OCO’s 2019 AGM in Review

OCO’s 2019 AGM in Review

On Friday April 12, 2019 members and friends of the Organic Council of Ontario came together in Alliston, Ontario for our 2019 Annual General Meeting and Policy Forum. Hosted in the beautifully restored Gibson Centre, a former farm implement factory built in 1889, the day was a chance for Ontario’s organic sector to connect over the challenges and opportunities of our industry.

Policy Forum: Perspectives on Ontario’s Organic Sector

With nine sessions featuring thirty-one speakers, the 2019 policy forum was OCO’s most in-depth offering to date. The day kicked off with an panel on the 2020 Organic Standards review process, featuring Hugh Martin, Chair of the Technical Review Committee, members of the Greenhouse and Livestock Working Committees, and the Organic Federation of Canada’s Ontario Representative, Simon Jacques. Read more about the 2020 review in our webinar series, #YourStandardsYourSay.

Breakout session presentations covered a range of topics including organic traceability, current research and data trends in the sector, other-method-of-production labels, seed security, and issues around sourcing organic inputs. Find presentation slides and panel summaries below!

General Meeting: Getting Down to Business

After a delicious lunch created by Custom Catering with ingredients donated by OCO’s generous membership, members and directors got down to the day’s business, electing Thomas Booijink of Jamink Farm, Jill Baxter of Cambrian Solutions, Ruvena Buslovich of Fiesta Farms, and Norm Hansen of Erieview Acres to the board of directors. For the first time, OCO’s 2019 director elections included electronic ballots. Read more about OCO’s board structure and directors.

A financial review highlighted the importance of OCO’s Grow Organic Collection Program, in which voluntary contributors collect a fee per unit sold or a percentage of sales and donate the money to OCO, allowing us to continue our advocacy for Ontario organics. Our thanks to Pfennings Organic Farm and Field Farms Marketing Ltd. for their vital support through this program.

Reception: A Taste of Ontario’s Organic Sector

The day finished with a tasting reception featuring organic h’or d’oeuvres, samples from Green Table Foods, Koa Natural Foods, and Dimpflmeier Bakery, ice cream from Mapleton’s Organic Dairy, Tonica Kombucha, wine from Southbrook Vineyards and Frogpond Farm Organic Winery, and beer from Beau’s Brewing Co. and Mill St. Organic.

OCO would like to thank our sponsors, with a special thanks to our flourish sponsor, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. Our thanks as well to all our food donors, and, of course, our members for a fantastic day of learning, networking and delicious organic food and drink!

For more on our 2019 AGM, take a look at our photo album below and check out this post from our friends at Pfennings!

OCO 2019 AGM & Policy Forum


Organic Standards – Are we getting them right?

The Canadian Organic Standards have to be reviewed every five years in order to stay enforceable, and to keep our equivalency agreements with trading partners. In preparation for the 2020 review, the Standards Committee on Organic Agriculture has reviewed over 220 proposed changes. Panellists discussed the review process, proposed changes, and the controversies that come with each review.

Featuring: Hugh Martin, Chair of the Technical Review Committee; David Cohlmeyer of the Greenhouse Working Committee; Joel Aitken of the Livestock Working Committee;  Ruvena Buslovich, Organic and Natural Foods Manager at Fiesta Farms; and the Organic Federation of Canada’s Ontario Representative, Simon Jacques.

Organic Integrity and Innovations in Traceability: Part I

Experts from the grain industry discussed systems of traceability for organic supply chains in Europe, the US and Canada, including the imminent demand from North America’s largest retailers for supply chains to adopt blockchain technology – most well known for its use in cryptocurrency transactions.

Featuring: Harro Wehrmann of Wehrmann Farms; Ryan Koory, Senior Analyst with Mercaris, and Ken Nott of Grain Discovery.

Organic Research Forum

The organic sector in Ontario is continuously conducting research to better understand and improve our practices. Panellists summarized current research, including studies on the effects of tarps on soil carbon, measuring soil health with citizen scientists, wild pollinators’ relationship to grazing practices, and cost-of-production in organic dairy.

Featuring: Brent Preston of The New Farm, Ruth Knight of the Soil Health Coalition, Kyra Lightburn of the University of Guelph, and Simon Durand from College Alfred and the Union des Cultivateurs Franco-Ontariens. The panel was moderated by Ali English, Executive Director of the Ecological Farmers of Ontario. Check out their farmer-led research program.  

Competing Labels: Understanding Other-Method-of-Production Labels for Meat and Dairy

“Grass-fed”, “raised without”, “free from”, “humane” – how do consumers, organic producers and certifiers relate to these labels? Panellists presented their own personal experience and evidence from consumer studies in a discussion of the current politics, practices and perceptions around these other-method-of-production labels for Meat and Dairy. Check out the results of OCO’s 2018 review of organic meat labels and pricing at 30+ retailers in the GTA.

Featuring: Dave Lockman of Pro-Cert Certifications, Bita Farhang of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Ashley DeLarge of True Foods, and producers Marte Pronk and Mathias Seilern.

Organic Integrity and Innovations in Traceability: Part II

Panellists delved deeper into traceability with presentations on Germany’s consumer facing database of organic products – Bio Mit Gesicht (Organics with a Face) – and the bioLinks and bioTracks interfaces that allow producers and retailers to track their animal supply chains with smartphones.

Featuring: Thorsten Arnold of the Grey Bruce Centre for Agroecology and Cory Van Gronigen of V.G. Meats.

Organic Seeds in Canada: Solutions for Plant Breeders and Farmers?

With less and less federal funding for public seed research in Canada, private industry is in the forefront of seed development. This panel featured a seed activist, certifier and researcher in a discussion of seed development, sovereignty and security in Canada in light of changes to the Plant Breeders Rights Act.

Featuring: Ann Slater of the National Farmers’ Union, Aabir Dey of The Bauta Family Initiative on Seed Security, and Jennifer Scott of Canadian Seed Institute – Centre for Systems Integration.

Organic Data and Trends in North America

Senior Agriculture Economist Ryan Noory (Mercaris) provided an in-depth look at the latest organic grain and oil/seeds market data and trends in the United States, and discussed how growing consumer demand and production can create obstacles and opportunities for Canada and the US in the near future.

Agricorp: Tailoring Business Risk Management to Organic

Agricorp and Grain Farmers of Ontario representatives shared recent information on organic crop insurance programs and heard feedback from the audience on their functioning.

Featuring: Geoff Smith of Agricorp and Henry Van Ankum of the Grain Financial Protection Board.

The Trouble with Organic Inputs

Our panel of inputs suppliers, producers and organic certifiers joined together with the audience for a discussion of the current input approval system in Canada, its strengths and shortfalls, and the feasibility of greater information sharing on inputs between certifying bodies, material review organizations, input suppliers and organic producers.

Featuring:  Simon Jacques of Ecocert, Terry Good of TEK MAC Enterprises, Kate Loghrin of Bio-Ag Consultants & Distributors Inc. and Jennifer Scott of Canadian Seed Institute – Centre for Systems Integration.

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