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Growing Organic

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"Success in agriculture and agri-food is becoming more and more reliant on education, knowledge and technology," said Vanclief. "Organic agriculture is presenting producers with excellent opportunities and this new centre will ensure they stay on top of the learning curve and that Canada continues to enhance its reputation as a world class supplier of organic food."

Along with $1.3 million in regional funding, in the past year the government has contributed more than $2.8 million towards organic farming – a drop in the bucket, maybe, but a substantial recognition and legitimization of organic farming all the same.

While it’s easy to dismiss organic farmers as green idealists and hippies, the amount of knowledge and scientific understanding you have to process to produce a certified organic crop these days is enormous when compared to most conventional farming practices.

"It really is complicated," says Lovena Harvey, a local organic farmer who with her husband owns and operates two small organic farms. "It’s not merely growing things without chemicals, it’s about compost building, which is a science in itself.

"It’s also about crop rotations. You have to have a whole map of your land and fields, and every year you have to rotate your crops and plan your cover crops. You have to know what nutrients are in the soil and which cover crops to plant in order to give your soil what it needs for the next time that field comes into rotation.

"There’s a lot more to it than opening a can of fertililzer or herbicide or pesticide."

In other words, you have to be proactive rather than reactive with land, methodically working within nature to maximize its growing potential.

According to Harvey, organic farmers are constantly reading and researching to stay on top of the latest information.

"You’re always learning in this business. We are constantly buying new books on organic farming, or seeking out literature. The B.C. Organic Association publishes a field handbook that is constantly updated as our knowledge grows. They also publish a monthly magazine with interesting articles, sharing advice and expertise."

Harvey is also a member of an organic listserve on the Internet, which has become a valuable resource in recent years as it connects her with hundreds of other organic farmers from around the province.

"I wouldn’t say it’s necessary, but it really helps. If you have a question, you post it on the listserve in the morning, and by the afternoon you’ll usually have an answer. At the same time we can always call our organic farming neighbours for help. Everybody is generally very supportive of one another."