Organic group sees exciting times ahead

Financial struggles have been addressed and new funding sources will allow initiatives to continue

OLDS, Alta. — The increasing consumer demand for organic products has created financial growing pains for Alberta’s organic organization.

However, difficulties paying the bills while expanding the industry have forced the organization to become stronger and more focused, said Ward Middleton, president of Organic Alberta.

“This was by far the most challenging year,” he said.

The organization was just days away from not being able to pay its staff last summer.

It had taken on a large project, the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative, which was designed to help existing producers increase production and quality and improve profits. However, it resulted in more staff and more costs.

“For us, we have to lay out a significant amount of cash,” treasurer Danny Turner told Organic Alberta’s annual meeting.

“We were on the verge of making some very difficult decisions.”

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The federal government forwarded money for the project days before the organization missed its payment.

Funds are normally paid after the project is finished, but Middleton said funding large projects without upfront cash is extremely difficult for small organizations surviving on donations and book sales.

The funding crunch encouraged implementation of better financial management plans and policies. Better planning and access to alternative funding sources allowed Organic Alberta to raise more than $600,000 last year, double its income from a year earlier. Turner expects to have more than $850,000 in revenue this year.

“It is an exciting time. What we’re seeing now is we’ve been a small player in the room for so long. This is really being driven by consumer demand,” said Middleton.

Demand for organic products has not slowed, even during tough economic times. Food processors have wanted more products but are struggling to find organic supply.

“Food processors are telling us they would introduce new food products if they just had the product. Industry is coming to Organic Alberta with money asking for programs that will help grow the supply of organic grains in Western Canada,” said Middleton. “It is a little bit of an affirmation from industry we are doing a good job and we will help you. The reality is our products are in strong demand.”

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  • If this “organic” project is being driven by consumer demand as Middleton claims, why is government funding required?

    If organic products are in strong demand, then let the free market take care of this.

    • Harold

      Perhaps both questions can be the title of your next books.

      • It’s always such a pleasure to meet a fan. Glad you’re familiar with my work Harry. All the best.

        • Harold

          Actually, I’ve never read your book nor did I say that I am of Fanfare. I only know that to write a book of/for subject matter, you are doing research first. A book entitled: What prevents a free market, and the other: Why Government funding is required, emerged from your comment, As an author, I thought these were relevant titles for your research. My mistake. I had no intention of misleading you. I should have wrote this comment rather than the previous. Disregard all that’s written above if your comments were directed to Harry. That being said, a “Fan” is someone who cannot achieve nor surpass.