Organic Insights Magazine - Summer 2022
THE MAGAZINE OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE AUSTRALIA ORGAN IC INS IGHTS
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MURPHYFARMING: CELEBRATING30YRS 11
7 13 MADALEINE'S EGGS
CERTIFICATION INTHESEAFOOD INDUSTRY?
MES SAGE FROM THE GENERAL MANAGER
Our AGM is always a good time to reflect on the year that was and look ahead to the future. In 2022, NASAA Organic has experienced the same pressures
and grow her certified organic egg business in an industry that now has a variety of sustainability claims consumers are expected to choose from. In this ‘New Sustainable World’ it is the role of us all to re-affirm the place of Organic as the Gold Standard in Sustainability, to mitigate the threat of green washing from a growing number of ‘sustainable’ claims. Celebrating 30 years in upholding organic as the Gold Standard, Murphy Farming still have the same passion and excitement for what they do, despite what the challenging weather gods have dealt them over the past two years. Paul & Cherry Murphy are very proud of their achievements and the legacy will continue with their young adult children keen to be part of the operation. This inspirational story of resilience and commitment is a must read! Being part of a wide spectrum of conversations has been an important focus for us this year, and in September, I participated in a forum at the 2022 Seafood Directions Conference discussing the values of third- party certification. In this issues’ article What value does organic certification have in the seafood industry we explore certification in the seafood industry and how organics sits alongside (and value-adds to) other industry certification standards.
faced by our members, stakeholders and NCO clients– many dealing with the legacy issues of COVID-19, the domestic economic conditions, weather events, changing regulatory requirements, along with staff and management changes. It takes the work of many to change the world, and to keep a steady path on what represents true change versus a thin veneer of marketing in the space of sustainability. All businesses are moving into the new frantic world phase of sustainable claims being used in marketing. NASAA Organic continues to delve into the integrity of the claims being made, as they must be able to show impacts on the ground are delivering to the environment and the people. We also recognise our role in celebrating the work of others who play their part (large and small), with two of our operators featured in this issue, Madelaine’s Eggs and Murphy Farming . Madelaine’s Eggs has been operating for over 20 years. At the tender age of 28, Madeline Scott, the face and name behind certified organic Madelaine’s Eggs, provides us insights on what it has been like to build
Alex Mitchell / NASAA Organic GM
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Hearing from others is important for us. Recently, NASAA Organic hosted a Think Bank Workshop to explore broader issues, asking our participants to define ‘What success looks like” for the future of the organic industry. The feedback provided strong messages, suggesting we should continue the endorsement for domestic regulation, ensure a strong voice in the national conversation around regenerative agriculture, pursue the proportionate allocation for industry R&D and encourage greater youth engagement. It has been our pleasure to host an intern from Adelaide University this year. As part of undertaking her Masters at the Centre for Global Food and Resources (GFAR), School of Economics and Public Policy, Sage Lawless explored the best pathways to fast-track engagement from our younger stakeholders. In A Voice for Youth , we hear about Sage’s
work, and we look forward to her further contributions in future issues. As we head into the festive season, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my staff, Kate Parker and Lee Mastus. We are a small team here at NASAA Organic, but through the generosity of others, support of our members and a wider stakeholder family, a lot has been achieved in 2022. I wish you all a safe and happy festive season, and as always, our hearts and thoughts go out to those undergoing challenging times.
The annual Organic Trade Mission to California is back, due to popular demand!
Scan the QR code to find out more
Organic Insights / Summer 2022 / 3
MES SAGE FROM THE CHA IR
Highlights from our recent AGM. We have survived an unprecedented disruptive period, including a global pandemic, war
NASAA Organic continues to collaborate within industry and has signed an MOU formalising a relationship with the industry charity Organic Trust Australia: Research and Education (OTARE) that will enable NASAA Organic to receive bequests and tax-deductible donations for education or research projects. Our support will continue for Organic Industries Australia (OIA) as the national peak body. We will step up our international engagement with IFOAM Oceania members and collaborate with regenerative agriculture organisations. NASAA Organic will further revive our strong reputation for providing good, reliable information via webinars, field days, workshops, and conferences – and undertake collaborative activities with partners such as the Australian Organic Recyclers Association (AORA), Organic Consumers Association of Australian (OCAA), OTARE and OIA, Mekong Organics and others. We will also continue to address the need for assistance and conversion information and grow our membership by presenting engagement opportunities including a member only website (to be released in the new year), participation in advisory committees and workshops/field days. In opening our recent AGM, I was reminded of the definition of an Association as: A group of people who work together in a single organisation for a particular purpose; that share a mental connection or relation between thoughts, feelings, ideas, and sensations. NASAA as an Association is its Members and we don’t function without our Members. I, and the NASAA Organic Board, wish to express our thanks and appreciation for the input we have received over the year from our Members and look forward to your ongoing contributions. We also give thanks for the work and dedication of the NASAA Organic and NCO teams and have every confidence in our Board, GM and staff moving forward to provide an enhanced, quality service and deliver on our organisational ambitions.
