Organic Food
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Conference 2018

Friday February 23 to Sunday February 25, 2018
Abbotsford, BC

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Keynote: Food Systems in a changing environmental, economic, and societal climate: our path to a sustainable food system future
Kent Mullinix

In this presentation we will examine the predominant social, economic and environmental outcomes of and factors impinging on the near and longer term sustainability of agriculture and our food system. Specific challenges, developments, and opportunities will be identified and discussed. All to inform our vision of and direct our way toward a robust, sustainable agriculture and food system future.

Keynote: Sustainable Land and Food Systems - Indigenous Peoples, Social Justice, and Original Instructions
Dawn Morrison

Dawn Morrison will weave an Indigenous narrative into a decolonizing framework for sustainable food systems that will highlight Indigenous food sovereignty principles. Grounded in the original instructions encoded in the complex system of Indigenous biodiversity and cultural heritage, Dawn will share her critical analysis how farmers and sustainable food system advocates in settler communities can enter into a journey of more deep and meaningful truth and reconciliation with Indigenous land and food system that have been shaped and formed over multi-millennia.

Best Business Practices & Marketing Tools for Farmers selling at BC Farmers' Markets
Heather O'Hara

BCAFM and KPU just completed a fabulous year long project to compile a guide of best practices for farmers selling at farmers' markets and other sales channels. We interviewed and documented best practices from 15 successful farmers from all regions across the province. This includes many amazing organic farmers/farms such as Mackin Creek Farm, Arzeena Hamir and others. We also created some practical marketing tools.

Canadian Conversations on Transitioning to Organic Production
Ashley St Hilaire - Director of Programs and Government Relations

The demand for organic products is outpacing supply. We need more organic farmers in Canada, but we have a limited understanding of what it takes to transition to organic production. To address this gap, COG launched Canada’s first, comprehensive national study looking at the challenges of transitioning to organic production. Researchers completed on-farm interviews and focus groups with all types, and sizes of organic producers across the country. Ashley will present preliminary findings from this study, and discuss the relevance of these in forming policy, programs, strategies, and tools for transitioning farmers.

Climate Smart Organic Farming
Mike Bomford

Climate-smart farming helps prevent climate change by converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into soil organic matter. Organic farming, with its emphasis on building soil organic matter, ought to epitomize climate-smart farming. Indeed, some research suggests that organic farming does reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially, but other studies conclude that farming organically offers little climate advantage.

This workshop will delve into ways that farms emit and absorb greenhouse gasses, and some of the reasons for seemingly-contradictory conclusions of recent studies comparing organic and conventional agriculture. Understanding emerging science provides a foundation for practical lessons that we can use to make organic farms truly climate-smart.

At Kwantlen Polytechnic University, we strive to translate thought into action. In starting a new organic teaching and research farm on peat soil in Richmond, we are having to choose between various management options that fall within the range of practices allowed by the organic standards, but could have starkly different greenhouse gas emission outcomes. Making the ‘right’ decision is not always easy or intuitive. I will explain what we’re doing, and why, in hopes that you can apply similar thinking to your own operation.

Digging into Organic Messaging
Carmen Wakeling
Darcy Smith

Join COABC President Carmen Wakeling and Communications Officer Darcy Smith for a conversation about organic communication: messaging, public education, talking to your customers, responding to negative press, etc ... This will be an open dialogue between all attendees, so bring your ideas and come prepared for a lively discussion!

Expanding cherry production in British Columbia under climate change
Louise Nelson, Department of Biology, UBCO

