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Grazing the Way for Small Scale Meat

in 2021/Fall 2021/Grow Organic/Livestock/Marketing/Organic Community

By Ava Reeve

Drive down any rural road in this province and you’re sure to pass cattle on the range, a flock of sheep, or mobile pens for pastured poultry. Small-scale livestock production has a long tradition in BC, and has been reinvigorated in recent years with practices such as rotational grazing and regenerative agriculture that allow for significant meat production without industrial practices. Demand also seems to be growing for local and sustainable meats.

But are there really enough of these small producers to play a serious role in BC’s economy today? And how much potential does this industry have for the future?

Associations representing commercial livestock producers collect data on their own members – those producing over 300 hogs with BC Pork, for example. Commodity producers also enjoy the benefits of their association’s advocacy, and commerce support from marketing boards.

Meanwhile, producers selling directly to consumers, raising multiple livestock species, or simply operating at a smaller scale have lacked a collective voice in provincial conversations about agricultural policies. And little is known about the current scale and potential capacity of these producers.

Credit: Small Scale Meat Producers Association.

The Small-Scale Meat Producers Association (SSMPA) aims to address both of these issues. In spite of a diversity of livestock types and sizes of operations, the organization says that its members are united by operating without the supports of the existing commodity associations or marketing boards.

SSMPA was established by a group of farmers and ranchers in 2017, and its membership now includes representation from all livestock sectors. “The Small-Scale Meat Producers Association represents British Columbia farmers and ranchers who are raising meat outside of the conventional, industrial system,” reads the SSMPA website home page.

This might include a pork producer raising 200 hogs per year, and all poultry producers who sell direct to consumer. It can also include cow-calf operations that process a few cull cows for sale to friends and neighbours, even if they otherwise primarily sell at auction.

It has also succeeded in becoming recognized in consultations and conversations with the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, such as in the development of changes to on-farm slaughter licensing that the province recently announced.

Julia Smith of Blue Sky Ranch near Merritt is the President of SSMPA. “We’re happy with the regulatory changes,” she says of the announcement. But, she notes, “There’s more work to be done to build a thriving small-scale meat industry.”

Including Smith, SSMPA’s founding members were selling their meat products directly to members of their communities, rather than through a marketing board or distributor, and feeding communities in the process. And their experience was that their industry was growing.

Suckling piglets. Credit: Small Scale Meat Producers Association.

Smith raises a rare heritage breed of hog as well as a small herd of cattle on pasture. Selling directly has helped her see better margins than many commercial producers, where processors and retailers realize the lion’s share of the profit.

The demand for her product has been enough to enable Smith to grow her operation, from raising just two pigs in her first year, to running a farrow-to-finish operation with fourteen sows and two boars just four years later. She has supplied meat and other farm products to hundreds of British Columbians and currently has a waitlist for both meat and breeding stock.

Smith says this experience is repeated across the province. “We know that a small-scale operation can contribute to food security and the local economy. What we don’t know is the cumulative potential of producers like this spread all over the province – or their specific barriers to reaching that potential.”

She says information like this hasn’t been available because the right questions weren’t being asked. This summer, SSMPA launched a comprehensive survey of meat producers. She says the resulting information will help the organization define its policies and priorities to support these producers moving forward.

The province seems to agree that the industry has promise; many of the new changes to the slaughter regulations had been advocated for by SSMPA for years. Smith believes the number of producers that could be affected by policies like this is in the thousands. And they should all be giving their two cents to SSMPA.

“Everyone who processes at a provincially-inspected abattoir or on-farm should be participating in this survey,” she says. “Tell us: What is your path to growth? What obstacles do you need to overcome in order to reach your goals?”

At Blue Sky Ranch, Smith’s own goal was to produce just under 300 hogs per year. But the operation met with processing roadblocks at 125 hogs.

“We’re not the only operation that isn’t reaching its full capacity,” says Smith. “SSMPA is using the survey to document this. We want to know what would happen if we could create the conditions for successful operations across the province. For example, how many abattoirs would need to be built before producers could book the slaughter dates they need, with enough reliability to scale their businesses?”

“We’re connecting the dots, but without data to prove our case we won’t get the resources and support to let our industry thrive.”

Smith emphasizes that this survey is an independent project. “SSMPA is a producer-led organization and our mandate is to look out for producers,” she says. “We’ve gone to great lengths to protect the anonymity of survey participants and we will not be sharing survey responses or any other raw data with government, or anyone else.”

For an added incentive SSMPA connected with BC-based fencing company FenceFast, which has offered a $25 discount to every current producer who participates. Smith says FenceFast recognized the potential. “Really, this is just an example of the ripples of impact that can come from growing a locally-based industry like this.”

She adds, “We might be surprised at the opportunities being squandered because of challenges that are within our capacity to address. Even producers might be taken aback. We hope that there will be findings in our report that invigorate and inspire producers with a vision of what could be possible. We have so many people who want to enter this industry. Imagine the impact if these producers will have a fair chance at success.”

The survey is open until September 10, 2021 and can be accessed at smallscalemeat.ca/survey or it can be completed over the phone by appointment at 250-999-0296. SSMPA can also be reached at info@smallscalemeat.ca.

