University of Saskatchewan

Organic Research and Extension Website


SOPA field day

SOPA collage

Photos and collage by Jessica Valois.

  • The SOPA annual tour and picnic was a sociable and interesting event this year. Terry Tyson, grain procurement manager, set us up for a tour of the Grain Millers Plant. We got a virtual tour of the facility, where we saw three large storage bins are for conventional oats and one is for organic oats.
  • The process at the plant goes as follows;
    • 1) receiving; probes and sample of product; checking for moisture
    • 2) dumping, here dockage is a factor
    • 3) the cleaning process; weeds, rocks, wheat, barley, etc. are eliminated
    • 4) sizing (small, medium, large)
    • 5) hulling, using 8 machines, oats become ‘groats'
    • 6) groats put in kiln for killstep to deactivate the food enzymes, preventing the groats from going stale. Ten and a half to eleven tons of groats are processed in an hour.
  • Groats are separated into whole and broken parts and are sized and graded. Whole oats are kept intact and processed as is, broken oats are processed as quick oats and the other remnants go to making flour or bran.
  • Most of the product made at the Yorkton facility are exported to the states
  • We then toured organic and conventional farmer Tyson Becker's organic Omega gold flax crop; seeded on May 9th at 140 lbs an acre. Alfalfa had been seeded the year prior. The Omega gold crop was a short but thick stand. The seed went for 30 dollars a bushel.
  • We also toured another one of Becker's organic flax crops. As he has grown flax on this field for four years in a row, the crop was very yellow, but with minimal weeds. Plant branching and bolls were good. Some alfalfa returning from a past crop was helpful in providing nitrogen to the flax. The crop is to be disked before freeze up.
    • Becker: "this is my last year of conventional farming, next year I'm switching over to all organic."
    • Gerald Tourigny, organic farmer says "if I'd have to go back to conventional farming, I'd quit!"
  • We also saw Tyson Becker's 16 bar, 50 foot McFarland harrow
  • At dinner Terry Tyson told us that all storage facilities are full of last years crop at the mill site and at the existing leased storage space in the south western part of the province. He gave us his trend tracking insights;
    • Old crops are oversupplied and mill production is not so high due to recession.
    • Demand however has eroded to a baseline level
    • When recession diminishes, people will go back to work, more money will be spent on food and market prices will go up again.
    • If we get a frost, or experience bad harvest weather, prices will hold for the short term. If not, there will be downside on the price on milling quality
    • The rye market, where Grain Millers acts primarily as a trading agent, is most likely to be weak. As a general rule, the demand side of rye is slower.
  • Terry also mentioned that the favorite oat varieties in no particular order are Legget, CDC Dancer, AC Morgan, CDC Weaver and CDC Orrin
Report by Jessica Valois, summer student, University of Saskatchewan.