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BioLogical a f a r m in g j ourna l for cha nge

TIME for Cultural CHANGE

VIRUS, FIRE and DROUGHT

ISSUE ONE 2020

The Business of AGRICULTURE


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Welcome

Welcome to the first issue of BioLogical, the united

voice for organic, biodynamic and biological farmers at a commercial scale. A platform to reflect upon farming cooperatives broader aims and vision for land stewardship, transition and preservation in the market place where there is no other like it. The BioLogical team’s collective intent is for the journal to become one part of several mediums providing an invaluable resource for farmers, consumers and investors. We aim to offer a platform for education, inspiration and opportunity towards a better world by focussing on solution-driven conversations. BioLogical, is the preeminent voice on behalf of and for organic and biodynamic farmers in Australia, for ethical investors; for conscious people that are looking to be a part of the change in the world they seek. Of course, the journal in all its forms has been in the planning stage for quite some time significantly pre Australian Black Summer bushfires, extended backbreaking droughts and the COVID-19 world pandemic. Although, fundamentally so much has changed with the world we knew, the essence and intention for an endeavour like this remains firm; be the change in the world you are living both now and for the future. The BioLogical Team

BIOLOGICAL JOURNAL THE OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF ORICoop The Causeway Level 5, 306 Little Collins St Melbourne 3000 PRODUCTION

EDITOR-AT-LARGE Nadine Cove nadine_cove@hotmail.com ARTIST Nicky Sanders nicky@nickysanders.com.au SPONSORSHIP Nicky Sanders nicky@nickysanders.com.au

CONTRIBUTORS Eva Peroni Jade Miles Carolyn Suggate Donica Bettanin Greg Paynter Louise Sales Chris Lang BCCM Jim Benson Brenna Quinlan Tania Walter Karen Webb Honey Atkinson Jodie O’Brien Stephen Whitsed Kathy Barrett Adam Willson

FRONT COVER

Volunteer garlic processing post bushfire with Christine, Ian and Chris Watt. IMAGE Jodie O’Brien ARTICLES, NEWS ITEMS and LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: are always welcome, but should clearly indicate the author’s name and affiliation (if relevant). Preferably, they should be emailed to the Editor as a word file attachment. PHOTOGRAPHS: are also most welcome Files must be of at least 3MB size. Please ensure that each photograph submitted has a detailed caption accompanying it and that the photographer is identified and has given permission for the image to be used.

COPYRIGHT: © 2020 BioLogical Journal and contributors to this edition. DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed by authors and contributors of articles in BioLogical are not necessarily those of ORICoop nor does ORICoop guarantee the accuracy of statements made by contributors or advertisers, or accept any responsibility for what they may express in this publication.


CONTENTS A Cultural CHANGE PAGE 8 BLACK Summer PAGE 14 Interview WITH a FARMER ORGANIC at heart

PAGE 18

PAGE 22

The NEW NORMAL PAGE 24 HEEDING the lessons PAGE 26 Localising FOOD systems PAGE 28 THE Hydration PLAN PAGE 30 STRENGTH of Cooperatives

PAGE 32

ETHICAL INVESTMENT PAGE 34


BioLogical ISSUE ONE 2020 | 6

Geoff Erwin delivering oaten hay to Kangaroo Island IMAGE Tania Walter


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Learn at the hands of a strong and trusted biodynamic brand. All equipment included for processing from raw milk to the finished products including yoghurt, kefir and cheese, with further opportunity to expand to fresh milk production. Six months of master mentoring is also offered. If artisan dairy production is your passion, then this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to either increase your existing farms dairy profitability and shorten your supply chain by taking on the current site and leasing the dairy farm or relocating to your own site at buyers cost.

Find out more David 0476 552 650 david@marrookfarm.com.au

A mixed enterprise of certified organic beef, lamb, poultry and mixed vegetable farm. We are offering this equity farming opportunity to the next generation of organic farmers. You need to have previous farming experience, passionate about organic or biodynamic agriculture, and some of your own capital to grow the business together with a hard work ethic. We live near the biggest lake in the southern hemisphere, and at the foot of Mt Buller for the snow season. Just 2.5 hours from Melbourne. A great place to live!

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7


Feature

CRAFTING A CULTURAL STORY FOR CHANGE WORDS Eva Peroni

The world is currently bearing witness to a unique historical moment, with profound and catastrophic environmental, economic, and health crises exposing an array of vulnerabilities and inequities in human society as well as the natural world. These disruptions of an unprecedented scale, including the Australian megafires of 2019/2020 and the global health COVID-19 pandemic, have been made evident through food, with a massive reorganisation of the food supply chain from paddock to plate across local, national and global scales. IMAGE: Karen Webb @capturebykaren

BioLogical ISSUE ONE 2020 | 8


IMAGE: Karen Webb @capturebykaren

O

n the one hand, these crises are compounding the suffering for millions of people, with the World Food Program (WFP) estimating that 265 million people could be pushed into acute food insecurity by the end of 2020 as a result of COVID-19, conflict, and the effects of climate change. On the other, these complex crises can bring people together through our shared humanity, making the most of the shared knowledge and experience we already have in developing long-term sustainable solutions to some of the most significant challenges of our time. Two people working to build food security for their family and their community in an era of ongoing uncertainty are Jade and Charlie Showers of Black Barn Farm, located in Stanley, North East Victoria, Australia on Pallanganmiddang country. The selection of this location was a very conscious decision that took the better part of a decade for them both to make. During their search for the perfect spot on which they could apply permaculture principles to a much larger scale, Jade and Charlie

worked to develop a business model that operated on the shortest supply chain possible, ensuring transparency and trust between farmer and eater while providing a diverse range of educational opportunities. They consider and weigh every on-farm decision with deep compassion and care for the health of their ecosystem of soil, plants, water and animals that naturally expands into a care for the wellbeing of their local community. It is a holistic approach to sustainability that integrates the physical and social needs of local people within the ecosystem. Jade is mindful not to pigeonhole herself into any one 'alternative' agricultural approach or ethos but instead grounds her work in a purpose, vision, and set of core values that support long-term change; interconnectedness, community cohesion, diversity (above and below the soil), regeneration, and holistic health. She recognises that there are multiple pathways towards building a sustainable local food system, "Realising that there's probably truth, untruth, bias, and political longevity in everything and that there's

never a definitive right or wrong way of doing things. I think the less dogma we have in the way we live, in everything we do, is possibly one step towards the solutions we are seeking." Part of the challenge of deconstructing dogma, Jade identifies, is finding the right language or narrative to clearly articulate their vision values without alienating people or perpetuating the existing polarisation within agriculture. This polarisation, which can very broadly be conceptualised as 'conventional' and 'nonconventional' or 'alternative' approaches to agriculture, represent not only different types of farming but also differing sets of agricultural values. Beginning to bridge the gap between these approaches and competing agricultural values starts with cultivating a cultural story that is both promising and powerful; one that outlines new modes of relating to ourselves, each other, and the Earth. Indeed, changing language and changing culture are complementary processes. Language has power. It makes up the shared framing stories that embody the rules of a >>

9


IMAGE: Honey Atkinson @willworlforfood

culture and the aspirations of those who live in it. It defines our shared values and priorities and the interpretation of current events, the questions we ask, and the options we consider. Sustainability philosophers* claim that "we are at an impasse of stories, finding ourselves in a blank chapter between the old and the new." The old story, characterised by individualism and competition, a profitdriven free-market economy, and human superiority over nature, permits our most powerful institutions to drive, rather than resolve, structural inequality and ecological collapse. But now, more than ever, more people are coming together and organising around the articulation and sharing of a new narrative, a counter story defined by (comm)unity, cooperation, sustainability, and equity. Unlike other frequent Australian bushfire experiences that often affect small populations and isolated farming regions, the scale and severity of

