Virtual Program

Canada’s Largest Organic Event. Something for Everyone!

Rest, Recovery and Regeneration: How has the pandemic affected organic and what does the future hold?

Throughout the pandemic, Canadians prioritized their health and food security in a new way. We thought that trend would stay. But new supply chain disruptions, global strife and severe inflation have shifted things again. Where is the organic market now and where can we expect it to go in the future?


Tom Barnes is the chief executive officer of Category Partners, LLC; a retail sector, business insights company founded in 2008, which specializes in driving growth by executing consumer and market research, data analytics and technology solutions. Tom has successfully led Category Partners by developing strategic partnerships, proprietary data reporting tools and adding primary consumer research capabilities to Category Partners services. Since taking the reins at the end of 2016, Category Partners has more than doubled its annual revenue.

Prior to joining Category Partners in 2013, Tom held a senior position at Wada Farms Marketing Group leading a major retailer account group for more than 9 of his 13 years with the company. Tom got his career start in the IT field. His IT background, coupled with his subsequent experience in perishables industry sales and marketing, has afforded him a unique and valuable perspective on the relationship between data management, business insights and success in the retail perishables area.

He was raised in Pocatello, Idaho, and is a proud Idaho State University Bengal. Tom currently hails from Idaho Falls, Idaho where he and his wife are doing their best to raise their five beautiful children. Tom loves to run, coach sports of every kind, and simply be with his kids every chance he gets.

Benefiting from more than 20 years of experience in food and textiles, Lee Holdstock is a trusted expert in sustainability, responsible business, and organic trade who manages a range of projects and stakeholder relationships for Soil Association Certification – the UK’s biggest organic certifier. Lee is part of a team that helps hundreds of businesses build capability in marketing, communications, supply chain, and routes to market, actively supporting the growth of an organic market that is now worth over £3 Billion a year.

Lynsey is an experienced marketer who has focused her career in the natural, organics and wellness industry – working with brands like Genuine Health, Bio-K+, Silver Hills Bakery, One Degree Organics, Navitas Organics, Greenspace Brands, and The Green Organic Dutchman (an organic and sustainably focused cannabis company). With a passion for brand strategy, creating great consumer experiences and taking innovative products from idea to commercialization, her goal is to get better for your products into the hearts and minds of more Canadians.

2023 Organic Market Outlook: The market rollercoaster continues

2022 brought another year of price volatility as supply chains, weather events, and consumer demand brought risks for organic producers and consumers. Ryan will break down how organic commodity market fundamental data has shifted over the past year, and what these changes could mean for prices and market risk for the year ahead.


Ryan Koory is Mercaris’ Vice President of Economics. With more than a decade of agricultural market research experience, Ryan leads Mercaris’ data partnerships development and identity preserved market data analysis. Prior to Mercaris, he developed market forecasts for global livestock, dairy, and biofuel markets. Ryan has a B.S. in Economics at Missouri State University and studied for his M.S. in Agricultural Economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Marla Carlson has worked in the organic sector in Saskatchewan since 2006 and has been an organic consumer since the mid-1990’s. Her passion for organic food and farming has grown as my involvement in the sector has deepened. Marla has been working for SaskOrganics since 2014 and in the Executive Director role since February 2016. In her leadership role, she is always looking for innovative ways to fulfil the organization’s mission to cultivate a healthier world for the benefit of all through organic food and agriculture. Before moving back to Saskatchewan, Marla lived in England and worked for Bristol City Council as their first Democratic & Statutory Services Manager. In addition to Marla’s role with SaskOrganics, she is President of Organic Connections – the largest organic farming conference in Western Canada and is a member of the kwayēskastasowin wâhkôhtowin Steering Committee (Prairie Food System Vision Network), a Rockefeller Foundation Food Systems Top Visionary Prize winner, a thirty-year project with a vision to decolonize the food system on the Canadian Prairies. She is also a member of the Food Systems Game Changers Lab’s Elevating Indigenous Knowledge Cohort. Most recently Marla has taken on a position with the Prairie Organic Development Fund managing the Canadian Organic Ingredient Strategy project.

Hugh Martin is an organic inspector and consultant and has worked as an agronomist in Ontario for 43+ years.He worked for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs for 34 years (retired 2011) and has worked with organic farmers for 35 years.He has a BSc (Agr) and MSc from U of Guelph and grew up a farm in Essex County.

Against the Grain? Challenges and Opportunities of Working with Organic Flours

Sourdough bakers, artisanal flour mills, and heritage grain dealers all face similar and unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to organic flours. This workshop will help you understand all you “knead” to know about organic breads and pastries and what goes into them. We look forward a fully baked discussion – we hope you rise to the occasion!


