Wayne Osborne of Omega Blue Farm showcases a vibrant green bunch of kale and a cinderella squash on Saturday at the Qualicum Beach Farmers’ Market. Osborne has long been an organic farmer and has some concerns about looming changes to the industry.

Defining organic

The provincial Ministry of Agriculture is looking to regulate the term 'organic'

In an age of artisan crackers and gluten-free everything — what does it even mean to be organic?

That’s what the B.C. government is trying to figure out.

The Ministry of Agriculture is looking to regulate the term “organic” through a certification program that would see standards put in place for farmers who want to call their practices and products organic.

Currently, companies with organic products may choose to participate in the B.C. Certified Organic Program, which is administered by the Certified Organic Association of B.C. (COABC). However, it is in no way mandatory for farmers to go through this program to call their food organic.

The looming changes have at least one Spider Lake farmer concerned about legislating the word organic.

“That is like telling a Christian that they cannot call themselves Christian unless they attend church every week,” Wayne Osborne said in a letter sent to The NEWS and COABC.

Osborne owns Omega Blue Farms, a 10-acre organic farm north of Parksville that specializes in heritage poultry and produce. His products can often be found Saturdays at the Qualicum Beach Farmers’ Market.

Organic farming, he explains, at its grassroots level “was basically farmers saying ‘there’s got to be a better way to grow food, we’re not poisoning our customers and our families.’”

Osborne said as time went on, organic food gained a sense of commercial value, and with that came the need for developing standards for organic farming.

“Unfortunately it sounds like the legislation is going to tell those organic farmers that don’t follow the certified organic business model that they are no longer organic,” he said.

“The problem is the standards for organic farming are being written for global trade interests not for the local community.”

Osborne said if consumers are buying directly from a farmer — say at the Qualicum Beach Farmers’ Market — they have the opportunity to ask the producers questions about their farming practices face-to-face. Moreover, he said people can stop by many local farms, including Omega Blue Farms, and physically see what kind of practices they are using. In those cases, going through the process and paperwork to certify your farm as organic may seem unnecessary and redundant.

According to Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Robert Boelens, under the government’s new model producers — including direct farm sales and farmers’ markets — that are not certified under the provincial certification program would not be able to use the term “organic” to describe or market their products.

But Osborne said “taking ‘organics’ off our signs won’t take it out of our hearts, we are still organic at our core.”

A government-issued news release confirmed the Ministry of Agriculture is consulting with the organic sector, including COABC, about developing “a three pillar approach to strengthen the awareness and reputation of B.C.’s organic foods, locally, across Canada, and around the world.”

The release said the proposed changes will require all products marketed as “organic” in B.C. to be certified under either a provincial or national certification program. The ministry stated there will be a cost incurred to the producer that will depend on individual circumstances and the conditions of the farm in question.

The idea, according to the release, is to create “a brand to market B.C. organic foods.”

“Legislating the word organic makes business sense,” said Osborne. “I just fear that the approach could do more long term harm to the brand than good…It appears after all like it is throwing away the organic community’s grassroots core.”

Just Posted

Fire crews called to attend smoke in Qualicum Beach seniors building

Cause of smoke was plastic plate left on top of heating unit

Qualicum Beach council split on Pheasant Glen development decision

Council approves permit for two buildings, after enviro, hydrological studies

Oceanside RCMP raises $4,000 for Tour de Rock

Members of the Oceanside RCMP detachment were out at Save On Foods… Continue reading

Rain and high winds to hit Vancouver Island this afternoon

Thursday and Friday to see downpour of 20 to 50mm and high winds on Vancouver Island

RDN to tax smaller accommodation providers

Hotel taxes to now include those with less than four rooms such as Airbnb

VIDEO: Check out the Art Battle action from Qualicum Bay

Artists had 20 minutes to finishing painting in 12-person competition

Horvat leads Canucks to 4-3 shootout victory over Kings

Vancouver dumps L.A. in NHL pre-season contest

Update: Search called off for missing plane between Edmonton and Chilliwack

Search efforts were concentrated along the Highway 5 corridor between Valemount and Kamloops

Why Whistler for ski jumping in 2026? Calgary proposal gets pushback

Calgary 2026 proposes re-using the 2010 ski jumping venue Whistler for that sport and nordic

Despite progress, threat of 232 tariffs dominates NAFTA negotiations

Any deal is seen to require congressional approval before Dec. 1 to survive new Mexican government

VIDEO: Hundreds line highway as family brings home body of B.C. teen

Northern B.C. showed their support by lining Hwy 16 as Jessica Patrick’s body returned to Smithers.

B.C. MP Todd Doherty receives award for saving man who collapsed on a plane

Conservative MP was flying from Vancouver to Prince George, B.C., in June last year

Alleged border jumper from Oregon facing 2 charges after police chase in B.C.

Colin Patrick Wilson charged with dangerous operation of motor vehicle, flight from a peace officer

More than 35 B.C. mayors elected without contest

No other candidates for mayor in the upcoming local election in 22 per cent of B.C. cities

Most Read