SSMPA is conducting regional focus groups in mid-September to dig deeper into potential solutions to the problems identified through the survey. By early 2022 they will be releasing a report on their findings, and announce how they will ensure that their own programming is geared to meet the needs of its membership.

Producers – and all supporters of local and sustainable meat production – are invited to join SSMPA by signing up for a membership.


Ava Reeve is the Executive Director of the Small-Scale Meat Producers Association, where she gets to pursue her passion for the sustainable practices that result in a high quality of life for both livestock and people.

Featured image: Spray Creek Ranch Cattle. Credit: Small Scale Meat Producers Association.

Ask an Expert: Fire Season Need-to-Knows

in 2021/Ask an Expert/Climate Change/Fall 2021/Organic Standards

By Emma Holmes

The BC Wildfire Service website has information on current wildfire activity, evacuation alerts and orders, wildfire preparedness information, and an interactive map, etc.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Fisheries (AFF) supports livestock relocation during emergencies. See website here for more information.

AFF supports Wildfire 2021 Emergency Feed Program that is meant to support commercial livestock businesses who due to wildfire activity cannot access their normal forage/feed supply.

Feed Considerations

The Organic Standard outlines the clauses pertaining to the use of non-organic feed during a catastrophic event in CGSB-32.310, 6.4.7:

“If organic feed is unobtainable as the result of a catastrophic event with a direct impact on the production unit (for example, fire, flood, or extraordinary weather conditions), non-organic feed may be used for a maximum of ten consecutive days (or up to 30% non-organic feed for up to 30 consecutive days), to ensure a balanced livestock ration. Non-organic feed from land in transition to organic production and free of prohibited substances shall be used in preference to non-organic feed.”

  • When you move animals to a non-organic farm (in the event of an emergency), you can feed them complete non-organic feed for a 10-day period.
  • After those 10 days, if you need to stay on that non-organic farm for a longer period, then you can feed the animals 30% non-organic feed (remainder must be organic) for 20 days.
  • After that 20-day period, you can feed the animals 25% non-organic forage (remainder must be organic) if there is a documented forage shortage.
  • Crown range or community pasture can be used without affecting the organic integrity provided that documentation confirms that the land has not been treated with prohibited substances for at least 36 months.
  • Should a producer not be able to meet the above requirements, their animals will lose their organic status and will require a 1-year transition back to organic status. One caveat to this is that breeding stock can be fed non-organic feed and be transitioned back immediately to organic status once they begin eating organic feed again, but their nursing young and any offspring whose mother was fed non-organic feed in the last trimester will lose their organic status and will require 1-year transition period.

*BC has never experienced such widespread fires and feed shortages before. The Organic Standard was developed at a time when the above feed considerations for climatic events provided enough allowances for an organic operator to maintain their organic integrity. If an operator is at risk of losing their organic certification due to feed shortages, please keep the Organics Industry Specialist in the loop as they are working closely with the Executive Director of Organic BC to support producers in maintaining their organic status during evacuations and unprecedented feed shortages.

Treatment Considerations

If the organic livestock should require treatment, those will need to be worked out on a case-by-case basis with the certifying body.


Steps an Organic Livestock Producer Needs to Follow to Maintain Organic Status in the Event of an Evacuation

  1. Call operator’s certifying body in advance (if possible) for guidance and to talk through plans.
  2. Inform the Organics Industry Specialist that an organic operation is under evacuation alert. The Organics Industry Specialist can also call the certifying body on behalf of the producer if needed. Currently, the position is filled by Emma Holmes who can be reached at emma.holmes@gov.bc.ca or 250-241-1337.
  3. Ideally, organic livestock would be able to find an organic buddy farm. Organic BC has a search tool that allows you to search organic operations by sector and region: organicbc.org/findorganic. The Organics Industry Specialist can also help with this.
  4. The primary concern to organic integrity is how the organic livestock are managed (feeding and treatments) with feeding being the biggest concern.

Emma Homes is the Organic Industry Specialist at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Featured image: Chickens at UBC Farm. Credit: Hannah Lewis.

Ask an Expert: COVID-19 Supports for the Organic Sector

in 2020/Ask an Expert/Organic Community/Summer 2020/Tools & Techniques

A Network of Support for BC’s Ag Industry in COVID-19

Karina Sakalauskas

I know the past two months have been a challenge to all. I hope your families and workers are staying healthy and safe at your farms.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak and to respect physical distancing measures, Ministry staff are working remotely but are still available to assist you. We continue to support the sector’s needs by providing services via email, phone, and through virtual meetings whenever possible. As we move on to the next stage of BC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are attempting to regain a sense of normalcy.

During these last two months, the Sector Development Branch at the Ministry, to which regional agrologists and industry specialists such as myself belong, has been reaching out to industry stakeholders and reporting to executives on the impacts experienced by the agriculture sector with regards to COVID-19 containment efforts.

I am in constant contact with COABC and representatives specific to their commodity portfolio such as organic farmers from different areas and from different food and beverage categories (poultry, livestock, dairy, veggies, fruit), organic processors and distributors, the accreditation board of COABC, certification bodies, and inspectors among others.