BioLogical ISSUE ONE 2020 | 10

Australia's recent bushfire crisis was "a whole-of-nation experience" that manifested into "this national collective grief that took a lot of the country away from being apathetic and paralysed to being galvanised and engaged in social and environmental issues�, reflects Jade. Further, "We can no longer be apathetic or ignorant to the impact of climate change. Our need to adapt and build hardened 'in-thistogether' resilience feels like it's being chewed over in every conversation. "We each need to look hard at ourselves and consider how reliant we are on extractive industries. How much waste we generate? How committed we are to our localised food systems, how much we contribute to the wellbeing of our communities. How much we consume. What happiness or success really looks like? How much knowledge we really have about the natural world? Whether we respect the seasons. And

most importantly assess our genuine desire for change." As Jade alludes, bushfire hazards and disasters are enmeshed in other enormous, complex socio-politicalecological problems that require equally complex responses. The immediate urgency of responding to a major natural disaster like a bushfire, however, heavily skews government resources towards short-term solutions focussed on reactionary responses or post-disaster recovery, which do little to mitigate against the social and environmental impacts of such disasters and may even set back longer-term, more substantial change. "Unfortunately, we live in this world of short-termism where we [all must] work in these three-year blocks based on political voting structures. So, we don’t ever give ourselves the ability to look longerterm, to use a whole range of lenses and look whole system. Government departments, firefighters, community development workers, and agriculture workers are siloed,


operating in little echo chambers. No-one ever sits down with someone outside of their chamber and asks, 'what's the whole-system solution to this'," says Jade.

IMAGE: Karen Webb @capturebykaren

Rather than communicating and calculating value and loss in purely economic and physical terms as governments and institutions regularly do, current global crises are calling on individuals, communities, and social movements to redefine the values and craft new stories for a more conscious, sustainable, and resilient society. For Jade and Charlie, this work is imbued in the art of practising the change they wish to see in the world on Black Barn Farm and in local food advocacy, where their daily on and offfarm practices emphasise mutual interdependence and care between individuals, communities, and the planet. There is transformative power in aligning what they say they value with what they show they value to everyone who visits their farm. "Despite my now deep dislike of the summer season and the inevitable fires that come with them, I have my house, my garden, my kids, a husband who comes home more often than not, the most incredible support from the community with daily messages, and a country who is rising. Rising on the desire to see genuine change," proclaims Jade.

HUNGRY FOR MORE

Read about the Showers Family and their Black Barn Farm journey

MORE

The complete WORLD FOOD PROGRAM article can be found

MORE

NEW STORIES FOR A MORE CONSCIOUS, SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY: claiming authorship of the climate story – sustainability philosophy -

MORE 11


GETTING Organic

GROWERS ON THE FRONT FOOT WITH FRUIT FLY STOP QFF Management & Sharing Knowledge This pest has potential to wreak havoc on the entire orchard industry so everyone has a role to play in its management, including commercial organic growers, small scale and back yard fruit growers. It is important to be aware of the signs, willing to share what you know and get ahead with best practice management processes to mitigate further risk to all growers.

PREVENTION ... what can I do?

1. UNDERSTAND Fruit Fly IDENTIFICATION 2. Make your community AWARE 3. TEACH others in the community about the importance of garden hygiene, prevention & reporting

MANAGEMENT...

what to do if I suspect Queensland Fruit Fly 1. ACTIVELY use bait, traps and netting

REDUCE...

the risks on private and public land 1. REMOVE any unmanaged host plants 2. PRUNE all host plants to a height you can easily net and harvest 3. PREVENT infested fruit entering your property 4. CONTINUALLY PICK AND REMOVE all ripe fruit to prevent QFF being attracted to your crop 5. MONITOR regularly with traps & inspect all fruit - check for larvae

2. PICK ALL infested fruit, BOIL or FREEZE fruit to kill all the larvae. Dispose of treated fruit in a sealed bag into the rubbish bin 3. DO NOT COMPOST 4. STOP THE LIFECYCLE Trap adult fruit flies PREVENT THE NEXT GENERATION 5. PREVENT any movement of infested fruit

• STOP THE LIFECYCLE • TRAP ADULT FRUIT FLY • PREVENT THE NEXT GENERATION • PREVENT ANY MOVEMENT OF INFESTED FRUIT • KEEP INFESTED FRUIT OUT

CONTACTS BIOLOGICAL CONSULTANTS, AGRONOMISTS, FRUIT GROWERS, CERTIFIERS, NEIGHBOURS, NURSERIES & GARDEN CLUBS


QUESTION: Can you use synthetic insecticides to control QFF on certified organic farms? ANSWER: No & Yes!!! KEY MESSAGE: No Organic Standards anywhere in the world allow synthetic insecticides

to be applied as sprays or in open conditions. Some Organic Standards allow synthetic insecticides to be used in traps with baits, especially where mandated such as a QFF exclusion zone. If you are certified organic then you need to follow the relevant Organic Standards as provided by your Organic Certifier. In Australia there are different Organic Standards used to certify organic produce depending on the end target market for the produce. This can make things complex when trying to understand what rules apply around controlling QFF. Different Standards may have different rules. A summary of the different Organic Standards on the issue of Fruit Fly control is below:

TARGET MARKET

ORGANIC CERTIFIERS

ORGANIC STANDARD

Australian Domestic

AusQual, BDRI, OFC, Southern Cross Certified NCO ACO

National Standard for Organic & Bio-dynamic Produce 2016

Appendix C Table A2: Baits for fruit fly -Substances as required by regulation. Baits must be fully enclosed within traps; Pheromones; Sterilised insect males - need to be recognised by certification organisation where other controls are not available.

Australian Domestic

NCO

NASAA Organic Standard 2016

Annex 2: Sterilised Insect Males; Sticky Baits – must not contain prohibited substances; Mechanical traps; Pheromones, in traps or twists. Not used directly on crops Non GMO or GMO derived.

Australian Domestic

ACO

ACOS 2019

Annex I: Sticky barriers and traps - Traps may include fruit fly bait stations only if mandated, and if fully enclosed in a manner which prevents contact with land or produce; Pheromones

Europe

All

AQIS National Standard for Organic & Bio-dynamic Produce 2016

Appendix C Table A2: Baits for fruit fly -Substances as required by regulation. Baits must be fully enclosed within traps; Pheromones; Sterilised insect males - need to be recognised by certification organisation where other controls are not available.

US

Certifiers who are accredited with USDA

USDA NOP

205.206: Application of non-synthetic biological, botanical, or mineral inputs 205.601: Sticky traps/barriers; As insect management - Pheromones.

China

Certifiers who facilitate certification for China

National Standard of People’s Republic of China 2011

Table A2: Physical measures (such as color trap, mechanical trap); Covering (net); Insect sex pheromones - only used for trap and emitting vessel;

Other Markets

Check with your Certifier

Various Standards

Check with your Organic Certifier which Standard applies.

NOTE: in 2021 the EU rules will change.

RELEVANT STANDARDS

REMEMBER • Always check with your Organic Certifier • Always get approval/rulings in writing (an email is fine) • Most Organic Standards for export markets do not allow synthetic insecticides in any circumstances at all


FEATURE Feature

BLACK SUMMER OF 2020 WORDS Carolyn Suggate

The Organic and Regenerative Investment Cooperative has run the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal over the past six months, since the devastating fires of Black Summer began in NSW, Australia.

