COABC changes governance structure

New strategic plan sets organic association’s agenda for five years by PETER MITHAM

ABBOTSFORD – Strong sales of organic products and an increasing number of growers combined for a positive annual general meeting of the Certified Organic Associations of BC in Abbotsford at the end of February. COABC’s accreditation

board oversees three federally compliant certifying bodies and six regional certifying bodies, which together represented a total of 748 operators. This was up from 693 in 2016. Similarly, revenue from membership fees totaled $258,495 in 2017, up 7% from 2016.

The fees are based on

gross organic sales of certified growers and are charged based on a 23-tier scale that starts at $71.60. The rate increases in step with sales. Thanks to strong sales and more profitable farms, revenues remain healthy. “We are in a good financial

position,” COABC executive director Jen Gamble told the meeting.

The stable funding membership fees have given the organization the independence it needs to pursue its agenda. This year’s meeting marked its 25th anniversary and a new strategic plan presented to members promises to set the pace for the next five years. “This will be guiding what we take forward going into

the world,” said COABC president Carmen Wakeling. The plan includes both a vision statement – “an organic British Columbia” – as well as a new mission statement: “To cultivate a resilient organic movement in British Columbia.” The brief, four-page document outlines four strategic goals COABC will pursue through 2023. These include:

• administering the organic accreditation program in BC and effectively supporting the certification bodies and the certification system; • engaging with consumers, government and others to raise the profile and demand for organic products, as well as their availability;

• facilitating and providing educational opportunities to the organic sector; and • maintaining a strong, sustainable representative organization. The latter played out in the adoption of a new governance structure, perhaps the most notable decision taken at the AGM. A motion the Pacific

Agricultural Certification Society (PACS) put forward at last year’s meeting proposing the change returned to the floor this year in the wake of the strategic plan. The motion proposed that each of the 10 certifying bodies represented on COABC’s board of directors have a seat for every 100

AgSafe thanks Carol Reid for her  

We also welcome Ron Macc & Ryan Duncan,

our new Okanagan Regional Consultants


Sorrento grower Rebecca Kneen, left, received the Brad Reid Memorial Award at the annual conference of the Certified Organic Associations of BC in Abbotsford on February 24. Kneen operates Left Fields Farm and Crannóg Ales with her partner Brian McIsaac. She appears here receiving the award from COABC president Carmen Wakeling, centre, and Heather Pritchard, right. PETER MITHAM PHOTO

members they have, not every 50 members. The motion aims to reduce board membership to a more manageable number. COABC entered the meeting with 16 directors and nine alternates. PACS has the largest number, at seven. Approval of the new

structure means PACS will henceforth have half the number of directors it had prior to the meeting.

Labelling regulations Wakeling also touched on

efforts to raise the profile of organic products in BC,

particularly as the sector prepares for the province’s new labelling regulations set to take effect this September. The regulations, announced in 2015, require that any products sold in BC claiming to be “organic” have certification from a recognized certifying body to back up the claim. Wakeling said the regulations will help COABC continue to do what it does well, which is build trust. “We need to continue to build public trust and we need to maintain it,” she said. She looks forward to the

new Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s emphasis on public trust initiatives and said COABC hopes to tap funding offered through the program to continue building consumer confidence and awareness of the value organic products offer. Yet another aspect of the new strategic plan shone through in Vancouver Island grower Arzeena Hamir’s proposal for a network of farmers’ institutes spearheaded by organic growers.

See ORGANIC on next page o

25TH ANNIVERSARY 1993-2018 1-877-533-1789

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