With climate change cherry production in the southern interior of British Columbia is expanding northward and to higher elevations than previously possible. Efficient use of limited water and maintenance of soil health while sustaining cherry quality and yield are important factors to consider in adaptation of cherry to these new sites. A greenhouse bioassay with soil from 18 new and established orchard sites in the Okanagan Valley was conducted to determine if native soil populations enhance or restrict cherry growth. It showed that new orchard soils were more 'biologically suitable' for planting sweet cherry, and management practices that had maintained soil organic carbon levels and high levels of microbial activity were positive predictors of plant growth. The effects of post-harvest deficit irrigation (PDI) (25% reduction in water supply after harvest) and compost and mulch amendments on soil health and cherry production were assessed over two years in two new and one established orchard. PDI generally had no negative effects on cherry water relations, fruit quality, yield or soil health after two years, but longer-term studies are needed to fully assess its effects. Compost amendment increased soil nutrients at all three sites and generally decreased the abundance of the root-lesion nematode, Pratylenchus penetrans, and the percent colonization of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in plant roots. Other influences on soil microbial communities are being explored via next generation sequencing. Organic amendments such as compost show potential to maintain soil health in newly planted orchards and to mitigate the biological effects of replant stress in established orchards.

Farmer-Led APP Design Workshop

"Do you have difficulty balancing environmental, social, and economic outcomes of your farming business?"

"If you could design an app to help you with your business what would it look like?"

In a special participatory design workshop, the Center for Sustainable Food Systems at the University of British Columbia have teamed up with the Certified Organic Associations of BC, to help design a new open source farm management software for diversified farmers in Canada. Make your voice heard and participate in helping us co-design a novel solution to meet your needs and those of our community in the coming years!

If you would like to take part in this participatory design workshop, but cannot make the meeting, feel free to get in touch with our team, as we would love to hear from you. Contact: Dr Zia Mehrabi,

Foodlands Cooperative of BC
Heather Pritchard

The newly incorporated Foodlands Cooperative of BC (FLCBC) is a registered society with the mission to secure and holds land in trust and promote the protection and utilization of food providing lands across BC. Foodlands works with landowners, farmers, local communities and leaders in the agricultural and land trust sectors to develop and support community foodlands models and recognizes the diversity of food harvesting systems, acknowledges the colonial history of agricultural land policies. In this presentation, Heather will share the story of the Foodlands Cooperative.

Guacamole: A Cooking Lesson for Justice
Migrant Workers' Dignity Association

What is the real story behind how fruit and vegetables get from the farm to our tables? How can we ensure that the people who grow these ingredients for us are treated fairly, with respect and with dignity? Join the Migrant Workers' Dignity Association (MWDA) to have fun, food, and learn with foreign farm workers, who grow our BC produce, in an interactive, theatrical cooking lesson and discussion.

Keeping Small Herds Healthy: On-Farm Nutrition, Vaccinations, and Herbals
Dr. Lauren Lyzenga

Are you an owner of a small herd of cattle, goats or sheep? This presentation will discuss how to keep small herds healthy by touching on topics such as nutrition, vaccinations and some herbals that can be used on the farm.

Management-Intensive Grazing for Your Bioregion
Tristan Banwell

Management-intensive Grazing (MiG) is a flexible, goal-driven approach to pasture management and utilization whereby animal nutrient demand through the grazing season is balanced with forage supply, and available forage is allocated based on animal requirements. Sound a little complex? Join organic grass farmer Tristan Banwell as he explains the principles behind MiG, and shares the tools and techniques you need to implement this grazing system in your bioregion. Wherever you farm, you will see healthier animals, healthier pastures, more productivity, and lower costs when changing from a continuous grazing system.

New Online Application System
Jen Gamble
Darcy Smith

Jen Gamble is the Executive Director of Operations for the Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC), a non-profit organization that oversees organic certification in BC. COABC aims to lead, support and enhance the certified organic food system in BC. Over the past two years in her role with COABC, Jen has been working with the Ministry of Agriculture to help smooth the transition into the new provincial regulation that will ensure organic claims are verified by certification.

Jen has a long history of involvement in the food system, from farming to advocacy. As a farmer, she could see the disconnect between farmers, consumers and the food system which inspired her to became a deeply dedicated member of the organic food movement.

Organic Grain Production Workshop
Tanja Gibson
Willem Roell

Organic Grain Production Workshop This grain workshop is for those interested in getting into organic grain production. Need to identify the market for different grains, from ancient grains, legumes, to modern wheat? Tanja and Willem from Fieldstone Organics are two great resources for you. They will discuss existing small scale grain producers' crop needs for cultivation and harvest and much more.

A Radical Re-visioning to Sustainable Food Systems based on a Decolonizing Research and Relationships Approach
Dawn Morrison
Rebecca Kneen

Co-facilitated by Dawn Morrison and Rebecca Kneen, this workshop will begin by observing Indigenous cultural protocol in a practice of mindfulness that will enable a safe space for transcending cross cultural issues in the interface where Indigenous food sovereignty meets organic agriculture. The process of reconciling Indigenous food sovereignty with organic agriculture is a journey of exploring paradigms, practices, and protocols which affect our respective ability to grow, harvest, share and trade food.

Dawn will introduce the Decolonizing Research and Relationships: Cross Cultural Interface Framework, developed over 10 years of appreciating the ways that Indigenous food sovereignty is expressed. We will enter into a journey of better understanding how organic agriculture and Indigenous food sovereignty are being expressed in their respective areas of focus. Workshop participants will be given an opportunity to discuss key points of entry and intersection that highlight how Indigenous bio-diversity and cultural heritage can shape the process of transitioning to a more socially and ecologically just and sustainable land and food system for the benefit of all.

Closing: Water ritual

Record Keeping: Perspectives Of A Distributor, An Inspector & A Producer
Heather Stretch
Daria Zovi
Rebecca Kneen

Record keeping is a perennial challenge for farmers of both large and small operations. The "why" of recordkeeping needs to come before the specifics of "how." This panel will address both, as they illuminate how to develop your own record keeping system that satisfies certification requirements and traceability for your operation and also captures useful growing and marketing data. Rebecca Kneen is a grower and processor (brewer), Heather Stretch is a veggie grower and distributor, and Daria Zovi is an inspector. They will address diverse farming scenarios and common record-keeping pitfalls in a panel that will allow time for discussion and questions.

Stories from the Vanguard of Organics
Chris Bodnar - Moderator
Rod Reid - Panelist
Charlie Lasser - Panelist
Susan Davidson - Panelist

Conversations on the history and future of organics in BC with the leaders of BC's organic movement. Participants from the vanguard of organics will gather to share defining moments from their careers and the history of the organic sector. With many of our founders and forerunners nearing retirement, this session will be an excellent opportunity to knowledge share and celebrate the many things the organic sector has achieved. Discussion encouraged and audience questions welcome. Come and see how the formative stories and experiences of BC's original organic farmers can help shape the next future of agriculture and guide a new generation of growers.

The Organic Quiz - Becoming One with the Standards and their Review
Nicole Boudreau (Organic Federation of Canada)
Facilitated by Anne Macey - COABC Accreditation Board
Facilitated by Rochelle Eisen - COABC Accreditation Board

How well do you - know the organic standard? - understand the standards review process? In this session OFC will test your organic standards knowledge with their Organic Quiz and outline how the Canadian Organic Standards review process works. You will learn how you can participate in the review and more specifically how to propose modifications.

Tools to Understand the Economics of Seed Production
Shauna MacKinnon
Chris Thoreau

Are you growing seed or want to start but are not sure if a seed crop can give you a financial return? FarmFolk CityFolk, in collaboration with UBC Farm, has been developing enterprise budget spreadsheets for seed production in BC to help answer this question. This session will walk you through seed production budget templates that will help you better understand the economics of integrating seed production into your farm. Sample templates with real BC seed production data will be included so you can begin developing your own seed enterprise budget right away.

The second part of the session will explore options for growing seed under contract. How to get started, what to include in contracts and case studies of how contacts have worked for individual growers and cooperatives will be included.

Understanding Pests and Their Pathways
Tracy Hueppelsheuser

New and emerging insect pests are always threatening crop production systems in British Columbia. Tracy will share an update on recent emerging pest threats in BC, biology, distribution, and potential crop impacts. Information will also be provided on signs and symptoms to watch out for, as well as prevention and management approaches to reduce the risks. Insect pests that have had the telephone ringing this year include Western Corn Rootworm, True Armyworm, Brown Marmorated Stinkbug and Japanese Beetle. Insect specimens and handouts will be available for viewing and becoming more familiar with some challenging pests.

Read BCOG Winter 2018