Tom was a past:

• president of the Organic Council of Ontario.
• member of the national board of Canadian organic Growers.
• president of the Ottawa Chapter of Canadian Organic Growers.
• chair of the organizing committee of Eco Farm Day in Cornwall Ontario.
• member of the Cornwall Carbon Reduction Initiative.
• member the advisory committee of Sustain Ontario.

MaryHowell Martens and her family farm 2000 acres of certified organic grain, forage and dairy in upstate New York.  They have been certified organic since 1992. Additionally, she owns and operates Lakeview Organic Grain, an organic seed and animal feed operation serving dairy, poultry and vegetable farmers throughout the Northeast.   She served on the USDA Advisory Committee for Agricultural Biotechnology, the Cornell University Dean’s Advisory committee, and the NOFA-NY Board of Directors.  In earlier years, she worked in the grape breeding program at Cornell University and taught biology and plant physiology at Finger Lakes Community College.  She has a BS in Horticultural Science from North Carolina State University, and a MS in Plant Breeding/Vegetable Crops from Cornell University.  She also loves to bake with home-grown, home-ground grains!

Melissa McKeown grew up in Centre Wellington and graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, minoring in Molecular Biology and Genetics in 2008. She immediately joined a Geothermal installation company as an office manager and ultimately transitioned to grow their export market for products before leaving in 2012 after the birth of her first child and ultimately in pursuit of an entrepreneurial lifestyle. Melissa holds an Agricultural Operation Strategy or Plan Development certificate (AOSPCD) and still performs nutrient management consulting for farmers and developers.  In 2014,  Melissa McKeown and her brother Trevor founded 1847 Stone Milling when they recognized all major premium organic flour brands sold in Canada were based in the USA. Melissa continues to manage 1847 Stone Milling and in 2020 established 1847 Estates, an operating farm and tourist destination promoting the beauty and productivity of Southern Ontario farmland. Melissa does regular speaking engagements and volunteers on not-for-profit Boards that promote community and agriculture. Melissa has been featured on culinary shows and podcasts where she provides accolades to the hard work of women in agriculture and the opportunity for growth in the Canadian agricultural sector. Melissa continues to live on an active farm in Fergus, Ontario with her husband, 10-year old daughter and 7-year old and 4-year old sons.

The Sweet Spot Between Organic and No-Till

Dr. Erin Silva works with farmers of all production types on improving soil health through regenerative practices in the US. Join her for a discussion on what organic farmers can learn from the no-till movement and what no-till or conservation tillage farmers can learn from organic.


Dr. Erin Silva is an Associate Professor and State Extension Specialist in Organic and Sustainable Cropping Systems in the Department of Plant Pathology as well as the Director for the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at UW-Madison. Dr. Silva has taught courses on organic vegetable production, an experiential learning course integrating the working student organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm on campus. She has also initiated several organic research projects at NMSU, including work on cover crop-based reduced tillage for organic vegetable crops and breeding vegetables for organic production systems.

Poultry Progress – Improving Animal Welfare While Maintaining Production

The 2020 Canadian Organic Standards saw some changes to requirements for poultry producers with the introduction of winter gardens and some aspirational goals for future animal welfare concerns to be addressed. Monique Bestman, author of Poultry Signals, will share her knowledge and experience of how chicken production can be done with both care and economics in mind. Together with Joel Aitken (maybe!), she will explore what is possible within the Canadian context and organic standards.


Monique Bestman is a researcher in ‘Farm animal welfare’ at the Louis Bolk Institute in the Netherlands. She did several studies on the welfare and health of organic and other non-cage laying hens, for example, the prevention of feather pecking during rearing and lay. Last year she focuses on welfare aspects of free ranges for laying hens: how to get them out, predation (who dunnit and how much does it cost), how to prevent avian influenza risk birds from being present in the free-range and gut parasites about free-range use. Currently, she is working on how to keep hens healthy while reducing the use of chemical deworming treatments. All these investigations were done on farms.

Organic Certification professional, consultant and local food eater.

Gerald Poechman and his wife Marlene farm 400 acres of food and feed crops for 30 cows and 6,000 hens near Hanover in Bruce County. The farm has been organic for 30 years and is still improving. The eggs are sold under the Yorkshire Valley brand. They look forward to the market acceptance of grass-fed eggs 365, the result of their ‘winter garden’ where the birds can scratch, root, dig, play and exercise.

