Over the last few posts I’ve enjoyed telling you about what I do, and the reasons I believe so strongly in looking after the planet. I’ve shared with you my thoughts about food and that you are what you eatand to a large degree you’re also what your food eats. Another topic I’ve shared with you was ‘Big Food’, and the way industrial agriculture has affected both the global food system and the environment.
My last blog was about climate change, a topic that we hear about in the media every day. Despite this, many of us have no idea of the extent of the problem, and those of us that do feel helpless in the face of such a huge problem. While the news may sound grim, these earlier posts provide the perfect introduction to Organic Week Aotearoa 2019(OWA). This annual celebration of all things organic in New Zealand is taking place this week, and there are some great opportunities for you to learn about organics in New Zealand and the people who work hard to look after our food supply while taking care of the planet too.
If you’ve ever wondered what the advantages of organics are, to both you and the planet, the OWA site is a great place to start. Beginning with a definition of ‘organic’, there are brief explanations about climate change, animal welfare, traceability, biodiversity, health and wellbeing, packaging, caring for workers and advertising. Though short, they give a great overview of the benefits and importance of organics, and if this sparks your interest, there are lots of places you can find more.
Another great reason to visit the OWA site is to read profiles of some of New Zealand’s best organic producers. Each of the producers has a great story to tell – I think you’ll enjoy reading them. You’ll see some familiar names – foodies will be interested in Kōkako, roasters of fantastic coffee, Viberi, the largest organic blackcurrant orchard in NZ, Huckleberry, a whole foods store with both bricks and mortar and online presence, and Ceres, a well-known provider of a wide range of organic foods. I’m really happy that my own Bread and Butter Bakeryfeatures in this star-studded list! The stories aren’t limited to food producers either – there are also skin and body care products, a homewares store, an art space and a farmers’ co-op. I hope this will encourage you to support our organic producers when you shop, because voting with your wallet is one of the most powerful things you can do to bring about change.
If you’re keen to get involved in Organic Week Aotearoa, there are activities planned in most areas – from a composting workshop to a vegan cooking class, a session on using seasonal produce to create meals that nourish your family and the planet, to a cycling tour with a free lunch that includes a visit to my bakery that ends at Kelmarna Gardens with a lunch to celebrate all things organic – so many options to help fill your mind and your belly with goodness!
The OWA website also offers you the chance to vote for your favourite organic suppliers. Voting closes on the 6thof May, so don’t miss the chance to give a big ‘thumbs up’ to someone you think is doing a good job looking after us and the planet.
Organic week makes it the perfect time to introduce you to a very special dairy farmer whose happy cows provide organic A2 milk under the brand Jersey Girl Organics. John Vosper and his family live in Matamata and began the organic certification process in 2003. Prior to this John had noticed that his farm was requiring more and more input to get the same level of output, and also that his soil quality was deteriorating. The change to organic farming wasn’t easy, and one of the biggest challenges John and his family have faced has been managing the woody weeds on the farm.
John is more focused on the benefits though – a more resilient farm system, happier cows, premium product prices and greater biodiversity above and in the soil are some of the on-farm benefits. The environment wins too, with carbon sequestered in the soil, fewer nutrients lost to waterways and reduced greenhouse emissions. “Carbon sequestration of micro-organisms in the soil has the potential to remove millions of tons of CO2from the atmosphere yet we continue to thrash our soils through over cultivation and inappropriate land use”.
When asked about the barriers for farmers thinking about moving from conventional to organic farming, John says there needs to be a paradigm shift in the agricultural industry “I think there has to be acknowledgement from the industry that regenerative or biological farming systems are better for the environment and are capable of reliable food production. Some farmers are also entrenched in high input systems where they have high stocking rates , import 40-50% of the feed onto the farm and have invested heavily in infrastructure.”
John says a good organic farmer can be as profitable as a conventional farmer and that organic farming is the answer to many of the world’s problems. He explains here: “The “green revolution” of the early 20thcentury has failed to increase yields and in many developing countries food production has actually reduced. According to FAO, research in India and Africa has shown that biological husbandry will increase food production and recent research into quorum-sensing by microorganisms suggests there is heaps more happening in the rhizosphere than we ever imagined. We’ve short-circuited natural food production and this, as well as a reliance on only a small number of species for food, has resulted in poor nutrition of the world’s population. This in turns brings bad gut health – a path to mental health issues. The inability to think clearly makes people susceptible to ideas put forward by others especially in social media where affirmation arrives quickly. How else do we get people like Donald Trump leading one of the world’s most powerful countries? Phew…. Got that of my chest!”
When asked what consumers can do to help support organic agriculture, John has just one thing to say – “buy organic – whenever and wherever you can!”
I second that!