W

hat started as a $12,000 chuffed fundraiser for one load of hay to NSW bushfire affected farmers, has grown into a significant and impactful appeal raising over $324,000 (including financial, donations and in-kind support) that has touched bushfire affected organic farmers, regional communities and the many supporters across the country. Together with fellow organic farmers, volunteer teams, best organic practice advisors, ORICoop has brought together a band of knowledge and learnings for the betterment and resilience of the organic industry. We will share these stories

BioLogical ISSUE ONE 2020 | 14

and enable the learnings from these tragic events to build resilience into our communities, farmers and supporters that next time our neighbour needs our support, there is an organisation that will assist, on the ground, with direct action. Key areas that have brought the success of this Appeal to life include: О Fundraising О Best

Team

Practice Expertise

О Bushfire О Terms

Committee

of Reference

О Volunteer

Teams

part of the story. The real community spirit has been in the collective action and outcome of supporters, donors, willing farmers and ORICoop members. We thank all those involved, for all they have given to see this Appeal get help where it has been most needed. A summary of this $324,000 breakdown so far includes: О Total Funds raised $86,000 О Donated

organic inputs $29,000

О Fodder

donated $72,000

О Subsidised

О Communication

О In-kind

О An

О Volunteer

and awareness opportunity for connection and storytelling The funds raised are just

transport $14,600

professional consulting $85,000 $35,000

Coordination


The true grit of the bushfire affected farmers are the real heroes in this story. The harrowing stories of their days and weeks amongst the fires that threatened their lives.

IMAGE Stephen Whitsed, Need for Feed fodder delivery

Obstacles that prevented more outcomes included: О Lack of fast-moving support from DGR registered charity or farming sector О Lack

of widespread understanding of the complexity of the organic industry (organic standards/ inputs/fodder)

О Sheer

scale of needs across many different geographic regions and commodity types

О Lack

of transparent organic marketplace to trigger required response

О Immediate

emergency funds to grassroots organisations connected to farms in need

О Administrative

capacity on 100% reliant on volunteer efforts

After working with bushfire affected farmers post-Black Saturday I vowed that I would make sure that next time there was a way to directly help farming communities in need. That community would be empowered to rally around bushfire and disaster-affected farmers. And the empty offers of massages or inappropriate gestures of support would not be part of what we created. The true grit of the bushfire affected farmers are the real heroes in this story. The harrowing stories of their days and weeks amongst the fires that threatened their lives. The ongoing threat not just to their farm and business, but to the legacy and long-term resilience that their farm and land means

to them. To hear their stories has been gut-wrenching, to feel their angst at not knowing how to move forward. Some not sure where to even start. As Kym Green and Christine Watts from Blue Sky Organics, East Gippsland, shared their stories on the Farming Summit it is clear how deeply connected these farmers are to their land. To their business, their soil, the biodiversity, and the wildlife. With the help of the organic advisors each farm has put together a recovery plan. Armed with fully funded soil and biology tests the farmers can take stock, and work out their best plan of attack, to build back the biology and assist the soil in its recovery. For some losing a large part of

>>

15


their orchard, or their pastured areas is devastating and raw. For others, it has signalled a new chapter, a renewed sense of resilience, and enabling them to consider their business with a broader and more diversified perspective. Together we are stronger. And together,

IMAGE Kathy Barrett, Blaze Aid on Kangaroo Island

ORICoop and these farmers will do as much good as we can. We are finalising the last applications now and look forward to announcing volunteer restoration farm blitz days post-June 30. Of ways that each of us can get our hands in the dirt, lend a hand, and support these farmers in their journey back. You can still support the Appeal, or you can also plan an event and have the funds dedicated to these farmers, and their recovery. You can also add your name to the volunteer register which can be found on the ORICoop website. It has been said by some of the bushfire affected farmers, that this Appeal has made a world of difference to them. That it has given them hope to keep going. That it has been like their

BioLogical ISSUE ONE 2020 | 16

own personal cheer squad, encouraging them forward if only with small steps to start. Some of these farmers have a massive recovery ahead of them. Some will take years to rebound. Some may not recover and may opt to leave or retire from the industry.

geographic, size and types of bushfire affected farms. David from Marrook Farm, a highly experienced and deeply passionate biodynamic dairy farmer. Hugh, with a long-standing background in organic orchards, and with the memory of the recent bushfires

Whatever they do we want to support them to bring their land back from the brink of bushfire damage. And to see healthy organic food once more grown on these farms, to whatever extent is possible. And for the wildlife and biodiversity to return. If not to the same extent to a degree, we know we did our best. Despite the worst bushfires in our history.

in their orchards able to assist with his understanding and wisdom. Antony with his indepth Cooperative knowledge and passion, has enabled the Terms of Reference, available on the ORICoop website, to truly represent the aims and intentions of the group. And the highly talented Christine, new to ORICoop as a key volunteer, but an experienced economist, and skilled with a distribution spreadsheet beyond measure! We have met online weekly for the past twelve weeks.

Once the fundraising appeal surpassed $50,000, it was agreed that we needed to appoint a fundraising committee, to oversee the distribution of these funds, and to make sure that each application for assistance was considered on its own merit. To achieve this, we brought together an unlikely group of aligned members to navigate how $89,000 could be evenly distributed across diverse

Mapping out each application, considering its merit, and assessing the criteria against the available funds and means of support. Our aim is to see the funds distributed in two stages, both we hope before the end of June. We are encouraged to see the COVID-19 restrictions


easing and hope this could mean we can reignite the volunteer projects in the latter part of the year. For each of these farms support looks different. For these heroes, success and recovery have a different meaning. WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT FROM THIS EXPERIENCE? Most of all we have learnt that we need each other! That the organic industry needs to support its producers in times of need. That organic farmers are generous, innovative, pioneering spirits and community-minded to the core. That is what sets us apart. This bold spirit that founded the industry is what must be nurtured to see it grow and flourish yet retain its deep sense of integrity. In these complex times there has never been a more critical time to know and support your local community of producers, farmers, and growers. And to invest at least as much in the social capital of our farming and food industry then we invest financially in ourselves. Even recently as we see, the long supply chains break around the world. As large abattoirs close in the US, and people scramble to seek their food requirements amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. And Australia’s export opportunities of barley and beef shut down to China in the blink of an eye. And the GM moratorium is lifted in South Australia despite the discounted prices for GM grain across the world. It must make all farmers consider shorter supply chains. And to diversify their business as a key mitigation priority. It must make each of us value the very supply chain that we ‘invest’ in every day that we eat.

Do you support your local farmers market, your local CSA, or your online producer’s cooperative, or your local food hub? Or are you motivated by price, and not concerned about the effect that cheap imported food really does to our food and farming system. Organic farming has the same real risks that conventional farming does. And the same cost of production pressure. The only difference is there is a higher level of integrity and transparency in each supply chain, through third-party certification or knowing your farmer. For our communities to recover post bushfires, and post COVID-19, we need champions. We need local people that can be the change they wish for. If you know there is a mission you can achieve, don’t wait for someone else. If there is a way you can contribute and unite your community, either geographically or online then what are you waiting for? Australia is in a unique position compared to the rest of the world. We have such a high overproduction of food (that is currently exported) that enables us to be food secure if we managed it correctly. If we truly valued our farmers and local food and their real value to our communities. For farmers to build strong local and resilient supply chains, that resist cheap imports, industrial food, and mass production. Like manufacturing, we should not be looking for the cheapest product, but what creates resilience and long-term ownership in our community. Re-localisation is a gift despite the complicated period we find ourselves in, not seen since the 1930s. If that was what we all learnt from five weeks of isolation, perhaps it has been worth it. This would be our wish for the future of farmers:

О

Stronger resilience in farm businesses

О

Sustainable and measured farm metrics

О

Diverse agricultural businesses and markets

О

Transitional generational strategies for farming families

О

Greater interconnectedness within the sector

О

True value of social capital

О

To bring together farmers to know each other. To learn from each other.

