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Organic Community Honours Its Own

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

Alfred Galarneau, Stewart Brandt and Joan Harrison were honoured for their contributions to the organic community at the Organic Connections gala banquet in Saskatoon in November 2008.

Alfred Galarneau of Radville, Saskatchewan was presented with an Organic Pioneer Award. Roughly 30 years ago, Alfred realized that some consumers were paying a premium for grain produced without chemicals. As Alfred was already farming chemical free, he decided that this was a niche market he wanted to pursue. He was able to market his first load of chemical free grain in the early 1980’s.

Consumer confidence was important in the growing organic marketplace of the 80’s. Alfred began looking for reliable independent 3rd party certification that would assure his customers that his product was everything he said it was. Alfred was pivotal in forming the first Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) chapter in Western Canada to meet this need.

By the late 1980’s, Alfred and his family built a cleaning plant and began working with other farmers to meet the growing consumer demand. They eventually installed a full cleaning line so they were able to offer mill-ready grain. By the mid 1990’s, they formed Prairie Heritage Seeds. Today the company markets grain from more than 50,000 acres, and Alfred remains an integral part of the operation.

Stewart Brandt, of Scott Saskatchewan was presented with an Organic Researcher Award for his long time commitment to organic research and extension.

One of Stu’s major achievements is the Alternate Cropping System (ACS) Study which includes three organic rotations. Stu initiated this study in 1994, long before studying organic systems was a safe career move. He was able to convince a large number of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists in Saskatchewan to partner with the Scott Research Farm to make this a keystone project that was recognized by an AAFC Gold Harvest Award.

In the ACS, organic farmers were consulted on approach and methods for the organic system. Meaningful organic rotations were established, and a variety of organic techniques were incorporated in a flexible management system. Stu applied a truly innovative approach, considering organics not simply as the absence of specific treatments, but as a whole system.

The ACS has shed light on a number of areas of organic cropping, from soil and weed management, to energy use and economics. It has also helped to develop expertise in organic among the research community and provided a focal point for communication between organic farmers and researchers.

Stu has collaborated with other scientists on a number of additional organic projects, including studies of green manures, cultivar comparisons, organic soil amendments, etc. He has been a valued mentor in the scientific community, and valued resource in the organic community.

Joan Harrison of Loon Lake, Saskatchewan was presented with an Organic Hero Award. She was honoured for her long term dedication to organic food and organic farmers.

Joan came into organics as a consumer in the 70’s. In those days getting organic food meant working with others to create organic food co-ops – first Magpie, and then Steephill. Joan was active on the Steephill board in the 1980’s, shepherding it through some of its difficult early years. It is a thriving enterprise today.

Joan was actively involved in the groups that eventually evolved into the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD). She was a SOD board member for several years, including a term as secretary. Within SOD, she has volunteered her services as an advocate for the Organic Agriculture Protection Fund, the class action lawsuit promoting the right to eat and farm without genetically engineered crops; as an active supporter of the Organic Product Information Service; and as a member of the production team of Synergy magazine and the SOD newsletter. She has served on the Organic Connections board for each of the conferences, helping to source organic food, developing a session on composting, and another session highlighting the consumer farmer connection.

Each of the individuals honoured at Organic Connections has given of themselves to better the organic community. Their work is valued and their efforts respected.

 

Brenda Frick, Ph.D., P.Ag., is the Organic Research and Extension Coordinator at the University of Saskatchewan and is an affiliate of the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada. She welcomes your comments at 306-966-4975 or via email at organic@usask.ca. This article was commissioned by the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada.


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Posted January 2009

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