Organic Food
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Conference 2019

Friday February 22 to Sunday February 24, 2019
Vernon, BC

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Climate Panel
Shauna MacKinnon

Shauna works for the BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative which has conducted several research projects that relate to organic production in the Okanagan. Shauna's climate panel will highlight this research on climate change adaptation strategies for the organic sector as well as engage organic producers in articulating their research priorities in this area.

Contentious issues in the dairy industry
Anne-Marieke Smid
Laura Whalin
Dr. Caroline Ritter

North American citizens highly value outdoor access for the welfare of dairy cows. In addition, cows are highly motivated to access pasture, particularly at night time. However, pasture access is not always feasible on some farms for several reasons, such as lack of adequate pasture land or periods of inclement weather, rendering the pasture unsuitable. As little is known about the preference of dairy cows for alternative outdoor areas, I investigated dairy cow preference to access various outdoor areas during my Ph.D. In my presentation, I will show the results of 2 studies investigating:
1) the preference of dairy cows to access pasture versus an outdoor sand pack and
2) the preference of dairy cows to access a wood chip pack during summer and winter.

Digging better carrots, picking better peppers: Info & discussion session on Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI)
Dr. Alexandra Lyon

In this is session Dr. Alex Lyon (UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems) will discuss new participatory plant breeding initiatives focused on organic vegetable crops, led by the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm in partnership with the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security and funded by Organic Science Cluster 3. These projects include farmer-led breeding of an early-maturing blocky red bell pepper in Ontario, and a new project in BC to breed an open-pollinated orange storage carrot with excellent flavour and early season vigour. Carrot growers and other carrot enthusiasts are especially encouraged to attend as we will be seeking feedback on breeding priorities and discussing opportunities to get involved through on-farm trials, on-farm selection, and plant breeding workshops.

Early cow-calf separation: The good, the bad and the ugly
Caroline Ritter

In this presentation I will discuss some of the issues associated with separation of the calf from the dam, a practice that takes place in the first few hours of birth. Specifically, I will touch on implications of early and late separation on behaviour and disease transmission for cow and calf.

Expanding cherry production in British Columbia under climate change: a role for organic amendments and post-harvest deficit irrigation?
Louise Nelson, Biology, UBC Okanagan Campus

Abstract: With climate change cherry production in the southern interior of British Columbia is expanding northward and to higher elevations than previously possible. Efficient use of limited water and maintenance of soil health while sustaining cherry quality and yield are important factors to consider in adaptation of cherry to these new sites. The effects of post-harvest deficit irrigation (PDI) (25% reduction in water supply after harvest) and compost and mulch amendments on soil health and cherry production were assessed over three years in two new and one established orchard. This was coupled with a cost/benefit analysis of these management practices. PDI had no negative effects on cherry water relations, fruit quality, yield or soil health after two years, but the incentive to adopt this practice is limited at present as current water allocations are sufficient to meet grower needs. Compost amendment increased soil nutrients at all three sites and generally decreased the abundance of the root-lesion nematode, Pratylenchus penetrans, and the percent colonization of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in plant roots. Organic amendments show potential to maintain soil health in newly planted orchards and to mitigate the biological effects of replant stress in established orchards, but costs may outweigh the benefits to be gained in the short term.

A Farmer's Guide to Best Practices in Selling at Farmers' Markets
Anna Helmer, Helmer's Organic Farm

Farmers' markets are a fairly mature segment of this new food system that values quality of taste and production methods. However, they are facing a lot of competition from both within and without. In this workshop, Anna will share practical tips, and best business practices for farmers selling at BC farmers' markets.

Anna will use her 20 years of experience selling at farmers' markets to help other growers strengthen their market presence. New vendors can find help with the basics of choosing which markets to attend, products to sell, and how to sell them. Existing vendors can find some helpful tricks and tips to take their marketing to the next level. Hopefully the result is increased sales for farmers and increased satisfaction for customers, leading ultimately to the increased vitality of the farmers' market sector.

