the Organic Advantage

INDUSTRY NEWS:The Biological Farmers of Australia celebrates 20 years

What a difference 20 years makes. The Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA) has, like lines on the wall marking a child’s growth spurts, marked its progress and growth as an organisation. And this year, in 2007, BFA celebrates 20 years. After two decades of organic advocacy, policy making and standard setting, the BFA has reached a level of maturity and influence which even the passionate originators could not have envisaged.?

Today the BFA is Australia`s main representative grouping of organic and biodynamic interests with over 1200 members, 1600 certified organic operations and over 70% of Australia’s organic produce estimated to carry the BFA/ ACO famous Bud logo.

‘What we’ve tried to do is to remove the mystique, make organics mainstream,’ said Doug Haas, current Chairman of BFA since 1997.?

‘Organics has to be commercially realistic and viable, otherwise it won’t work. You have to let an industry grow; you can’t put a lid on it. Over the last decade or so, we’ve become commercially focused. What was a cottage industry has become a commercial reality, which is great for many of us and those who choose organics.?

‘Our membership of primary producers and processors has increased three fold over the years. Plus, the BFA group now certifies approximately 70% of all of Australia’s organic industry and that’s significant.

Mr. Haas says the rationalization of certification bodies and greater economies of scale that BFA has achieved over the years has allowed the BFA to spend money on services to members. ‘For example, we have had the successful production of the Australian Organic Journal and Australian Organic Business since 2002. Plus there’s the popular fortnightly e-zine, The Organic Advantage.?

‘Our funds allow us to run a number of workshops (sometimes called roadshows) around Australia – from Cairns to Perth for the benefit of all industry. We believe in developing the industry as a whole.’?

The development of standards has come a long way since the original AQIS national standard in 1991. The most current version is Australian Organic Standard (AOS) 2006.?

Chair of BFA’s Standards Sub-committee, Dr Andrew Monk, says ‘it is vital that the organic standard remains in industry members’ hands and is driven by those members. BFA has done this and with additional resourcing and input from industry we will see this remain.’

‘The increased focus on consumers and retailers is a healthy sign for our organisation and sector as it’s where our money comes from. It’s no use if no one buys organics. Our change of branding some years ago from BFA to ‘Australian Certified Organic’ with the Bud logo is about focus on the consumer and keeping it simple.’?

‘The proof is always in the organic pudding – and it has a Bud logo emblazoned on it and is enjoyed by the majority of our fine organic sector members. This pudding continues to grow and that’s good news for all’, says Dr Monk.

AGRIBUSINESS NEWS: A roundup of news, notices and events

- Arden Andersen, Soil Based Agriculture Workshop, Bundaberg, Qld., 8 - 10th MARCH 2007, Click for information or phone (07) 4635 7065
- Benefits of Using Compost and Mulch in Fruit & Vegetable Production, FREE SEMINAR, Tuesday 20th MARCH 2007, DPI&F Research Station, Ashfield Rd, Bundaberg, Qld. Click here for information or ph. 07 4155 6244
- Organic Open Day, Bamawn, Vic, 3rd APRIL, 2007 sponsored by BFA, Visit for more information.

- AUSVEG Awards - now open to organic producers and marketers,
- New Industries Development Program (NIDP) are funding commercialisation of new agribusiness products, services or technologies through the Pilot Commercialisation Projects (PCP) programme.

A new $250,000 Organic Industries Initiative package has been launched at the NSW Department of Primary
Industries (DPI) Bathurst Agricultural Research & Advisory Station.
The Initiative will fund two new organic agricultural positions & new infrastructure at Bathurst as well as the
creation of the NSW Organic Ministerial Advisory Council. The Councils role will be to advise the Minister for
Primary Industries on important matters facing the NSW organic industries & help harness the full potential of
prospering organic markets by developing a strategic plan for the industry, and an approach to further developing the organic farming sector in NSW.

