Field Farms Marketing Ltd.

Growing a Generation of Organic Farmers

If small conventional family farms in Canada are in economic decline, recent studies suggest an alternative: farm organic products. According to research conducted by the Washington State University, the premium consumers pay for organics is 30% higher than conventional farming. Even where organic products yield less, the break-even point is still five to seven per cent more.

In Canada, the number of certified organic farms has grown over 50 per cent between 2001 and 2010. At $3 billion per year, the industry has tripled since 2006 and is growing faster than any other agriculture sector.

Paving the way is Field Farms Marketing Ltd., a wholly family-owned organic trading company. CEO Rita Felder spoke with The Canadian Business Journal about the growing market for organic products and its social and economic benefits.

Years of Success and Experience

Field Farms Marketing founders Rita and her husband Tony Felder have over 30 years of experience in organic agriculture. The couple emigrated from Switzerland almost 17 years ago equipped with extensive European trading experience and established their company in southwestern Ontario. Today, Field Farms Marketing operates globally among expanding European, Asian and North American markets.

Canada is an ideal country for organic agriculture. The clean air, sparkling waters, and deep fertile soils produce healthy crops. The Great Lakes moderate the Canadian climate, providing the uniform temperature and rainfall that are essential for consistency and high quality crops – especially soybeans.

Field Farms Marketing supplies the organic, non-GMO and specialty crop industry with prime food and feed grade products. It conducts business with several hundred certified organic farmers across Canada and the United States. All the company’s products meet the highest organic standards under the NOP, JAS, COS/COR, BIO Suisse and EU regulations.

At the root of Field Farms Marketing is ethical agriculture. “Organic agricultural preserves soil, water and air quality. It is food produced from organic products and is free from chemical residues, so it preserves the health of people who consume it and everyone else (soil, water and air),” Felder says.

Strong relationships are the cornerstone of Field Farms Marketing’s success. The company strives to build these relationships through professionalism, integrity and respect. This is achieved through diligent attention to detail and strict adherence to deadlines, Felder says.

The company maintains personal relationships with each of its organic producers. It tests and screens the products for organic integrity which includes a screening process for chemical residues and GMOs to prevent cross contaminations.

Over the years, Field Farms Marketing has built a strong network of organic producers around the globe to fill the steadily growing demand for organics worldwide. It works with farmers and co-ops in Argentina, India and Europe.

Farmers Are Paid Premiums

Aside from the health and environmental benefits, much of the organic or specialty crops market is fair trade. In North America and Europe, the organic industry allows smaller farms to earn a full-time living, and the family business can be passed on to the next generation as it produces more labour and revenue. “Because organic agriculture pays a premium over regular agriculture, it is ideal for smaller family units,” Felder says. “It allows for farmers to get a fair price. It allows for more family members to work on a farm.”

The same principle applies to producers in developing countries. Organic agriculture’s spot market system has fewer trade steps, so the farmers receive the premium associated with certified organic products.

“We buy closer to the farms and the premiums reach the farm gate. So there are less trade steps in between, and, in order to get a certified organic product, you need to pay a premium to a producer,” Felder says. “It adds value to producers anywhere in the world. Everybody gets a fair share.”

Top Dollar for Organics

The market for organics and non-GMO products is growing in North America and Europe. Organic products are not only found in specialty stores, because grocery superstores are seeing the profitability of selling organic products. As well, demand for one organic product creates a ripple effect in the demand for others. In particular, the high consumer demand for organic eggs is currently fueling the demand for organic feed grains, such as corn in Ontario. “Depending on test weight and the shipping period, we expect to pay $12 to $14.50 per bushel for organic corn in 2015,” Felder says.

Looking forward, Felder anticipates that the organics market will continue to increase. “We hope that more and more people look into organic products when they are at the grocery store. Because there are all around benefits – not just for the people who consume it,” she says. “We preserve our soil, we preserve our air, and water quality. Also, it’s a fair system in the distribution of dollars around the planet and back to the farm gate.”