О

To support each other in times of needs.

О

To have stronger communities around us.

О

To share the burden of ownership, legacy and returns amongst many, rather than the few.

О

To protect the land that produces our food for the long term with respect and sovereignty.

О

And for eaters to connect more closely with their food, and to celebrate farmers every time they invest in a better food system.

That would be my northern star. That is what ORICoop is aiming for.

HUNGRY FOR MORE ORICoop Bushfire Blog MORE Organic Investment Cooperative MORE Farming Summit

MORE

ORICoop Bushfire Appeal

MORE

17


Interview with a farmer

Peter Randall RANDALL RICE We are situated in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area in the Riverina, southwestern New South Wales, a small region called Murrami, located between Griffith and Leeton, and established 100 years ago. Murrami is a Wiradjuri derived word meaning ‘crayfish’ and is part of the linked Maude floodplain. Here we have heavy clay soils which are ideally suited to our main crop, rice. The area is dotted with ancient hills covered in native pine trees and is a favourite of mine, I can often be found sitting by a campfire, on our own piece of the hill country, featuring bimble box, eucalyptus and cypress pine mixed with hopbush, needlewoods and wattles. This is the area we locked up over the past 20 years and stopped grazing, and let go back to nature, our little eco-patch of paradise. We have kangaroos, echidnas and over 126 species of birds living here, better now, as it has been struggling with the last three years of drought, really the whole area has, hill country can suffer badly although it has bounced back somewhat after the recent autumn rains.

Describe your farm as a sense of place: its character, types of plants and animals that can be found there, location and geographical features, what you love, moments you cherish?

We grow rice and oats, on clover irrigated pastures, we also graze Dorper sheep, all organic of course, and we raise fat lambs. Due to the last significant drought in summer, we could not grow rice, and since 2011 we have been milling and packaging, on-farm, our own rice, which has certainly been keeping us busy up until the drought. We managed to have a tiny oat crop last year, and through that, because we have had no rice, we have been doing wild oats onfarm, which we are gearing up to large scale production shortly. While small scale initially, there has been good reception as well as rolled oats, an old variety of oats with a lovely flavour, probably from the ‘60s or ‘70s called Yarran, oats that you can graze and harvest. Describe your farm’s history and the journey to the farm’s present state. Is your farm multigeneration or multidimensional. What are you plans for the next generation?

I am the second generation; the farm has been in the family since the late ‘50s, and we have been organic for over 30 years now. Initially, I farmed the land with my father until he passed away about 16 years ago, it is two properties, and I ended up on this one. He was a man ahead of his time, he was decidedly in favour of organics, and, I was lucky we had the opportunity to work together, I think we are only the second owners of this property, it is an irrigation area roughly a century in development.

BioLogical ISSUE ONE 2020 | 18

Before opening it up to an irrigation property, it was part of a large sheep station in Wiradjuri country, and from where I am standing now on the hills, there are many signs of Aboriginal people. There is much history here, and we intend to keep it this way. I had a neighbour recently try to buy it off me and put a sheep feedlot here. I said, “you got to be jokin [sic]”. We will always keep this block; we will put it in a trust. Our kids, two boys and a girl, none of whom are on the farm, all support what we do. The kids have seen many years of drought. Unfortunately, once educated, they moved off the land; I can understand and do not blame them. In the last twenty years, we have had roughly fourteen years of drought. . What activities happen on your farm? Daily, monthly, seasonally

In previous years when we had real rain, we also had irrigation, these are little farms, our natural rainfall is low. It is a semi-arid area, and if you did not have irrigation, not a lot would happen, it would be a sheep station, that is it. But because of the irrigation system, all gravity fed, from the Murrumbidgee River, connected to the snowy scheme. The water is stored up in the Snowy Mountains, across a couple of dams; the Burrinjuck and Blowering. If we have good seasons in the mountains, we have water. Across the entire region, rice is one of the biggest crops. Usually, in a good year, there are about one and a half million-tonne crops grown around this area, this year it is down to 40,000 tonnes, it has been decimated. We supplied Sunrice up until we started milling our own, seven or eight years ago. Before that, they were buying our rice and marketing it as their own organically for at least 30 years. That is the summer crop, we sow rice in October, and it is grown through to harvest in autumn and being organic we work on a four-year rotation. Three years of legume-based pasture which is clover and one year of rice. The clover builds up fertility and has natural allelopathic effects, it suppresses the summer weeds, clover is an active winter plant, and when the clover is ready to die, it is time for rice sowing. We seed directly into the clover without ploughing and usually with the sheep in the field at the same time, as they act as fertilisers and help with weed control, and they remain there up until what we call “permanent water” which is when the rice


is established, maybe six weeks after seeding. is a bit of a process; we germinate the rice by putting the water on and off a practice known as “flushing”. We keep water down the fields, and when the rice is strong enough, we try to beat the weeds by drowning them in deep water. Oats, a winter crop, usually go in after the rice to utilise the moisture especially if we have a weed issue with the rice fields, I will plough it, and if the wet harvest makes a bit of a mess I will need to plough it up in the summer after rice, and then I will put an oat crop in. Day to day, you work pretty much year-round, especially now that we have been working on the farm milling, we do sheep work, of course, lamb marking, that sort of thing and a bit of fence work. Rice needs monitoring every day through the summer, and in between all that; while I have not got any this year, I usually have rice to mill. I could be milling every day through the week – five days, and then we are off to farmers markets on the weekends we do all the capital cities. We travelled a lot until the drought. We basically ran out of rice in February, we were selling online as well, and since the COVID-19 lockdown, we sold what little we had left through the internet. Which is good, but I wish I had more, I could have sold it ten times over. We supply co-ops and organic shops around the country. Now we are trialling, small scale oats though it has been received well at the markets – the once a month Canberra market particularly. Everyone seems to like our oats. We also make rice cakes; we kept a little bit of rice aside for this side of the business you can stretch rice out a lot with rice cakes. That is what you call value-adding. One of our drought strategies, we started making them three or four years ago.

Thirty-odd years ago as a young family with little kids, I hated them being exposed to chemicals. My father and I were always minimal chemical users, anyway. Since I was 18, I have been losing friends and acquaintances from around this area from cancer. It is a cancer hotspot in the regions because of all the intensive farming, another reason I do not want to be exposed personally nor what it does to the environment. Wrecks the soil, destroys people, and more than ever, I think these days, there are many kids out there that are sick, born sick and have allergies etc., that’s got to come What has motivated you to pursue this type of farming?

from this toxic environment that we are all living in. Farming is part of it; obviously, there are the other impacts, with cars and city pollutions and just in your own home the off-gassing or volatile organic compounds that people ingest from their carpets and furniture etc. So, we try to minimise it a bit, and we see the difference over the years, the soil is excellent. The animals rarely get sick, and the quality of our product, more since we have been milling our own. I did not realise before, just how good it was, we were sending it off as a bulk commodity, and then we started receiving excellent feedback from chefs and Asian consumers, official accolades including winning awards such as the Delicious Produce Awards.

