Keewatin Farm is located
on the semi-arid southern Saskatchewan prairie, just outside
the provincial capital, Regina.
Keewatin Farm is primarily a dryland field-crop operation,
growing a variety of cereals, oilseeds, and pulses, with
the recent addition of some raspberry and Saskatoon berry bushes.
It has been certified organic since 1991.
Kamut, ready for harvest
The farm has an abundance of plantings including hedgerows
of mature spruce trees within the yardsite, and field
shelterbelts throughout the farm. The yardsite is only
a few hundred yards
from our own small prairie valley with a year-round
spring. The valley is home to our herd of Canadien horses,
a habitat for a number of prairie creatures - from frogs
to hawks to white-tail deer.
We switched to organics ‘cold-turkey’ in
1989, because of both the personal desire to no longer
to toxic chemicals and the belief that conventional farming
with chemicals was not an appropriate way to be the best
stewards of the land. We have been certified by OCIA
We choose to be certified by the Organic Crop Improvment Association
because they were a grassroots organization with a chapter in
our area. This means there are meetings and special events organized
to help the farmers share information about farming practices
and experiences - a useful tool, since organic farming has yet
to see great support from other regular resources such as public
research and organics-dedicated local experts.
Organic production means much more than simply ceasing the
use of commercial chemicals and fertilizers. It means growing
a variety of crops with a view to maintaining soil fertility
and biological diversity. Organic certification means the growing
and handling of crops using a set of published standards, the
maintainence of good storage facilities and proper records,
and the verification of those things by means of an annual visit
from an independent inspector with final approval by an approving
body - in our case, OCIA.
We have grown a variety of crops including wheat, barley, oats,
rye, spelt, kamut, quinoa, borage, flax, hemp, lentils, peas,
pinto beans and alfalfa and forage, as well as plowdown crops
of clover, lentils, and peas. It will be a number of years before
our berry bushes bear any harvestable amount of fruit.
Most of our products is sold in bulk going out by big truck
to a cleaning facility before being shipped to the buyer.
of Sweet Clover, ready for plowdown
learned a great deal over the years modifying our
plans as we went along. We are at present rotating our land
into alfalfa in order to contend with a major weed problem
of Canada thistle. The alfalfa also serves to suppress
and contributes significantly to soil re-building.
Organic production is not a method of farming which one
should enter lightly. It has its inherent difficulties. It is
very management-intensive. Marketing is more difficult with
virtually every crop being a niche market. Sometimes the vagaries
of nature means that in spite of the best planning, you have
a field infested with weeds (and it seems to be always next
to the main road) or you must watch the insects devour a beautiful
crop. It is not for the faint of heart.
Yes, there is some reduction in input costs because one is
not reliant on buying so many external inputs. And there is
something to be gained at present by the higher prices for organic
products. This is somewhat offset by a lower yield expectation.
However, the greatest compensation is knowing that one is not
contributing to the proliferation of foreign and sometimes dangerous
materials into our air, soil, and water.
Links for Organics
Organic Crop Improvement
Association (OCIA) - one of the world’s largest organic
certification organizations, and remarkably enough, a
grassroots farmer-based democratic
Directorate - an umbrella body representing Saskatchewan producers
and responsible for a pending lawsuit
against Monsanto and Aventis for GEO contamination of