Report Release: Understanding Farmers’ Perspectives on Environmentally-Friendly Agricultural Practices in Ontario

Author: Sharmeena Lalloo

The Organic Council of Ontario has released a new report to shed light on Ontario farmers’ perspectives surrounding environmentally-friendly practices employed within organic and regenerative farming systems. This report identifies trends and potential opportunities to encourage the adoption of environmentally-friendly farming techniques throughout the agricultural sector in Ontario. The key findings are as follows: 

There is an established interest in adopting environmentally-friendly techniques across the agricultural industry

Despite 40% of the respondents being non-organic producers, only 3.13% of the total respondents indicated that they do not employ any of the listed environmentally-friendly practices. 40% of respondents also suggested that there are no major barriers to adopting such practices, which include reduced tillage, reduced use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and rotational grazing amongst many others. 

Barriers to adopting environmentally-friendly techniques vary by producer group

The biggest challenge for non-organic producers was weed management, indicating a heavy reliance on synthetic pesticides and herbicides amongst this group. Organic producers instead found the labour-intensive nature of the work to be the biggest challenge, indicating a need for an increased understanding of how organic farms require support in recruiting, training and retaining their workforce. It is also an opportunity to educate non-organic producers on environmentally-friendly weed management techniques.

Farmers are more aware of organic techniques than techniques associated with regenerative agriculture

Respondents were less aware of the environmental benefits of practices associated with regenerative agriculture and of the existence of regenerative organizations within Canada than their organic counterparts. Non-organic producers were also less aware of organizations that specialize in supporting farmers with both regenerative and organic farming techniques, but more or equally knowledgeable of organizations offering support for soil and crop improvement. This suggests an opportunity to improve awareness of regenerative agriculture, and how it may complement and strengthen existing organic farming practices.

Awareness of environmental benefits and farm profitability varies by producer group

The majority of respondents believed that environmentally-friendly practices (such as reduced use of synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides and herbicides) were beneficial to the environment. All producer groups understood the importance of using organic and regenerative practices for the benefit and protection of the environment. Even then, non-organic producers were more likely to label them as “positive”, rather than “very positive”, indicating that they are less aware of these benefits. Smaller proportions of respondents, though still the majority, perceived these practices as beneficial for farm profitability.

Although around half of respondents indicated that they had not been affected by drought or crop loss, 73.5% of all respondents indicated they were concerned about the impacts of climate change. Respondents who indicated they had experienced climate-related damages were more likely to have integrated environmentally beneficial practices into their systems.

Moving toward a sustainable agricultural industry

The survey establishes the need for several key steps to encourage the adoption of environmentally-friendly techniques across Ontario’s agricultural sector.

  1. Further education regarding the use of environmentally-friendly practices; through field days, workshops, or webinars, would be supported and met positively by all producer groups, especially as the majority indicated that they would be motivated if it led to improved crop quality. 
  2. There is an opportunity for more research on the role of organic price premiums in improving profitability, but also the possibility of encouraging knowledge sharing among producers, who have found environmentally beneficial techniques to be profitable. 
  3. Government subsidies were viewed as one of the top motivators for environmentally beneficial practices, suggesting that the demand exists for further investment into developing a climate-friendly food production system.

In light of this, the unique aspects of organic and regenerative approaches must be accounted for, and producers must be provided with adequate financial support, education and training to encourage a transition towards a more sustainable food system across Canada. 

You can read more on the report here, or contact for more information. 

Comments are closed.