Kate and her husband Doug run Poplar Glen Organic Farm on the 480-acre Manitoba homestead where Doug grew up. They began switching to organic production in 1997, with the aim of making a living on their existing land base by growing good food. “Transitioning was like wearing blindfolds,” Kate says, recalling the dearth of prairie-specific advice available back then. “We made every mistake there is.”
In the decades since, Kate’s pursuit of nitty gritty strategies for seeding, tending, harvesting and selling organic food has led her to become a leader in both the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative (POGI) and the Manitoba Organic Alliance (MOA). As a past president of MOA, she regularly fields calls from fellow producers and is pleased that she can point them to appropriate resources, including POGI’s website and experts. Whether around the board table or in casual conversation with fellow producers, she says, “I try to provide a voice that talks like a farmer.”
On their own farm, Kate and Doug are enlarging the woodlands and protecting the soil and water in their care, using the knowledge gleaned from organic networks to grow and market increasingly clean, high-yielding organic crops. “I can see a difference from three years ago, before POGI started, to now,” Kate says. “In my fields, in my bottom line – and in the respect I get from my neighbours.”
What Makes Kate a Champion?
Kate’s contribution to POGI has been invaluable. A solid and steady supporter, she provides a voice of common sense and “sober second thought” rooted in her experience as a commodity farmer. She is a champion for her fellow Manitoba farmers. By advocating for practical tools that help them (and all prairie farmers), she brings insightful and positive feedback to advance the cause.
“Organics isn’t just this ideal anymore; it’s a production method. With more people wanting to buy organics, we need to have that agronomic mindset, to help farmers figure out how to meet the demand. To me, that is the role of POGI – to bring all those bits of information together in a format and language that helps farmers on the prairies, like me.”