in the Ukraine, climate-related disaster from drought to fire to flood, and subsequent rises in cost of fuel, food, rent and other living expenses, and bank interest rates. We also had major changes at the Board of NASAA Organic and NCO, and staff changes. All this has slowed but not curtailed the delivery of some ambitions for the organisation. A little later than anticipated, NASAA Organic has finalised a draft strategic plan, commenced review and updating of the NASAA Organic Standard (NOS) and development of a regenerative organic agriculture standard, and continued to represent industry through participation in various forums, training and development, publicity and events. The NASAA Organic Board has continued to clarify our policy stance on various organic industry matters such as the structure of management committees for the NOS, management of the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce (The National Standard), support for an organic industry peak body, and domestic regulation of organic. Board governance at NASAA organic has continued to improve, with major changes made within NCO that have improved efficiency, increased financial control and stability, ensured compliance with accreditation obligations, and created a steady platform for growth, in an increasingly congested, complex, and competitive certification landscape. In a chemically and climate challenged world, organic has never been more important. Within the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Organic directly and positively contributes to at least 11, including climate change abatement and amelioration and preservation of biodiversity. We must continue to present these SDG benefits of organic to industry, Government, and consumers.
TimMarshall / NASAA Organic Chair
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Our draft Strategic Plan will be released for consultation on our website early in the New Year.
Highlights from our recent AGM
Strategic Planning in the current, ever changing sustainability environment is difficult. NASAA Organic has considered the multiplicity of sustainability certifications that Australian primary producers can now apply to their operations and produce. Our participation in several industry forums has enabled us to capture cross industry sentiment (conventional and organic) to better understand the current positioning of organic in agribusiness.
AUSTRALIAN REGENERATIVE ORGANIC STANDARD (AROS) The NOSTC has also been asked to create an Australian Regenerative Organic Standard (AROS). Regenerative organic certification is developing around the World, with ‘regenerative’ being the zeitgeist in the way that ‘sustainable’ was in the mid 1980’s when NASAA was formed. The US based Regenerative Organic Certified® has emerged as the primary (or only) formal certification scheme for regenerative agriculture, developed by the non-profit Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA). However, it is currently only applicable to US NOP certified operators. AROS has potential to be the first formal regenerative organic standard outside of the US. The NOSTC have already completed a gap analysis of the NASAA Organic Standard with the Regenerative Organic Certified® standard, revealing that the NOS is already well progressed towards a regenerative standard. In our preparation to offer regenerative organic certification,
This collective information, and our vision for a more active program of work at NASAA Organic, together with globally competitive certification offerings from NCO, has informed the Strategic Plan. As an ethically based company, our Strategic Plan also includes an explicit Ethics statement that considers the impact of NASAA’s activities and aims to achieve best practice, acknowledging our staff members, volunteers, members, and certified operators. Our aim is to deliver a plan that is practical, straightforward and in plain language, providing direction and practical advice to the Board, staff, members, and certified operators – about what we do and what we intend to do. It is a document that members and stakeholders will be able to pick up and see at a glance, the strategic goals of the organisation. Members will be asked for their considered feedback and comment on the draft plan upon release. We have appointed a NASAA Organic Standard and Technical Committee (NOSTC), led by Stephanie Goldfinch as Secretary, and comprising representatives from diverse backgrounds in organic and regenerative agriculture, as well as NCO staff. The NOSTC will provide a technical reference point to answer queries on Standards issues and has started work on reviewing and updating the NOS, with a completion goal of July 2023. When this process is complete, a draft updated Standard will be circulated widely to members and other stakeholders for comment. NASAA STANDARDS REVIEW & UPDATE
the NASAA Organic website and promotional literature will be amended to address ‘sustainable, organic and regenerative’ to align with the increased recognition of regenerative terminology and its importance As we move toward the development of an Australian Organic Regenerative Standard, we look at the commonalities and differences in organic, sustainable, and regenerative systems, and the role that certification plays in defining a benchmark for consumer guarantee. SUSTAINABLE, ORGANIC, REGENERATIVE? WHAT DO THEY MEAN AND WHERE DO WE SIT? One of the earliest organisations to adopt the word sustainable in its name, and NASAA chose this word because it had a great deal of currency in environmental debates at the time, and because we thought that it made a statement about why we were organic. Consideration was given to using the word regenerative, which was very new at that time (regenerative agriculture was coined by Robert Rodale in the early 1980’s), but we decided that it was not well enough understood. A further reason for sustainable being chosen was consideration being given to the fact that we wanted to send a message to all growers who wanted to change their system to one that was less reliant on harmful inputs and a positive step towards better care for the land, and human health. At that stage, NASAA operated a ‘Level C’ certification, which we viewed as a ‘first stage’ conversion to organic, and which permitted a small amount of herbicide use. Level C only persisted until the early 1990’s.
