient at production and marketing.

Practical Skills Handbooks assume a working knowledge of farming. Each book in the Practical Skills series addresses a specific challenge for organic growers. If you’re new to organic farming, you may want to check out COG’s other books.

COG is looking for sponsors for our Practical Skills books. More information is available:

Planned release dates are indicated below the handbook titles. Check back to order as they become available!

Growing Strawberries Organically

Organic strawberries are increasing in demand and profitability. Learn how to grow them with organic methods, building soil fertility and rotating with other crops to overcome pest, disease and weed challenges.

A highlight of COG’s handbooks are success stories from organic growers acrossCanada. The strawberry growers profiled here share their experiences withtarnished plant bugs, weeder geese, cover crops, marketing and more.

“Thorough and full of great information... a welcome resource.” – Eric Sideman,Organic Crop Specialist, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

Crop Planning for the Organic Vegetable Grower

CropPlanning Book Cover

"Buy local" is the current mantra, and there are many new growers enthused about growing for local consumers. But the biggest challenge is knowing how much and when to plant what for those farmgate, market or subscription customers. This book is for all small scale market gardeners growing for local market - not just organic farmers.

Table of Contents: 

  • varieties, quantities, planting dates and frequencies, safety margins, yields
  • crop rotation, soil-building, field layout
  • organic methods and regulations
  • monitoring and adapting the plan


Template downloads

Click here for a review of the book

Purchase this book

Living with Worms in Organic Sheep Production

Living with Worms in Organic Sheep Production

Sheep are a natural fit with organic principles and do well in forage-based systems. However, they are susceptible to internal parasites and treatment with chemical wormers is the norm throughout the industry. Increasingly, parasitic nematodes are becoming resistant to chemical treatments and producers are seeking alternative approaches.

Peter Stockdale, a sheep farmer and retired veterinary parasitologist, maintains that resistance and resilience can be built up in flock of sheep so that, when parasites are inevitably present, there is no loss of productivity. Low levels of infection promote natural immunity rather than producing disease.

His recommendations in Living with Worms based on nutrition, selection, and grazing management are good news for those interested in raising sheep organically.

Purchase this book * Sold out

Growing Potatoes Organically – from Market Garden to Field Crops


Potatoes are one of the most heavily pesticide-dependent field crops. Written by a potato farmer with input and profiles on potato farmers across Canada, practical information details organic production methods and management strategies.



Table of Contents:

  • varietal selection & potato breeding
  • soil fertility on the organic potato farm
  • organic seed potato production
  • planting & cultivation
  • pests
  • diseases
  • harvesting & storage
  • marketing
Purchase this book





NEW! Record-Keeping for Organic Growers:

All farmers can benefit from an efficient and well organized record keeping system. This handbook takes you step by step through the process of setting up a field-to-table audit trail, making both your customers and your inspector happy! Not only do more consumers want to know how their food was grown and processed, but more countries are adopting mandatory organic standards that require evidence that producers are following the standards.

This book is a must read even if you're not certified organic, because record keeping for certification is also record keeping for successful farming! Here's how the book is organized:


Chapter 1: Why keep records?
  • records for good farming and records for certification - similarities and differences
  • record keeping as an organic principle
  • the record keeping cycle
Chapter 2: Farm records
  • the farm journal
  • records for inputs, activities, outputs
Chapter 3: How certification works
  • what is certification?
  • choosing a certifier
  • steps in the certification process
Chapter 4: Forms for certifying
  • the organic plan
  • forms for your certifier
Chapter 5: Using your records to verify organic integrity
  • risk management and traceability
  • inspection day
  • after inspection
Chapter 6: Getting better at record keeping
  • updating the organic plan
  • tweaking your record keeping
  • advice from vertifiers and inspectors
  • resources

Our aim with this Practical Skills handbook is to reduce the barriers and anxiety associated with record keeping for organic certification. Whether you choose to certify or not, the record keeping described here will help you transition more easily to organic production methoods. Good record keeping also facilitates farm planning and evaluation - which in turn helps to improve your bottom line.

Purchase this book


Scaling Up Organically

Expected publication date: June 2012


What do Canada's best organic farmers have in common? How do they overcome challenges like labour costs, obtaining efficiencies even at the small-scale, dealing with specialized equipment, etc. while at the same time maintaining product quality, biodiversity? In this new publication from COG, we interview some of Canada's best organic farmers for a number of different crops and bring you their wisdom.

Table of Contents:

  • Specialized equipment for production value-added processing
  • Soil preparation and fertility
  • Harvesting, post harvest handling and storage
  • Weed, disease and pest management
  • Finding markets
Click here for the introduction to the book


Become a Practical Skills Sponsor

Why be a partner?

Businesses and associations benefit from increased exposure to organic and transitioning farmers and market gardeners through association with Canadian Organic Growers’ publications.

Your investment in the Practical Skills series will give you :

• Your logo and contact info at the front of the book(s) (size/colour by contribution level)

• Listing in our annual recognition of sponsors in our magazine

• Your promotional material in resource packages for Practical Skills workshop participants

• Access to targeted audiences - the people who can use your specific product or service

• Longer active life than other print advertising

• Charitable donation receipt

Choose your level of participation…

• Book Sponsor $1200 for a specific book

• Supporter $500 for a specific book

You are invited to be part of the Practical Skills team! For more information, contact:

Project Manager: Kristine Swaren –

Executive Director: Beth McMahon –

Partner with us for the series with an annual donation, or choose one or more titles by publication date.


The Practical Skills handbooks are funded in part by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF) program. We wish to acknowledge the support of the following organizations for making this publication possible: the Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia, the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council, the New Brunswick Agriculture Council / Conseil Agricole Nouveau-Brunswick, the Territorial Farmers Association and the Yukon Agricultural Association.


Sheep are a natural fit with organic principles and do well in forage-based systems. However, they are susceptible to internal parasites and treatment with chemical wormers is the norm throughout the industry. Increasingly, parasitic nematodes are becoming resistant to chemical treatments and producers are seeking alternative approaches.