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Canada-wide celebration gaining ground

RandallAnthony CommunicationsComment

Farm tours, open gardens, wine tastings, food fairs, special deals and in-store education sessions are just a few examples of what’s on offer during Canada’s National Organic Week, held from September 19 to 27. The events – reflecting a wide range of facets and members of Canada’s organic community – are sure to appeal to participants and audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Organized by the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA), Canadian Organic Growers (COG) and the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), the largest annual celebration of organic food, farming and products builds awareness about what the sector has to offer across the country – it’s also a chance to take note of important achievements.

Among the milestones to celebrate are the recently signed organic equivalency agreement with Japan and the imminent release of updated national organic standards, says Rochelle Eisen, president of COG. “Organics are now available in every province and territory and there are 900,000 hectares of organic product being grown in Canada,” she adds. “Twelve per cent of organic farmers in Canada are under the age of 35 and, compared to the mainstream sector, there are 5 to 10 per cent more females engaged in organic farming.”

Another highlight for Eisen is seeing how much Organic Week has grown over the last six years.

“Each year, there are more farm and winery tours, promotions and bloggers celebrating organics,” she says. “This year, we are proud to be reaching out to a variety of restaurants across the country that will be featuring recipes with organic ingredients. Keep an eye out for organic menu items at your favourite restaurant, as well as events happening at retail locations.”
For Helen Long, president of the CHFA, the campaign is a chance to “shine a spotlight on the important impact of the organic industry.

“The national reach of Organic Week allows Canadians to celebrate in their individual way. As more organic products emerge on the market, it’s becoming increasingly easier to go organic,” she says. “The events represent the creative ways Canadians are choosing to add organic products to their lives while protecting their environment and their bodies, and supporting local farmers.”

COTA’s executive director Matthew Holmes says there is much to celebrate. “The 2015 Organic Week is marked not only by the highest consumer sales ever – $4-billion annually in Canada – but also the most significant level of government support we’ve seen, from federal investment in the organic grain sector to provincial initiatives supporting farmers to
transition to organic,” he says. “We are excited to celebrate all the Canadian organic sector has achieved.”

Eisen explains that COG, a national charity focused on sharing organic food knowledge, uses its expertise and network to connect with businesses across Canada. “Businesses are pivotal to the success of Organic Week as they are the ones connecting with consumers. The more businesses we can partner with, the more consumers we can reach,” she says. “Last year, over 100 retail locations received official retail partner packages containing promotional and educational materials. This year, we hope to reach at least twice as many retail locations.”

To amplify the reach of Organic Week, COG invites guest bloggers to share their insights on Canadian organics and uses social media to get the word out.

Organic Week also gives organic producers a chance to reach retailers and consumers with their story and allows the organic industry to better educate consumers on what organic is, says Eisen.

“It’s the only national event where the focus is Canadian organics, from a positive perspective, and I believe it is popular because people want to learn more about where their food comes from and how it gets to us all.”

Long adds, “During Organic Week, we hope that all Canadians take the time to think about how their food is produced and how these choices impact their health and our environment. This is a great time to celebrate the local harvest by picking up some fresh organic ingredients to try in a new recipe. Not sure what to make? Visit chfa.ca for some organic recipes that will be the perfect way to celebrate.”

View entire report on globeandmail.com