OANZ Organic News

Two recent warnings should put New Zealand’s primary producers on notice about the need to maintain and enhance our country’s international reputation for responsible environmental stewardship. The first came from Lonely Planet - a leading guide of world tourism - which was followed closely by a joint warning from Helen Clark and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that our traditional export markets increasingly consider the environmental implications of trade, such as energy use, carbon footprinting and animal welfare.

With farming and growing sitting at the core of our national identity, all the sectors of primary production should be putting a focus on promoting their best and brightest environmental examples. Organics has many excellent success stories of innovative producers, who are creating good food while enhancing the environment.

Many of these successes are celebrated through this newsletter, with others contained in the various reports and submissions OANZ prepares on behalf of the sector, or being passed directly to the media. In addition, we are actively seeking champions of organics for our 2008 Organic Awards.

Last year, OANZ presented these awards during our conference at Lincoln University, picking up a longstanding tradition of recognizing achievement in the organic sector. This year, nominations are open to the public until October 17, with forms available on our website, or by phoning (04) 890 3769.

By celebrating certified organic producers, enterprises and exporters - along with the individuals who support organics - the awards are an opportunity to reward people who successfully combine production with preservation. Since opening nominations at the start of August, there has been considerable interest (including from the media) in who might win - a sign that people are looking for positive examples and farming leaders. We know that the organic sector can provide those in abundance.

From the Chief Executive - Dr Jon Tanner


Farmers could profit from storing carbon in soil

A new report shows that farmers could be facing an opportunity to profit from storing carbon in the soil.

The report, by the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, looks at a wide range of potential business opportunities resulting from the Government’s proposed Emissions Trading Scheme, specifically mentioning carbon storage in the soil. This includes organically sequestering carbon in the soil, using grass roots and microbes in the soil to increase carbon storage. The report estimates this could deliver 8000 tonnes of CO2 reduction annually for an average farm, not only making the the farm carbon neutral but also possibly generating revenue from the sale of emission credits.

The report notes that grassland farming has 12.7 million hectares under productive management in New Zealand, producing 94,337 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year. All of this could be sequestered if organic soil sequestration increased the carbon level in the top 10cm of the soil by only 0.17%.

The report stresses this area is worthy of closer attention, and that it could also result in healthier soil, better nutrition, improved water retention and reduced erosion

Tighter controls anticipated for GM food

The likelihood of genetically-modified food being allowed in New Zealand should be slim, after public consultation on proposed new laws controlling the release of GM crops.

ERMA is due to to report back to the Government today on the consultation findings.

The proposed new regulations would require increased public disclosure of where GM crops are planted, new regulations to ensure GM crops are kept separate and are able to be traced, and mandatory labelling of GM crops.

The Green Party is driving the proposed new rules in collaboration with the Government. Greens Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says the party remains strongly opposed to GM crops being grown in New Zealand and will “not give an inch” on their staunch stand.

Supporters of the legislation, including OANZ, argue it is essential to protect the integrity of both conventional and organic crops, with OANZ’s submission stating that should regulations not be adopted, it would cost New Zealand organic producers a key advantage in world markets and harm our international environmental reputation.

Professor Jean Fleming, who was on the Royal Commission for Genetic Engineering, says the proposed new legislation is a logical extension to the existing laws.

Prof Fleming believes the tougher regulations will “stifle innovation” in the agricultural sector because of increased compliance issues, but on balance she believes the tighter restrictions are needed, due to the small size of cropping areas in New Zealand and the high risk of cross contamination.

At present four GM crops have been granted approval for testing in New Zealand, with two having been recently harvested. The soil in which these two crops were planted is now being monitored for changes.

National centre for biodynamic and organic education set to open

After nearly two years of planning and fundraising Taruna College is about to open a purpose-built learning centre for its biodynamic and organic farming and gardening programmes.

Taruna has been offering biodynamic/organic training programmes for nearly 20 years, possibly longer than anywhere else in New Zealand.

The growth in interest is reflected in student numbers enrolling in the Certificate in Applied Organics and Biodynamics programme. Taruna has been managing with a converted cottage as a classroom, but has finally outgrown this cramped accommodation.

This much-loved cottage is sited at Hohepa farm on the Poraiti hills overlooking Napier. The Hohepa farm is one of New Zealand’s longest standing biodynamic farms and provides a perfect environment for students to learn about and participate in a wide variety of biodynamic/organic practices. It is also stunningly beautiful.

Taruna had the good fortune to receive an unexpected legacy from the estate of Gert Christeller, who had a deep interest in both biodynamics and education. This gift, plus subsequent donations from the Eastern and Central Community Trust and the A.R. Nelson Trust among others, has enabled the establishment of the Christeller Room as a national centre for biodynamic and organic education.

The official opening will take place on Saturday September 13 at Hohepa Farm, Poraiti.

October intake for Taruna’s Certificate in Applied Organics and Biodynamics

Taruna is accepting applications for the next intake (October 2008) of the Certificate in Applied Organics and Biodynamics, and 18 of the 24 places are already filled.

