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Organic Connections

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Organic Connections

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Organic Connections

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Organic Connections

Organic HeroesCelebrating the Organic Sector on the Prairies

Honoured at Organic Connections 2018

Arnold Taylor

Arnold was born and raised on a farm east of Kenaston, Saskatchewan. He and his wife Sharon started farming conventionally in 1972. They have an organic grain and beef operation since 1992 with their son, his wife and family. He has been involved with the organic industry in the following capacities:
• Former National President of Canadian Organic Growers
• Past President of Saskatchewan Organic Directorate
• Chair of SaskOrganics/Organic Agriculture Protection Fund
• Former Saskatchewan Representative on Organic Federation of Canada
• Former Vice President of the Organic Federation of Canada
• Voting member of the C.G.S.B. Expert Committee on Organic Agriculture
• On the SOD Food Miles Committee
• Founding Board member of Organic Connections Conference
• Twice Past President of the Kenaston Lions Club
Arnold was first certified in 1992 and at that time and in subsequent years he used the statement  "organics put the fun back into farming". It is still fun!
Honoured at Organic Connections 2018


Debbie and her husband Ian moved to the Miller family farm at Lisieux in 1979. By 1990 farming wasn’t fun anymore.  They were poisoning their land and themselves with their intensive chemical use. This was not an environment they wanted for their children, Dustin and Nancy. They bit the bullet and began the transition to organic production. By 1993 all 1100 acres were 100% certified organic. Farming was fun again.
At that time there was very little information available on how to farm organically.  Synergy magazine published a story about an organic farmer located in southern Saskatchewan. Ian found his number and called him. Together they founded OCIA chapter #8 to make it easier for farmers to share information. The chapter attracted so many like-minded farmers that Debbie quit her day job and became the first chapter administrator. Debbie learned at a young age that if you see something that needs doing – you do it. She saw a need for people to help in setting up new organizations and to work on organic standards, certification and accreditation systems. So, she did it. Her work took her to several interesting places across Canada and around the world. She visited farms growing everything from coffee to beans to rice. Witnessing the strength and endurance of farmers everywhere was a humbling experience. She learned there were really no differences at all.
Sample of Debbie’s organic involvement:
- Organic Connections Founding President
- International Organic Accreditation Service (IOAS) accreditation committee
- Member first Organic Value Chain Round Table
- Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) International President as well as service on several international level committees
- IFOAM Accredited Certification Bodies Association Founding President
- Columnist for Canadian Organic Growers Magazine
- Editor, Organic Alberta magazine
- Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD) Administrator, Board member, Chair of Production Manual Committee, and Food Miles Committee
- Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) voting member
- OCIA Canada Regional Manager
- SOD Organic Agriculture Protection Fund (OAPF) Advisor
- Organic Ag Centre of Canada (OACC) Board Member
- U of S Trade/Market Analyst Steering Committee Member
- U of S Prairie Research Coordinator Steering Committee Member
- Canada-Ukraine Farm Program: project consultant/partner
- Invited guest to Terra Madre slow food conference in Italy
- Organic Regulatory Committee member
- Canadian National Organic Coalition (CNOC) founding member
- Organic Alberta Finance and Member Services Manager
Ian passed away in 2012. Debbie left the farm and moved to Alberta to work with Organic Alberta. She enjoys living closer to her daughter Nancy and is delighted that her son Dustin and family have moved back to the farm and are re-imagining it in new and wonderful ways.
Honoured at Organic Connections 2018

Mark Gimby

Mark Gimby has worked with the Saskatchewan organic industry for over 40 years and is a founding member of Organic Connections. He says that the thing that has kept him going all these years is working with the creative, intrepid and often wonderfully crazy people that make up this community.
Raised on a mixed farm at Marsden Saskatchewan Mark harkens back to a time when kids walked through the fields to the one room school house, families danced old time dances on the weekend at the small town halls and people got together for work bees whenever there was a job too big for one person. Rural folks mostly grew and raised their own food back in those days, and knew how to entertain themselves. There was a very powerful sense of community.
Graduating from the School of Agriculture in 1977 he began work at the Saskatchewan Research Council in 1978. Mentoring under people like Ewen Coxworth, Stan Roe and Andy Rutherford he worked on projects all over Saskatchewan that looked at the viability of organic farming techniques.
In the ‘90’s Mark had the opportunity to partner with CUSO and travel to Central America where he met with local Indigenous people in their surroundings. Some of them walked 2 days though jungle to meet and discuss ways to develop markets for their crops.
Through working as a researcher and doing organic inspections Mark had the great good fortune of visiting budding organic farms across the prairies. He took part in the burgeoning industry from its infancy to where it stands today. He has had the immense pleasure of working with three generations of some organic farm families.
He headed up the development of the Organic Products Information Service on projects aimed at linking producers with international markets.
In 1980 Mark joined Growers International Organic Sales where he currently works as an organic grain buyer.
Mark lives in Saskatoon with his wife Mona. They enjoy their ever expanding family, traveling and playing old time music. As members of Permaculture Saskatchewan they take part in Permablitzes and have recently established their own Permaculture garden. They are also actively involved with the Ness Creek Festival site, volunteering at various events and supporting the Ness Creek Forest Garden.
Mark has not strayed from his support and belief in Organics. It hasn’t been a job for him, it has been his life’s work.
Honoured at Organic Connections 2018


Zak Organics is a fourth generation family-run farm and producer of certified organic snacks owned and operated by Allen & Marilyn Zak and sons.  Located in southern Saskatchewan, the Zak farm has been in the family for over a century and its 7,500+ acres of land has been certified organic since 2011.  We grow such crops as spring wheat, khorasan wheat, peas, lentils and flax.  A variety of other crops, such as alfalfa, clover, forage peas, vetch and buckwheat are utilized in the rotations to improve soil health.  Seed timing, seeding density and crop rotation are tools to combat weed and disease pressure.  Farming organically means that we need to work with the land and mother nature.  Our methods of farming help protect not only the soil; but the air, water, insects and animals in our fields and community.  The final product produced by our farm is a premium quality product.  The consumer recognizes that it healthy and appreciates that it does not contain unwanted chemical residues that may negatively effect their health.  
We created Zak Organics Food Co. in 2015.  It began with a desire for a simple high-energy snack without the bad fats, high sodium and additives found in traditional "junk food". When we couldn’t find what we were looking for, the Zak family decided to create our own healthy snacks using products from our own farm.
In 2016, Zak Organics launched its first line of organic snacks, made from dried whole green peas. The nutrient dense snacks are made from perfectly toasted whole green peas rich in protein, seasoned in a crispy coating of fresh herbs and spices.  In addition to being certified USDA and Canada Organic, all products are free from trans-fat, cholesterol, MSG, GMOs, dairy, gluten, nuts, and artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.  Every bite of Zak Organics Crunchy Peas delivers an amazing nutty crunch, the delicious taste of a potato chip, with a bold burst of sophisticated flavours. Available in a variety of flavours, Zak Organics snacks can be found in natural and specialty food stores and major retail locations across Canada.
Being on the front lines of the food business has been exhilarating.  Through farmers markets, trade shows and store tastings we are dealing directly with thousands of consumers.  It has been very rewarding to meet the people that are consuming our snacks, to hear what is important to them and what they are concerned about.  With all the information available, it is more important than ever to connect with consumers to tell the story of where our food comes from.  We are using this opportunity to educate consumers on the positive health benefits to buying organic food and the important work the organic associations are doing to help protect the safety of what we eat.