Organic Food

Similkameen Okanagan Organic Producers Association

Mailing Address

4834 Cedar Hill Rd
Falkland, BC  V0E 1W1

Contact Info

Administrator: Cara Nunn
Phone: (250) 540-2557
Email: simokorganics(a)


BC Certified Organic Program (BCCOP)

Scope: Crops, Livestock, Processing

Date of Certificate

May 11, 2020 – May 11, 2021

Certification Body Information

A History of SOOPA


The Similkameen Valley is unique in having one of the highest concentrations of organic growers and processors in Canada.

The Organic movement started with small-scale farm growers who believed in healthy, natural, environmentally friendly farming. We have growers in the Valley that have been growing food without toxic chemical inputs for 30 years and longer. These pioneer organic farmers inspired others who moved into the area and began farming organically. They were concerned not only with producing wholesome harvests.  They were also determined to improve the quality of the environment that their own food was grown in. Believing that toxic chemical sprays would be harmful to themselves and kill their beneficial insects, whose work they would then inherit, they abandoned the use of pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers. Since healthy soil is the basis for plant health, a strong emphasis on soil building began to develop.

Environment Awareness

This new attitude that began developing within the farm community coincided with a heightened awareness of toxic chemical inputs and their damage to the environment. Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” was one of the main influences in the increased interest in the concept of organic farming. There were no standards for organic farmers at this point in time and no definition of what an organic farmer was, there was just a persistent notion that if alternatives to toxic chemical controls were sought, they would very likely be found. In the Similkameen Valley, farm workers were becoming more vocal about their poisonous work environment and began to demand that farmers not spray while they were working in the orchard. A new attitude within the “farm workers community” was growing as well and it was represented by the formation of a Farm Workers Union that called for safer working conditions for people working around toxic chemicals commonly used on farms. Shortly after this the WCB developed the pesticide applicators course, which is designed to teach farm workers about safe application of toxic pesticides and other toxic chemical inputs.

The Development of Certification Programs & the Formation of SOOPA

Following the trend developing in the organic industry, the Similkameen Valley organic growers followed suit in 1986 when 10 founding members initiated the formation of the Similkameen Okanagan Organic Producers Association (SOOPA).
SOOPA was formed to develop a certification process and draft standards for our local organic farm community and to give some definition to a way of farming.

Certification had developed in the United States with the formation of the organization called the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), which was founded in 1975. The Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) was founded at about the same time and they were followed by the formation of many other certification organizations. These organizations were in the process of defining the term “organic” by drafting standards that would guarantee quality assurance to their customers.

SOOPA encouraged, and still encourages, a high level of participation from its members and the task of drafting comprehensive grower guidelines was undertaken. As a result of these guidelines its membership grew. Originally SOOPA had a 5-year transition period, a very limited material list of allowed substances and a rigid whole farm policy. The system of third party verification was developed within the industry, which led to the formation of the “Independent Organic Inspector Association”, the organization that oversees and trains our verification officers. Over time some of the policies that were drafted when the group first formed have been changed. These changes reflect an attempt to bring all standards for organic production into worldwide unity. In 1995 SOOPA changed from a 5-year transition period to a 3-year transition period.

SOOPA was the first certifying organization in British Columbia. SOOPA has farmers in its program producing everything from fruit and grapes, to ground crops, livestock, greenhouse crops and processed products.

SOOPA and other BC certification groups created the Organic Alliance, the provincial association of organic groups functioning up to 1993. The Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia (COABC) was founded in 1993 by the provincial government with the help of SOOPA and other BC certification groups using the Food Choice and Disclosure Act.

SOOPA has served as a model and inspired other organizations in the area. Today the Similkameen Valley has the highest concentration of organic growers per capita in Canada and it is growing every year.

Sterile Insect Release Program

The history of organic farming in the Similkameen Valley is uniquely joined to the fate of the codling moth in this farming area. Codling moth cydia pomenella is the worm in the apple. An uncontrolled population will explode and render an apple crop unmarketable in two years. Agriculture Canada scientists used the Similkameen Valley to develop a non-chemical control method for the codling moth in the 1970’s. By releasing large numbers of sterile males into the wild population they were able to virtually eradicate the insect. In the absence of the persistent presence of the highly toxic chemicals normally used for codling moth control the populations of beneficial parasites and predators were able to grow and do their job of managing
secondary pest populations. S.I.R. has proven to be very successful and is an ongoing program.