Channel 7 is casting for the new series of the television program called "The Real Sea change". It is an observational documentary series featuring real families, couples and singles embarking upon a "sea change", leaving big cities behind and jeopardising it all in search of a better life. Anyone planning on moving from the city to a small rural town and perhaps starting up/buying a farm we would love to hear about. Click here for information or ph. (02) 8905 3267.

ENVIRONMENT: NSW DPI requests farmers' help for climate action project

12 Feb 2007

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has received a $246,000 climate action project grant from the NSW Government to study the role of pastures in locking up carbon under a range of management practices in central and southern NSW.

NSW Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald said the project is part of a wider $2.5 million climate research program, which will help the NSW Government achieve its aim of cutting greenhouse emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.

A member of the project team, NSW DPI Soil Physics Technical Officer, Albert Oates, said with the wider community becoming increasingly aware of greenhouse gases and potential climate change, it was important the positive role of pastures in sequestering carbon within the soil be better understood and measured.

“Keeping carbon in the soil as organic material reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And increasing soil organic material improves the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil,” he said.

Mr Oates said Australian farmed soils were generally relatively low in soil organic carbon.

“It’s not easy to accumulate organic material in a hot, dry climate under continuous cropping.

“The pasture phase provides the opportunity to rebuild organic matter levels in the soil. Soils under permanent pasture may have the greatest potential to lock-up carbon dioxide as soil organic matter.”

The three-year project will be led by Soil Physicist Dr Yin Chan with input from Soil Chemist Dr Mark Conyers, Modeller Dr Deli Liu, Research Agronomist Dr Guangdi Li, Soil Scientist Dr Brian Murphy of DNR and Mr Oates.

A number of district agronomists from NSW DPI will collaborate in the project, plus an additional technical officer, Ms Ros Prangnell, has been recently recruited to work on the project.

At this stage the researchers are keen to hear from farmers who may have paddocks with a known history suitable for inclusion in the study.

“Of particular interest would be paired paddocks, which allow comparisons to be made,” Mr Oates said.

“Examples include cropped versus old perennial pasture, annual pasture versus perennial and set-stocked versus rotationally grazed.

“If a farmer has a paddock likely to be of very high organic carbon status that would also be of interest.”

Dr Chan may be contacted on (02) 4588 2108 and Mr Oates on (02) 6938 1874.

HEALTH: Children receive a head-start for developing healthy eating habits

Meg Hewitt only has to walk up the road to supervise the little lunch and big lunch orders at Crown Street Public School.

This handsome sandstone building high on a hill is one of the oldest schools in NSW. But when Hewitt introduced an organic menu into the school's tuckshop, the 157-year-old institution became one of the state's more forward-thinking schools.

The inner-city school's 250 pupils can choose from a lunch list that looks like any other healthy canteen menu, except that it is all organic. Even the snacks such as potato chips, popcorn, fruit bars and licorice straps are certified organic.

Hewitt's motto is "naughty, nutritious, healthy and delicious".

Renata Atkins, whose six- and nine-year-olds attend the school, wasn't previously a patron of the tuckshop. But since her elder boy, "a fussy eater", discovered organic corn on the cob, it's become his weekly treat. He's also developed a taste for "organic egg, mayo and lettuce" on organic white bread sandwiches.

Crown Street Public put out a tender for a tuckshop operator at the end of the third school term. Hewitt saw the advertisement, won the tender and took over at the beginning of the current term. The principal of Crown Street Public School, Valerie Martin, says, "We like it that she has a local business and she has a focus on healthy and organic food. The parents appreciate it."

Hewitt's cafe, Kawa, is next door to the school and has been sending the organic message to Surry Hills locals since she opened it in 2001. Everything is organic, from the coffee to the cakes. Further down the road, near Oxford Street, Hewitt has a grocery and takeaway store, The Goods Organic, which she set up a year ago.

The funky-looking shop sells certified fruit and vegetables, dairy foods, all manner of shelf items, cleaning products and a small range of prepared foods. These are made downstairs, below the store, in a production kitchen that also turns out meals for the school.

Read the full story at:

Your Organic Advantage
Editor: Holly Vyner

Ph: 07 3350 5716 (International +61 7 3350 5716)