Some of the current impacts on the organic sector, identified through outreach efforts, are as follows:

  • Revenue losses from closed farmers’ markets, restaurants, and other sales outlets and difficulties in finding new supply routes.
  • Lack of support for small-scale diversified farmers (lack of qualification for support and insurance programs).
  • Lack of capacity for non-profit industry associations to address issues without stable revenues.
  • Delays in audits and inspections, including for organic certification. New growers or those in transition to be certified organic will be most impacted by cancellations or delays.
  • Information technology challenges in conducting remote inspections as well as in the transition to e-commerce by farmers.
  • Labour concerns and difficulty in productivity due to physical distancing measures.
  • Loss of WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) impacts organic farmers, farmers’ markets, and small-scale diversified producers.
  • Shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other supplies.

Throughout the last week of April and first week of May, the Ministry of Agriculture planned a series of meetings for Minister Lana Popham to engage directly with industries of varying commodities and food system groups over a phone call (Phase 1). COABC’s executive director, Eva-Lena Lang, members of the COABC board, and organic farmers were invited to participate in a roundtable on April 30th, 2020.

Some highlights of the topics discussed include: support for certification bodies and COABC, support for small farms and market gardeners, collaboration between the organic sector and the Ministry, access to slaughter and processing capacity, alternative food supply chains, seed production shortages, and infrastructure and postharvest storage facilities for the organic sector. I have followed up with COABC, providing resources and initiatives related to the topics discussed. The Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham is planning to engage with the industry again around June (Phase 2).

During this time of uncertainty, there is an overwhelming amount of information to digest. Here is a summary of the latest activities that the Ministry is conducting in response to COVID-19:

Funding Opportunities

BC Agri-Business Planning Program

The BC Agri-Business Planning Program is now open to support producers and food processors through two streams:

  • COVID-19 Business Recovery Planning to help BC producers and processors develop and implement an immediate and long-term recovery plan.
  • Specialized Business Planning to enable BC producers and processors to make more informed decisions and strengthen their business.

BC Food and Beverage (BCFB) Protecting our People: PPE Access Program

BCFB announced a program to procure and offer PPE for the exclusive benefit of the food production, seafood, and agriculture sectors in BC. Companies needing PPE can purchase through this initiative. BCFB’s goal is to order in large enough quantities to make them more affordable for industry to purchase them.

On-Farm and Post-Farm Food Safety Program (OFFS): COVID-19 funding now available

OFFS is offering funding for protective and safety equipment for the April 2020 to March 2021 fiscal year. Eligible companies can seek funding to acquire PPE and other approved safety supplies for use at their facilities in order to maintain a safe workplace and mitigate the risk of COVID-19. With applications for personal protective equipment funding only, the usually mandatory Good Agricultural Practices assessment requirement is waived.

Funding Updates

Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)

CEBA has decreased the requirements for a payroll of $20k to make the funds more eligible for sole proprietors (i.e. owner/operators of small farms).

Resources and More

Recommendations for U-Pick, Farm Stands and Agri-tourism

These new documents outline information for U-pick, farm stands, and agri-tourism operators to meet Provincial Health Officer (PHO) orders, notices, and guidance. The information in these documents is meant to complement PHO recommendations.

BC Food Product Notification and Tracking Tool

The Ministry Food Service and Distribution working group has developed a tool to track existing overages and shortages of BC products due to COVID-19, sharing this information with potential markets. If you are experiencing difficulty in finding sales channels for your products or are lacking in inventory, please email me at karina.sakalauskas@gov.bc.ca

BC’s Restart Plan and the Agriculture and Seafood Sector – Important Information

Many sectors, including Agriculture, are encouraged to make plans and establish protocols on how they can operate safely in line with Public Health and Safety Guidelines. WorkSafeBC and the Ministry of Agriculture will work with industry associations to ensure the direction and guidance they provide to their members meets the requirements set out by the Provincial Health Officer. Individual businesses will need to ensure their own plans align with these sectoral plans.

Receiving Temporary Foreign Workers – Provincial Inspections for COVID-19

All temporary foreign workers arriving in BC for seasonal farm work are required to self-isolate in government-managed accommodations for 14 days before being transported to their farm. Host farm operators must ensure a safe workplace and demonstrate proof of an inspection control plan with the Ministry of Agriculture.

Guidelines for Protecting BC Farmers and Farm Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic

On-Farm Food Safety and Good Agriculture Practices: COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Small Lot Pork Producer Management & Production

BC AGRI, in collaboration with BC Pork, have released a new resource manual titled Small Lot Pork Producer Management & Production. While not related to COVID specifically, it is of special interest as many people are starting to raise their own animals and would like to learn more about best management and recommended animal husbandry practices.

To keep up-to-date on how we are supporting you, I would recommend signing up for our AgriService BC bulletin. Sign up here.

The Ministry of Agriculture maintains a list of resources for businesses, including support for businesses on our website.

As we continue to adjust to the ever-changing social landscape in the face of COVID-19, I would like to say thank you to everyone continuing to work on your farms to support the local organic food sector.

Please feel free to send me your comments, ideas, and questions at karina.sakalauskas@gov.bc.ca


Karina is the Organic Specialist with the BC Ministry of Agriculture.

