Third-party certification helps consumers understand claims
by Jackie Pearase
LILLOOET – Spray Creek Ranch owners Tristan and Aubyn Banwell say becoming one of five BC farms certified by A Greener World (AGW), a five-year-old certification body based in Terrebonne, Oregon, has been worth the extra effort.
They opted for Certified Animal Welfare Approved and Certified Grassfed from AGW because it best aligns with their regenerative farming practices.
“When we looked at all of the different options for animal certifications, this is the one that most closely reflected the types of practices that we are putting in place on the farm,” Tristan Banwell explains. “The other certifications have their place but they didn’t cover all the innovative practices that we are doing on our farm. We felt this was the best match.”
The Banwells farm about 130 of their 260 acres. The ranch is home to 400 laying hens and ships 20 to 40 beef cattle to market annually, as well as 50 hogs, 2,000 chickens and 300 turkeys.
Spray Creek operates a Class D slaughter facility and uses an animal welfare-approved Class A slaughter facility for its pork and beef.
Raising multiple species makes the work more challenging when dealing with multiple types and levels of marketing boards and regulating bodies, but it works better for them than the commodity cow-calf operation that existed before they arrived in 2014.
“We had to look at ways to diversify and start direct marketing in order to be able to make a living from the farm. And that’s what we’re doing. So neither of us work off-farm. We focus 100% on our farm production,” Banwell says. “I think if we were working off farm we wouldn’t be able to move the farm forward as quickly as we are, obviously, because we dedicate all our time to it.”
The farm’s livestock is certified organic through the North Okanagan Organic Association but Banwell says third-party audits by AGW add an extra layer of trust to their business, of which three-quarters is direct-to-consumer sales.
“The fact that we have third-party audits on our practices means that consumers can look at those standards that we’re adhering to and know that the claims we’re making about our products have been verified by an independent third party,” Banwell adds.
The audits include comprehensive farm visits that look at all processes and procedures, a detailed lifecycle analysis of a product chosen at random from the farm’s receipts, and – for the animal welfare certification – witnessing a test slaughter of each species certified on the farm, and audits on any source farms supplying Spray Creek.
The paperwork required for the additional certifications is considerable but, with detailed records already required for its organic certification, expanding the farm’s record-keeping was simple.
“We feel like record-keeping is a really important part of running a business and running a farm, so we already keep really detailed and good records using different types of software tools,” Banwell explains. “So that makes our audit pretty easy.”
AGW communications and outreach director Emily Moose says AGW’s certifications, which also includes Certified Non-GMO, offer more transparency, improve customer loyalty and create more reliable markets for farmers.
Moose says sustainability to AGW refers to food production and distribution systems that work in harmony with the natural environment, ensure high animal welfare standards, provide fair and secure income for farms, and provide high-quality, nutritious and reasonably priced goods to consumers.
“Truly sustainable production systems satisfy the food needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” she says.
Lemieux Creek Ranch, Big Bear Ranch, Grassy Gnome Acres and Lost Savanna Farm are other BC producers certified by AGW, and Banwell thinks those numbers will only grow.
“It is the most rigorous and in-depth certification, I think, for animal welfare that’s available to farmers today. It’s gaining more traction in Canada,” he says.
Since starting in 2014, AGW has certified over 1,500 farms and ranches in North America, including about 150 in Canada, and over 6,000 globally. It recently launched in Europe and Africa.
“Canada currently accounts for about 10% of our work, but that rate is growing significantly and we expect that percentage to grow with the increased interest in third-party-certified labeling,” Moose says.
Vol. 105 Issue 3
STORIES IN THIS EDITION
What on earth?
Opposition slams ALC bill
Sidebar: Protection & pushback
Editorial: Truth in labelling
Back Forty: So you don’t believe in climate change
Viewpoint: Don’t blame the cows for global warming
Ag council’s lobbying efforts produce results
Learning a new skill
Foundation’s nest egg for funding projects increases
Province will hold the line on piece rates
New CEO aims to kindle team spirit at co-op
FIRB decision prompts rethink of pricing scheme
Beekeepers see potential in technology transfer
AgSafe markes quarter century
Raspberries hit hard by harsh February
Blueberry growers anxious for new varieties
Biological controls for pests in demand
Sidebar: Pesticides in play
Growers urged to focus on fresh
Westgen celebrates 75 years of excellence
Top seller was no-show at Holstein sale
Spring show attracts exhibitors from Quebec
Cheesemakers unite to grow niche market
Range use permits under greater scrutiny
Sidebar: Range use plans go digital
Market Musings: Top bulls sell for top dollar at spring sales
Grapegrowers share sustainability objectives
Grape specialist honoured for dedication
Hazelnut production expands across BC
Sidebar: Pest pressures
Supporters take to AITC’s Sips & Sprouts
Research: Cultured meat fails to impress researchers
UAVs undergo testing for pesticide delivery
Sustainability goes beyond saving farmland
Father and daughter roll with the last of the steel wheels
Woodshed: Susan Henderson is warming to country life
Wannabe: Farming is more than just a job
Surplus, cull fruit finds new purpose as tasty snacks
Jude’s Kitchen: Special food for special moms