Farming Alongside Species-at-Risk
Tanya Brouwer, Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance

British Columbia is home to thousands of species and ecosystems, and many of these are at risk of disappearing from our province. Organic farmers and inspectors can play a big role in ensuring this doesn't happen. Come out and learn how farming with and for species-at-risk (SAR) fulfills environmental mandates within the Canadian Organic Standard, learn how to identify SAR and their habitat on your farm (or a farm you're inspecting) and find out how to fund projects and access organizations that can help you to make your farm wildlife friendly.

Get Off the Shelf! Putting Policy and Plans Into Action
Michelle Tsutsumi
Liz Blakeway
Eva-Lena Lang

Kamloops Food Policy Council (KFPC) is Canada's longest-standing independent food policy council, forming in 1995. Too often, well-intentioned plans end up sitting on the shelf leading to a policy implementation gap. KFPC will present in conjunction with the North Okanagan Land to Table (L2T) Network (formerly the North Okanagan Food System Initiative or NOFSI), both of which are taking a similar “off the shelf” approach and working to heed the advice of food system participants who want “less talk and more action.” Since 2017, operating within a Collective Impact framework, both organizations have reviewed policies, plans, and consultation reports. From this review process, and through collective meetings, areas of shared aspiration were identified to move forward on topics or projects that will strengthen the regional food system. This session will provide insight into processes that can help to move from words to action.

Guacamole: A Cooking Lesson for Justice
Dignidad Migrante Society (DIGNIDAD)

What is the real story behind how fruit and vegetables get from the farm to our tables? How can we ensure that the people who grow these ingredients for us are treated fairly, with respect and with dignity? Join the Dignidad Migrante Society (DIGNIDAD) to have fun, food, and learn with foreign farm workers, who grow our BC produce, in an interactive, theatrical cooking lesson and discussion.

Housing and feeding management for pre-weaned dairy calves
Laura Whalin

The majority of farms in North America house pre-weaned dairy calves individually. However, numerous studies have found that when calves are raised in pairs or small groups there are welfare benefits, such as increased dry matter intake, reduced reactivity to novelty, and increased play behaviour. In my brief presentation I will discuss some of the considerations that should be addressed when moving from individual to social housing, including how much milk, how milk should be fed, and how best to wean.

How to Create Your Own Individualised Costs of Production by Crop and Area
Andrea Gunner

Mystified by which crops are your money makers and how much? This workshop will show you how to get a handle on your actual costs by crop and production area so that you can include accurate financial information when making management decisions.

This workshop will be a pencil and paper exercise but will also demonstrate how to use Microsoft Excel workbooks to link all your individual costs of production.

Intercropping: Benefits and Risks
Joe Wecker

Based on years of experience with grain intercropping, learn the benefits and risks of integrating intercropping into your farming system.

Kundalini Yoga with Tess
Tessa Wetherill

Kundalini yoga is an ancient technology and devotional practice that uses movement, breath, mantra and mudra to elevate the spirit. It is accessible, profound, dynamic and transformative. This is an embodied practice, using motion and stillness, activation and integration. Please bring a blanket or towel and a pillow.

This class is open and accessible to all levels of practitioners. "In Kundalini Yoga the most important thing is your experience. It goes right to your heart. No words can replace your experience. It integrates you more fully with reality and gives you a broader vision and sensitivity so that you can act more efficiently." -Yogi Bhajan

Management-Intensive Grazing for Your Bioregion
Tristan Banwell

Management-intensive Grazing (MiG) is a flexible, goal-driven approach to pasture management and utilization whereby animal nutrient demand through the grazing season is balanced with forage supply, and available forage is allocated based on animal requirements. Sound a little complex? Join organic grass farmer Tristan Banwell as he explains the principles behind MiG, and shares the tools and techniques you need to implement this grazing system in your bioregion. Wherever you farm, you will see healthier animals, healthier pastures, more productivity, and lower costs when changing from a continuous grazing system.

The Okanagan Bioregion Food System Design Project
Kristi Tatebe, KPU Institute for Sustainable Food Systems

This session will present a research project that will provide policymakers with information about the potential of a more regionally-focused food system to contribute to food self-reliance, reduce negative environmental impacts, and contribute to our local Okanagan economies and communities. Feedback gathered at this session will help to shape the project.

