Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Jul 16, 2009 08:54 PM

Confused about Ontario Organics

Hi Everyone,

I work with several people who consider themselves experts in food (a trained chef, several self-professed "foodies", a few who grow their own fruit/veg/herb on hobby farms). When the topic of organics came up recently, they insisted that there is no such thing as "true" organic farming in Ontario. Something about organics being fairly new here: not long enough for the soil to be deemed organic by major certification boards. This is why, they explained, stores only carry organic produce from the States, Mexico, S. Africa, etc.

I would really appreciate if someone could clear this up for me.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There are true organic farms here in Ontario, just not on the huge industrial scale perhaps as is done in Mex / USA.
    Here is some background reading on Organic farming in Ontario & Canada:

    The food is out there, but if you only shop in Loblaw / Metro / Sobeys / et al you may never see it.


    1. Your co-workers are totally misinformed. There are numerous certified-organic farms in Ontario, as well as farms that have chosen to farm totally organically but without the hassle, money and bureaucracy involved in getting certified. legourmettv is correct: most chain supermarkets do not carry this certified-organic local produce, but some independent supermarkets do (one of which is actually LFP-certified).

      Have your friends make a visit to some of the local farmers' markets (Brick Works, Dufferin Grove, Riverdale, Liberty Village, etc.), where they'll find that the majority of the vendors are either certified-organic or growing organically. And visit the Chefs' Market at the Brick Works on Tuesday mornings, where vendors come to sell bulk quantities of produce, fish and meats to chefs, restaurateurs and retailers.

      Another organization to check out is the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario:

      3 Replies
      1. re: Tatai

        but see what is certified organic?

        as far as i can tell the oco is what hands out this standard and they only require something to be 95% organic to get their stamp of approval.... what exactly makes it into this 95% and what stays out? does organic produce also include the use of biofriendly fuel to run the machinery that some might use to till, sow and harvest? it's all very ambiguous much like how one can purchase "sushi grade fish"... the sushi issue is worse because there is no one inspecting and stamping these items as such, but i think like organics it's more of a quality ideal than something that one can guarantee to be absolutely true. i think the only real way to know if something is organic to your personal standards is to have a detailed chat with the farmers at these weekly markets (talking to your produce person at chain markets likely won't give you any good info) or to visit their farms to see their production facilities and what they do.

        on top of that how long does it take for soil/ground to purge toxins? just because organic practices are used doesn't mean the farm laid down before them didn't saturate the ground with chemicals that will inevitably stick around for a while and get absorbed by the "organic" produce.

        i guess i agree with resonates co-workers for the most part but would also throw out the idea that people who have been using traditional farming methods their whole lives are likely to have naturally been using organic practices (certified or not, and usually not certified, though i don't put much faith in the certification). so mennonite products might be your best bet though there's still no guarantee it will reach one's personal understanding of what organic is.

        1. re: pinstripeprincess

          If you want to go farther- Produce from the US, Mexico, South Africa, and South America, is not in my opinion 'Organic' regardless of certification.
          Trucking, shipping, air shipping produce that far outweighs any green practice in the fields. Yes, I understand that there may be less chemicals on the produce (in the meat), but the overall pollution and resource use to get it here hurts.

          Why buy Organic apples from Chile, when apple orchards in Southern Ontario are being cut down because the farmer can't sell the produce into supply chain.

          In the end, the 'Organic' label doesn't mean anything to me it's all marketing at this point. I really only trust the farmers I've made a personal connection with, and the veg from my front and backyard gardens.


          1. re: legourmettv

            And no matter how organic the farming practices even if they use no machinery and do everything by hand.. you still have all the air pollution dropping chemicals from the sky from detroit..

      2. Thanks a lot. Your replies remind me of the challenges raised in Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. By the end of that read, I found the arguments for local far more compelling than "organics". If I can find both (I'm moving to TO in a month and will def. be checking out the markets you mentioned, Tatai), score.

        As far as health concerns, one could always eat less from the Dirty Dozen list.

        4 Replies
        1. re: resonate

          Over the past few years, I've gotten to know many farmers and visited a number of farms. Getting to know the farmers and producers personally, as legourmettv relates, is your best bet for getting to know how your produce, meats and poultry, and/or artisan cheeses and condiments, etc., have been produced. And the sustainably minded local-food purveyors are passionate about what they do and really worth getting to know! Likewise, it's important to become familiar with the names of certain producers whose products do make it into supermarkets here.

          The farmers' market listing above is far from comprehensive. There are numerous online listings of farmers' markets in the region (note that Farmers Markets Ontario does not provide a comprehensive listing; they only include markets that fall under the FMO umbrella/membership).

          Welcome to Toronto, resonate. Where are you moving from? (If you'll let us know what area of the city you'll be living in, many of us will be happy to pipe in with where you can find the best food/farmers' markets/restaurants, etc.)

          1. re: resonate

            Those are the ones I tend to try to always get organic---though I rarely if ever buy celery. The issues of eating organic get all mushed together but to me, there's two main ideas: personal safety (or safety for one's loved ones--esp. one's children)--i.e. the selfish motivation---and the overall good of the world. I feel guilty buying organic strawberries from CA (I know David Suzuki would be so unimpressed with me) but I just do not want those pesticides. If I could find local and organic, I'd be there even if they were quite pricey.

            1. re: Ediblethoughts

              There are vendors at the markets listed above who are selling local organic strawberries.

              1. re: Tatai

                I'll try to get organized enough to find them. I don't mind paying a higher cost but going for a long ride is another thing (and probably doesn't do well in fulfilling that secondary idea behind organics!).

          2. The pros and cons of organic, organic certification, organic vs locavore, etc. are complicated but they are not specifically related to Ontario. These issues are ongoing everywhere. The Canadian government has recognized the need for regulation of "organic certifiers" and processes are starting to come into place:


            In the meantime, the St. Lawrence Market has two stalls in south market (one upstairs and one downstairs) which specialize in organic food. Each product is identified as organic or non-organic, and also contains its location of origin. You can then make your own personal choice about what to buy, based on your own personal priorities and preferences.

            1. The original comment has been removed