Crop planning for organic vegetable growers 0
The demand for local organic food continues to expand across farmers' markets, home delivery programs and restaurants.
Although the demand continues to grow, local growers are challenged to keep up with supply.
"We do not have enough organic farmers coming into the marketplace to meet the market demand," explains Laura Telford, National Director for Canadian Organic Growers (COG). "We continue to work with farmers and the organic industry to address challenges and overcome the knowledge gaps they have identified. Over the years we have published general and technical books and offered workshops to help organic and transitioning growers. Some of our publications are aimed at conventional growers who we hope will transition to organic if they know there are organic solutions."
COG's most recent effort is the Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers handbook.
"This handbook was developed with new growers in mind," says Telford. "We have many new growers in Canada, who often come out of University with a degree in Environmental Studies or something similar, and then start farming. They tend to take up market gardening on a smaller scale, and with little experience some disappear after three or four years because they are not making any money."
The handbook is a planning tool designed to help growers plan efficiently for the scale of market garden they are managing.
"Planning crops to provide a variety of vegetables week after week is complicated, but the book's authors, Frédéric Thériault and Daniel Brisebois, have developed a process and a series of steps to make it more manageable," explains Telford. "The process starts with planning for how much money you need to make or your salary objectives, and then works backwards right back to the number of seeds you have to order and when they have to be planted."
The handbook provides users with 11 manageable and logical steps, and includes examples, templates, and solid reasoning on the benefits of the process.
It also presents profiles of 12 vegetable growers across the country, showcasing a range of operations and examples of how good crop planning helps a farm thrive. The handbook includes several spreadsheets to help with the planning process, and COG has made a few of the spreadsheets available on its website for growers to use. COG also offers training courses for vegetable growers across Canada, using the handbook as the core reference.
"Although we developed the handbook with new growers in mind, we are finding it has a wider audience than originally anticipated, both organic and non-organic," says Telford. "The handbook is proving to be useful for vegetable growers regardless of their level of experience or size of operation. The planning process resonates with all growers, but the organic production model focus includes planning for required crop rotations that are the basis of soil building and other organic standards." Copies of the handbook and information on training courses are available on the COG website at www.cog.ca.