In 2016-2017, the Organic Council of Ontario consulted over 600 experts and stakeholders on the future of the organic sector in Ontario. We wanted to know how to help the sector grow to meet Ontario’s growing demand. In this section, explore the results of our research by scrolling or clicking the headings above.
At most recent count, there are approximately …
Packers & Co-packers, and
… certified organic in Ontario.
Who Took Our Survey
Not all organic businesses certify.
Only 55% of “organic” farmers in our survey were certified organic.
Many organic farmers are new.
70% of organic farmers had been farming for 15 years or less, 25% had been in organic production for less than five years.
Many “non-organic” farmers are interested in organic.
51% of “non-organic” farmers told us that they have considered transitioning
Most organic farmers (78%) spend less than $1200.00 annually on certification,
with over one third spending between $600.00 and $900.00 annually.
“ I have been farming this farm organically for three years, but my parents farmed for 40 years organically.” — Katrina McQuail, Meeting Place Organic Farm
Farmers considering transition were most concerned with how they would manage weeds, pests and disease in an organic system.
“ Insect pressure on fruit is too high in Niagara and the organic disease controls suck. We can’t go organic until our neighbors do.”
45.3% Skepticism about Organic
Skepticism ranges from a general lack of belief in organic standards and practices to concerns with the misuse of the organic claim to the belief that "organic" is just a passing fad.
“ There are a lot of farmers who say they are organic and sell it for organic prices but are not certified.”
44.9% Transition Period
The Canadian Organic Standards require that no prohibited substances are applied for three years before you can call your products organic.
“ I think it takes a long time and great expense to transition and I don’t produce enough to make it worthwhile.”
40% Certification Costs and Effort
The cost and effort of certifying are a barrier for some, particularly those new to farming.
“ We are busy enough on the farm keeping up with book work, rules and regulations. It seems like it would be even more work for organic certification.”
Challenges to the Expansion of Organic
57% Access to Labour
Organic agriculture often requires more labour. Finding affordable and skilled labour can be difficult.
“ We have trouble finding help in farming now — we cannot even contemplate how a larger percentage of organic agriculture could find the help to grow any bigger.”
34% Access to Capital
Lending institutions are often unfamiliar with organic business plans, and/or require backing by risk management programs that are not necessarily adapted to organic practices.
“ Labour costs are high and so additional staff will not be hired. We are limited by
how much the current labour force can physically do (which is also affected by limits to capital investment in labour saving equipment).”
30% Organic Advisors, Training and Resources
“I have struggled most during our possible transition with getting information and straight answers regarding not only the certification process but also about input recommendations.”
“ I truly believe in many “organic” perspectives and our food system…(but) it feels like an impossibility for me based on current information and financial support systems.”
Other Organic Businesses
Supply and Quality of Ingredients
60% of non-organic & 55% of organic
“ We need perfect fruit for our dehydration business and any imperfections are amplified when dried. If organic fruit could be grown clean consistently I would be interested.”
Competition from Imports
64% of organic handlers & 10% of non-organic
“ The unfair rules and regulations from the U.S. competitors able to dump their seeds without documentation.”
Access to Capital
46% of organic & 30% of non-organic
Access to funding and loans often require a rate of return that is unsuitable if not impossible for local, organic businesses.
“ Access to capital that respects the vagaries of sustainable organic growing. Currently our economic and retail systems are harmful and inappropriate for local organics.”
50% of non-organic
“ Cost of certification — we cannot afford it right now but everything is certified organic.”