Biology professor Dr. Terence McGonigle is studying an organic farm in southern Manitoba to better understand the owners’ success and to pass along that knowledge to other organic growers.
“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, and why it works.”
Howpark Farms was established in 1879 and turned organic within the last 10 years. Using sustainable farming practices, the operation is close to becoming an entirely closed system
farm, producing organic grain and organic grass-fed beef on approximately 850 hectares divided between cultivated crops and native prairie range. “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 Brandon University allows us the opportunity to do research that will benefit both our system and others.”
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.
Funding of $140,500 has been committed over four years for this reason 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.