What drives you to continue farming regeneratively? Are you certified? Does growing regeneratively open new different markets for your business? What are they?

Ironically, I had cancer a few years ago, I personally think it was just from living here in this region another month longer before being diagnosed, and I wouldn’t be here, it has given me perspective. Certified with NAASA for 30 years We now have people chasing us instead of us chasing them, especially for rice. The farmer’s markets have been good. Regenerative agriculture is a start, I see regenerative as a foot in the door, with organic as the primary goal.

Does being certified increase opportunities for your business?

Yes, certification is recognised globally, and when we were with Sunrice, we could export our rice as organic although that has changed now under The Rice Marketing Board for the State of New South Wales Primary Products Act, 19277.

What has motivated you to join ORICoop?

That would be the cooperative itself, helping organic farmers, and getting young people into agriculture.

How can ORICoop be of value and benefit to your farming business and long-term livelihood?

ORICoop is the conduit to the industry, for, as well as to the right people. I would like to pass on my knowledge of what I have been doing, rather than it coming to a complete stop.

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Interview with a farmer

David Marks MARROOK FARM Describe your farm as a sense of place: its character, types of plants and animals that can be found there, location and geographical features, what you love, moments you cherish?

We are at a place called Elands on the Bulga Plateau in NSW which is unique in that whichever way you approach you must travel through either state forest or National Parks. The type of vegetation here is wet sclerophyll forest with rainforest-understory and blue gum and tallowwood rainforest in the gullies. We have fenced all our creeks off, and we also have a philosophy that if we cannot get a tractor to work the ground because it is too steep, we fence that off as well. There are a lot of wallabies, koalas, platypus and a multitude of birds with about a third of the farm is dedicated to the bush. What I especially love about living up here is its incredible sense of nature, there is a real pull. The Bulga Plateau, where Elands is, is home to the Ellenborough Falls, which is the longest single-drop waterfall in the southern hemisphere, so, there is a lot of water up here. My favourite moments are in the morning in the dairy when the sun is coming up, and the cows have steam coming out of their mouths, and just feel the first warmth of day coming. It is a bit like Narnia, the first book, The Magicians Nephew when it talks about how Narnia was created when the lion was going through and creating all this land. The history of the Bulga Plateau, like a lot of NSW, is that the early settlers came up to get cedar. Then when they opened the country up, they began dairy farming for fresh cream and butter for England. Then when England joined the common market, a lot of the dairies went, but mainly the history of this farm is dairy and potato. We came here 32 years ago from the Hunter Valley. We were sick of the pollution from the coal mines, so we are actually the first generation on this farm, but it is multi-dimensional in the extent that we milk cows, we value-add the milk, simply because I don’t want to go to the trouble of producing the excellent quality milk to send it off to some multinational pirate Describe your farm’s history and the journey to the farm’s present state. Is your farm multigeneration or multidimensional. What are you plans for the next generation?

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to do what they like with it. We have our own factory on the farm which makes yoghurt and cheese, and we have a straightforward philosophy “that we don’t manufacture anything that we don’t eat ourselves”. We bought out our neighbour about five years ago. Children leaving the farm is an interesting one, farm succession, well my son is an architect, and my daughter is an osteopath, and while they love the farm. Like a lot of dairy farming children they don’t want a dairy farm so it’s leaving us with an interesting conundrum which is where ORICoop comes in. It comes down to an issue of choice where they do not want to sell the farm, but they do not want to have a dairy farm either. What activities happen on your farm? Daily, monthly, seasonally

Dairy farms have an excellent routine because dairy cows must be milked twice a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, so that is our daily activity. We also process three days a week, making us quite busy in the processing side. Because we are relatively high up and it is quite cold here, we tend to make a lot of hay and silage in late summer and early autumn, which is when our main rainfall is, to preserve feed for winter. So, I guess our busiest time of year is late summer, early autumn, making hay. But there are general things that always go on with farms, repairs and maintenance, fencing, and not often but we do have vet issues that we can typically solve ourselves, you might have a cow with a lame foot or something like that. We spend a fair bit of time with the cows daily, we strip graze, and we back fence and we move them twice a day, and then we actually harrow the manure, so we are always working the land. We are a Demeter Certified Biodynamic farm, we have been for nearly 40 years, I guess what really drove me is I could never come to terms with the particle approach where an ergonomist would tell you how to grow pasture with water-soluble fertilisers, and then you have animal health issues, only to be told “that’s not my expertise”, so you would need a nutritionist. I saw a video, it was on the ABC, A Big Country, called a “Winter’s Tale”, it was What has motivated you to pursue organic and or biodynamic farming?


about 30 years ago, with a guy named Alex Podolinsky and it just made so much sense. That’s what drove us to biodynamics, and we have seen so much improvement in our soil health and our animal health and in particular in the more extreme times, like in the drought last year, even conventional people have commented “gee... you’ve still got green on your farm” that said though they won’t convert? It is just getting better and better. We virtually do not have a vet unless it is a very complicated pregnancy, twins or breech birth and I just cannot get them out. We certainly do not put anything on, sometimes we put a bit of mineral on if we are short there, but basically only the Biodynamic Preparation 500. The beauty of that is that you really enjoy working on your farm. I see the soil like a big stew that bubbles away and just keeps getting better. What drives you to continue farming regeneratively?

Are you certified?

Demeter Biodynamic

Peter Podolinsky has a saying “It’s very easy to sell the first pallet” I guess the bottom line is you cannot be organic or biodynamic if your product is no good. I think regenerative is interesting work, but again a lot of it is the management, and it is the individuality of the farmer and the farm. In Australia, depending on where you are, you have got inferior soil, you might have good soils on some fertile river flats, but there is not that many. It is not like farming in Europe. I think you must be clear that its every farmer. I guess that’s where agriculture comes in – Agri being the soil, and Culture precisely that, which creates the individuality of the farm by the actual farmer. Does growing regeneratively open different newmarkets for your business?

It opens up a different market, but for us, the only benefit of being certified is, we’re saying to the consumer that we are happy to be independently inspected by a third party and we are not just making claims. We are not doing it intentionally to get markets, but obviously, markets do open because of the certification. Some shops only sell certified products but having said that we do sell a lot of our products in conventional shops that just like our quality. Does being certified increase opportunities for premiums to your business?

I did not know about ORICoop until late last year when the drought was on, and we got a phone call out of the blue from Carolyn Suggate, the Founder and Director of ORICoop offering us hay, which was amazingly generous and this prompted me to look into ORICoop further their values really resonated with me, the aims and the mission. I thought that is something we really align with and so we became members. What has motivated you to join ORICoop?

At the moment I am talking with them on how best to approach succession planning, and believe me, I get that even though our children have the same dream of biodynamic farming, they don’t have the same goal of dairy farming so there is a possibility that a young couple might have the same dream of milking cows, seven days a week. How can ORICoop be of value and benefit to your farming business and long-term livelihood?

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Organic

ORGANIC AT HEART

WORDS Greg Paynter

With the appetite for organic produce and products growing at a rate of knots, there’s a lot we can learn from the original organic movement’s pioneers.

