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Scheresky, Alvin (1930–)

Alvin Scheresky, a pioneer of organic agriculture in Saskatchewan, was born on July 19, 1930, in North Dakota. While attending college in Tennessee, Scheresky was strongly influenced by a lecture about the Farming methods advocated by J.I. Rodale (1898–1971), one of the first advocates of sustainable organic agriculture in the United States. After immigrating to Saskatchewan in 1959, Scheresky began farming in 1960 in the Glen Ewen-Oxbow area, using conventional farming methods. By 1964, Scheresky converted his operation to organic farming, bought a stone flour mill, and began selling a variety of organic grains, flours and cereals to a small base of customers. His business expanded dramatically during the 1970s, as he supplied both individual buyers and small distributors of organic produce in British Columbia. He was one of the first organic farmers in North America to have production facilities on the farm to process and add value to grains, and he operated the first organic flour mill in the province. Since 1975, Alvin’s wife Cleadith has worked together with her husband in their family business.

In 1987 Scheresky, together with a half-dozen other local organic farmers, worked with Tom Harding, a co-founder of OCIA International from Pennsylvania, and with Eugene Hauser, an exporter from Quebec, to form the Saskatchewan chapter of the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA), an organic farmer’s organization which began in the USA; this became the first organization to confer organic certification in Canada. While they first sold grain primarily to the domestic market, by 1988 Oxbow area producers were among the first in Canada to export grains certified by OCIA to the European market. The OCIA in Saskatchewan became the largest certifier of organic farmers in Saskatchewan and devised many of the policies used by other similar organizations, which followed their pioneering efforts. Scheresky served as the president of Saskatchewan Chapter #1 from 1989 until 1990.

Scheresky actively promoted organic agriculture and assisted scores of aspiring organic farmers, who benefited from his extensive knowledge of polycultures, seeds, and methods for managing soil organic matter, moisture balance, and pest control. Scheresky’s vision that organic production should protect soil fertility, produce high-quality food, and engage the farmer directly in value-added production served as a blueprint which influenced many others. He grew organic grains and operated A. Scheresky Milling, a precision grain cleaning and milling operation. Located in a 372 square metre (4,000 square foot) plant and warehouse, the operation produced at its peak approximately 90,719 kg (200,000 lbs) of various whole grains, flours and cereals each month. Scheresky sold his operation and retired in 2001. He still has close ties with organic farmers and consultants, and maintains several test plots where he continues to refine techniques and methods for organic farming.

Raymond Ambrosi

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