In what could possibly be the world’s largest agricultural feat, Canadian farmer Travis Heide is in the process of converting his 40,000-acre farm entirely to organic.
Heide’s farm is large enough to produce 2,200,000 bushels of wheat per year. Although he has been mostly quiet about his transition to organic, his company Organics Canada Ltd. is set to boom as he will begin producing oats, lentils, peas, wheat and hemp all organically.
Currently, the farm is half-organic and half-conventionally grown, but by 2020 Travis plans to convert his entire farm to organic.
“We’ll be 75 percent organic in 2019, and if we don’t add anything else, in 2020 we’ll be 100 percent organic.” ~Travis Heide
The size and ambition of his operation is even more impressive considering Heide just started farming full-time in 2014.
“I have never heard of anything like that…The biggest one I’ve heard of before is maybe 20,000 [acres].” ~Laura Telford, Organic Development Specialist, Manitoba Agriculture
In his early years, Travis grew up working on his parents’ farm near Moosomin, Saskatchewan, with his four younger brothers. He later earned a business degree from the University of Saskatchewan and soon thereafter took a job with a commodity trading firm and eventually started his own grain trading company.
When Heide’s father decided to retire from farming, he offered his sons to take over his farm. However, they each declined and he ended up selling the family farm, only for Heide to later move to South Sudan, Africa, to start his own.
When Travis moved back to Canada he met Robert Andjelic, a Businessman in Calgary, who asked him to manage about 7,000 acres of farmland near Waldron and Whitewood, which he seeded with the help of his brother Garret.
“He puts his nose to the grindstone… He doesn’t give up until the job is done. That’s what impressed me.” ~Robert Andjelic
After buying another parcel of land around Stockholm, Heide was asked to manage it, but decided instead to farm organically because the land wasn’t previously tainted by the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizer.
When Travis is finished converting his farm to organic, it will likely become the largest organic farm in Canada and North America, nearly out doing the entire province of Manitoba, which has about 50,000 acres of farmland dedicated to organic agriculture.
Heide soon realized that growing organically was far more economical than growing conventionally.
“Conventional doesn’t make sense unless you have the best land in the area… In organic, our costs were far lower, and because the value was up there, it just made sense.” ~Travis Heide
His three daughters and wife Amy Heide keep him inspired to work hard and make a difference by providing people with healthy, organic food.
“I remember saying, ‘you can’t do it just because of money. You have to believe in it in order for it to work.” ~Amy Heide
Whether that argument convinced Travis is beside the point because although he says it modestly, what he wants to communicate with this project is that the status quo that you can’t mass produce organic crops has been broken.
“There’s a whole bunch of status quos these days: you can’t start a farm from scratch nowadays, you can’t do a large organic farm because there’s too much tillage…[But] if we can create opportunity for other people, create employment … that’s what we’re excited about.” ~Travis Heide
As Heide continues with his venture to create the largest farm of sustainable, organic crops, he is slowly creating a future where the best practices of mass organic food production can be discovered and people can have greater access to food that is better for their health and the environment.
Read more articles from Phillip Schneider.
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