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ince the dawn of time, agriculture has been one of mankind’s most fundamental activities, given that everyone needs to nourish themselves – hopefully with the right food – daily. What’s more, our history, culture, and community values are embedded within it, irrespective of what corner of the Earth you live. Nowadays, the term ‘organic’ has become a brand, and the

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process of organic certification helps to protect the integrity of this collective brand. All in, globally, the organic sector is worth some $100 billion a year. In Australia, alone, it sat at nigh on US$2.6 billion last year (latest organic market report). Now, to put things in perspective, the figure was around the $90 million mark back when I started organic production 30 years ago. You could say the sector’s grown rather rapidly. Some would argue that the transition from a ‘movement’ to a ‘brand’ has diluted the fundamentals of organic principles. And that the recent rapid growth and the resulting evolution of the organic movement have driven the further loss of connection with the historical figures and roots of organic agriculture who pioneered organics in its purest form and designed its basic principles. History is a great teacher and, as with most things in life, it’s always good to get a deeper understanding of where the ideology of something so important in your life comes from.

The organic movement was built around the concept of the provision of health by way of food grown in soil managed by organic farming practices. Here, these practices utilised methodologies that fostered soil health from nature’s ecosystem, services, and functions. It was also built around the premise that, by using these methods, the people and animals consuming food and feed produced from organic farming practices, respectively, would maintain good health. WHERE IT ALL STARTED Lady Eve Balfour, the first president of the UK Soil Association, was the first to coin the phrase, ‘Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy people.’ Balfour, along with the likes of Sir Albert Howard and peers such as F.H. King, Walter Northbourne, JI Rodale, and Louis Bromfield, each played an essential role in formulating the very underpinnings of organic farming and, thus, the organic movement. What makes organic farming so unique is that its principles


responsible manner to protect the health and wellbeing of current and future generations and the environment. These principles apply to agriculture in the broadest sense, including the way people tend soils, water, plants, and animals to produce, prepare and distribute food and other goods. They concern the way people interact with living landscapes, relate to one another, and shape the legacy of future generations, one of the foundational ethos of organic agriculture.

raison d’être of ‘organics’, in terms of production, is the understanding of how interaction within the farm organism works, along with good observations and knowledge designed to provide productive, sustainable outcomes. Equally important is organic production’s connection with carbon, essential to maintaining healthy organic practices.

are based on ‘the law of return’, where organic matter is returned to the soil to be digested and decayed via biological processes to form stable ‘humus’. In turn, this can increase the soil’s ability to hold water, soil ‘cation exchange capacity’ (CEC), sequester carbon, tie-up soil pollutants in complex compounds and, fundamentally, improve the nutrient density of food produced from the soil, along with higher humus content. The concept of diversity is also intrinsic to organic farming, due to the provision of dynamism, resilience, and stability. The early movement also addressed social capital as a key principle. Meaning, it was essential that both people producing and consuming organic food were treated fairly – in the most real sense of the word – maintaining absolute integrity within the whole organic supply chain. While the organic standard, through organic certification, is the non-use of synthetic chemicals, it goes well beyond that. As described by Lord Northbourne back in the Forties, the

Sir Howard was an outspoken advocate of ‘the law of return’, as he believed it offered humanity a healthier, more beneficial future. Then you had the likes of Justus Freiherr von Liebig. He, along with Carl Sprengel, developed the theory of the mineral nutrition of plants and, consequently, ‘the law of the minimum’, the foundation of the current agricultural paradigm based on the use of synthetic fertilisers.

Now, while certified ‘organic standards’ note these principles, they don’t go so far as to take corrective actions on participants within the certification process, as they aren’t ‘considered’ under the enforceable sections of the ‘standard’. Beyond this, the other concern is the ISOfocation (referring to the International Organisation of Standardisation) of the organic certification process. This equates to placing less emphasis on adaption and implementation of organic principles in farming methodologies used. Consequentially, this both undermines and puts at risk the public perception of what the organic sector stands for and, therefore, ironically, potentially devalues what ‘organics’ truly means and, in turn, the global organic ‘brand’ as a whole.

TODAY’S BENCHMARKS It’s also important to get a deeper understanding of the four core principles outlined by the global peak organic body, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (or ‘IFOAM’). Namely... HEALTH: Organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of the soil, plant, animal, human and the planet as one and indivisible. ECOLOGY: It should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, working with them, emulating them and, perhaps, more importantly, helping to sustain them. FAIRNESS: It should build on relationships that ensure integrity concerning the common environment and life opportunities. CARE: It should be managed in a precautionary and

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Omnivores

IS THIS THE NEW NORM? WORDS: Donica Bettanin

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As this year’s dramatic summer drew to a close, Miranda Sharp was looking forward to bumper autumn produce at Melbourne Farmers Markets. But when the virus we now know as COVID-19 began to appear in Australia, state and federal governments were quick to place lockdown restrictions on travel and public gatherings, and farmers markets found themselves on a long list of community spaces in limbo. The supply chain connecting growers, stallholders, market organisers and customers was abruptly disconnected.


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his isn’t a bad news story though: community food enterprises such as Prom Coast Food Collective can be among the most resilient in times of crisis thanks to the strength of their local connections and relatively small scale of operations. At their best, they have the agility and appetite for innovation to adapt to changing conditions alongside their customers. Miranda turned to Open Food Network (OFN) to take the market’s offerings online— and fast. Founded in Victoria in 2012, and with a growing international presence in 13 countries ranging from Brazil to the United Kingdom, OFN works to transform the food system by catalysing and supporting short, fair, and transparent food supply networks. Food producers can use the open-source platform to sell online or through hub or market shops. Wholesalers can manage buying groups and supply through these networks, and communities can bring together producers to create a virtual farmers’ market, building a resilient local food economy. What that means for organisations like Melbourne Farmers Market is a transparent means of connecting with the customers they cannot otherwise reach or can no longer serve in person. “We had watched the Open Food Network platform for a long time and knew that it was time to take the plunge. It’s been amazing to find a way to strengthen our connection with our existing community,” Miranda says. In doing so, they are also among the many community food enterprises using the

innovative platform to serve new customers who have been let down by industrial food systems during the pandemic. Even before COVID-19, many food businesses were embracing online sales to diversify their revenue streams and support their communities. Members of the Network range from Westies Dry Goods Buying Group to Baw Baw Food Hub, with many smaller producers linked by local community hubs. In some regions, small groups of producers like Nambucca’s North Arm Farms are working together to expand their online offering and collaborate on logistics. Already, communities are using the OFN to settle into new ways of feeding their community. Once Wangaratta Farmers’ Market had started an online store for their monthly market, they realised they could easily switch to offering a weekly online market. Now, rather than waiting until the market rolls around again, locals can have a weekly shop for groceries that meet the full fridge and pantry needs. Many of these members are busier than ever as consumers turn to local supply and home delivery. Total online sales on the platform in March were over $300,000 compared to $130,000 in the previous month. This number is expected to grow exponentially as communities adapt to longterm social distancing. The Network is providing a vital service for food communities across the country who are working hard to provide food for people self-isolating and support their local farmers, growers and producers who are quickly needing to redirect

their food production into new channels as markets, cafes and restaurants close. OFN director Jen Sheridan believes that local food systems have a critical role to play in community resilience at this time because they are made up of many diverse players and trust networks. They enable rapid reconfiguration and collaboration in times of crisis - like now. We won’t easily forget COVID-19. Among the challenges and opportunities presented by this crisis is the chance for us to reimagine our food systems. We are reminded that our fundamental strengths lie in the connections that exist between people. It is an opportunity to give the respect most deserved to people-scale food systems creating local resilience through personal connections between eaters, local producers, neighbours, and communities. As Jen reflects, “Sometimes the best way to fix a system is to start a new one”.

