N.L. could soon see more organic farms, advocates say
Dinner plates in Newfoundland and Labrador could see a lot more organic produce in the coming years.
More and more farms in the province are moving towards being certified as organic, says Theresa Richards, executive director of the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN).
"Organic" is a regulated term, meaning farms must be specially certified in order to use that description.
While there are presently only two officially organic farms in the province, Richards said that many farmers in Newfoundland and Labrador already use organic production methods.
"We've got some long-standing amazing farmers who've been growing organically for a long time, and now they want to be certified to show the consumer," she said.
"In the next few years I think we're going to see a lot more farms become certified. I think we're at that tipping point right now of people being interested in certification."
In 2014 the provincial government took on a cost-sharing initiative with farms looking to certify, which Richards said is encouraging more farmers to get on board.
"Let's see 20 organic farmers in Newfoundland by 2020, that'd be amazing," she said.
Organic farms helping food security
Richards was in St. John's as part of the 2016 Organic Opportunities Conference, joining farmers, academics, restauranteurs, and government workers to discuss Newfoundland and Labrador's organic situation.
Melvin Rideout, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture was also at the conference.
He said that local organic farming could help with Newfoundland and Labrador's skyrocketing food prices.
"It's a niche market that's easy to get into, hard to grow, but there is a market there that can offset some of the food security for the province," he said, adding that organic produce doesn't have to be expensive.
When the organic food is grown close to home, Rideout said, it can be much cheaper than organic foods shipped in from other parts of North America.
However local organic farming will only lead to secure, cost-effective produce if people in the community are willing to buy it.
"When you're not buying local then it's hard for the local farmer to expand because the market is there, then it's not," he said.
"If we can get the full province on board with buying all local then it's easily doable to get food security here."