About the Kootenay Organic Growers Society
Did you know that here in the Kootenays we are fortunate enough to have our own regional organic certifying organization? The Kootenay Organic Growers Society (KOGS) is a local not-for-profit certifying organization serving organic growers in the East and West Kootenays. They are committed to supporting and strengthening organic agriculture and related businesses in our home region. Through this work, KOGS has played a pivotal role in supporting the development of local certified organic farms.
One of the incredible things about this organization is that it is run by volunteers. Since its inception in 1998, the KOGS board and certifying committee have been comprised primarily of local farmers and some supporting members, who have volunteered their time to make the organization viable. While organic inspection and verification is done by a third-party auditor, and a paid administrator has been hired in recent years, most of the work at KOGS is done by these dedicated volunteers.
Having a local certifying body run by organic farmers helps make organic certification more accessible, responsive, supportive, and locally relevant. As KOGS chair, Lana Braun from Hummingbird Farm notes, KOGS is an organization “by farmers for farmers.” In large part because of their volunteer structure, KOGS is also able to offer one of the lowest fee rates in BC for certification, reducing the financial hurdle of organic certification significantly.
The Co-op’s Relationship with KOGS and KOGS Farmers
Here at the Co-op we are passionate about True Local suppliers and organic agriculture, so have long valued our relationship with KOGS!
The Co-op has participated as a commercial member on the KOGS board since its first year of existence. The first board member from the Co-op was a passionate customer service team member who volunteered her time on the KOGS board, and in recent years our True Local Coordinator has been happy to take on this role. “The Co-op’s commitment to have a member on our board has also been invaluable,” says chair Lana Braun, “it is great to have such a close connection to the Co-op and the variety of perspectives that the Co-op members can bring to the table is very helpful.”
In the early days of KOGS, the Co-op’s produce department recognized that one of the best ways to support the fledgling organization was to give preference to organic growers. This, in turn strengthened the market for local organic production and increased the availability of organic produce for Co-op member-owners. The support that Co-op members have shown through their purchases has emboldened and strengthened our local organic agricultural capacity significantly. Fast forward to today, and now our produce department has rich direct relationships with over 30 True Local organic farms! Many of these True Local produce suppliers, as well as some of our meat and grocery suppliers, certify through KOGS.
Brendan Parsons, KOGS treasurer and farmer at Salix and Sedge explained his relationship with the Co-op saying, “the support of the Kootenay Co-op has been integral to our success as a farm, and they have encouraged us and promoted our produce since we started growing. The staff at the Co-op truly care about local food, and that care extends not just to individuals but also to farming organizations such as the Kootenay Organic Growers Society. I am proud to be a member-owner in a Co-op that plays such an active and leading role in our food bio-region.”
Community Donation Day
On Kootenay Co-op Community Donation Days, the Co-op donates 3% of its profits to a local community organization. We have been happy to support KOGS over several years by choosing them as our partner for one Community Donation Day each year. Lana Braun says that “the Community Donation Days have really helped us do our work. The financial contribution of the Co-op, through the Donation Day has enabled KOGS to keep certification costs reasonable and provides additional support to programs that can help farmers.”
This year, April 17th, 2020 is a Community Donation Day! Co-op shoppers can support KOGS just by shopping at the Co-op on that day!
A Great True Local Partnership!
At the Co-op, we are immensely grateful for our True Local suppliers and for the dedication that they bring to providing us with outstanding food. And we applaud the incredible work that KOGS has accomplished in growing organic agriculture in our region. Hurrah for our amazing food-shed and the partnerships it supports!
You can learn more about KOGS on their website.
You can learn more about Kootenay Co-op Farmers & Suppliers here.