Organic farming goes for scale in prairies, pushes back on skepticism

OttawaMatters – Sept 2, 2018 (Canadian Press)

Travis Heide was raised on a conventional farm and used to take it personally when his wife, who grew up on an organic farm on Vancouver Island, talked about going pesticide and fertilizer-free.

Travis Heide was raised on a conventional farm and used to take it personally when his wife, who grew up on an organic farm on Vancouver Island, talked about going pesticide and fertilizer-free. Now, his the Saskatchewan-based farmer owns one of the biggest organic farms in Canada.

“Every time she talked about organic, it was like she was attacking the way I was raised.”

High prices for some organic crops helped push him to experiment with the practice in 2015 on farmland he secured through a partnership with property manager Robert Andjelic. Profits on the organic crop ended up helping offset losses on his conventional crop that year.

Heide has since gone all-in on organic and is pushing to see how big such farms can grow with a 16,200 hectare operation, as the industry matures and concerns mount about the impacts of conventional farming. The federal government, for example, recently moved to phase out nicotine-based pesticides that are linked to a rising number of honey bee deaths.

“What we’re not spending in chemical, we’re investing in people and machinery.”

Heide said he stuck with the model because it made sense on a business case, as demand grows for the products and the market matures, and other farmers are taking note.

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