What is Organic?

Brown CowsOrganic is an agricultural method. It is based on agricultural management practices that:

  • focus on building healthy soil
  • eliminate the use of pesticides and hormones and largely maintains soil fertility by application of on-farm residues and rotation of nitrogen-fixing crops
  • minimize soil erosion through crop choices, cover-cropping, and low-till methods. It emphasizes crop diversity - both of species and varieties - which provides inherent resilience in the face of pests, disease, and weather extremes 
  • avoid any water withdrawals which impair habitat. It provides buffers of native vegetation along streams to maintain favorable water temperatures and water quality
  • require that plant and animal wastes be carefully contained and treated to avoid any contaminated run-off
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers
  • can be profitable on an extremely small scale,  thereby  maintaining family-oriented farms and strengthening rural communities 

Organic agriculture is sometimes summarized as what it is not:

  • No synthetic chemical pesticides or weed killers
  • No synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge
  • No seed or feed originating from GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
  • No antibiotics or growth hormones 
  • No animal wastes or slaughter by­products in food diets
  • No overpopulation of animals in closed building
  • No chemical dyes, artificial flavours nor synthetic additives including sulphates and nitrates
  • No preservatives
  • No irradiation
  • No synthetic fungicides or preservatives in packaging or storage materials

You can read more about what organic means by actually reading the Canada Organic Standards. Alternatively, COG has prepared a Guide to Understanding the Canada Organic Standards. There are two parts for each part of the Canada Organic Regime:

General Principles and Management Standards

Permitted Substances List


Organic Labeling

Look for these logos when you buy organic. Organic certification is your guarantee that the product you are buying has been produced in accordance with the organic standards in Canada. If there is no logo, it is not certified organic, and there is no guarantee it has been grown organically. At a farmers' market or a farm gate, certified organic farmers should always be able to tell you who certifies their products - and you should ask them!  



As of June 2009 a voluntary national logo can also be added to products. Read more about the national logo and what it means for farmers and consumers.



Organic Quick Facts

  • Organics is the fastest growing sector in agriculture, with sales increasing at 20% per year.
  • Over 1.3 million acres (530,919 ha) of land in Canada is used to grow organic food. Another 118,500 acres (47,955 ha) is in transition to certification.
  • In Waterloo Region approximately 6.9% of farms are certified or transitional organic.
  • In western Perth county approximately 3.4% of all farms are certified or transitional organic.
  • In the PWW area there has been a 45.5% increase in the number of organic farms from 77 to 112 farms between 2001 and 2006.
  • Eating food that is produced organically saves 50 times more CO2 emissions than focusing just on food miles. Imagine what local AND organic can do for the environment!




"When people think about organic growing, they think about the challenges of not using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, when it's really about building and maintaining soil health."
- organic vegetable farmer