Feature image credit: Gabriel Jimenez

Protecting Organic Integrity

in 2020/Ask an Expert/Marketing/Organic Standards/Standards Updates/Winter 2020

Karina Sakalauskas

We, as organic producers, retailers, stakeholders, academia, and government bodies, among others, will shape the future of the organic sector. We must be informed, connected, and vocal about our concerns and suggestions to maintain the integrity of the industry.

How are we working towards an improved future?

We might begin with a discussion of the new Organic Certification Regulation that came into effect in British Columbia on September 1, 2018. This regulation requires all producers and processors selling food and beverage products marketed in British Columbia as “organic” to be certified through an accredited federal or provincial program. The term “organic” is now a protected label within B.C. The aim of this regulation is to clarify the term “organic” for consumers, stakeholders, producers, and growers.

Previously, BC had a voluntary organic program, meaning operators could get organic certification but were not required to have it in order to make an organic claim. In 2009, the Federal Government adopted Organic Certification for any organic products crossing provincial or international borders. Other provinces, such as Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Alberta later adopted regulations that protected the use of the term organic for products produced, processed, and marketed within provincial boundaries.

The BC Ministry of Agriculture announced the Organic Certification Regulation in 2015 and provided three years of transition for the sector to come into compliance. During this time, the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture worked closely with the Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC) on education and outreach about organics and the new regulation to support the sector.

What does this new regulation entail?

Producers and processors must have organic certification from an accredited certification body if they want to make any sort of organic claim on a product, including “grown following organic principles,” or “made with organic ingredients” Claims such as “uncertified organic” or “more than organic” are not permitted. Organic producers, processors, and others in the supply chain who use the ‘organic” protected label are expected to be able to provide proof of up-to-date certification upon request by a Ministry of Agriculture enforcement officer. Violations under the regulation will result in legal repercussions that could include tickets being issued ($350 fine) or court prosecutions against the seller.

What does this mean for the industry?

Greater clarity around what organic means is something consumers in B.C. have been requesting, and the Organic Certification Regulation is significantly contributing to promote and protect consumer confidence in B.C. organic products.

How do we contribute to the strength of the B.C. Organic sector?

One way we can protect the reputation of the BC Organic label is to ensure we follow the principles of organic integrity. Organic integrity is what separates organic food from non-organic food, referring to the adherence to organic standards at the production level, which must be maintained through handling to the point of final sale, for the final product to be labeled and/or marketed as organic.

What role does retail play?

Maintaining organic integrity through to retail sale is important. BC and Canada’s organic regulations require that the organic integrity of a product is not compromised in any stage of preparation or handling, which includes storing, grading, packing, shipping, marketing, and labelling. Retailer certification improves consumer trust and strengthens the organic label. The Ministry of Agriculture has published guidelines to provide clarity to operators, manufacturers, and retailers in BC on how to be compliant with BC’s Organic Certification Regulation.

How can we sustain this progress?

As an industry, we must continue to work together, learn from our experiences and be open to new perspectives. We must encourage communication between parties in the BC Organic Sector to ensure all groups, small or large, are well represented and have their needs addressed. This industry-wide collaboration helps to maintain organic integrity along the production chain.

You can find out more about BC’s amendments to current provincial regulation on the Ministry of Agriculture’s website.

If you have concerns of a business marketing agricultural products using the organic label, without organic certification, please contact AgriServiceBC at 1-888-221-7141 or AgriServiceBC@gov.bc.ca.


Karina is the Organic Specialist with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture. She can be reached at Karina.Sakalauskas@gov.bc.ca

All photos: Taken at a KPU event on July 5, 2019. Credit: Karina Sakalauskas.

Ask An Expert: A New Agricultural Environmental Management Regulation

in 2019/Ask an Expert/Fall 2019/Grow Organic/Land Stewardship/Organic Standards/Water Management
Agricultural Management code of practice BC ministry of Agriculture Farmer in a field

By the Province of British Columbia

In keeping with the respect BC’s agricultural operators have for the land, air, and water, new rules for agricultural environmental management are now in place. After years of science and evidence-based analysis, as well as conversations with agricultural operators throughout the province, a new regulation called the Code of Practice for Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM Code) came into effect on February 28, 2019. The goal of this Code is to provide more clarity for the agriculture sector while better protecting the environment for all British Columbians.

Organic farmers will see that some requirements are continued from the previous regulation, such as no direct discharges into watercourses, some have been revised to clarify expectations, and some are new, several of which are being phased in over the next decade.

Why a new regulation?

Through several consultations we heard that the old rules were too vague for operators and weren’t adequately protecting the environment. Working with farmers, we built a fair set of rules that ensure agricultural practices protect our drinking water, watercourses, and air.

The new AEM Code takes a different approach to the previous regulation. Requirements are more clearly outlined, and they’re both risk-based and science-based. For example, more protective measures now need to be taken in high-risk areas and during high-risk conditions. Also, soil samples are required to be taken to help determine what measures are necessary on specific farms.

Who does this regulation apply to?

