Join 1800+ attendees – organic farmers, traders, processors, retailers, eaters and Organic Industry Change-Makers at the GOC!
The oldest and largest organic conference in Canada!
History of the GOC
The Conference was launched in 1982 by a couple of grad students and was then run by Guelph Ag. Alternatives until 1992 when it was taken over by a coalition of non-profits with support from government staff.
In 2003, it formally incorporated under the name of Organic Food Conferences of Canada. At its inception, the Guelph Organic Conference included many non-profits and certification bodies in its “official sponsor” list and these sponsors have been critical for making the conference a success.
Since the 2020 conference and during the pandemic, the Guelph Organic Conference shifted to online programming and in 2022, the Organic Council of Ontario was the primary organizer.
Over the decades, Tomas Nimmo has been the conference’s key organizer and has been a passionate advocate for organics and the conference.
This year, for the first time, Tomas and the Organic Food Conferences of Canada have taken a more supportive role and are transferring the conference organizing to the Organic Council of Ontario.
Organics couldn’t be more relevant than at this current moment. In the wake of the COVID pandemic and the on-going strife in the Ukraine, Canadians are demanding more from their food; they are looking to invest in their health, in local and secure supply chains and in solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises. With the cost of fertilizers and inputs going up, more and more farmers are turning to organics for solutions. Inflation is testing consumers’ commitment to these principles, but organics are still leading the charge for regenerative and climate-friendly foods. And with a global market worth more than $172 billion CAD, organics is no longer the fringe market it was in 1982.
Keynote Speaker — Paul Holmbeck
Paul Holmbeck is the former Director and co-founder of Organic Denmark, a national association or organic food producers, consumers and professionals. During his tenure, he was a lead contributor to the Denmark’s Organic Action Plan, which set the course for organic policy and strategic partnerships with retailers in Denmark.
These partnerships are– together with effective consumer communication– credited with making Denmark number one in the world for organic sales, with 13 percent of the food market (compared to Canada’s 3%), and organic market shares of 30-50 percent for many basic products like milk, oats, flour, eggs and a number of fruits and vegetables. Over 80 percent of Danes buy organic food, and over 75 percent now buy organic food every week.
“In Denmark, organic market shares for many basic foods like milk, eggs, flour and many fruits and veggies are at 30-50%. Schools, hospitals, government canteens and even military barracks have also gone organic, with Copenhagen at 90 percent. Organic policy is driving innovation, farm transition and market development. None of this happened on its own. Ontario is poised for a similar breakthrough”
Carolyn Young – Executive Director, Organic Council of Ontario
“Organics are more relevant today than ever. With companies committing to net zero and consumers demanding healthy foods that provide solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises, organics are at the forefront of credible, clean, regenerative practices. This conference continues to be an important catalyst for the growth of the industry.”
Bio: Since joining OCO in early 2016, Carolyn has placed renewed emphasis on serving members’ needs and campaigning for an Ontario organic regulation. Prior to joining OCO, Carolyn worked as the Director of Sustain Ontario, the alliance for healthy food and farming. Together with member organizations, she advocated for the support of healthier food systems through education, network development and collaborative action.
Before Sustain, Carolyn had extensive experience in food security, farming and environmental policy issues through her Masters research focused on farmers’ markets and her time at the Stop Community Food Centre. She has worked on farms and farming issues in four provinces in addition to visiting farms across Canada and abroad as an Independent Organic Inspector.
Ben Cullen – President, Organic Council of Ontario
“Organic Council of Ontario’s President, Ben Cullen, adds “The pandemic has changed a lot of things, but it hasn’t changed the incredible energy and momentum behind the organic movement. We are so honoured and excited to continue the legacy of the Guelph Organic Conference.”
Bio: Ben Cullen is the Founder of Cullen’s Foods, an organic food company that promotes Canadian organics by working directly with Canadian farmers and offering full traceability from the consumer to the farm. Ben shares a weekly column in the Toronto Star with his dad Mark Cullen, where they write about a range of environmental topics from gardening to agriculture, and recently co-authored a book together, Escape to Reality: how the world is changing gardening, and gardening is changing the world. Ben holds a Diploma in Agriculture from the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus and a Bachelor of Commerce from Dalhousie University. Ben believes in the potential of organic agriculture to address the dual climate and biodiversity crises while feeding the world.
Rob Wallbridge, CCA-ON
“With rising input costs and growing interest in soil health, practices once considered “organic” are gaining traction on all types of farms. The Guelph Organic Conference offers the opportunity to gain from the knowledge and experience of both veteran local growers and highly-respected experts in the field.”
Bio: Rob Wallbridge grew up on conventional dairy and cash crop farms in Eastern Ontario and produced organic crops and vegetables from 1998 to 2015. He is currently the Agronomy Sales Lead for SureSource Agronomy, following 4 years as the Organic Specialist for Thompsons Limited. Rob has also worked as an organic inspector, has done extension work for the Organic Meadow Co-operative, and has consulted on organic agronomic, marketing, and certification projects. Rob become a Certified Crop Advisor in 2015 and gained his 4R Nutrient Management Specialist designation in 2017. He is the past President of the Organic Council of Ontario and currently a consulting agronomist for Canadian Organic Grower’s Growing Eastern Ontario Organically project. Rob is a member of the Standards Interpretation Committee for the Canada Organic Standard and has volunteered on both the Crops and Livestock Working Groups of the CGSB Technical Committee on Organic Agriculture during the formation and subsequent revisions of the Canada Organic Standard. His goal is to help OCO become a professional, truly representative voice, and the go-to organization for information, resources, and perspectives on Ontario’s organic sector.
David Cohlmeyer – Board Member, Organic Council of Ontario
“The Guelph Organic Conference is a marvelous event for enhancing knowledge about:
- Canada’s rapidly growing organic industry
- Producers network for a break from rural isolation
- Large Tradeshow features suppliers and distributors
- Workshop speakers share their latest expertise
- Partner non-profit organizations reveal their findings
- Students learn about appealing career opportunities
- Consumers realize the values of purchasing organic”
Bio: David spent over 20-years managing his award-winning 80-acre organic market garden and over 10-years consulting with many kinds of organic producers. He has learned that organic is not about avoiding prohibited substances; it is about the benefits that accrue from following proven organic practices: fewer greenhouse gasses are emitted, biodiversity is enhanced, more resiliency from weather events, foods have more flavour, nutrients, and shelf-life, and there is no need for toxic herbicides and pesticides.
The Organic Council of Ontario (OCO) is the voice for organics in Ontario.
With over 1000 members, we are the farmers, processors, businesses,
and supporters who bring Ontario organic products from field to fork.
Our vision is for a thriving, accessible organic food system that nourishes Ontario communities to promote healthier ecosystems, economies, and communities in Ontario.
We support the growth of the Ontario organic sector through advocacy, research, farmer support, collaboration and public engagement.