Organic done properly is regenerative, and regenerative done well is, or should be, organic.
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3. Purity. Avoiding chemical fertilizer and pesticide use and consequent pollution of the environment. By ending detrimental habits such as smoking or thinking negatively, the potential for growth, happiness, and success increases. 4. Permanence. More perennials with vigorous root systems. New, more positive, personal spiritual behaviours take root and provide a deeper meaning to life. 5. Peace. Ending the war against weeds and pests. Improved societal security and well-being. Negative emotions such as anger, fear, and hate are replaced by tolerance, compassion, and understanding. 6. Potential. The positive qualities and resources in yourself and your environment become easier to access and effect more people around you. improves, increasing water retention capacity. Community life improves, increasing the health and wealth of its inhabitants. In 2022, the regenerative movement has simplified this message down to the following: 1. less (or no) tillage, and sequester ing carbon into the soil. 2. Using cover crops, compost, animal manure, and crop rotation to restore the soil microbiome. 3. Building ecosystem diversity. 4. Well managed rotational grazing. So, we see that organic and regenerative have similar goals with respect to soil quality and biodiversity, and a production orientation (maintaining the environmental benefits within the farming system, not limiting them to the bush block). 7. Progress. Soil structure
The concept of economic sustainability was easily grasped. It took much more effort to explain that there were social and environmental dimensions to sustainability that deserved consideration, and diagrams such as this one proved useful to depict the concept of a sustainable society that we wanted to convey. Organic standards progressed rapidly to provide a clear and detailed definition of what we meant by organic, which included not just exclusion of synthetic chemicals, but also working with the landscape to preserve biodiversity and water quality, humane treatment of animals, and fair trade. Organic certification rapidly became the market leader and established protocols that were used by Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and other environmental and social certification programs. Regenerative built slowly until the mid-2010 decade when it gained a lot of currency, but it still lacks a broadly agreed definition. Here are a few attempts: • Regenerative agriculture is a system promoting nature- based solutions to improve soil and landscape health and productivity, while improving water and nutrient retention in soils and across the farmscape. (Rhodes 2017. The imperative for regenerative agriculture. Science Progress 100: 80–129.)
• Regenerative agriculture differs from organic agriculture in that it does not prohibit the use of chemical inputs within a farming system, while at the same time suggesting constraints be applied where synthetic chemicals are used (Giller et al. 2021. Regenerative agriculture: An agronomic perspective. Outlook on Agriculture 50 (1):13–25.). • Regenerative agriculture aims to regenerate the natural functions of soil and landscape, increasing biodiversity through the implementation of a range of regenerative practices and the reduction of chemical inputs (Soloviev and Landua 2016. Levels of regenerative agriculture. Version 1.0 – September 2016. Terra Genesis International 12:2017.). Robert Rodale provided a list of what he called the ‘Seven Tendencies Toward Regeneration’. They were: 1. Pluralism. Increase in diversity of plant species, diversity of business, people, and culture, and diversity of personal experiences, capacities, and openness to new experiences. cover of plants, ending erosion and increasing beneficial microbial populations. Also, more resistance to economic and cultural fluctuations and improvement of personal hardiness and an ability to withstand crisis. 2. Protection. More surface
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REGENERATIVE DOES NOT NECESSARILY EXCLUDE SYNTHETIC CHEMICALS , BUT ORGANIC DOES Most organic observers would ask, “How can you be regenerative if you depend on degenerative inputs?” This leads to the conclusion that organic carried out properly is regenerative, and regenerative done well is or should be organic. What is the role of certification for regenerative? Some regenerative certification systems are under development, but there are also some anti-certification views within the regenerative movement. As regenerative matures and tries to develop certification, it will discover the need for a better definition, and that certification will be useful only when it delivers a reliable consumer guarantee. In the USA, The Rodale Institute answered these pressures with the development of Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC). NASAA Organic will continue to provide innovation and leadership to organic, by developing an Australian ROC. We will introduce a system that is applicable to domestic organic and does not require NOP certification. We have completed a side-by-side comparison of the NASAA Organic Standard (NOS) and ROC standards, which confirms is well down the track towards satisfying regenerative-organic requirements. NASAA Organic leadership and the NASAA Organic Standards and Technical Committee are happy to hear frommembers and NCO certified operators while the new standard and certification system is being developed. We hope to have a substantial draft to distribute to all stakeholders in mid-2023. strategic plan / Continued from previous page
NASAA ORGANIC GENERAL MANAGER, ALEX MITCHELL , TOOK PART IN A LIVELY PANEL PRESENTATION AND Q&A SESSION ON THE ‘ ROLE OF THIRD- PARTY CERTIFICATION IN UNDERPINNING SUSTAINABILITY CLAIMS ’ AT THE 2022 SEAFOOD DIRECTIONS CONFERENCE IN BRISBANE, THE PREMIER CONFERENCE FOR THE AUSTRALIAN SEAFOOD INDUSTRY
With many aquaculture operators seeking further knowledge of sustainability certification systems, the presentation proved to be one of the most popular and well-attended sessions on the conference program. Seafood is the most consumed animal protein category in the World today. The management practices which represent sustainable production have undergone intense scrutiny by both consumers and those invested in deliverable environmental outcomes. Indeed, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 70 percent of the World’s fish population is now fully used, overused, or in crisis. Consumers are familiar with eco-labels such as ‘Dolphin-safe’ and those associated with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). These labels are assumed by consumers to have some form of evidence based third party
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what value does organic certification have in the seafood industry?