It applies to all agricultural operations in BC, from small hobby farms to large commercial operations, including organic farms. That said, the regulation has been built with the understanding that not all agricultural operations are the same and that there are differences from one region of this province to another. Various requirements are contingent on an operation’s location, size, and type of activity. Many farms won’t need to make big changes to adjust to the new regulation.

What does this regulation include?

The new regulation includes provisions that aim to: ensure watercourses and groundwater are protected through proper storage and use of manure, other nutrient sources, and other materials, such as wood residue; prevent water quality impacts from contaminated run-off; prohibit direct discharges into watercourses; require nutrient management planning; allow for increased monitoring in high-risk areas; provide clear compliance expectations for agricultural operators for setbacks, storage, and nutrient applications; and, require record-keeping.

When is this happening?

The new rules came into effect on February 28, 2019, but some of the requirements, such as nutrient management plans, will be phased-in over the next decade. This approach will give agricultural operators time to plan for and adjust to the new rules, and for government to work collaboratively with industry to develop the necessary tools to support implementation.

What does this mean for me?

Organic farmers will need to demonstrate a basic level of environmental protection, but many are already doing what the regulation requires. This includes:

  • ensuring minimum setbacks for various activities and proper storage requirements are followed;
  • preventing contaminated runoff, leachate, solids, and air contaminants from entering watercourses, crossing property boundaries, or going below the seasonal high water table;
  • registration for boilers and heaters with greater than 0.15 MW capacity, and meeting emissions limits for opacity and particulate matter;
  • nitrogen application rates that meet the crop’s needs and not more, for applications to land and other than to land (e.g., grown in containers);
  • collecting and containing wastewater, contaminated runoff, or leachate;
  • wastewater needs to be treated prior to discharge into the environment; and
  • record-keeping to demonstrate compliance.

Requirements will affect farms differently depending on whether they are in a high-risk area, what their current practices are, and the nature and size of the farm. In addition to the basic level of protection above, these include increased monitoring and protective measures in high-risk areas and during high-risk conditions, such as:

  • protective bases for greenhouses and storage structures in vulnerable aquifer recharge areas to ensure no leaching down into the aquifer;
  • covering temporary field-stored piles, including agricultural by-products or wood residue, and outdoor agricultural composting piles, in high precipitation areas from October 1 to April 1.

How will the regulation be enforced?

As we roll out the new regulation, we will be working with you on how to best help you comply with the new rules. Our goal is to support agricultural operators so that, working together, we can better protect the environment.

There are dedicated staff within the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy who will work with you to understand your obligations under the Environmental Management Act, which this regulation falls under. The team uses a consistent and risk-based approach for establishing compliance and enforcement priorities.

Learn more: to find out if you are in a high-risk area, or need more information on what records you need to keep, or what minimum setbacks you need to follow, please visit the following website at: gov.bc.ca/Agricultural-Environmental-Management.

Questions? Contact: AEMCoPenquiries@gov.bc.ca 

All photos: Province of British Columbia

Ask An Expert: Organic Certification Regulation

in Ask an Expert/Marketing/Organic Standards/Standards Updates/Summer 2019

Emma Holmes

As many of you are aware, new Organic Certification Regulation came into effect in BC on September 1, 2018. The term “organic” is now a protected label within BC for agricultural products that have been produced or processed in BC and that can be assessed using the Canadian Organic Standard CAN/CGSB 32.310, 32.311 or 32.312.

Organic Certification Regulation is something the organic sector has been working towards for some time, and will significantly contribute to promoting and protecting consumer confidence in BC organic products.

What are the details?

The new regulation means that organic producers, processors, distributors, and others in the supply chain who use the ‘organic” protected label are expected to be able to provide proof of up-to-date certification upon request by a Ministry of Agriculture enforcement officer. Violations under the regulation will result in legal repercussions that could include tickets being issued ($350 fine) or court prosecutions against the seller.

You can find more information on the new regulation on the Organic Food and Beverage Policies page of the BC Ministry of Agriculture website. This webpage includes a “Guidelines for BC’s Organic Certification Regulation” document that provides specific examples of what activities organic certification is and is not required for.

How can I contribute to the strength of the BC Organic sector?

BC’s Organic Certification Regulation is enforced on a complaint basis so if you know of a business that is marketing their agricultural products using the organic label, but does not have certification, please let AgriServiceBC know.

AgriService BC can be reached by phone (1-888-221-7141) or email (AgriServiceBC@gov.bc.ca).

All complaints are strictly confidential and no personal details will ever be shared with the party in question or anyone beyond the enforcement team. Contact details are requested when lodging a complaint so that the enforcement team can follow up and provide details on the outcome of the file.

COABC recently published an article on how to lodge complaint and the link can be found in their April 2019 ENews.

How is it going so far?

The number of complaints were steady over the fall and winter and have been revving up in recent weeks. The Ministry enforcement team has been following up on all complaints promptly.

What we are seeing is that businesses are voluntarily complying with the regulation by removing organic claims from their products and marketing, and several are pursuing organic certification so they will be able to resume using the protected label organic in their marketing in the future. The goal of the regulation, to remove operators who are falsely marketing their products as organic from the marketplace, is being met.

Is there organic regulation in the rest of Canada?

Yes. Since 2009, federal regulations have required organic certification for any food or beverage products that bear an organic claim and cross a provincial or international border.