From one group of 12 students in 2004, this award-winning programme has grown to having 48 students this year in four cohorts of 12 students. The students come from all over New Zealand, as well as UK, Germany, Australia and the USA.

The programme is designed specifically for people working on the land who need training that fits into their busy lives. It is based on three intensive eight-day seminars spread over 33 weeks. Learning is supported by home-based study specifically designed for application to the students’ areas of interest. The programme is also ideal for those considering organic or biodynamic certification.

Teaching takes place at the beautiful ‘Demeter’ certified Hohepa Farm.

The course includes:

  • Principles and process of organic and biodynamic land management;
  • A study of ‘The Living Soil’;
  • Plant studies from a phenomenological perspective;
  • Horticulture, including vegetable, orchard and vineyard production;
  • Animal husbandry, including dairy farming;
  • Trees and their integration into the farm;
  • Biodynamic preparations;
  • Astronomy and working on the land with astronomical rhythms;
  • Organic and biodynamic production certification.

The Certificate in Applied Organics and Biodynamics is approved by NZQA and students are eligible to apply for Student Loans. For overseas students, a placement on a New Zealand organic or biodynamic farm, for the duration of the programme, can be arranged by negotiation.

For details and enrolment forms contact Taruna on 06 8777 174, email , or visit www.taruna.ac.nz 


Worldwide push for conservation agriculture

Farmers world-wide are being advised to take up Conservation Agriculture (CA) to build up sustainable soil eco systems and reduce unnecessary soil disturbance wherever possible. Some 100 delegates from 36 countries gathered at Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters recently to call on farmers to join the ongoing “Greener” revolution represented by CA.

They urged “a rapid shift…to management systems based on minimal soil disturbance, increased soil cover, and appropriate crop rotation.”

Frequent tillage can often destroy the organic balance of soils resulting in soil degradation and poor productivity over time. One major problem is that degraded soils become compacted and absorb less water, which then tends to run off the surface, taking topsoil with it.

Compacted fields become less resistant to water stress, and the water table is no longer resupplied by water filtering through, worsening the effects of droughts. Evidence was presented at the meeting to show CA allows farmers to increase yields while decreasing inputs such as fertilisers, pesticides and energy.

Despite widespread acceptance of the potential benefits of CA, FAO Senior Agricultural Officer, Theodor Friedrich, warns actually implementing change in farm paddocks won’t be a quick or simple process. However, he adds the campaign needs to be ongoing in order to ensure the agriculture sector can cope with the world’s growing population. “…failure to do so could imperil the world’s future capacity to feed its people.”

New book: ‘Organic Gardening Techniques’ by Nick Hamilton with Philippa Jamieson

This new paperback publication is written for organic home gardeners - at all levels of experience - who want to grow spray free, safe food at a reasonable price. It is presented in an easy-to-use format, with clear line-drawn illustrations and in-depth information.

The chapters cover the basics of organic gardening, from organic methods of dealing with weeds to harvesting and storing all types of produce, with an innovative final chapter on things to make for the garden.

Philippa Jamieson (co-chair of the Soil and Health Association of New Zealand), was asked originally to write this book for UK readers, and then invited to adapt it for a New Zealand audience.

If you are looking for a straightforward guide to organic gardening in New Zealand conditions, this is an attractive and instantly usable book.

Odds & Ends

Wanted: certified organic cattle or sheep. Premiums for right stock. Phone now Maurice on
03 6892252 or email

Meadow hay or baleage wanted. We need 200 or so small bales of meadow hay. Please contact Jared Connolly   or phone 027 240 3352.

Linseed growers wanted: Bio Oils Ashburton have a ready market for organic linseed and would like more growers. Contact , phone: 03 308 3305, fax: 03 308 1910, mobile: 027 221 2627

Organic Horticulture course at Organic Training College, BHU. Next course begins October 20, for more information please contact Bill Martin, Course Director, on 03 325.3684, or email   or see the website www.bhu.co.nz.

Minimum tillage DVDs - please return or send on promptly - there are still many people wanting to see them.

Diary these dates

Growing For the Future
Upcoming events for commercial producers and home gardeners

August 24, 2008. Public Lecture. Growing For Gold. Havelock North Community Centre. 7.30pm
Lis Alington,B.Agr. Sci introduces the science, methods, food quality, and ideas behind Biodynamic farming and home gardening.

September 11, 2008. Field Day Demonstration. True Earth Organics, 302 Ngatarawa Rd, Hastings
Application of Field Spray Preparations that improve microbial activity, increase Organic Matter and sustain overall productivity. Andrew Seager 06 874 8713.

August 27, 2008. Symposium - “Organics in Agriculture”. Telford Rural Polytechnic, Balclutha.
Panellists include: Terry Kelly: Senior Lecturer in Natural Resource Management and Rural Development Massey University. Terry is the science team leader for the organic conventional dairy systems trial at Massey (the only comparative study of its kind using pasture in the world).
Jenny Sloan: Bio Gro Director. Organic farmer of sheep, beef and dairy since 1989. Jenny has also had experience as an organic retailer to a local market.
John Rabbitt: Marketing Manager for Sheepmeat and Venison for the Alliance Group (Alliance is our largest organic meat exporter). John has the additional responsibility of dealing with the UK market particularly the retail/multiple trade.
Keitha Laming: Fonterra’s Programme Manager - specialty Milks (organics). Keitha is responsible for the overall management of Fonterra organics milk supply programme.
John Ingram: John has 30 years experience in farming. 14 years as a consultant for Ambreed New Zealand. 7 years as a soil and fertiliser consultant.

