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Organic Connections

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Organic HeroesCelebrating the Organic Sector on the Prairies

Honoured at Organic Connections 2022

Will Oddie

Will Oddie has been an organic champion since switching to organic production in 1989. With his total commitment to the organic movement, Will has worked tirelessly to increase the profile of organic production and lent his efforts to several organic organizations in Saskatchewan, Canada and internationally. A long-time proponent of the benefits of farmers sharing their knowledge, Will continues to support organic farmer education by organizing seminars, webinars, workshops, and field days. He is also strong supporter of dedicated and applied organic research. 

Will’s understanding that strong organizations are the backbone of a strong community is reflected in his many decades of volunteerism in the organic industry. Even before becoming certified in 1991, Will became a founding member of the OCIA SK Chapter 4 (now TCO Cert Chapter 4), a commitment continuing to the present day. Will served in multiple executive and committee positions (President, Secretary and Treasurer) and currently serves as Secretary of the Chapter. Will is a firm believer that TCO meetings, with their educational component, give farmers a chance to share valuable information, critical to the improvement of the industry. 

In the 1990s, Will served on the Executive of OCIA International and when it changed to a Board Structure, he served on the Board for two years (early 2000s), serving one year as Chair of the organization. Will is very grateful for the other organic heroes, and those yet to be named, who worked tirelessly with him on that Board. 

In 1998, Will was involved in the creation of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD) and served a two-year term as President. When Sask Organics was formed in 2015, Will served on the inaugural Board of Directors as Treasurer and later as President. Will is currently the Board Secretary and Chair of the Education & Research Committee. Will has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to strengthening organic organizations over the past three decades. 

Will has been an organic farmer for over 30 years and his commitment to continuous learning and sharing his knowledge are reflected in willingness to undertake on farm research projects. This illustrates his understanding of the importance of farmer engagement in developing tools to meet the agronomic challenges and to help ensure the sustainability, resiliency, and profitability of their operations. Will and his wife Elaine have also hosted field days on their farm, where he not only shares the results from his own on farm research but puts together a full program including presentations from researchers, technicians, provincial government specialists and equipment demonstrations, providing an information-rich program with the best of hospitality. 

Will is passionate about the need for good applied organic research and for the need to get research results out to organic producers, in a format easily applicable at the farm level. He has been instrumental in the early development of Sask Organics education program and is constantly looking for new and different ways to get the agronomic word out, especially to farmers who may not be attending the workshops, field days and conferences. 

Will is driven by the notion that the organic industry cannot rest on its laurels - that organic production needs to move beyond mere elimination of prohibited products. Will believes that real progress for organics will involve a much greater emphasis on advancing soil health with its subsequent improvement in food nutrition and ongoing farm profitability. 

Will is a natural mentor. A willingness to learn and to ‘have a go’ are important attributes for folks working with him on his farm – something his kids and grandkids will also attest to. Will is generous with his many skills – from wood working to farm machinery repairs – and patient with his mentees providing them with the support they need to successfully complete any task he asks of them, leaving them with a sense of accomplishment as well as a new skill set. A strong family man, Will is also a much-loved husband, father and a grandfather of nine. 

Honoured at Organic Connections 2022

Scott Beaton

Scott works for Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation primarily doing easements and wetland restoration, and work to maximize carbon sequestration and resilience in farming systems. In his spare time, Scott operates a 640-acre organic farm near Rosser, MB along with his wife Jenny and their adorable daughter, Charlotte and new guy Callum. His farm includes 120 acres of conservation lands. The remaining acres are dedicated to crop production incorporating livestock as a management tool. One of the most impressive things about Scott's farming career is it's very humble start. Scott started without very many assets and has built his successful operation on his own hardwork and perseverance.

Scott has a clear idea of what he sees as the future of his farm with goals set that support the idea of sustainable organic agriculture that does more with less. His goals are 1. Improve soils 2. Grow good, healthy food 3. Minimize inputs and energy that must be paid for and 4. Derive sustainable income enough to support one family on one section of land. Scott is very knowledgeable on the most recent developments of organic grain production, is very well read, and is very meticulous in his farming career.

Scott's farm is a special example of what can be possible when an agricultural system is managed on the ecosystem level. Scott is not afraid to implement big-picture ideas and concepts and demonstrate their effectiveness in a commercial cash crop system. He has done an incredible amount of work establishing shelter belts to provide food and shelter for wildlife all while increasing the yields of his crops. He was also a participant in the operation pollinator program which allowed him to convert several acres of land to permanent habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

Scott is also active in on the Prairie Organic conference organizing committee and is the host of the informative Grain on the Brain podcast now available through the Manitoba Organic Alliance

(https://manitobaorganicalliance.com/podcasts/). On this podcast Scott has interviewed experts in organic agriculture such as researchers, other farmers, grain buyers and extension specialists. This is a great resource for organic farmers in the prairie region and serves to highlight the progressive and innovative work happening in organic agriculture in the prairies.

Honoured at Organic Connections 2022

Brenda Frick

Dr. Brenda Frick describes herself this way: I have had a diverse career based on a solid science background, a dedication to organics, and more than thirty years as a liaison between the scientific community and the organic community. My role has been to listen, learn, and share information to facilitate the growth of organics.

Brenda brings an interesting blend of education to her work. She studied at the University of Regina for her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees, completed a PhD in Weed Ecology at the University of Western Ontario and then returned to Saskatchewan. She added a Degree in Education from the University of Saskatchewan and then Organic Crop Inspection certification. 

Organic farmers tend to know Brenda for her work in research, communication, inspection or teaching. She worked as the Prairie Co-ordinator, based at the U of S, for the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada from 2003-2010. She conducted organic inspections for various certification organizations from 2011-2018.

Brenda left lasting gifts by editing and writing portions of the 2nd edition of Organic Farming on the Prairies (2013) and being a contributing author of the Organic Field Crop Handbook (Canadian Organic Growers, 3rd Edition, 2017). Many read her organic columns in the Western Producer (2003-2015). She wrote or cowrote numerous extension factsheets, and spoke at meetings large and small. She revamped and still teaches the award winning (2013) Distance Education course for U of S: Weed Control in Organic Agriculture (2007 to present).

Brenda has mentored others interested in Organics, helped organize conferences (was an Organic Connections advisor and board member from 2003 to 2013), and has done important consulting work in the organic sector. She worked with a Saskatchewan First Nation to develop and deliver an organic school garden/greenhouse/cooking program. 

Honoured at Organic Connections 2018

Zak's

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.