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The COABC currently promotes organic agriculture and educates the public on the environmental and health benefits of going organic.
The organization is also responsible for issuing and monitoring the use of the "British Columbia Certified Organic" symbols on food products since 1993, when it was the first program of its kind in Canada.
Research, and the recent uproar over Mad Cow disease and genetically modified foods, shows that consumers truly want more accurate information about the quality of their food and how it is produced. Although it often doesnt look as aesthetically perfect as other produce, with organic you can be reasonably sure of what youre getting.
Locally, there are a handful of organic farmers, six at the last count, who mostly serve the local market in Whistler with 50-plus restaurants, three full-service grocery stores and high volumes of enlightened tourists from the U.S. and Europe, there is enough demand in the valley to keep up with the supply.
A few of the organic farmers that produce roots and tubers sell to specialty stores like Capers in the Lower Mainland, but there hasnt been a need to develop opportunities in foreign markets.
"It definitely wont affect anything for us," says Lovena Harvey who runs the weekly farmers market in the Upper Village in the summer, as well as The Gathering Place organic farm. "We wont even consider selling to a foreign market. Our stuff is all for local customers, mostly Whistler."
During the spring, they do sell Watercress to specialty stores in the Lower Mainland, but they are busy enough growing organic specialty items for Whistler restaurants and stores.
Their main crop is a selection of seven salad greens and six edible flowers, which are popular in local eateries. They also grow a selection of special beans, such as purple fava beans, and scour the countryside for wild foods like stinging nettles and burdock roots.
Harvey says it shouldnt be a problem for other Canadian organic farmers that dont happen to live near resort communities or urban areas to reach foreign markets. Although she hasnt seen the changes to the certification process proposed by COABC, she has studied certification processes and believes Canadas present system to be among the best in the world.
"Whether youre in Ontario or B.C., the certification process is basically the same set standard, there are set Canadian guidelines. There are differences between the provinces, but all provincial guidelines are in accordance with the Canadian standards, which are very high," says Harvey.
"If anything, it is we in Canada who are concerned about American standards."