Very few Newfoundland and Labrador farmers use organic agriculture practices yet consumers are eager to integrate certified, affordable organic foods into their diets. Dr. Gabriela Sabau is determine why this discrepancy exists.
The work was presented at the Our Food Our Future symposium in fall 2016.
Dr. Sabau teaches students about the damage done to the environment by industrial-type, large scale agriculture. We need to turn to sustainable practices in farming, she said.
"Organic agriculture is ideally practiced on small-scale, highly-integrated farms (crops, bees, animals) which do not use chemicals as fertilizers and pesticides, thus producing higher quality and more nutritious produce. Besides, by maintaining healthy soils able to capture carbon emissions from air, organic small-scale farms can contribute to the fight against climate change ."
Food security is a hot topic in this province. And that's created opportunity for the dialogue about transitioning to a more sustainable farming system in the province.
Dr. Sabau is working to discern why of the more than 500 farms in the province only two are certified organic and only tens are environmentally friendly.
"While the farmer's output is smaller on an organic farm, its more diversified and better quality and is not specifically directed to export but more to local and regional markets."
Through Dr. Sabau's research she learned of the primary reasons why farmers are hesitant about becoming certified organic. Firstly, there is a high cost of certification and of organic pesticides and fertilizers. Secondly, there is lack of market demand for organic produce in the province.
A survey of grocery consumers in Corner Brook and Deer Lake found out that definitely there is demand for organic produce if it is produced in this province, is reasonably priced and offers assurances that it is actually organic.
This research has a bright future, she said, with a recent provincial government announcement that significantly increased Crown land is available for agricultural development.
"New entrants in farming will have small plots and with awareness about the benefits of organic farming. As organic agriculture is indeed more costly; a strategy of integrating small-scale organic farms in an agro-eco-region might reduce these costs."
Using a similar model, agro-eco-regions are successful in northern European and Latin American countries. The principle is simple -- small farms are embedded in a pristine environment and operate with minimal disturbance of the environment. These farms also specialize and incooperate regionally in a way that is a win-win for everyone. For instance, a farm specializes in animal-husbandry and provides manure as a fertilizer for the neighboring farm which specializes in crops providing fodder /feed for the first farm.
Shem Evan, master of arts, environmental policy, student
ABOUT FOR THE RECORD:
Throughout the semester we will highlight some of the interesting research taking place at Grenfell Campus. The articles will appear here and will be compiled on the research webpage.
Article prepared by Melanie Callahan