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The Trouble with Organic Farming

The Organic Farming movement has transcended the food chain and now it’s a thriving industry worth billions of dollars around the world.  While the benefits or organic produce are well documented, if a little cloudy, the production of organic produce is still challenging.

For those that only ever venture to the local shop or supermarket to purchase their produce, it’s hard to imagine or understand the effort that farmers put into producing quality fresh produce. It’s hard enough with a bit of help from inputs such as herbicides, pesticides, and hormones. If the season turns, an entire years worth of effort, not to mention income, can be lost in 1 storm, 1 heat wave, 1 flood, 1 locust plague, or 1 bad flowering season.

There is much pressure on farmers now in Australia to produce organic produce, and the premiums attached certainly seem appealing, but how easy is it to do. Not only do they put their efforts in to the lap of the gods to the extreme, but a plethora of bureaucracy and paperwork follows.

I’m certainly a fan of organic farming, but not at the expense of our farmers going broke. Let’s take the example of the wine industry. Grape growers rely heavily on fungicides and to a lesser extent pesticides, and winemakers on additives such as sulphur and acid for the preservation of ageing wine.  It is possible to produce entirely organic wines, however what is becoming very obvious is that for sustained success, only certain areas and regions can consistently produce quality organic wines. Areas where growing season rainfall and humidity is low make the development of fungus on the grapes difficult.  Cooler climate organic wines are available, but in a bad year of very cool temperatures and high growing season rainfall, they wineries may not even release the wines.

To be certified organic, it’s not just a matter of saying you are. There is a mountain of certifications and paperwork that must be completed and submitted, and audits are carried out endlessly, which commonly offset any gains in premiums for certified organic producers.

So just like traditional farmers, organic farmers have many similar headaches, with the added issue of jumping through the hoops.

In Australia, if out government is so concerned with the health of our population, as they plead they are, maybe it’s time for a little help for both our traditional farmers and organic farmers alike, not just the retailers who grab many, many cents in the dollar for heinous profits.

About Jono Farrington

Jono Farrington
Jono Farrington holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Oenology) from the University of Adelaide (formely the Roseworthy Agricultural College). He also holds a Post Graduate Degree in Business Management from Monash University. He worked in the wine industry for nearly a decade, completing vintages in Australia and Bordeaux, before setting up an equestrian training centre.

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