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Elmer Laird celebrated his eighty-second birthday on January 24, 2006. In Saskatchewan and Canada Elmer’s name is synonymous with Organic Agriculture. He was an advocate of organic agriculture in all its forms, in many different arenas, long before it was “trendy” or popular. Presently he is the founder and president of the Back to the Farm Research Foundation, he corresponds with many media venues and writes a weekly column in the Davidson Leader.
There is a quote attributed to Mahatma Ghandi in common circulation these days: “Become the change you want to see”. Elmer continues to live his life in just this way. He would also add that it is important to seek out information, analyze it and then tell others what you think, even if they are not keen on hearing what you have to say. Rural communities, agriculture, food quality and human health have been his long-term interests.
Elmer grew up as part of a family farming operation where the horsepower came from, well, from real horses. In 1947, Elmer used his VLA (Veterans Land Act) grant to purchase land in the Davidson area, drawn by attractive land prices and an uncle with an established farming operation. In 1960, he purchased a section of land adjacent to the #11 highway.
Elmer Laird has been voicing concerns about the health effects of agricultural chemicals on ecosystems and humans since the early 1970’s. It was economics, however, not health concerns that originally prompted him to reassess his farming techniques. In 1969, he found himself with a lot of grain in storage and little current income, so he decided to farm without all the purchased inputs. About the same time, he married Gladys McKay, a reference librarian and keen environmentalist. Together, they sought out information about the problems arising from agricultural chemicals and the benefits of organic farming methods. Once started down this track, Elmer had no desire to return to conventional agriculture. Gladys remained an active partner until her death in 1999.
Elmer decided to retire from active farming in 2001. His land is now leased to the Back To The Farm Research Foundation for a ten-year period so that it can be operated as an organic research and demonstration farm, the first in Canada. Elmer has a long-time interest in intercropping. In 2003, the farm featured 17 demonstration plots showing different intercropping possibilities and has continued to feature intercropping trials every year since.
Elmer says that being involved with the development of organic agriculture in Saskatchewan has been an exciting and largely positive experience.
Today we are would like to take this opportunity to honour and show our appreciation to a great mentor and a remarkable leader.
Paul was the founder of a dynamic discussion group interested in organic and biodynamic agriculture that was called Earthcare. This organization evolved into Earthcare Connections in 1998. www.earthcare.ca
Paul also organized a series of ‘alternate’ agriculture
conferences in conjunction
His extensive mailing list continued to keep the organic industry up to date. In 1980 Paul edited Earthcare: Ecological Agriculture in Saskatchewan. This was the first book published that addressed organic agricultural production on the Canadian prairies. It combined scientific research, farm profiles and anecdotal information.
From the establishment of an information centre in Wynyard in 1978 to his work with EarthCare, Paul has been one of the key sources of Organic information for this province. We would like to take this opportunity to thank him for keeping this industry informed and up to date.
Both Gary Smith and Wilma Groenen have been key figures in organic agriculture in Saskatchewan. From 1989 to 1995 Gary edited and Wilma published Synergy Magazine, an important resource for anyone interested in organic production. Gary was a long time instructor with SIAST and was an early organic inspector – back in the days when inspectors educated producers. In a time when there were few formal resources to assist growers in their transition to organic production many producers had questions answered and problems resolved after one of Gary’s visits. Both Gary and Wilma have informed and educated either face to face or in their work as publishers and editors.
In addition to Synergy magazine they published Agro-Alternatives: Alternate Farming Methods to Lower Input Costs. They also edited the Saskatchewan Organic Directorates Organic Farming On The Prairies, a production manual that has been used in classrooms as well as on many individual farms.
In addition to all of this they raise a family and fill the world with music with Gary’s amazing guitar licks and Wilma’s oversized voice.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank both Wilma and Gary for their tireless work in giving the organic farming sector the tools they need to succeed.Source
Organic Connections Proceedings, November 2006
© 2012, Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada (OACC)