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Organic Farming and the Social Economy. Jennifer Sumner and Sophie Llewelyn Community-University Research Alliance for Southern Ontario ’ s Social Economy University of Guelph ~

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Organic farming and the social economy l.jpg
Organic Farming and the Social Economy

Jennifer Sumner and Sophie Llewelyn Community-University Research Alliance for Southern Ontario’s Social Economy

University of Guelph


Second Southern Ontario Social Economy Node Symposium

April 26, 2007

Organic farming l.jpg
Organic Farming

  • Organic farming is a method of crop and livestock production that

    • Protects the environment

    • Maintains soil fertility and biological diversity

    • Recycles materials and resources

    • Promotes the health of livestock

    • Prepares organic products

    • Relies on renewable resources


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Organic Farming

  • Organic farming comprises a range of approaches within the broader sustainable agriculture spectrum. In its most developed form, ecologically sustainable agriculture (including organic farming) is both a philosophy and a system of farming. It is based on a set of values that reflect an awareness of both ecological and social realities, and on a level of empowerment that is sufficient to generate responsible action.

Hill and MacRae1992

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Organic Farming Movement

  • More than just organic farmers

  • Consumers

  • Academics

  • Restaurateurs and chefs

  • Small entrepreneurs

  • Social-economy organizations

    • NGOs, co-ops

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Project Description

  • University Partners- Jennifer Sumner and Ann Clark

  • Community Partners - OntarBio and Foodshare

  • Builds on previous research on the links between organic farmers and sustainable rural communities

  • Study the extent of the social economy among organic farmers in southern Ontario

  • Study the spread of the social economy among and beyond organic farmers in southern Ontario

  • Mobilize knowledge to support organic social-economy organizations and rural community development.

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Preliminary findings

  • The social economy and organic farmers

  • Types of social economy organizations

  • Summary of this research to date

  • Further study

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Organic farmers are active participants in Southern Ontario’s social economy

Withdrawal from conventional agriculture has prompted growth of organic social economy

Alternative, farmer-founded social-purpose organizations allow organic farmers to meet their diverse needs:

- Education and training - Marketing products

Knowledge sharing - Influencing policy and

Social support consumer behaviour

Sourcing organic inputs

The Social Economy and Organic Farmers

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Social Economy Organizations

  • NGOs:

    • Farmer education and training: EFAO, COG

    • Policy making and promotion: NFU, CFFO

    • Internships and volunteer farm workers: CRAFT, WWOOF

    • Urban food security: FoodShare, food banks

  • Producer co-ops

  • Small, farmer-founded, social-purpose businesses

  • Credit unions

  • Churches

  • Social Service Organizations

  • Environmental NGOs

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Research Summary

  • The social economy is a crucial part of organic farming in southern Ontario.

  • Social economy organizations support connections and collaboration between rural organic producers and urban consumers.

  • The social economy is expanding through an organic, ‘rhizomatic’ process: social economy nodes generate new co-ops and organizations.

  • Social economy organizations are actively changing the landscape of organics in the region.

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Further Study

  • How can we accommodate environmental responsibility in our understanding of the social economy?

  • With the rapid growth in demand for organic products, how will successful social-economy organizations resist the threat of demutualization?

  • As first-generation organic innovators age, how will social-economy organizations support their members into retirement?

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Sophie Llewelyn

MSc, Capacity Development

and Extension

University of Guelph

[email protected]

Jennifer Sumner

School of Environmental Design

and Rural Development,

University of Guelph

[email protected]

Thank you