Optimizing N and P Management on Organic Vegetable Farms Using Composts, Manures, and Organic Fertilizers
Amy Norgaard, UBC

This session will be a back-to-basics of organic vegetable nutrient management by specifically focusing on two key nutrients: Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorus (P). These primary nutrients are essential for normal growth and development of all plants, and nitrogen deficits are a common limit to productivity in organic systems. However, if supplied in excess, N and P become environmental contaminants when lost to surrounding ecosystems. Composts and manures are a rich source of organic matter and are widely used in organic agriculture to supply plant nutrients and improve crop yields and soil health; however, the amount of these nutrients supplied by composts can vary significantly based on the feedstock used for composting, and crop requirements for these nutrients are high but variable across mixed organic vegetable farms. Therefore, we will look at some tools we can use to quantify the nutrient supply from not only compost and manure products, but also cover crops and organic fertilizers, so these options can be used synergistically to meet crop requirements.

Organic Standards Bootcamp
DeLisa Lewis
Renee Prasad

Are you a new or already practicing farmer thinking of certifying your operation? This interactive workshop will provide the opportunity to gain confidence with the process of organic certification and renewals. Think 'basic training'' for navigating the organic standards. We will pump up your knowledge of the standards, and build your organic fitness with Book 2 and other 'hidden in plain sight' organic standards toolkits.

Regenerative Agriculture; A system of farming and gardening principles and practices that reverses the loss of biodiversity, enriches soils, invites and stores carbon, restores watershed health, and increases ecosystem services, while eliminating the release of toxins and pollutants.
Thomas Schneider

An introduction into systems which increase yield efficiency, resilience to climate fluctuation, and strengthens health and vitality of all the members of our communities, now and for generations to come. These systems draw from decades of scientific and applied research by many global communities, including those working with organic farming, organic biodynamic framing and gardening methods, agroecology, ecological restoration, and agroforestry. This presentation will also cover the importance of the beneficial aerobic soil organisms to build and maintain fertile, healthy, vibrant soils and composts.

Round-Table Discussion of On-Farm Slaughter

Ethics, approaches, animal handling techniques and philosophies, equipment and post-slaughter handling. It's all on the table (or in the compost) in this freewheeling discussion with farmers who all slaughter on-farm. Bring your stories, questions, challenges and solutions to share!

Update on the Standards Review Process
Rochelle Eisen
Anne Macey

The Canadian Organic Standards are under review in preparation for their 2020 renewal. The review process is managed by the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB), while the organic sector is responsible for content. Spearheaded by the Organic Federation of Canada (OFC), the review begins with industry consultation, and the creation of Working Groups to review proposed modifications. The Working Group recommendations are reviewed by the CGSB's Technical Committee on Organic Agriculture, which is composed of organic representatives. A public comment period follows. Rochelle and Anne will update us on the current review.

Use of polyethylene films for soil mulch and low tunnels
Hughie Jones

Use of polyethylene films for soil mulch and low tunnels (i.e., small greenhouses) has the potential to supress weeds, prevent erosion, alter crop productivity, conserve soil moisture (Θs) by reducing soil evaporation, and alter soil (Ts) and air temperature (Ta). Nevertheless, despite the wide adoption of plastic films in agriculture their effectiveness for crop protection and season extension is not well understood. Overall, my research objective is to study various state-of-the-art plastic films for their ability to alter soil/crop microclimate and crop productivity when used as soil mulch and/or on low tunnels. I will present microclimate and crop productivity data collected during a series of experiments performed at three organic farms in BC (UBC Farm, Cropthorne Farm and Mackin Creek Farm). The experiments focused on 1) the impact of plastic film mulches on soil temperature (Ts) and soil heat flux density, 2) the impact of low tunnels on air temperature (Ta), water vapor and CO2 concentration and 3) the impact of plastic film mulches and low tunnels on crop productivity. Overall, the goal of this research is to develop predictive tools (e.g., a low tunnel Ta prediction model) to assist farm-scale decision making to empower farmers to more effectively use plastic films as mulches and low tunnels for crop protection and season extension.

Weed Control in Vegetable Crops-Back to Basics
Paddy Doherty

In this interactive workshop, Paddy will describe some weed control methods that work for him along with methods that other farmers use. Participants are encouraged to share their successes and failures and to bring their questions.

Read BCOG Winter 2019