Celebrating organics while preparing for mainstream acceptance was a key theme of the annual conference of the Certified Organic Associations of BC in Vernon, February 22-24.
Many speakers remarked on the fact that the sector had gone mainstream, while many of the producers responsible were conspicuous by their absence from the meeting.
“People who have been pivotal in growing this industry into much more of the mainstream … should be part of this discussion,” said consultant Andrea Gunner, who participated in a panel on the state of industry.
Tristan Banwell of Spray Creek Ranch picked up the theme during the conference’s closing session, noting that small-scale production is valorized but large growers have a part to play, too.
“I think we’d all agree that a large-scale organic chicken farm is probably better than a large-scale conventional chicken farm,” he said. “Let’s get them at the table and add that value.”
Rochelle Eisen pointed out during the association’s annual general meeting that COABC isn’t growing at the same pace as the BC organic sector as a whole. COABC reported 764 registered producers in 2018, up from 748 last year.
COABC president Carmen Wakeling of Eat More Sprouts said finding ways to build connections with other sectors of agriculture is part of a core review the association is undertaking to help it adapt to growing mainstream acceptance of organic products.
“All the work we have done [this weekend] has contributed to that core review,” she said.