International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (in North America)

female farmer

Photo by Janet Wallace

So, I (Shannon) was all set (and sponsored by Canadian Organic Growers, Island Natural Growers in BC and the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network) to attend the IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) NA (North America) General Assembly in Baltimore.

 But just a few hours before I was set to leave for the airport I ended up with a bad toothache and was too nervous to fly and spend 5 days in an unknown city sleeping in a 6 bunk-bed hostel room with a sore tooth. So I cancelled my flight and accommodation. I ended up being able to call-in to the meeting though I couldn’t vote by phone (I had been prepared to vote on behalf of IFOAM members COG and OACC-the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada). I also couldn’t hear everyone…only whoever was standing close to the phone on the other end.

Well, I still ended up being voted in as a board member (the other Canadian on the board is Dag Falck from BC). This is a working board (with no staff but hopefully some in the near-ish future).

Hosting the General Assembly (GA) in September in Baltimore (to coincide with the Natural Products Expo East event which some IFOAM NA members attend anyway) is definitely not ideal for farmers and so the plan is to start coinciding the GAs with organic farming conferences. The next one will be sometime in January of 2019 (and the Guelph Organic Conference is a leading contender…though hopefully the dates of it won’t coincide with the EcoFarm conference which many members attend).

Elizabeth Henderson (organic farmer, CSA pioneer, author of Sharing the Harvest, personal hero of mine….) did a short presentation on Organic 3.0, the main future direction advocated by IFOAM.

“Organic 3.0 does not mean abandoning all we have achieved through certification and harmonization. It does mean promoting organic food and farming systems as a modern and innovative approach based on organic principles. … World Board candidate Emile Frison puts it: a paradigm shift to a “diversity of messages that are convergent and mutually supportive.”…Methodologically, Organic 3.0 applies a holistic systems approach and also accounts for external costs of agriculture.

We will have to be very creative in implementing this phase. It will put our diplomatic skills to the test. There are some obvious pitfalls – the domination of the market by large corporate entities, temptations to cheat, greed.  And some very strong attractions – this should be inspirational – a way to unite disparate efforts that currently compete for scarce resources and speak at cross-purposes, or do not even connect well at all.  Agroecology, urban agriculture, food sovereignty, certified organic, biodynamic, regenerative organic, domestic fair trade, soil and health. We will never achieve the future we long for of health, stability and peace unless we collaborate and cooperate with one another.” Elizabeth Henderson.

Copied below is the official IFOAM NA press release on the 2017 General Assembly.

Here is the link to the information for the IFOAM World Assembly (which will take place in India in November….AND which Saskatoon, Canada has a bid in to host for the next one in 2020….fingers crossed!).

In this informative booklet (IFOAM in Action 2017), you can learn about the candidates for the world board of IFOAM – Organics International as well as the motions that will be voted upon. Any organization that is a member of IFOAM can send someone to vote on their behalf (people going are allowed to hold some proxy votes).

In particular, I think that the motion on Aquaculture is timely in Canada….since we now have a Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard….and we have a lot of disagreement on the inclusion of aquaponics of non-aquatic species. The motion doesn’t really address aquaponics.

PLUS (!) for all of us not lucky enough to be going to India for the IFOAM World General Assembly, it will be livestreamed at

Press Release:

The North American Regional Body of the IFOAM—Organics International (IFOAM NA) held its second membership meeting and general assembly in Baltimore, MD on September 14.

At it, the membership elected a new Board of Directors and Officers. The outgoing board unveiled its proposed strategic plan, built on the responses of its members in a survey, the global principles of organic agriculture, and the continuous adaptation needed for organic agriculture to move from a niche to the mainstream without compromising those principles.

“IFOAM North America looks to fulfill the needs of the broader organic movement in North America, and bridge the gap between the organic movement in North America and organic movements throughout the rest of the world as well as building strategic partnerships,” said Brian Baker, who will continue as President of IFOAM NA.

The membership elected Baker, Sarah Brown of Oregon Tilth as Vice President, Leslie Zuck of Pennsylvania Certified Organic as Treasurer, and as Secretary, former USDA National Organic Standards Board member Jennifer Taylor. Shannon Jones, a farmer in Nova Scotia, was also newly elected to the Board. The membership re-elected incumbent Board members Dag Falck, Elizabeth Henderson, Jeff Moyer, and Bob Quinn.

Serving as an umbrella group for the organic movement in Canada, the USA, and the English-speaking Caribbean, IFOAM NA unites organic farmers, the trade, activists, and consumers.

“IFOAM NA should not just be being another voice of opinion on various specific issues, but to elevate the conversation, and re-establish and re-commit to the roots of the movement,” said Dag Falck of Nature’s Path.
Bringing together the diverse interests of the organic community will be a test of its ability to work together. As pioneering organic farmer Elizabeth Henderson put it, “We will never achieve the future we long for of health, stability and peace unless we collaborate and cooperate with one another.”
IFOAM NA’s first priority is to organize and represent the North American organic movement at the upcoming Organic World Congress and General Assembly to be held in India this coming November.

Over the next three years, IFOAM NA plans to create a forum for the discussion of prominent issues that face organic agriculture, development of policy positions for those key issues, and collaborative programs with its affiliates as well as other like-minded organizations.

The next membership meeting is expected to be held in the first quarter of 2019.  During 2018 we expect to hold IFOAM informational meetings and gatherings at various organic events throughout North America.  We also plan on hosting a webinar featuring a report of the General Assembly in India and hope to hear from the new International president who will be elected at that meeting. For more information about times and places for any of these events and how to join IFOAM—Organics International and IFOAM NA, please visit

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *