Recent statistics are showing continued growth in the number of organic
farmers in Ontario. In 2007, there were 569 certified organic farms in
Ontario with approximately 100,000 acres of crops and pasture. This land
was 48% in grain and oilseed crops, 40% in hay and pasture, and about
5% in fruit, vegetables and herb crops. The balance includes maple, nut
trees, etc. Organic farming represents about 1% of the farmland and 1%
of the farms in Ontario.
Organic corn, soybeans and wheat are priced similar to last year and slightly
more than double the 2009 prices of their conventional counterparts. Organic
crops yield about 75% of the conventional crops, depending on crop, management
skills, weather, etc . Organic crops often have net returns per acre of
at least double their conventional counterparts, and in some cases more
Marketing of organic crops will take some research to seek out the dealers
you want to work with. There are numerous buyers for organic grains. Organic
prices are not tied to the Chicago Board of Trade, so there tends to be
more stability in the market. Prices are affected by supply and demand
of organic commodities, but for many years supply has not been able to
meet demand. Even in the current market, prices have been stable and market
demand is still strong.
For field crops, certification is generally required by buyers. This is
true of both processing buyers for food products, as well as feed buyers.
Organic livestock must be fed certified feed if the livestock are certified
organic. Certification costs range from $500 to $1,000 or more per year
per farm, depending on the size and complexity of the farm. Good production
records are required as part of the certification and annual inspection
process. However, these records are very similar to what is required for
other traceability programs. As of June 30, 2009, certification will be
part of the new Canada Organic Regime that will be managed by the Canadian
Food Inspection Agency. Organic certification bodies will be accredited
to manage the certification process.
Weed and Nitrogen Management
The biggest production issues for organic field crop farmers are weed
management, and nitrogen management in corn and cereals. The key to successfully
managing weeds is to have a good crop rotation. Secondly, be timely with
mechanical weed control, starting right after planting before the crop
emerges. For corn and soybeans, this requires weekly passes over the field
with a rotary hoe, weeder harrow or inter-row cultivation. This will likely
cost less in total than a typical herbicide program. The third step is
to be able to walk the fields with a hoe as needed to eliminate weedy
patches and outbreaks or troublesome weeds. The key is to keep on top
of your weeds and to prevent weeds from going to seed as much as possible.
Nitrogen is largely managed with cover crops such as red clover. Red
clover is fairly easy to establish on most organic farms. Farms with access
to manure can also use it to supplement the nitrogen and maintain phosphorous
and potassium if those nutrients are low. However, high rates of manure
are discouraged in order to minimize weed pressure and environmental issues.
Have a good look at organic. The sector has grown 15-20% per year for
over 20 years. It takes some effort but your successes can be very rewarding.