The day-long workshop is based on, and a companion to, COG’s newly released Practical Skills Handbook Growing Strawberries Organically. Two workshops are being offered by COG Ottawa and COG Perth-Waterloo-Wellington in early 2012. Funding for the workshop development and delivery is thanks in part to the Agricultural Management Institute (AMI) and the Rural Association Partnership Program (RAPP) of the City of Ottawa.
The Growing Strawberries Organically workshop is developed and delivered by Rob Wallbridge of Songberry Organic Farm in Bristol, QC. Wallbridge is one of very few certified organic commercial strawberry growers in Ontario/West Quebec. Over the past eight years, he has experimented with many of the growing techniques described in the book. A former organic inspector with over a decade of experience in the organic sector, from production to organic standards development, Wallbridge also served as contributing editor to COG’s Growing Strawberries Organically handbook.
“We know that the demand for local organic strawberries is there and that they command a premium price,” states Wallbridge. “We just need a lot more of them in the marketplace.”
COG’s new organic strawberry book and workshop will help farmers tap into this important niche market opportunity.
“Strawberries are available from grocery stores year-round now, but the public still gets excited at the beginning of the local strawberry season,” notes Colin Lundy, farmer outreach coordinator at COG Ottawa. “As one of the first crops of the local growing season, strawberries are a symbol for the fresh seasonal local food of summer.” However, Lundy continues, “strawberries also come under scrutiny for their high level of pesticide residues, and the public is routinely encouraged to seek organic sources.”
Organic strawberry production relies on a management-intensive approach that incorporates a number of strategies designed to build and maintain soil fertility and plant health. Growers who employ these techniques experience significantly fewer pest and disease outbreaks and weed control issues. At the same time, organic growers do still have a number of tools available to deal with problems when they do occur. The Growing Strawberries Organically workshop will discuss these strategies and tools, in addition to the other management practices that are key to successful organic strawberry production.
“Through detailed discussions and a variety of hands-on exercises, participants will be able to develop a set of tools and techniques for growing organic strawberries suited to their own operation,” promises Wallbridge.
The Growing Strawberries Organically workshop will be attractive to any berry growers interested in this niche market, whether they are organic growers wanting to diversify their farm or improve the quality and quantity of their organic strawberries, or conventional growers wanting to explore organic strawberries as an option or simply to reduce their pesticide usage while still raising quality berries.
The one-day Growing Strawberries Organically workshops will be delivered in Ottawa on February 11, 2012 and in Bloomingdale on March 3, 2012. Registration includes lunch and a copy of the COG publication, Growing Strawberries Organically.
For more information of to register, visit the Canadian Organic Growers website www.cog.ca/shop and click Events or contact COG Ottawa's or COG PWW's respective Farmer Outreach coordinators: Colin Lundy,
, 613-493-0020 and Tegan Renner,