August 29, 2008. Lecture by Dr Ardern Andersen - ‘Real Medicine Real Health’.
  7pm at the Napier War Memorial. More information from Phyllis Tichinin: 06 874 7897 or

August 29 and 30, 2008. Balancing Soils for Profit, Biological Agriculture. Two-day course in Napier. Run by Dr Arden Andersen. The course focuses on the relationship between healthy soils and better plant and livestock production. More information: www.bioagnz.com  or email .

September 5, 2008. Tree and Vine Course. Te Puke. This course focuses on biological agriculture practices applicable for kiwifruit, avocadoes, grapes and other tree and vine crops. More information: www.bioagnz.com  or email .

September 18-19, 2008. Mechanical composting course. Havelock North. Join experienced biological compost creators and a trained educator in an intensive practical and theoretical course designed for commercial horticulture and viticultural producers. If you are considering using compost or already making your own, this course will be one of the best investments you can make for your business. Contact Nicole Masters for more information: www.integritysoils.co.nz,  ,  mobile: 0274 523 900. Spaces are limited.

Organics News Roundup

A selection of recent stories on organics from news media in New Zealand and around the world.

Organics: plenty of opportunities, but some potholes in the road
Stock and Land (Australia) 19/08/2008

Unlike conventional farmers, organic farmers cannot just expect to grow and sell large volumes of produce without significant investment in planning, communication and marketing strategy, organic growers have been warned. Experienced growers say continued discussion of markets is also critical.

“People interested in organic really need to investigate and understand the market and where they will fit in,” says Elaine Murray, large scale organic horticulturalist from Natures Haven in Coleambally, NSW.

“Organic has plenty of opportunity but it is still a smaller, niche sector.

“Unlike conventional farmers, organic farmers cannot just expect to grow and sell large volumes of produce without significant investment in planning, communication and marketing strategy.”

The NSW Organic Roadshow will provide an opportunity for growers and others interested in organic production to network and learn about organic systems in regional centres, to help meet these challenges. The NSW local agricultural sector is keen to capitalise on increasing interest in organic, with new data commissioned by Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA) revealing NSW has more organic operations than any other State. More… http://sl.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/agribusiness-and-general/general/organics-plenty-of-opportunities-but-some-potholes-in-the-road/1247453.aspx

Cambodian government touts organics to increase rice export
www.chinaview.cn 21/08/2008

Cambodian agriculture officials said that shifting to chemical-free fertilizers could triple farmers’ rice yields and produce more profitable crops at a time when the country’s rice exports are on the rise, local newspaper the Phnom Penh Post reported Thursday.

“Rice grown with natural fertilizers is easier to produce and more profitable than rice grown with chemical fertilizers,” Khem Chenda, director of the administrative affairs at the Ministry of Agriculture, was quoted as saying. Farmers using chemical fertilizers pay about 35 U.S. dollars to 70 U.S. dollars per 50kg bag, and their yields sell about 250 U.S. dollars per ton on the international market, Khem Chenda said.

But they face numerous health problems from prolonged exposure to chemicals, ranging from skin irritations to lung cancer, he added. However, organic fertilizers will increase the quality and quantity of paddy yields and for a cheaper price, said Chan Vannak, general manager of the Bayon Heritage Holding Group. Organics cost 27 U.S. dollars per 50kg bag and crops sell for 300 U.S. dollars per ton, Chan Vannak said. More… http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-08/21/content_9565592.htm

Norway: farmers are leaving organic agriculture
Organic-Market.info  21/08/2008

Even though the market for organic farm products is expanding, many of Norway’s farmers are leaving this branch of agriculture. According to the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, which reported for every seven people starting organic farming, six have quit.

Turid Wenche Åsum was among those returning to conventional farming methods after she had spent seven years raising organic grain. She still tries to work her farm in an environmentally friendly way, but explained her reasons for quitting organic farming: she had to be a member of several organizations, there were too many documents that had to be filed all the time, and everything had to be monitored. It had been much more work to operate organically, and the hourly pay had been way too low.

Farmers have been encouraged to expand their organic business, and the current government has set a goal that 15% of Norwegian agricultural production should be organic by 2015. But production has stagnated. The regulatory agency Debio stated that they were trying to secure ecological production and needed to work harder to make it attractive for the farmers. More… http://www.organic-market.info/bio-markt/en_inhalte/inh_index.htm?link=Meldungen&catID=0&docID=741

The individual comments and views in this newsletter do not necessarily represent the view of OANZ.

Leave a Comment »

Comments RSS 2.0

no comments yet - be the first?

« Austrslian Big polluters should seek less protection and more carbon solutions // 6.7 Billion Elephants in the Room and Counting »

FireStats icon Powered by FireStats