The seed that was Kootenay Organic Growers Society was nurtured over several years of conversations among farmers in the Slocan Valley in the mid 1990s. Eventually, partly driven by a vision to create a co-operative growing and selling certified organic echinacea, a cohesive plan was formed to establish a local certifying body. The early meetings of 4 or 5 farmers who struggled to have a quorum soon expanded as more and more farmers heard about the organization and sought out the services and networking offered. The first certification took place in 1998, based on the Standards developed by Boundary Organic Producers Association.
KOGS was incorporated in early 1999, had its first AGM, and applied for society status which was received later that year. With a membership in the 50s, KOGS was having regular meetings that encompassed both the business of the organisation as well as practical discussions about farming. Best recipes for green manure tea, sources for local seeds, and mulching practices were among the hands-on topics. 1999 also saw the beginning of the discussion among the membership on whether or not to join Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC) which at that time was made up of 7 certifying bodies. The July 1999 meeting of KOGS included a motion to join COABC that was passed by those present.
An Industrial Adjustment Services Grant was received by KOGS to help assess the needs of KOGS members to better assist KOGS in meeting those needs in the context of supporting solid businesses. This project ran through the year 2000 and included KOGS first in-depth membership survey, the results of which helped set future directions and priorities for KOGS.
2001 saw KOGS participation in the Strategic Planning Process of COABC after lengthy consultation of KOGS members on their vision for both a local certification body and a provincial organisation that would best serve the needs of the organic operators. A stable and dedicated Certification Committee certified 19 members in 2001. KOGS had representation on the Standards Review Committee of COABC, including in leadership roles, until the shift to the national organic standard in 2007.
In 2002, KOGS successfully sought funding from the Columbia Basin Trust for a capacity building project entitled “Feeding Our Communities: Strengthening Organic Agriculture in the Kootenays”. This two-year project focused on increasing skills and market access for KOGS members and raising awareness in the region of the existence of KOGS and its member producers. The project delivered a series of well attended field days, supported mentorships, created marketing materials and provided a winter speaker series.
In 2003 KOGS also received funding from the Organic Sector Development Program of the COABC to continue where the Columbia Basin Trust funding left off. The addition of a cover crop research project led by local farmer and cover crop specialist, Oscar Somasco, elicited a lot of excitement and interest among the KOGS farming membership due to the very practical nature of project focusing on soil fertility.
KOGS continues to be driven by the vision of supporting organic farmers and food producers across the east and west Kootenays. The membership is made up of active farmers, organic gardeners, those dreaming of and planning to farm (some day!) and supporting members.
KOGS Founding members include Jules Delaney, David Bromley, Gregoire Lamoureux, Bonnie Baker and Habibe Gonzales. Among the early members who help determine the mandate for the organization are John Johnson, Carol Ross, Dan Ferguson, Yana Maltais, Pat Armstrong, Ed Heide, Park Cowin. We are grateful for their vision and dedication to organic, healthy food.