In 2006, Quebec was the first province to adopt and enforce provincial organic regulation for products produced, processed, and marketed within their provincial borders. Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia followed suit in 2013, 2014, and 2015 respectively. BC’s regulation came into effect on September 1, 2018 and on April 1, 2019 Alberta became the most recent province to adopt provincial organic regulation.

Questions?

Any questions or concerns about filing complaints or the Organic Certification Regulation in general can be directed to me at emma.holmes@gov.bc.ca or 250-241-2430.


Emma Holmes has a BSc in Sustainable Agriculture and an MSc in Soil Science, both from UBC. She farmed on Orcas Island and Salt Spring Island and is now the Organics Industry Specialist at the BC Ministry of Agriculture. She can be reached at: Emma.Holmes@gov.bc.ca 

Ask an Expert: BC Seed Security

in 2019/Ask an Expert/Crop Production/Grow Organic/Seeds/Winter 2019

Scaling Up Organic Vegetable Seed Production in BC

Emma Holmes, P.Ag

The organic seed sector will be getting a boost through a comprehensive project that includes seed production, business, and market supports.

FarmFolk CityFolk, which has been working to cultivate local, sustainable food systems since 1993, will be leading the project with funding provided from the Governments of Canada and B.C. through the Canadian Agriculture Partnership. The five year, $3 billion Canadian Agricultural Partnership launched on April 1, 2018, and includes $2 billion in cost-shared strategic initiatives delivered by the provinces and territories, plus $1 billion for federal programs and services.

FarmFolk CityFolk will specifically be working on:

  • Developing a mobile seed processing unit to help small and mid-scale seed farmers efficiently and affordably process seed
  • Expanding seed production skills training in the Lower Mainland, Okanagan, Kootenays and North through focused in-person training and webinars
  • Supporting new entrants and small seed businesses with “Seed Enterprise Budgets” to help farmers plan and prepare for expenses, revenues and inventory management
  • Supporting Seedy Saturday events around the province by developing shared event planning resources

This project builds off of FarmFolk CityFolk’s previous work with the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, as well as Dan Jason’s Seed Resiliency report commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture this past winter. Jason’s report included an inventory of seed assets in the province as well as recommendations for increasing seed resiliency in BC.

Beet seeds. Credit: Chris Thoreau

British Columbia has the greatest diversity of crops and growing conditions of any province or territory in Canada. This provides a great opportunity to work with a wide range of ecosystems to create regionally tested and locally adapted seeds that support our local foodsheds in uncertain climates and that can also thrive in diverse climates around the world.

Seed production provides BC organic farmers with an opportunity to diversify their farm production and increase revenue. The market for certified organic seed is expected to continue to grow in the coming decades as the consumer demand for organic products increases and certifiers are adopting stricter enforcement around purchasing certified organic seed when available.

FarmFolk CityFolk will be collaborating with other organizations in BC focused on seed, such as the UBC Farm Seed Hub, KPU’s new lab for seed testing and cleaning (a major new asset for the province), and the BC Eco Seed Co-op. The strengths of these organizations, combined with the incredible passion and energy of local seed savers, farmers, and growers, will go a long way in supporting the development B.C.’s organic seed sector, the base of resilient communities and thriving food systems.

bcseeds.org


Emma Holmes has a BSc in Sustainable Agriculture and an MSc in Soil Science, both from UBC. She farmed on Orcas Island and Salt Spring Island and is now the Organics Industry Specialist at the BC Ministry of Agriculture. She can be reached at: Emma.Holmes@gov.bc.ca

Feature image: Examining carrots as part of the BC Seed Trials. Credit: Chris Thoreau

Ask an Expert: BC Plant Health Laboratory

in Ask an Expert/Crop Production/Fall 2018/Grow Organic/Pest Management

Plant Health Diagnostic Support for BC Producers

Emma Holmes, P.Ag

While we always hope that every farmer has a successful season and bountiful harvests, the reality is that there are endless factors to potentially derail those harvests. For me, the hardest part of farming was finding my crops decimated by pests or struggling to survive after getting hit with a disease. My heart sank when I found my previously healthy cucurbits drooping and turning brown in the greenhouse one morning and I felt panic when the arugula I was counting on for my CSA box was eaten by pests before I managed to snag it for my customers.When problems appear, an accurate and timely diagnosis is crucial. The BC Plant Health Laboratory, along with myself and colleagues at the BC Ministry of Agriculture (AGRI), are here to provide you with plant disease and insect identification support and management advice.The Plant Health Laboratory is located in the Abbotsford Agriculture Centre and has been operating year-round since 1967. The lab is fully equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic technology and knowledgeable staff to diagnose plant health problems affecting crops and plants grown in BC, including:

  • Plant diseases
  • Non-pathogenic disorders
  • Insect Pests

How to Take Advantage of AGRI’s Diagnostic Services

  1. Send me your field snaps

If you come across an unfamiliar insect or plant health issue, please send me a picture with a description of the problem to my email, Emma.Holmes@gov.bc.ca. I will share internally to see if identification of the issue is possible with a photo alone or if we need a plant sample for further analysis.