certification for the labels to be able to be used to establish environmental credentials. But the question begs, is this the reality of all sustainable labelling in the seafood industry? In 2020, Canada-based environmental advocacy group SeaChoice undertook research that looked at eco-labelling in the industry. Across 18 retailers, they discovered 234 environmental claims across 181 seafood products. The report noted that 55 of these were based on certification schemes (third- party audited), 77 were endorsement claims (meeting threshold claims without third party audit i.e., harvest methodology, place of origin) and 102 were self-declarations (no independent oversight). Where does organic certification sit in all this? The inclusion of ‘aquatic animals’ in organic standards gained early recognition in several countries in the 1990’s, with the first global organic aquaculture criteria established later by the International Federation of Organic
Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) in 2000. In terms of organic standards, ‘Fish’ are treated in 3 categories – wild fish, farmed fish (also known as aquaculture) and shellfish (both farmed and wild) including molluscs, seaweed, fish, crustaceans, and echinoderms. While wild fish are not covered, farmed fish and shellfish are viewed as aquatic ‘livestock’ with organic standards covering the value chain of growing, processing, packing, importing, distributing, and retailing. The aquaculture industry is increasingly moving to demonstrate its sustainability credentials - as a broader move to meet consumer demand, to maintain social license and to take advantage of market incentives in terms of price premiums. In Australia and international markets, alongside the recognised NCO Spring Leaf label, there are several established conventional certification schemes in place,
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including the MSC, the ASC and Friend of the Sea certifications. To lift the perception of the management of Australia fisheries, both industry and Government have funded various development grants to help people transition to sustainable accreditation. In 2012, for example, the Western Australian Government partnered with the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) for an Australian first; a $14.5Million fund for Western Australian fisheries to gain MSC certification. All in all, this is obviously a good thing, but once accredited, the time and cost of maintaining the accreditation has been increasingly onerous, and the greater evidence burdens existing in conventional industry sustainability schemes are starting to see some operators opt out. Like MSC and ASC, organic certification has been one of the long-standing sustainability certification schemes ensuring product has a chain of custody record from ‘farm’ to consumer. “I went to the Conference to quietly and objectively assess the role of organic certification in the Australian seafood industry,” says Alex. “What I found is that we have an increasingly more important role to play.” For shellfish producers, the shift to certified organic is relatively straightforward as, in most cases, there are few differences in production methods. For finfish producers, however, access to juvenile stock and organic feed can prove more limiting. In the EU, for example, where there has been notable growth in certified organic aquaculture, total production rose to 74,032 tonnes in 2020, with certified organic mussels dominating – followed by salmon, trout, carp, oyster, and seabass/seabream production. Continued growth in Australian certified organic businesses will require issues to be addressed in terms of: • Low consumer awareness of organic aquaculture. • Consumer confusion over different sustainability schemes – and competition between schemes. • Regulation and promotion in sectors.
NCO currently only certifies sedentary species (Oysters, Mussels etc) at this stage. As other fisheries and aquaculture businesses improve in their management systems, there is the possibility to extend the scope for organic certification in other species here in Australia. Several aquaculture businesses in Australia are certified by NCO, including: • Angel Oysters – Port Lincoln • Eyre Peninsula Seafoods – Port Lincoln • Pristine Oyster Farm – Cowell • SASK International Seafood – Vic • Sea Bounty / Spring Bay Foods – Vic • Tasmanian Oyster Company
Sea Bounty / Spring Bay Seafoods
Phil Lamb, Managing Director of Sea Bounty / Spring Bay Seafoods in Victoria says that “Organic certification, specifically NASAA, is a known attribute amongst educated consumers in our market.” “While there are, and continue to be, a multitude of choices for producers when it comes to certification standards; our chosen combination of NASAA Certified Organic and Friend of the Sea certification gives us the confidence that responsible production methods employed by our business are truly sustainable,” he says. “The products bearing these claims are what we would choose to purchase for our own families.”
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Tasmania Oyster Company
Further Information Find out why Ireland dominates organic aquaculture production. Proceedings of the Global conference on Aquaculture 2010, FAO 2019 Development Organic Aquaculture, Timo Stadtlander Certification, Verification or Fabrication? A SeaChoice Report
Josh Poke Executive GM – Operations at NASAA Certified Organic (NCO) Tasmania Oyster Company says that sustainability is a key strength of the business, and that certification is a response to consumer concerns and demands. In addition to Friends of the Sea certification, “organic certification adds to our consumer story and builds trust in the brand as a premium product,” he says. “It’s hard to quantify the premium contribution (in dollar terms), but it helps to build our brand, so that whatever product we are attaching our name to carries that sustainability assurance.”