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HEEDING THE LESSONS OF CORONAVIRUS WORDS Louise Sales

As supermarket shelves empty and unharvested crops rot in our fields, the inherent flaws in our, centralised industrialised food system are clearly on display for all to see. Record numbers of people have grasped the importance of food independence and are attempting to grow their own food. Plant nurseries all over the country are struggling to keep up with demand for seed and seedlings .

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he growing number of Australians attempting to decouple themselves from our industrial food system is to be celebrated. As Charles Massy says, “There is abundant evidence now that modern industrial agriculture and humanity’s ongoing burning of stored fossil fuels is destroying Earth’s life-sustaining systems, poisoning the foods we live on and divorcing us from a natural world we coevolved with.” According to the Annual Australia’s Environment report, 2019 saw the worst environmental conditions across the country since at least 2000, with river flows, tree cover and wildlife affected on an “unprecedented scale”. Industrial agriculture is a significant contributor to vegetation clearing, soil depletion, desertification, and climate change. Radical changes are needed to the way we farm in Australia, to protect the natural resource base that we are so dependent upon. The growing organic and regenerative agriculture movements are already pioneering the necessary changes. But it is CropLife, Bayer and other major donors to both the Nationals and the ALP that still call the shots when it comes to Federal Government policy and the allocation of agricultural research funding. Favourable government attitudes to Big Ag saw Australia become one of the first countries in the world to deregulate a range of new genetic modification (GM) techniques last year. Animals, plants, and microbes produced using these ‘gene editing’ methods can be released into our environment without the Gene Technology

Regulator being notified and with no requirement for safety assessment or traceability. Without traceability, it will be almost impossible for non-GM farmers to prove that their farms are not contaminated with geneedited crops such as ryegrass. As ABC’s Background Briefing reported earlier this year, the company Recombinetics chose to secretly continue research into GM hornless cattle that it had abandoned in Brazil and the US, precisely because of Australia’s weak regulatory regime. The research was abandoned, when, entirely by chance, a scientist at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered that the genome of Recombinetics’ cattle contained remnants of the bacterial plasmid used to engineer the hornless trait. This rogue DNA coded resistance to three commonly used antibiotics - posing a potential health risk. The US FDA has argued that the discovery of bacterial DNA in gene-edited cattle illustrates why these techniques and any food produced using them must be assessed for safety. The agency has warned that unexpected genetic changes could “affect the safety of food derived from the animal.” According to FDA scientist Steven Solomon, “Consumers expect the FDA to ensure their food is safe and our international trading partners expect that the FDA will have completed a scientific evaluation that determines that exported products are safe.” European countries will also regulate these new GM techniques and their products. We deserve the same protection in Australia. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, surely it is the need for precaution -

particularly when new life forms are created using new and unpredictable GM techniques. Recombinetics has argued that its gene-edited cattle eliminate the need to painfully remove the horns of dairy cattle and hence are a boon for animal welfare. But non-GM hornless dairy cattle already exist. Furthermore, many of the GM traits that are being developed in animals, such as virus resistance, will allow animals to be kept in even more intensive conditions without getting sick. It is precisely these farms full of genetically uniform animals, kept in cramped conditions, that have facilitated the spread of previous pandemics such as bird and swine flu. Rather than trying to engineer animals to fit what is a fundamentally inhumane, dangerous, and broken industrial, agricultural systems, our whole agrarian system needs a radical rethink. This year our food regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) will publish its proposal for radical changes to the Food Standards Code. The agency plans to allow food products from geneedited animals, plants, and microbes to be used into our food with no safety assessment or labelling. It’s vital that we defend our right to know what’s in our food and how it’s produced so we can decide what we will and won’t eat. Take action. Keep untested, unlabelled GM animal products off our supermarket shelves.

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Local food

COVID-19 FORCES AN INWARD FOCUS WORDS Carolyn Suggate

As ORICoop navigates this year in such uncertain times, we want to connect you with fellow local farms, food, virtual events and encourage all of us to look out for each other and see the world through wise old eyes.

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ur grandparents lived through war times, of basic rations, of raw food, of eating what was available. With the terrible display of panic buying in the past months, we need to be the shining lights to our fellow farmers, communities, and localised food systems. Now more than ever. We hope this simple resource will help you to share this in your community, and add your own local champions to it so we can build a nationwide list of local food producers! As many events and conferences have been cancelled or transitioned to a virtual format, ORIcoop recognises that farmers, food servers, and all those who labour to grow, harvest, prepare, and serve our food are among those heavily impacted by economic and health effects of COVID-19 and some with limited access to quality medical care in regional areas. Adopting attitudes of empathy and care is needed more than ever to protect our most vulnerable. At a time when we see impacts on global supply chains, we are reminded of the need to promote the local economy and community resilience. It is a great time to buy nutrient-rich food from local farms in your area and to take advantage of home delivery where possible.

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In the long run, by supporting policies and models for locallyowned land and shared ecological stewardship, we can all ensure there is a future where local organic agriculture supports our health, carbon is sequestered in our soils, and sustainable stewardship of the earth provides a pathway for our generation and future generations to connect with the land and to each other. FIVE KEY STEPS WE CAN ALL DO NOW‌. 1. Buy a seasonal box of vegetables regularly (locally) * Make the most of everything, waste little * Start making your own bread * Preserve, pickle and freeze Share with those in need 2. Start your own foodies collective 3. The ORIcoop board, together with all our members, stands with all farmers at this complex and uncertain time. We fully support local food initiatives, establishing pathways for transition for farms, investment and preservation of local farms and food systems. 4. Make sure you get involved and be part of a revitalised food system! 5. Stay well. Look after each other.


HUNGRY FOR MORE Your nearest local Australian Cooperative MORE Your nearest local Producers MORE Local Harvest MORE Food Connect MORE Open Food Network MORE Ripe Near Me MORE

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Water

THE HYDRATION PLAN WORDS: Adam Willson

Australia is suffering from severe desertification brought about by extremely poor land management practices like deforestation and overgrazing. The affected area now includes most of the grasslands accounting for more than 50% of Australia’s landmass. This increased landmass has created an enormous oven that dries the whole landscape.

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he Murray Darling Basin is the largest river catchment in Australia. It has been mismanaged to such an extent that its $20 billion economic value and home to two million people are at serious risk. Major fish kills due to poor crop selection (like cotton), over fertilisation and neonicotinoid chemicals, have led to species extinctions and severe pressure on the remaining fisheries. This drying of the river systems has led to further desiccation of the landscape funnelling hot winds from the expanded desert region to the few remaining coastal forests. Under-resourced State Forests and National Parks and historical mismanagement have led to a considerable increase in forest litter and forest density, especially in National Parks. This is caused in part by a reduction in the optimal seasons for burning and the additional fuel levels created by hot winds

from the desert leading to forest leaf drop and death of small trees. With historically high fuel levels, lightning strikes quickly started forest fires with many of these forest fires jumping from the forest floor to the canopy causing catastrophic crown fires. With many forests now destroyed there will be significant reductions in reservoir levels because young trees absorb a lot of water. Together with desertification and the death of the Murray Darling Basin, there will be significant reductions in food production. This is both a major economic setback and a serious food security issue.

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A worthy 40 minute read.


