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Organic HeroesCelebrating the Organic Sector on the Prairies

Danny Rempel photo

Honoured at Organic Connections 2014

I started farming with my Dad, Wilfred, in 1982. We came back to live and farm my Great-Grandfather’s 1907 homestead. In 1990, as a family, we decided that organic farming was the direction in which we wanted to take our farm. My son, Bryce, is now living on his Grandfather’s land, in hopes of being able to farm fulltime.

The first two years we were certified with OCIA Chapter #2, northwest of North Battleford. The third year we joined Chapter #8 because of the similarity of soil type and farming practices. We certified our livestock in the late 1990’s.
I served on the certification committee for 10 years; three of those as chairperson. At that time the certification committee did the actual certifying. We have since moved to third party certifiers. I also received Farmer of the Year Award from OCIA International in 2010.

Through the years we have seeded many types of crops. One year we grew 12 varieties. Some of the crops we have grown were fenugreek, hemp, lentils (green, red, brown, black), brown and golden flax, hard red spring, durum, CPS white, barley, oats, peas (forage, green and field), kamut, soybeans and chickpeas. We tried diverse crops and rotations to access niche markets. We used to have to hunt for markets but now the buyers come to us.

We also tried many biological soil amendments to boost microbial life in the soil. We took our turns hosting field days to share our results. This year I hired a certified agronomist who specializes in organic solutions. His enthusiasm has been motivating.

At first we decided that organic farming was a way of making small acres viable in supporting two families. As we got more involved, organic farming became our life choice. This was the way we chose to live and raise our family. Taking care of the environment and soil was our alternative to mining our farmland. I feel conventional farmers use soil as a medium to hold their plants up whereas we use our soil to grow our plants. Even if there were no organic markets I would still farm organically and then sell conventionally, if necessary. The driving force behind how we farm is sustainability.

Rob Stafford photoHonoured at Organic Connections 2014

Rob Stafford comes from a long line of farmers. In 1909, his great grandfather homesteaded the Stafford farm. Rob’s father, Earle, began farming with his father and in 1964, purchased a farmstead 4 miles from the original homestead. Rob began farming with his father at the very young age of 12, raising hogs and helping with the various aspects of the farm. After graduating from high school Rob began his own farming career. In 1974, Rob and Debbie were married and made their home on the family farm. Rob was actively involved in the community, helping out with community events and serving on numerous committees and local boards, as well as farming full time. In 1975, Rob and Deb had their first child Jodie, followed by Kurtis, Christie and Rick. Community was always important to Rob, so when he made the transition to organic farmer in 1998, it was no surprise that Rob got involved with the organic community as well. He was certified with OCIA in 1998 and then in 2001 became certified with SOCA. Rob volunteered to be on the SOCA board, as well as a representative on the SOD board. He was very involved with the organic sector, you could always count on him to attend a meeting and help out when needed. Rob was an excellent organic farmer, he knew how to manage his land and what would grow well on his farm. In 2005, Rob decided to try his hand at growing hemp. It was a new crop in Saskatchewan but Rob was able to grow it with great success. He managed to find a way to grow hemp every year by making it part of his rotation. Buckwheat was also becoming part of the rotation and of much interest to Rob. Rob and Debbie started their own organic company called Stafford Organics Inc. in 2008. By 2011, their family had grown to include 11 precious grandchildren.
Rob Stafford passed away unexpectedly while working on a community project at Lower Fishing Lake in February of 2013. At his funeral it was said, "Rob's proudest farming accomplishment was when he became a certified organic farmer." Today Rob's farm land continues to be farmed organically. Rob is greatly missed by many people. He was a wonderful person, and always supportive of his community, family and friends.

Honoured at Organic Connections 2016

Upland Organics 2016Cody and Allison own Upland Organics, which is located two miles east of Wood Mountain, Sask. They envisioned and created a family orientated, environmentally and economically sustainable organic farming operation that contributes in a positive and significant way to both the local community and the greater organic agricultural community.

Cody was born and raised in the Wood Mountain area.  He grew up on a farm and completed an engineering degree at the University of Saskatchewan in Agricultural and BioResource Engineering.  After completing this degree he went on to work in the manufacturing sector for several years before returning back to farm in the Wood Mountain area.  One of Cody’s strengths is in machinery design and he enjoys working with and improving the equipment on the farm.   Cody serves as Vice President of SaskOrganics and also sits on the member education committee and is the chair of the research committee.  Cody also sits on two advisory boards for the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative.  Both Cody and Allison also sit on the organic advisory board for the Swift Current Research and Development Centre.

Allison was born in St. John’s, NFLD and grew up primarily in Southern Ontario.  After completing her BSc in Environmental Toxicology at the University of Guelph (Guelph, ON) she moved to Saskatoon, SK to pursue first her MSc and then PhD in Toxicology at the University of Saskatchewan.  Like Cody, Allison is very interested in promoting the organic industry; especially through on-farm research.  Allison supports involving organic producers at the individual farm level and believes that it will contribute to the overall applicability of organic research.  As such both her and Cody have implemented several on-farm research projects at Upland Organics.  Allison enjoys managing the research programs for Upland Organics and is always looking for new opportunities to collaborate with research scientists, agriculture industry professionals and other organic producers. 

Allison and Cody met while they were both attending the University of Saskatchewan and got married several years later in 2008.  After working in Saskatoon a few years more they decided to buy their farm in 2010.  Both Cody and Allison believe in being involved in the local community.  Allison serves as secretary on the Wood Mountain Regional Park board and as a member of the Wood Mountain Library board.  She also serves the surrounding region as a board member on the Old Wives Watershed Association. Cody works as a volunteer firefighter in the rural municipality.  They welcomed their first son in 2014 and welcomed another boy in 2015 as the newest addition to their family.

 

Honoured at Organic Connections 2016

IMG 4757Gaston and Nicole are the proud parents of four children, Marc, Adam, Daniel and Janine. In partnership with their sons Marc and Daniel, they run a certified-organic grain and beef farm on land that was bought by Gaston's grandfather after he moved to Canada from France in 1894. The original quarter section lies just north of the one-street town of Grande Clairiere, southwest of Souris, and is still home to Gaston and Nicole, where sits the old farmhouse where Gaston grew up.

The Boulanger family decided to certify their farm in 2000, a process that took two years to complete with the transition of grain first, and then in 2004 to what are referred to as organic breeding cows. The farm now consists of roughly 1700 acres of organic pasture and prairie hay, and 800 acres of organic crop and forage - mainly alfalfa, flax, gluten free oats, and millet.
The Boulangers are supporters of the co-operative movement, both as participants and as leaders wherever they go. Gaston just finished a term on the OPAM Board of Directors, working with fellow organic farmers to keep an organic certifying body co-op functioning in the industry. Gaston and Nicole are avid supporters of OPAM open houses and field days, re-connecting with old friends and always eager to meet new ones.

In considering the Boulangers as "Organic Heroes", it is important to acknowledge their keen understanding of good animal husbandry, field and pasture management, and livestock marketing. They have blended this basket of skills with their support of producer co-operation and working together to accomplish goals. Gaston identifies market opportunities for organic beef cattle and then willingly shares information and transportation opportunities so small organic producers can participate in the organic beef market. Nicole assists with paper management and final settlements when loads are processed.

It is this "bringing producers together” that makes Gaston and Nicole Boulanger true "Organic Heroes".