Organic production continues to grow in Sask.

SaskOrganics has attracted a cross-section of organic and conventional producers to its various workshops

The number of organic farmers in Saskatchewan could soon eclipse 1,000, according to the president of SaskOrganics.

Garry Johnson said interest in organic production is increasing, along with consumer demand for organically produced food.

“There’s a great amount of interest right now,” Johnson said following the SaskOrganics annual general meeting in Saskatoon in late March.

He said SaskOrganics has attracted a cross-section of organic and conventional producers to its various workshops. They are gathering information and possibly preparing to make changes on their farms.

“In our estimation … the industry is growing.”

According to the most recent farm census figures collected in 2016, the number of certified organic producers in Saskatchewan was around 850.

Since then, the actual number has probably grown to more than 900, Johnson said.

“We’re hopeful that the next round of census taking will show a significant increase,” Johnson said.

“I think we can safely say we’re over 900 already and I’m confident that we’re well on our way to 1,000 organic producers in the province.”

Johnson said several factors have generated interest in the organic sector.

For starters, consumer demand for organic food is high and consumers are willing to pay more for products they perceive to be safe, healthy and chemical free.

In addition to higher prices producers can get for organic products compared to conventionally grown crops, more growers are watching the consumer trend and making the choice to grow crops without chemicals or conventional fertilizers.

As the number of organic producers grows, so does the need for relevant research, specifically in the areas of weed control, crop fertility and soil health.

Although organic and conventional producers use different farming practices, it’s important to promote co-operation and co-existence between the two groups, Johnson said.

During its meeting, SaskOrganics promoted the use of DriftWatch, an online mapping tool that can be used to reduce the chance of conflict between organic and conventional growers.

In addition, research that benefits organic producers can also provide helpful knowledge to conventional growers and vice-versa, Johnson added.

“There’s a lot of common ground in between us … the key is to share knowledge and increase productivity and food safety on all farms,” regardless of the production systems being used.

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