CERTIFICATION STANDARDS FOR AQUACULTURE Organic management places an emphasis on establishing and maintaining a viable and sustainable aquatic ecosystem.
In addition to the general principles of organic land and livestock management, sections 7.28 through to 7.38 of the NASAA Organic Standard specifically cover farmed fish and crustaceans at all stages of growth, managed in both open and closed systems. Conversion to organic should address environmental issues and past use of the site with respect to waste, sediments, and water quality. The Standards outline principles and practices relating to animal welfare and freedom from artificial contamination: • Stocking density must not inhibit fish welfare – 100 sqm is the minimum cage size, with a minimum 9 metres depth in estuarine systems. The density must
not exceed 10kgs per cubic metre in any system. • Aquaculture feeds are 100% certified organic. • Conversion period is single lifecycle of an organism or one year. • Aquatic vertebrates must be unconscious when slaughtered. • Physical separation of conventional and organic production to ensure no potential contamination. • Provide for polyculture where possible. • All non-indigenous species must be kept contained. • Raised without hormones or antibiotics. • No chemicals, No GMOs.
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WE LAST (PUBLICLY) VISITED THE MURPHY’S IN OUR 1999 NASAA NEWSLETTER, WHERE WE TALKED TO THE FAMILY ABOUT THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF FARMING IN A DISTRICT THAT WAS EXPERIENCING (EVEN BACK THEN) A HIGHLY VARIABLE CLIMATE. murphy farming celebrating 30 years
Fast forward 20+ years, and the Murphy’s Farm in Capella, 30 minutes from Emerald in the Central Highlands region of Queensland, is experiencing a challenging harvest, with heavy rainfall and the district on flood watch for the second time this year. “We’ve never had a season like this, ever,” says third generation farmer, Paul Murphy. “But if I think about it, no 2 years have really been the same – and we are always dealing with something different.” A state that he says
yellowwood and bottletree softwood scrub and bluegrass. The property sits within a cluster of organic farms in the region that liaise regularly and collaborate; The Murphy’s farmwas closely followed into certification by neighbouring properties to the North, East and West. “At the time, there was no-one doing it [broadacre] on our scale of operation,” says Paul. “Certified organic ag at scale just didn’t fit with modern methods.” It was a period in the 80s when agriculture was at a crossroads, with many farmers advocating for the use of RoundUp and synthetic fertilisers, and State DPIs warning of its necessity for survival. It reminded Paul of early farming with his father…”there were no chemicals, and they were farming traditional wheat varieties,” he says. “It didn’t feel right to me [the use of artificial chemicals] and you could smell it on the farmers coming down the road.” Paul says he’s glad they took the route they did, “but organic is not for the faint-hearted and the first 10 years were hard!”
is “all part of a long learning journey in working with natural systems.” Paul, his wife Cherry and 2 children all work on the farm of just over 1800 hectares of cultivation, with crops including ancient and heritage
wheats and other cereals, pulses, and oilseeds. They have 420 hectares dedicated to native vegetation (the largest dedicated land mass in the area) – featuring predominantly brigalow,
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Going organic shifted the farm focus to high quality, specialist grains as opposed to high yield. This included planting low gluten varieties of spelt and sorghum and ‘historic wheats’ that cater to a high-value ‘health conscious’ and ‘artisan’ market. For the first 10-15 years, almost all product was exported, but the change of focus and growing local demand has shifted this completely to 100% domestic supply at this stage. “We have a very close relationship with certified private miller Wholegrain Milling in Gunnedah, NSW… and are their sole grower of a heritage wheat variety [Foster wheat] - that was actually bred by a farmer in Capella, using seed genetics from 1901, 1944 and 1952,” says Paul.
