BRANDON, MB – A biology professor at Brandon University (BU) is studying an organic farm in southern Manitoba to better understand the owners’ success, and pass along that knowledge to other organic growers.
Dr. Terence McGonigle says there is an increasing market demand for meats, vegetables and fruit produced through ecological methods without the use of synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides or genetically modified organisms. Howpark Farms, established in 1879, turned organic within the last 10 years and is close to becoming an entirely closed-system farm through sustainable farming practices.
“The owners have devised a system that works, not through science but through farming experience and trial-and-error,” says Dr. McGonigle. “I am studying how it works, why it works, so that knowledge can be transferred to other organic operators.”
Howpark Farms produces organic grain and organic grass-fed beef, on approximately 850 hectares divided between cultivated crops and native prairie range. Dr. McGonigle is researching what has happened to the soil biology since the farm went organic, and the sources of important nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus.
“Our ultimate goal is to produce the most nutrient-dense food possible by utilizing the soil’s natural biological processes,” says Ian Grossart, who owns and operates Howpark Farms with his wife Linda, “but as farmers with limited manpower and funding, research proves to be difficult. Partnering with Dr. McGonigle and Brandon University allows us the opportunity to do research that will benefit both our system and others as well.”
“This University has a long and continuing history of working within our community, on projects that can transform the world as we know it,” says Dean of Science, Dr. Andrew Egan. “Collaboration and community partnership will always be found in good research.”
Funding of $140,500 has been committed over four years from Organic Science Cluster II, an industry-supported research and development endeavor initiated by the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada in collaboration with the Organic Federation of Canada, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
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