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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.

Field of 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, and serves 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 be exposed 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 since 1991.

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.

Field of Sweet Clover, ready for plowdown

We’ve 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 other weeds 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 body.
http://www.ocia.org

Saskatchewan Organic Directorate - an umbrella body representing Saskatchewan producers and responsible for a pending lawsuit against Monsanto and Aventis for GEO contamination of organic production.
http://www.saskorganic.com