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Bill Cowen

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"We’re Different"

Bill Cowen isn’t your typical organic farmer. In fact, he was initially reluctant to switch from conventional to organic farming, and he may not have done it at all except that his wife insisted. “Finally I told Cherry, ‘Okay, fine, we’ll give it a shot and see how it goes,’ and we’ve been organic ever since!” That was more than 20 years ago. Today, he supplies Farmer Direct Organic with delicious black lentils that he grows on his farm in Saskatchewan.

Why keep farming organically despite initial doubts? “I love dealing with the organic community,” Bill says. “We’re…different.” For example, when Bill switched to organic, he stopped worrying about keeping up with the latest greatest farm technology and began learning how to use organic techniques to evaluate and respond to the needs of his crops. “My best technique is the protein that I get in my wheat,” Bill says. By measuring the protein content of his wheat, he’s able to determine when it’s time to rotate crops. There’s no app for that.

It hasn’t always been easy, Bill says. Charting your own path in organics can mean losing crops while troubleshooting techniques; it can require building your own custom flax seed cleaner because no one manufactures exactly what you needed. Reflecting back on a life of farming, Bill says going organic was an “excellent decision.” Less hassle, more community. These days, he keeps busy by encouraging the next generation of organic farmers.

“The organic community is out here, not only for the money, but also for helping your neighbor. It’s a barn-building attitude, and it’s still here.”