Organic food consumption is increasing everywhere, but organic production is not keeping pace.
That means producers and processors are missing out on a profitable niche, and consumers are not getting as much local product as they could.
Yorkshire Valley Farms, Canada’s leading fresh organic chicken producer, wants to change that. The company, whose main farm is near Peterborough, Ont., is looking for conventional farmers who are open to considering organic production and growing certified organic feed.
“It all starts in the soil,” says Yorkshire Valley Farms president James Sculthorpe. “We need organic feed to grow organic chickens, so we’re trying to move some conventional growers over to organic. For sustainability, we want to remove some of the barriers about growing organic crops.”
Many of those barriers are based on a lack of knowledge and education about organic production possibilities. With that in mind, Yorkshire Valley is hosting an information day on March 13, in Norwood, Ont. The company hopes to convince some conventional farmers that organic production is worth a look. Guest speakers will cover such topics as cost of production, production practices (including transitioning to organic), and profitability.
Sculthorpe notes that farmers are businesspeople who “want to pursue the greatest return on their investment.
“We suggest they consider organic,” he adds.
He says one reason organic production should appeal to conventional farmers is the sector’s growth. Although it’s still a niche, organic livestock production is one of the fastest growing sectors in Ontario, with organic poultry yielding an annual growth rate of 30 per cent over the past five years.
But for the sector to be sustainable, organic feed supplies need to increase. Finding and nurturing more Ontario sources is critical if the sector is to meet the needs of consumers demanding local food, Sculthorpe says.
“Without farmers putting more land into organic production, consumers end up with inflated costs for organic food,” Sculthorpe says. “We have some of the best farmland anywhere in Ontario, and we have the potential to be a leader in organic production.”