Then and Now

In 1999 SOOPA adopted the COABC standards.
In 2001, at the SOOPA AGM, a resolution was passed to redefine SOOPA’s Whole Farm Organic Policy.

The definition of the Whole Farm Organic is:

  • An organic farmer or processor must be committed to managing his/her land, growing or producing a crop or product without the use of harmful, toxic chemicals or substances.
  • A “farm” means any land used to produce any agricultural commodity.
  • “Commodity” means any article of trade. Commodities include but are not limited to: produce, farm products, livestock, medicinal and cosmetic materials.
  • No non-organic agricultural commodities can be grown on a farm.

WHOLE FARM ORGANIC reflects traditional farming methods, as it does not accept the use of toxic chemicals, synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified crops.

In an attempt to approach the ideal model, Whole Farm Organic attempts to coexist with and respect all of nature.

Whole Farm Organic uses:

  • Few off-farm inputs
  • Crop/animal diversity
  • Crop rotations
  • Green manures and fallow cycles for fertility
  • Composting
  • Spreading of crop residues or animal manures
  • Mulching and sheet composting
  • Acceptance of some crop loss due to insect cycles and other natural occurrences
  • Companion planting to enhance growth and combat insect infestation

There is an emphasis on mechanical and hand labour.

In 2002, a new certification body in BC, PACS , was created primarily for expediting international trade of BC organic products.  Several larger SOOPA growers and handlers became members of PACS and SOOPA’s membership was reduced.  At the 2002 AGM, a vote was held and it was decided to maintain SOOPA as a certifying body.  SOOPA retained its fundamental role of certifying organic farms and continues to serve its members in this capacity. 

As members of SOOPA, we pride ourselves on the integrity of our organic methods of farming and the quality of our products.  Organic agriculture provides people with healthy, wholesome food.  It is also an attempt to create a healthier environment for all living organisms.  Hopefully, some day, many more people will realize the importance of healthy soils and clean air and water.

Happy Organic Farming and Eating

Board of Directors 2021
President Rachel Tarves
Vice President Rachel vonStrumer
Treasurer Eric Cutting 
  Ken Knechtel 
Director Phyllis Jamaeff
COABC Rep Josh Brown
Alternative Rep Corey Brown
Certification Committee Members Milan Djordevich
  Emilie Thouielle
  Deacon Liddy
  Eric Knechtel 
last modified 2021-04-23 17:27:30

Membership Listing, Found 20 entries

Transitional Assessed to the BC Organic Standards and in transition to full organic status. For more information click here.
Pending Application for assessment to the BC Organic Standards submitted - certification review decision pending. For more information click here.

Enterprise Contact City Status Class
Beaumont Estate Vineyards Alex Lubchynski,
Louise Lubchynski
Kelowna Certified Farm
Berm and Gate Farm Rachel von Sturmer,
Deacon Liddy
Certified Farm
Blackbird Organics Corey Brown,
Colleen Brown
Cawston Certified/Inactive Farm/Poultry
Chilco Orchard Duncan Baynes Keremeos Certified Farm
Clos du Soleil Winery Michael Clark,
Charlie Bassleur
Keremeos Certified Farm
Garnet Hollow Thomas Tumback Summerland Certified
Honeyberry Acres Ross Nunweiler,
Lana Nunweiler
Kelowna Certified BCCOP Farm
Mountain Springs Farm Phyllis Jmaeff,
Kaleden Certified Farm
Organic Only Emilie Thoueille,
Eric Cutting
Cawston Certified Farm
Silver Lake Estate Farm Moyra Armstrong Naramata Certified
Silver Springs Paula Rubinson,
Mendel Rubinson
Savona Certified Farm
Similkameen Apiaries Blair Tarves,
Cheryl Tarves
Cawston Certified Farm
Similkameen Nurseries Josh Brown Cawston Certified Farm
SoleTerre Vineyard Franco DePieri,
Oliver Certified Farm
Stoney Paradise Dragi Djordjevich,
Mildred Djordjevich,
Milan Djordjevich
Kelowna Certified Farm
Sun-Joan Farm Stuart Lloyd Keremeos Certified Farm
The Appleman Peter McDonald,
Robert McDonald
Keremeos Certified BCCOP Farm
The Cawston Market Farmer Erik Knechtel Cawston Certified BCCOP/T2 Farm
Tom Wilkinson Farm Tom Wilkinson,
Donna Wilkinson
Naramata Certified Farm
Workhorse EAM Robert Culver Cawston Certified BCCOP