involvement in the development of a hybrid organic sorghum seed with Radicleseeds (formerly as CEO). “It’s a slow process..there is a decade in seed breeding at least, but it’s been really interesting,” he says. “They said you could never get a hybrid organic sorghum seed, and we did!” Paul is obsessive about soil, and soil science. For anyone starting in organic, he recommends “taking any course they can on understanding soil.” “It’s the basis for everything – seeds, plant health – it all starts with the soil.” Paul strongly believes the expert should be the farmer, and that all farmers are capable. “Agronomists grew out of the 60 and 70s,
and they are what I call prescribers of products and services. They can tell you what to do, but equally they can be telling you the wrong thing to do.” Similarly, he says that people come to him for advice, but “while I’m sufficiently good at my patch… on another patch, I could be as wrong as the next guy.” Paul says that every farm is different, people need to be patient and observe. Keep good records. Dedicate trial areas. “And, take more notice of what the natural world is telling you.” “Ag needs to get back to that,” he says, “but we still see things here that we don’t have an answer for.” “Just when you think you know something, you don’t!” Further Information
“It doesn’t yield terribly high, but boutique bakeries appreciate the superior flavour and it’s used in sourdough making,” he says. “Anecdotally, many people who can’t tolerate modern wheat varieties, can eat this, and not be affected.” The relationship doesn’t stop at the miller… Paul regularly receives feedback from end users, bakers, and others, on his grain, even hosting visits at harvest time. “It’s unusual in agriculture today to have that connection to the end user and it’s nice to have, as we can look to fine-tune what we can control,” he says. “There is definitely a push for certified organic.” Paul says that organic management is inherently more expensive, “but you need to keep costs down…so that you don’t price yourself out of the market.” His interest in heritage wheat has also seen Paul involved in seed genetics, with continued
murphyfarming.com.au/about-us Instagram the.farmers.daughter radicleseeds.com.au
Organic Insights / Summer 2022 / 13
Madeleine Scott, the face and name behind certified organic Madelaine’s Eggs, has never seen market conditions as tough as they are now, with sales of her eggs declining by 30% over the last 6 months. “In 20 years of operation, I’ve not seen it this bad,” she says. “[In the current economic climate].. “I don’t know exactly what it was that I was allergic to, but I haven’t had any problems since going organic.” Since converting, Madelaine has remained
consumers are opting for lower cost, and this is coupled with increases in all my inputs – the cost of feed, farm fuel, labour – it’s biting into already tight margins.” Currently stocking 4,000 hens, Madelaine supplies around 18,000 eggs a week to greengrocers, butchers and speciality stores around Melbourne and Victoria, and direct to select cafes and restaurants. Madelaine started her business at the tender age of 8 on the family farm ‘Hollyburton’ at Clarkefield in the foothills of the Macedon Ranges. The business has grown and sustained her through to the age of 28 (and 3 children later) and she now employs 5 staff to assist with various jobs around the farm, from raising baby chicks, tending the hens, to packing and delivery. “My parents were organically minded and never used chemicals, so I guess it was in-built in me,” says Madelaine. “I started off as a conventional producer for 2 years and I was actually allergic to the eggs,” she says.
committed to maintaining organic as the premium sustainable product in the egg industry. While she has seen some organic operators exit the market in recent times, this is not an option that Madelaine would entertain. “I couldn’t personally sell an egg that wasn’t certified organic,” she says. “I couldn’t in my conscience sell anything that wasn’t healthy, chemical-free and fresh.” With invested employees that rely on her, and fixed ongoing costs, for the moment Madelaine is just holding on. “We will need to be more creative in our approach, to look at our costs and hope that things will swing around.” What makes Organic Eggs different? According to Madelaine, “a lot of people – retailers and consumers – don’t understand what makes certified organic eggs different.”
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This is a problem that is compounded by confusion over the standard for free- range in Australia. The voluntary Australian Standard recognises the term ‘free-range’ as 10,000 hens per hectare. A model Code from the CSIRO, however, suggests that this should be much lower at 1,500 hens per hectare. Madelaide’s own stocking rate is well below this at 250 hens per hectare. In addition to stocking rates, certified organic production places emphasis on closed loop farming with hens, feed and inputs all being part of the certification chain; it focuses on the sustainable management of free-range land and ensures no use of artificial antibiotics or growth promotants. Why do Organic Eggs cost more? Put simply, overall farm productivity can be lower, but with higher input costs. “Grazing stock exert more energy into free ranging, as well as egg production,” says Madelaine. “The laying rate is therefore lower at around 50-70 eggs per day.” Madelaine says that the cost of bringing in certified organic feed, breads and cereal grains, is higher, along with a higher proportionate labour cost. “This accounts for the large price difference..and my margins are very tight!” “I think anyone producing organic eggs any cheaper must be cutting corners somewhere.” Further Information Visit madelaineseggs.com.au
certification standards for egg production In addition to the general principles of organic land management, section 7.12 of the NASAA Organic Standard specifically covers poultry production. The Standards outline principles and practices relating to animal welfare considerations, freedom from artificial contamination and sustainable land management: • Hens are only fed certified organic feed. • Hens have freedom to exhibit natural behaviours. • Debeaking, wing burning, and other methods deemed inhumane are not allowable. • Free range areas must be managed sustainably. • No hormones, no antibiotics. • No GMOs.
