Wanted: Land to let P.E.I.'s organic farm sector get 7 times bigger
‘It’s about building relationships between farmland owners and farmers’
The P.E.I. Certified Organic Producers Cooperative is looking for land to meet an aggressive target to increase organic food production in the province.
The co-op aims to increase the current 4,800 hectares in production to 32,000 by 2030. To accomplish that near-sevenfold gain, it's not only going to need more farmers; it's going to need more arable land that growers can lease.
"If we are going to expand our sector on P.E.I. — and we do have some lofty growth goals — then we are going to have to find more land for our producers, [both] existing producers and new entrants," said research co-ordinator Karen Murchison.
The challenges for the group's growth goals were discussed at a summit in December. Farmers talked about putting together an inventory of existing land, as well as determining how much interest there is from new farmers, and what plans existing farmers have to expand.
A crucial step will be finding the land for all of that to happen.
Creating an organic farm has particular challenges.
You can't go in on Year 1 and call your operation organic. It takes time to certify that the land has been managed under organic growing principles. Because of that, organic farmers require long-term leases from landowners.
"It's about building relationships between farmland owners and farmers," said Murchison.
Step one of the co-op's plan is asking interested landowners to fill out a short survey. It asks just seven questions, including the size of the parcel of land and its location, as well as the owners' goals for the land.
If the landowner decides to lease out the land for organic farming, the co-op would mediate communication between the landowner and a farmer, keeping the owner up to date with how the land is being farmed and what the results are.
"If we can explain to them what's happening and why these things are taking place, it can certainly build trust between the landowner and the farmer," said Murchison.
The P.E.I. Certified Organic Producers Cooperative has made the survey available on its website. It will take about three minutes for an interested landowner to complete.
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With files from Island Morning