Results of 2018 OCO Member and Retailer Surveys

In late 2018, we circulated a survey to our members for feedback on our projects and to help us determine our priorities for 2019. We also circulated a survey to retailers to better understand the demand for organic and what organic retail might look like under an Ontario organic regulation. Thank you to all who participated! We’re pleased to share the results of both surveys, as well as the ways we are working on the action items that came from member feedback.

Here are some of the highlights:

Projects that Mattered Most to OCO Members in 2018

We asked our membership which projects mattered most to them of the things that we worked on in 2018. The top three projects were:

Government advocacy on organic issues

OCO works to foster a healthy rapport with stakeholders and members of government to encourage legislative action and policy development. During last year’s provincial election, we published a report card grading each political party on its organic agriculture support and policies. We also held our annual Queen’s Park Organic Day, where we invited members to meet with over 20 MPPs to discuss issues important to the organic sector. This year, our advocacy work continues as we work with government stakeholders on a sustainable organic data strategy, and continued pressure for an organic regulation in Ontario (more below)!

The campaign for organic regulation in Ontario

OCO has been advocating for organic legislation in Ontario since 2016. Last fall, we worked with MPP Jim McDonell (PC) to re-introduce our private member’s bill for organic regulation. The bill passed second reading on November 29, 2019, and is currently at committee. Two previous versions of the bill, introduced by Peter Tabuns (NDP) and co-sponsored by Sylvia Jones (PC) – had passed second reading, but did not progress further before the election was called last year.  

Image of fruits and vegetables at market

As part of our campaign for an organic regulation, OCO has also been advocating for the need to have supports for small-scale producers. Last year we published a survey of small-scale producers which showed that the majority of farmers surveyed are in favour of organic regulation. We solicited feedback on various options for supporting small-scale producers, including a proposal for a low-risk designation for small-scale operators. Read the full report here.

We also asked retailers their opinions on the organic regulation, and whether they would sell products certified under a low-risk designation program in various forms. You can see the results of that survey here.

Creating the Ontario Organic Directory

Search the Ontario Organic Directory to find organic products and businesses.

We officially launched the Ontario Organic Directory in 2018, which lists every certified organic farm or food business in the province. It is also possible for other members of the organic value chain, those that are in transition, or that support the organic sector to be listed in the directory by becoming Supporting Members of OCO.

We will continue to add new features to the directory and make improvements based on user feedback. This year, we’ve also teamed up with Local Line to offer members the opportunity to sell their products in an online organic marketplace. We’re currently seeking new vendors interested in joining the organic marketplace pilot, which will launch in summer 2019. Please contact if interested.

Priorities that Matter Most to OCO Members for the Coming Years

There are several priorities which members indicated should be a focus for OCO in the coming years, and the good news is that OCO will be working at various capacities on all of these projects. Below are some project updates on a few key items:

Engaging our members in the organic standards review process

The Canadian Organic Standards review process is currently underway, and OCO has been actively working to engage our members in the review process. We held a series of #YourStandardsYourSay webinars on hot topics within the organic standards review (recordings now available on our website here). We have and will continue to solicit our membership on the specific recommendations within the review process. Expect further updates coming this summer!

Consumer education blogs and retail point of sale materials

Last year, OCO launched our #actONorganic and #MoreThanJust series of blog posts and postcards to spread the word about the need for organic regulation while clarifying what organic means, and differentiating it from some “organic-adjacent” claims, such as local and grass-fed.

We are currently working on a series of consumer education materials relating to method of production labels found on meat, egg, and dairy products, such as “free-from” claims, “grassfed,” egg claims, and other commonly seen labels.

Do you have ideas on other consumer education topics that you’d like to see materials for? Share them with us at

Improving Ontario organic data collection and reporting (production, pricing, and market data)

Late last year, OCO was awarded funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to develop an Ontario organic data strategy that will be sustainable long-term. The end result will be recommendations for more consistent organic data collection so more and better information can be provided to stakeholders.

So far as part of this project, OCO has conducted interviews with various stakeholders to understand current data collection methods and gaps for further opportunities. Work is also underway for a pilot case study on cost of production benchmarking for grains and oilseeds, as well as ongoing improvements to the Ontario Organic Directory.

Working with the Organic Roundtable to create a national organic inputs directory

OCO recently received funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to study the feasibility of creating a national database of approved organic inputs. As part of these efforts, OCO has been conducting interviews with certifying bodies and other key stakeholders, researching case studies of other jurisdictions, and working with the Organic Value Chain Roundtable task force on inputs. We are currently conducting online consultations and seeking member input and ideas – join us to give your ‘input’!


Each year, we hold several events that attract a wide range of organic stakeholders. We asked our members which events they would be most interested in attending, and these were the results:

Organic farm and business tours

OCO is exploring the idea of conducting some organic business tours this fall in the GTA area based on member feedback that this would be an event of interest.  Stay tuned for more details, and if you are an organic business interested in hosting a tour, please contact

Annual General Meeting and Policy Forum

Session at OCO’s 2019 AGM & Policy Forum on organic data trends in North America.

We recently held our Annual General Meeting and Policy Forum at the Gibson Centre in Alliston, Ontario, which included nine panel sessions featuring thirty-one speakers. A full recap of the event is available online here. OCO is considering other possible formats for our AGM in the future, and would love your feedback as we brainstorm!

Membership Benefits and Why People Support OCO

Some of the member benefits that OCO is continuing to explore include ways to foster connections to suppliers/distributors, and providing marketing opportunities and branding support for our members. Part of this work includes ongoing improvements to the Ontario Organic Directory, classifieds, and launching an online organic marketplace for members.

Overall though, the membership survey revealed that most people support OCO for the intangible benefits; that is, because they agree with OCO’s mandate and want to help grow the Ontario organic sector.

OCO relies on the support of our members to continue our work. Consider becoming a Supporting Member today!

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