Madelaine is involved in Young Farmers Connect, a national non-profit association that seeks to connect young farmers across Australia to develop
networks, resources and a sense of community, and she is also the current President of the Madedon Range Regenerative Farming Committee.
courtesy Madelaines’s Eggs
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REGEN FARMERS MUTUAL :
As with any new market, the carbon market has ushered in several emergent schemes, consultants, and advisors. Navigating the territory can be daunting for many farmers, particularly for smaller operators, and knowing who to trust is the key. Regen Farmers Mutual is a fully farmer owned cooperative that seeks to empower members to participate in diversified carbon and environmental markets, through providing a coordinated advisory and support network, and technology tools. More than 80 landowners and conserva tionists collaborated to design the cooperative model, which was originally piloted and proved with partners, Accounting for Nature, and the Murray Land Improvement Group. The cooperative offers several benefits; it provides an easier path for farmers to participate in the market and capture value on farm, reduces the typically high costs paid to brokers and consultants, and provides ease of access to technology that assists in assessing the value of natural capital on farm, and to record, monitor and report activity – at low cost. Ultimately, the cooperative model puts the power back in the hands of the farmer. According to co-founder AndrewWard, “the model represents an effort to democratise ecosystem services rewards and data with farmers.” “In Australia, we’ve seen an effective de- mutualisation – with the demise of the Wheat Board, the Barley Board and others,” he says. “We are the first farmers mutual that has arisen in decades.” CO-OPERATIVE MODEL HELPS FARMERS ‘CAPITALI SE ’ ON NATURAL CAPITAL
Left: Bruce Maynard, Bob Hawke Landcare Award winner 2022 and AndrewWard, Regen Farmers Mutual
Under the mutual model, farmers get to keep more value from their efforts. “Regen Farmers Mutual advisors help identify and define projects,” says Andrew. “They assist with on-boarding, look at the emissions balance and what can be done on farm, and coordinate with farmers in areas to look at broader biodiversity and hydrological projects.” Central to the member service provided by Regen Farmers Mutual is access to a technology platform that assists environmental assessment, recording and reporting. Developed through initial crowdfunding, the ‘commodity-agnostic’ platform effectively creates a ‘digital twin’ that establishes a baseline of farm environmental assets, including soil, water, and biodiversity. This Environmental Farm Assessment enables farmers to take stock and understand the value of their environmental assets and forms the basis for identifying opportunities to improve biodiversity or sequester/remove carbon on farm. The tool is then used to record, monitor, and report continuous improvement that provides
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Regen Farmers Mutual is looking to expand its reach through the appointment of a network of advisors across Australia. “Advisors can be individuals or networks, ag networks, farming systems, even stock and station agents….as it adds a further dimension to green provenance and traceability,” says Andrew. For further information, contact email@example.com
Members of the Mutual seeing Dalness Farm in Tasmania. Dalness has enhancing remnant vegetation and carbon + biodiversity projects on one farm
“That’s where the Mutual comes into its own.” The Mutual has been successful in gaining funding to undertake 7 landscape scale projects across Queensland (1), Victoria (6) and Tasmania (1). The first Traprock Regeneration Project has commenced in Southern Queensland. Andrew says that the farmer profile of those that he is working with is interesting. “I’d like to think that we are representing the average farmer.” “There are definitely more women, though, or wives of farmers being heavily involved… aware commodity farmers, early adopters, lifestyle blockers.” “People who know that you can’t do it on your own…but need to do it together.”
the basis for accessing environmental credits. “We have 50-60+ farmers who are currently using the technology and our waitlist has grown to over 400,” says Andrew. “The biggest movers are in beef cattle, sheep and goats, and grain is rapidly catching up.” “We are advising farmers to use carbon credits to lower their own farm emissions first; to then look at opportunities to offset their own value chain (in-stepping), with any excess sold on the market.” “We say net yourself out; look after your supply chain, and then sell any excess to the highest paying target.” The nature of the cooperative model encourages farmers to think beyond their own individual properties and look at the potential for a broader scale of collective action that can contribute to environmental improvement. Along with the carbon market, Andrew sees the future introduction of the Commonwealth biodiversity scheme as a mixed blessing, and cautions that it has the potential to create biodiversity “islands and walls, or disconnected corridors.” “We need connected areas for habitat extension, which requires cooperation at a macro level. The scheme does nothing to scope this,” he says.
Further Information regenfarmersmutual.com
theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/oct/17/ australian-first-farmer-mutual-aims-to-cut- out-carbon-farming-middleman afr.com/companies/financial-services/ farmers-collect-data-to-measure- improvements-tap-carbon-markets-20211118- p599zo
The co-operative model, however, encourages farmers to see the local
environment “as a joint responsibility” says Andrew, “considering not only their own farm property, but upstream and downstream impacts.”
