Press Release: New Tool for Knowledge Sharing and Evidence-Based Decision-Making in Organic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 24, 2020 – The Organic Council of Ontario (OCO) announces the development of the Organic Resource Hub (the Hub), an online platform that will provide reliable, comprehensive data and information about Ontario organic production and marketing.

Practical, economic, and scientific knowledge about organic production systems has been collected and dispersed by various institutions for decades, but has never been centrally available, either on a provincial or national level. Organic certifying bodies cannot legally give advice or provide consultancy services. Securing the specialized services of an organic consultant can be a challenge, especially for newer operations.

“Canadian organic farmers produce high quality products that meet the demands of consumers at home and abroad,” said the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “This investment will offer organic farmers improved access to resources that will help them grow their businesses and remain competitive.”

“Ontario farmers rely on up-to-date information and knowledgeable advice from trusted sources to grow the safe, high-quality food our province is known for,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minster of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Our government is proud to support this new electronic resource that will provide key information to organic farmers to help them be even more productive and profitable.”

“OCO receives dozens of unique inquiries about organic production systems each month,” says Acting Executive Director of OCO, Cassandra Rizzotto. “We rely on organic experts to help us compile accurate, detailed answers. Resources exist, but they can be difficult to find. We are excited to launch a platform that will facilitate organic knowledge sharing more broadly. Ontario organic has great potential for economic and ecological impact, and this project will make it easier for operators to make better, evidence-based decisions for their businesses.”

In 2017, OCO conducted a survey of 580 operators (organic and non-organic) to better understand challenges and opportunities within the sector. Participants identified the top three priorities for sector growth as general extension services, transition supports, and navigation of the Canadian Organic Regime. All three priorities will be addressed through the Hub.

“Organic agriculture is a knowledge-intensive, management-intensive endeavour. When farmers transition to organic, they often lose many traditional sources of information and support,” comments OCO Chair Rob Wallbridge. “The Hub will help fill that gap.”

With a sleek user interface and diligently organized content, the Hub will allow users to easily find answers to questions about all things organic. Initially, it will be tailored to Ontario’s context, but some resources like Canadian Organic Standards help articles will be applicable nationwide. Resources will be geographically and thematically tagged to improve navigation. The Hub is currently in development, with testing planned for winter 2020-2021 before a final launch in March 2021.

The OCO will receive up to $74,898 for this project which is being funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3 billion investment by the federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen the agriculture and agri-food sector.

For additional details, read more in our recent blog post.

About Organic Council of Ontario

The Organic Council of Ontario (OCO) is the Voice for Organics in Ontario. They represent over 1,300 certified organic operators across the value chain, as well as the businesses, organizations, and individuals that help bring food from farm to plate. They work to catalyze sector growth, support research, improve training, increase data collection, encourage market development, protect the integrity of organic claims, and inform the public of the benefits and requirements of organic agriculture. OCO fulfills an important function in connecting organic operators to knowledge and resources that can improve their business and practices. We are eternally grateful to the members, staff, consultants, and Board of Directors who have contributed their own experiences to this bank of knowledge – and we are very excited to announce the launch of a new platform to share that knowledge.

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