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Marc Loiselle Wins Outstanding Organic Farmer of Year Award

Brenda Frick, Ph.D., P.Ag.

Vonda area farmer, Marc Loiselle was named Outstanding Organic Farmer of 2007 by the OCIA RnE board at their annual meeting. OCIA (Organic Crop Improvement Association) is one of the world’s foremost organic groups, with offices in Canada, the United States, Latin America, Asia, and Europe. The OCIA Research and Education board developed the Outstanding Organic Farmer of the Year award to honor and showcase talented producers who excel in cropping and livestock practice, who are good stewards of the natural environment and who are committed to the organic community.

The Outstanding Organic Farmer of the Year award was awarded for the first time in 2006, to Assiniboia area farmer Dwayne Woolhouse. Having two Saskatchewan producers named in the first two years of this award indicates the level of excellence and leadership that Saskatchewan achieves in the organic community. Farmers were nominated for the award by their local chapters; only 6 of the 38 chapters eligible to nominate a candidate are based in Saskatchewan.

Located just outside of Vonda, SK, Loiselle Organic Family Farm has been certified organic since 1985. Marc and his family grow heritage wheat, barley, oats, peas, flax, fall rye, alfalfa, yellow mustard, sweet clover, and red clover. They also raise goats, roasting chickens and laying hens.

Marc manages the land with an eye to maintaining and enhancing the natural environment. He retains wetlands and bush. He and his family have planted 12 miles of shelterbelts. These provide habitat for birds. This in turn helps the farm when these birds prey on grasshoppers and other pests. Livestock have restricted access to the pond on the farm, to reduce any contamination of the water. Perennial grasses are established along water runs to prevent erosion. Poorer quality land is maintained in hay, rather than cultivating it. Honey bees forage in the alfalfa and clover.

Marc makes extensive use of green manures to build soil. He rotates crops over a four or five year cycle, selecting crops with lots of biomass to increase soil organic matter and tilth. He carefully manages composted manure, placing it on saline areas, hilltops where soil is thin or in other areas where soil fertility is low.

Weeds are managed with timely cultivation and frequent green manuring. Green manures give good control of perennial weeds like quack grass and Canada thistle. Cultivation, post emergent harrowing, hay cutting and crop harvesting are timed as much as possible using the biodynamic method of lunar scheduling. Marc finds that this optimizes his cultivation and reduces the amount of tillage that is needed. He claims that timely cultivation helps to control grasshoppers and sawfly as well as weeds. Leafy spurge is managed by beneficial spurge beetles. Marc encouraged his rural municipal council to introduce these biocontrol agents.

Marc has been an outstanding advocate for organic farming. He has spread the word in a number of documentaries such as The Future of Food and The Fight for True Farming. He is involved in the precedent setting class action lawsuit against Monsanto and Bayer Crop Science for their release of GM canola, and has served as Communications and Research Director for the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund. Marc was involved in committees working towards the implementation of Canadian Organic Standards. He has served on the Wheat-Rye-Triticale recommending committee for the variety registration system in Western Canada, representing organics. Marc has also been active at a local level, serving as president, secretary, treasurer, crop improvement chair and on the certification review committee for OCIA SK#2, the organic group centred in the North Battleford area.

Marc is the 5th generation of the Loiselle family to farm their land. This year their farm celebrates its 100th anniversary under Loiselle family management. Marc and Anita recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. They have 4 children proud to be raised on an organic farm. Marc and Anita are mentors for other farmers transitioning into organic farming. They truly embody their motto, Holistic Stewardship for Abundant Life.

Brenda Frick, Ph.D., P.Ag., is the Prairie Coordinator for OACC (the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada) at the College of Agriculture, University of Saskatchewan. She welcomes your comments at 306-966-4975 or via email at brenda.frick@usask.ca.

This article first appeared in The Western Producer, and is published here on the OACC website with permission.

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Posted May 2007


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