AndrewWard, Regen Farmers Mutual
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PACI F IC A ID PROGRAM SUPPORTS WOMEN IN AGR ICULTURE Australia is increasingly focused on re-affirming relationships with our Pacific neighbours – with issues of regional stability, national security, and climate change of mutual concern. Agriculture is a key industry that contributes to regional stability and underpins the economies of many Pacific Islands. The Pacific Horticultural & Agricultural Market Access Plus Program (PHAMA Plus), supported by the Australian and New Zealand governments, assists export capabilities in 10 Pacific nations and empowers women to play a key role in the development of the sector. A recent webinar hosted by PHAMA Plus, Seeds of growth and change in the Pacific , featured 6 panellists from across the region celebrating the contributions of rural women in agriculture. “Our organisation is about championing new ideas, bringing in new skills and experiences and empowering those around them,” said webinar moderator and PHAMA Plus GEDSI Manager, Kassandra Betham . Despite the critical role that women play in food production, they often face barriers to accessing agricultural land, training, credit, and services. Speaking from Vanuatu, PHAMA Plus Country Manager, Emily Tumukon identified the primary barriers inhibiting participation as including a lack of capital, lack of business acumen and lack of empowerment, as well as an entrenched cultural status of women in communities. Co-founder of the PNG Women in Coffee Association, Catherine Pianga agreed, and said that in her country, access to land is an added issue as it is traditionally passed down through the male lineage. Catherine said the Association works to address impediments for women including issues relating to the legislative and regulatory environment, board representation, cultural issues, lawlessness, and trade barriers…as well as improving financial literacy. LET’S INCLUDE THEM MORE IN DECISION MAKING , EQUIP THEM WITH THE CORRECT SAVVY AND TOOLS TO ENHANCE PACIFIC’S FOOD SECURITY, TRADE AND RURAL LIVELIHOODS. Emily Tumukon, PHAMA Plus Country Manager, Vanuatu WOMEN AND GIRLS ARE EQUAL SHAREHOLDERS IN THE PACIFIC RURAL AGRICULTURE SYSTEM. THEY ARE SENSIBLE, DETERMINED, RESOURCEFUL AND CREATIVE.
faces of organic Making up half of the World’s farmers, the World Bank calls women the ‘agents of change for the global food system’ and the ‘human link’ between the farm and the table. National Geographic reports that closing the gender gap in agriculture would grow food production and build sustainable futures for women. In developing countries, only 10 to 20 percent of landholders are women, and in some parts of the world, women still cannot legally own or control land. The UN Food and Agriculture Organiza tion (FAO) reports that abolishing gender- specific barriers in farming would not only empower women to achieve their highest economic potential, it could help feed a hungry world.
There is no benchmark a woman can’t achieve if given the opportunity and resources to do so and empowered with the relevant knowledge.
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Sage Lawless, NASAA Organic Intern
Secretary for Ministry of Agriculture in the Cook Islands, Temarama Anguna-Kamana said that because the Island’s agricultural production and labour force is so small, they need participation from all household members. The ministry supports training for women internationally, and provides access to finance and resources, and appropriate technology. A PHAMA Plus activity that has been seen as a game changer, is the Family Farms Teammodel – which helps to break cultural stereotypes through helping to define roles of each family member and increase shared decision-making for both men and women. Digital technology is also a significant development, according to Samoa agri- business entrepreneur, Shelley Burich , owner of Vaoala Vanilla, who spoke of the opportunities to diversity with e-commerce/social media, as particularly beneficial for vulnerable communities. Further Information View a recording of the webinar at phamaplus.com.au/media/events/webinar- rural-women-seeds-of-growth-and- change-in-the-pacific NASAA Certified Organic (NCO) have certified operators throughout the Asia-Pacific region since 1990 under the ‘Grower Group’ model, including in Indonesia, PNG, East Timor, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Nepal. There are currently around 20,000 individual growers under collective certification through NCO, with primary production including tea/coffee, spices and coconuts/coconut products now exported to major markets, including the US. NCO have also provided in-country training and support to communities in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Vanuatu, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Nepal, Vietnam, and Fiji. In November, NCO was invited by Fairtrade International ANZ in PNG to attend a roundtable with our certified
a voice for youth
Young people are the future of our industry, and we all play a role in engaging the next generation of innovative leaders. Channelling the passionate enthusiasm of our younger tribe, the Young Organics Global Network was officially launched in September 2021 with a vision to create a better and more wholistic world, ensuring a sustainable and food-secure future. The network aims to represent young people and provide a platform to connect, to ensure they have a voice in policy and decision-making processes, and to participate proactively for social and political changes. Momentum for an official global youth forum has been building and follows the success of emergent forums in the Asia region over the last decade. Closely following the launch, the first World Organic Youth Summit was held in South Korea in late October 2021. Here at NASAA Organic, we have been fortunate to engage with post grad student Sage Lawless, to look at the best ways to increase youth engagement in Australia’s own organics industry. Sage worked with NASAA Organic over a period of 10 months, through an internship placement as part of her Masters of Global Food and Agribusiness at the University of Adelaide. We’ll be looking to feature outcomes from Sage’s research in a future edition of Organic Insights. Stay tuned. Further Information Get involved at yoglobalnetwork.com Revisit our article on Youth Network Committee member and FiBL Board member, Julia Lernoud, from the December 2019 edition of Organic Insights.
operators, including processors, exporters and grower groups. The purpose of the roundtable was to discuss the needs, challenges, and future for their organic industry.
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