Eco-Scholar Spotlight – Looking to the Future: Exploring Possibilities for the next Green Revolution

The Yorkshire Valley Farms Canadian Eco-Scholar Award is open to students across Canada and offers a total of $10,000 in funding to be granted to four students. The Award is intended to provide financial support for Canadian students in any area of study, so long as they are passionate about organic regenerative agriculture practices and how they can be a force for good in our society. The Eco-Scholar Award was first launched in 2004 by the Guelph Organic Conference. In partnership with Yorkshire Valley Farms, the Award has been expanded to now provide a total give-away of $10,000.

We are pleased to host the Eco-Scholar Spotlight as part of this year’s virtual programming. Past Eco-Scholar winners will present updates from their research and share key learnings that can help to shape the future of the organic community.


Krysten Cooper is the Director of Corporate Culture and Sustainability for Yorkshire Valley Farms (YVF), Canada’s leading organic poultry producer. Her work with YVF focuses on how the organization can achieve its goal of Make Food Matter More and ultimately have a climate-positive impact through its actions. Krysten holds an Honours Business Administration (HBA) degree from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario and a Chef Training certificate from George Brown College. She has pursued continuing education around Sustainable Business Strategy, earning certificates from the Harvard School of Business and Stanford University. Krysten currently sits on the Board of the Organic Council of Ontario in the role of Vice President.

Michelle Carkner, PhD Candidate, University of Manitoba Michelle is a 2021 Eco-Scholar recipient.

The potential for organic, farmer-led wheat breeding to maintain yield potential under low-phosphorus conditions on the Canadian Prairies:

Michelle will present research exploring the mechanisms of phosphorus use efficiency of organic cultivars from a Canadian participatory wheat breeding program under low phosphorus conditions.

Olivia is a 2022 Eco-Scholar recipient. She studies the immune response of sheep to better understand how to select for more disease resistant animals. She will be presenting the results of a study looking at differential gene expression between sheep that are resistant and susceptible to gastrointestinal nematode infections.

JOIN THE FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE! How to mitigate climate change with new actions on your organic farm – ECOCERT

Ecocert Canada and the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) have set up a specific project for organic-certified farms as part of the Government of Canada’s Agricultural Climate Solutions program, under the On-Farm Climate Action Fund (OFCAF), delivered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The goal of the On-Farm Climate Action Fund is to help farmers adopt beneficial management practices (BMPs) to store carbon and reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in three specific areas: nitrogen management, use of cover crops and pasture rotation. The program aims to provide Canadian farmers with technical and financial support to implement on-farm actions that will accelerate the effect of climate change measures on net GHG emissions. Under this program, Ecocert Canada, in partnership with COTA, has secured $4.5 million in funding to help 200 certified organic farmers in Canada adopt BMPs that reduce GHG emissions through cover crops and nitrogen management.

Join this session to learn more!


Crystal Clarke is an organic certification expert at ECOCERT interested in climate change’s impact on agriculture.
Crystal Arsenault was a certified organic farmer before moving into various administrative positions for producer associations. Her experience with software design and organic subject matter consulting has resulted in the roll out of certification and farm management software. Her connection with the farming community has informed and helped drive her work toward greater equity in agriculture. In her role as FaRM Program Manager, Crystal supervises the delivery of the Farmers for Climate Solutions (FCS) Farm Resilience Mentorship (FaRM) Program, which aims to train 10,000 farmers across Canada in the 3 climate friendly farming practice areas of Cover Cropping, Advanced Grazing Systems and Advanced Nitrogen Management.


Agriculture, Energy Use, Emissions, and the Future of Farming

The North American food system is among the highest emission and least efficient in the world, and in history. We are turning fossil fuel calories from the ground into food calories on our plates. But as Canada and other nations move toward net-zero emissions, the large and growing emissions from our farms and food systems will come under increasing scrutiny. This talk takes a big-picture look at the civilizational project of turning fossil energy into food and proposes high-level solutions for moving to a climate-compatible food system.


Krista Long is a passionate advocate for family farms, farmland protection, ecologically viable farming practices, and local, equitable food systems. She has over 20 years experience in the not-for-profit sector with a variety of organizations including the Canadian Organic Growers, the Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable, and the Ontario Farmland Trust. She brings her experience in fundraising, policy, research, and program development to her role at the NFU-O.

Darrin Qualman is the Director of Climate Crisis Policy and Action for the National Farmers Union. He is the author of the 2019 report Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis, the 2022 report Nitrogen Fertilizer: Critical Nutrient, Key Farm Input, and Major Environmental Problem and the 2019 book Civilization Critical: Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future. He farmed for two decades and has academic degrees in history, biology, and political studies.