  1. Submit a sample to the lab
  • Collect a sample that shows the problem. A whole plant with roots and soil is best. If the plants are small, send several. If insect damage is suspected, collect the insects. Refer to “How to Submit Plant Samples for Diagnosis” for detailed information on collecting and packaging a sample.
  • Submit several plants or plant parts showing the various symptoms. It is better to submit too much of a specimen than too little (sending a whole plant, roots and all, doesn’t hurt).

Instructions on how to package and send a sample to the lab are available on the Plant Health Lab Submission Form available through the following link: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/agriculture-and-seafood/animal-and-crops/plant-health/plant_health_laboratory_sample_submission_form_apr_2018.pdf

Fill out the lab diagnostic submission form as thoroughly as possible to assist us in getting a better picture of what is happening in the field. Send (drop in, mail, or courier) packaged samples along with a completed submission form and appropriate payment to the address on the front page.

What information should you provide?

  • Personal contact information (address, phone, fax, or email)
  • Details on symptoms
  • When problem was first noticed
  • Indicate if the problem is spreading
  • Number of plants or percentage of field affected
  • Type of plant, age, condition of surrounding plants
  • Site description (drainage, exposure, weather, irrigation etc.)
  • Pesticide and fertilizer use (type, rate and date)
  • Past and future crops grown on site

Shipping samples

There are multiple options for getting your samples to the Plant Health Laboratory. All samples should be delivered to the laboratory as early in the day as possible, and as early in the week. Samples should be adequately packaged to ensure that they are well-preserved and in a suitable condition for analysis when they arrive at the lab.

Please contact the laboratory with any questions.

Who may submit samples?

If you are a producer, home gardener, consultant, or industry group you can send samples to the lab.

Who receives the diagnostic report?

Results are sent to the submitter unless otherwise requested. Information on individual submissions is kept confidential.

What services are not available through the BC Plant Health Lab?

Analysis for soil, tissue, nutrient, or chemical residue is NOT available.

What services are available through AGRI staff?

If and operator reaches out to AGRI then we are able to provide some extension in the way of information resources, management advice, and a farm visit if feasible. This can really vary depending on the location, whether the problem is ongoing, the type of operation and, of course, what the issue is.

Sometimes the issue at hand is something that is abiotic (i.e. not caused by a pathogen or insect pest). In those cases, what the lab can do is rule out a pest issue as best as possible. It is then up to the operator and AGRI staff to do some brainstorming (and this is often based on crop history, past management, and also information resources that AGRI staff are able to provide) about what the issue could be and ways to make some changes in management and come up with some management options.

The BC Plant Health Lab is a useful resource for producers across B.C. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with me if you have questions about the lab, or are interested in using it to get to the bottom of a plant health issue.

Example from the Field

Chris Bodnar of Close to Home Organics had noticed his cucumbers had scorched stems. He guessed it had to do with sun scorching the stems after transplanting, and decided to bring a sample to the lab for diagnosis.

He followed the sampling steps detailed earlier in this article, and the lab was able to determine the cause of the scorched stems was actually Gummy Stem Blight, a cucurbit rot disease caused by the fungal plant pathogen Didymella bryoniae. Gummy stem blight can be seed borne, and can be introduced to fields with infected seeds, seedlings, or transplants.

On learning the root cause, Chris connected the issues with his cucumber crop to a previous incident. “I remembered that the problem started one season when I bought cucumber plants from another farmer. The plants had stem issues and I’ve had this problem ever since.” Didymella bryoniaesurvives season to season if host plants are present, and can survive at least two years in the absence of host plants. It also survives on infected crop debris and weeds. It may also be spread around during picking and other field activities.

Susan Smith, AGRI Field Vegetable Specialist, advised picking from the rest of the field before picking from the infected plants. She also recommended using dedicated picking equipment (knives) for that section and sterilizing thoroughly before and after using them. Soil sterilization (ex. Solarisation), sanitation (for seeds greenhouse starts), and crop rotation are the best methods of preventing infection. Overhead irrigation should be avoided. Fall disking of crop debris (as deep as possible) and extended rotations can significantly reduce the amount of inoculum in infested fields.

“I’m glad to have a better idea of how to manage this issue moving forward,” explained Chris. “By knowing the cause of these problems, we can better develop a management plan on the farm to reduce the likelihood of gummy stem blight in the future.”


Emma Holmes has a BSc in Sustainable Agriculture and an MSc in Soil Science, both from UBC. She farmed on Orcas Island and Salt Spring Island and is how the Organics In- dustry Specialist at the BC Ministry of Agriculture. She can be reached at: Emma.Holmes@gov.bc.ca

All photos provided by the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture.

BC Ministry of Agriculture Welcomes New Organics Specialist

in 2018/Ask an Expert/Organic Community/Organic Standards/Winter 2018
Emma Holmes with her farm mentor, John Wilcox, at UBC Farm Sept 2008

Susan Smith, P.Ag.

Please take a moment to welcome Emma Holmes, our new Industry Specialist for Organics! She is based at the Agriculture Centre in beautiful Abbotsford, and while serving a temporary assignment for the Ministry of Agriculture as the New Entrant Agrologist, Emma successfully competed for the Organics Specialist position.

Emma is an alumni of UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems, with an MSc in Soil Science and a BSc in Global Resource Systems. At UBC, her focus was sustainable agriculture and she was privileged to visit a wide variety of organic farms in the province and learn directly from growers as part of her class work. Emma also took part in two programs that provided her with on-farm skills: the UBC Organic Agricultural Internship and Canadian Farm Business Step-Up. She went on to complete an 8-month intensive permaculture program at the Bullock Brother’s Homestead, and spent a season managing a small-scale diversified organic farm on Salt Spring Island. Emma has been teaching about sustainable soil management and agriculture since 2011 at UBC Farm and garden clubs around the Lower Mainland; and is the Soil Science instructor for KPU’s Tsawwassen Farm School.

Emma Holmes

Before joining the Ministry of Agriculture, Emma coordinated an on-farm extension program for small-scale organic growers in Metro Vancouver where she worked closely with farmers, researchers, universities, and agrologists on the complex issues pertaining to climate change. She was also the operations manager of Skipper Otto’s Community Supported Fishery; programs manager of the Vancouver Urban Farming Society; and is a qualified Environmental Farm Planner.

As the outgoing Industry Specialist for Organics, I will be playing a role over the next four to six months (through April) in assisting Emma’s transition to the Organics file. As Emma steps away from her new entrant role and into organics, I see an opportunity for her work to be informed with new entrant opportunities and ideas for development of improved extension for the BC organic sector. Her work will include collaboration with the organic sector and other agencies to support the growth of organics in British Columbia. Continued support and stewardship of the transition to mandatory organic certification in BC will also be key. I look forward to Emma’s collaborative style and her organized approach to engagement.

Please take some time over the next little while to welcome Emma.

[A quick note from the editor and COABC: While we’re excited to have Emma on board, we are so very grateful to Susan Smith for all she’s done in her role as Industry Specialist for Field Vegetables and Organics. A big thank you to Susan from the organic sector—don’t be a stranger!]

Susan Smith is an Industry Specialist for Field Vegetables and Organics at the BC Ministry of Agriculture.

Stewarding the Land with the Environmental Farm Plan

in Fall 2017/Land Stewardship

Emma Holmes

The Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) is a no-charge, voluntary, and confidential program in which producers receive one-on-one support from a qualified Planning Advisor to highlight their farm’s environmental strengths, identify potential risks, and set realistic action plans to improve environmental stewardship. It also supports farmers in taking advantage of tools, techniques, and funding to manage those risks.

The program applies to all types and sizes of farm operations in the province. Developing an Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) is a strong tool towards ensuring the sustainability and resiliency of your farm operation.

The first stage of the program involves conducting a farm evaluation with a Planning Advisor. The evaluation includes a farm walk about and completion of the EFP workbook, which consists of two parts – Farm Review and Action Plan.

The Farm Review Worksheets will provide you with:

  • an understanding of current government regulations relevant to your farming operation
  • tools to help you assess the impact of your farming practices on the environment
  • risk assessment questions that help you pinpoint any areas of concern or opportunities for improvement

Based on the results of your Farm Review Worksheets, your Planning Advisor will work with you to develop an Action Plan that will:

  • help you set realistic goals to protect and enhance the environment
  • improve your response to environmental incidents through contingency planning
  • prioritize goals and set realistic timelines to achieve them

Once you’ve completed the Farm Review Worksheets, developed the Action Plan, and you and your Planning Advisor have both signed the Statement of Completion, you will have completed the EFP.

In recognition of their efforts to manage land in an environmentally sustainable manner, producers who complete the EFP Program may be eligible to apply for cost-shared incentives through the Beneficial Management Practices (BMP) Program to implement actions identified in their on-farm environmental action plan.

The EFP designation is trusted by the public, who are increasingly supporting farms that are environmentally responsible, and thus a completed EFP provides enhanced marketing opportunities.

The EFP process is completely voluntary and you may proceed as far as you wish. All of the priorities developed by you and your Planning Advisor will belong solely to you. It is your choice to implement all, some, or none of the priority actions.

Confidentiality is a fundamental component of the program. The EFP process provides producers with information and support in meeting environmental regulations. It is not an enforcement program. The Farm Review and the Action Plan will belong only to you; your Planning Advisor will not share any details of your farm plan with anyone else, including government organizations or other farmers.

Thousands of farmers in BC have participated in the program and have found it valuable. They have utilized the support offered through the program to make important improvements to their operations that minimize environmental risks. Many producers have also appreciated the enhanced public trust and marketing opportunities associated with the program


For more information and to work with an EFP planner, please reach out to www.bcefp.ca, 604-854-4483, 1-866-552-3447, or efpinfo@ardcorp.ca. A Planning Advisor will be assigned based on your region or commodity.

The EFP Program is run by BC ARDCorp on behalf of the BC Ministry of Agriculture and is funded by the governments of British Columbia and Canada through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.


Emma Holmes has a B.SC in Sustainable Agriculture and M.Sc in Soil Science, both from UBC. She farmed on Orcas Island and Salt Spring Island and is now the New Entrant Agrologist at the BC Ministry of Agriculture.

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