PROPOSED SOLUTIONS There is an urgent need to stop identifying the problems and casting blame and adopt solutions that are currently working here in Australia and internationally. These include; 1. Building a National Water Grid and Policy by diverting northern water to Murray Darling River Basin, using desalination plants around Australia, no more freshwater extraction, recycling of water to increase to 85%, neonicotinoids, organic phosphates and endocrine disruptors to be banned and an urgent need for a national waterlog and policy. 2. National Reforestation and Forests Programme to set up a national reforestation policy, concentrate national fuel reduction burns to the winter months, make a fast track transition towards high-value timber production and stop subdivisions and

land clearing to protect koalas and endangered native animals 3. Waste Management and Energy production to separate waste from the house to “Waste to Energy” centres, composting of kitchen wastes, set up 24/7 “Waste to Energy” power plants, establish sewerage system to increase recycling to 85% and introduce a plastic tax to speed up the transition. 4. Setting up a Federal Department of Soil and Water Conservation and Research to identify the best contour farming techniques, define Australia’s National Land Capability (NLC) zones, what soil types are valuable for food production, a national collection of low water use plants and water and soil conservation research facilities. 5. Implement Regenerative Agriculture by identifying farm landscape designs

that hydrate the ground, use time-controlled grazing systems, build and monitor soil carbon, implement minimum levels of forest cover on each farm, strict outlawing of organo-phosphate, endocrinedisruptors and fire retardant chemicals, irrigation-based on protecting rivers and maximum return per ML, dryland cropping and introducing integrated farming, increasing biodiversity on-farms and educating a whole new generation of farmers and land managers. 6. Funding an Australian Natural Capital Sovereign Wealth Fund by setting up a separate Natural Capital Sovereign Wealth Fund, borrowing money from superannuation funds to fast track the plan, introducing a plastic tax to promote bioplastics. Stage one of this Hydration Plan will cost $98 billion well below the cost of the proposed attack submarines estimated to cost at least $225 billion.

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Co-operatives

MEMBER-OWNED BUSINESSES KEY TO ESSENTIAL SERVICES To manage the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the National Cabinet is taking further actions to protect the Australian community. The decisions being taken will have broad impacts on the business operations in many industries including cooperatives and mutuals.

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he Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) is working with its members to understand the essential services that cooperatives and mutuals provide to support the community and economy, including the eight in 10 Australians who are their members. “Deliberations by the National Cabinet in the essential services required to underpin the national response to COVID-19 demonstrate the vital importance of supply chain resilience especially by having a healthy Australian owned and operated business sector,” said BCCM CEO Melina Morrison. “It is comforting to know, in this time of national crisis, that cooperatives and mutuals which are Australian owned and managed businesses are operating across the Australian economy and society to provide essential services and products from banking, insurance, auto repair and roadside assistance and healthcare to food production, processing and retail, affordable housing and pharmacy.” “Over the coming weeks and months, domestic supply chains for products and services as diverse as cleaning and hospital-grade hygiene supplies, health foods and fresh meat will become increasingly vital as nondomiciled supply

chains face disruption. Our businesses are member-owned, not share-holder owned, so they are not exposed to the same market volatility as other businesses.” BCCM is advocating for the following industries to be recognised as essential services underpinning Australia’s response to COVID-19 by the National Cabinet: О

Health and Community Services, General Practice, Aged Care, Disability Care, Health Insurance and Social Housing.

О

Agriculture Including farm input, wholesale and retail services, food production, food processing and related importing and exporting activities.

О

Commercial Cleaning The provision of sanitary cleaning services, and any supply of goods or services necessary for provision of those services are considered essential services under the Essential Services Act 1988 (NSW), to provide one example.

О

Transport and Logistics Petrol stations and automotive service and repair business support the maintenance of vehicle transportation capability as an essential service

О

Essential Retail Services Pharmacies, supermarkets,


and groceries stores with care not to exclude butchers, seafood, and health food stores.

О

Public Health: including primary health, pharmacy, community services for vulnerable groups, pharmaceutical and cleaning product supply chain

О

Food and agriculture: including farm production, food processing, transportation, food retail

FINANCIAL SERVICES О

Banks and Credit Unions who provide essential access to cash and other financial services for members of the community, particularly the elderly.

Similar industries have been recognised as essential services in the face of the pandemic in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency published a Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response on 19 March. The following are identified as among the essential services required to continue operating at this time:

О

Energy: including fuel retail Transport and Logistics: including automotive repair and maintenance facilities

О

Financial Services: including banking

О

Chemical: including all transport and manufacturing of goods required for medical and cleaning products.

HUNGRY FOR MORE

Farming Together MORE Cooperative Farming MORE Business Council of Cooperatives and Mutuals MORE

BCCM has been sharing this information with Government officials, Ministers and Premiers coordinating the response.

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Ethical investment

Sustainable investment is incredibly important. This is a powerful way to support communities and the environment. Your super and savings can be invested to grow, and to create a future for you and your children, and to provide future generations with the same opportunities we have. Doing it properly, like anything, takes a little effort, and not all fund managers make this effort.

BioLogical ISSUE ONE 2020 | 34

H

ow do you know sustainable, responsible or ethical investments do what they claim?

mining, gambling, alcohol, weapons or tobacco? If a fund does not tell you all the companies, they invest you in, they are likely hiding poor holdings.

SPOTTING ‘GREENWASH’ IN YOUR SUPER AND INVESTMENTS WORDS: Chris Lang

We see greenwashing every day, from bamboo toothbrushes packaged in plastic, dirt cheap eggs in the supermarket with claims of ‘free-range’ on the carton, to green coloured packaging which has vague claims of ‘eco-friendly’. Do you ever have the sneaking suspicion your super or investment fund might be doing the same thing? There are ways you can check these out, so you know if they match your expectations. 1. Do they list all the investments in their sustainable fund? Investment funds can claim to be sustainable; however, the truth is in the investment holdings. This is like the ingredients list you get on anything in a supermarket. It shows what your money supports. Can you see companies related to things like health care, renewables, and recycling? Or do you see companies involved in

2. Are strongly worded policies, or just vague statements starting with “we seek to avoid...”? Many funds make statements that sound impressive but often fail to translate into good investing. There is a big difference between ‘not invested in thermal coal extraction’ and ‘zero fossil fuels.’ Only one of these statements rules out investments in all coal mines, gas and oil companies, and coal power plants. 3. Are materiality thresholds effective? Materiality thresholds are an ‘allowance’ for bad behaviour. The higher these are, the less effective they become. Sometimes these can be as high as 10 percent or 15 percent. A 15 percent materiality threshold on gambling allows investments in Australia’s biggest provider of pokie machines, a total fail for a fund that can still claim to avoid


gambling investments. High thresholds can be a way for funds to sound impressive without the effort. 4. Do they address issues that are important to you? If you are not comfortable supporting live animal export, look for specific statements on this. Pictures of smiling farmers or wind turbines on a website mean very little. 5. Many funds claim they engage with companies they invest in to improve company practices, but this is often an excuse to cover for weak holdings. You should look for proof of engagement, concrete results. Find how your fund votes at Annual General Meetings (AGM); is it for or against shareholder resolutions that seek to improve human rights or climate change reporting?

You should also consider whether the engagement can improve a company. Large Australian mining companies establish mines on farmland, to pull carbon from the ground so it can be burnt. It is hard to see how engagement could ever improve this process. 6. Are there any not-forprofits that have done some research for you? Organisation, Leaf Rating, investigates and rates ethical funds in Australia, holding them to their sustainable and ethical claims. There is also a consolidated list of Australian banks available on the website “Don’t bank on the bomb� (see website address below) who lend to companies which produce nuclear weapons. 7. For the average Australian, super and investments

will make your biggest impact on community and environment, more impact than important decisions like reducing air travel or buying Australian. It is worth taking the time to ensure you support what you are invested in. Online research, social media groups, and specialised advisers can all support you in this. If your money is invested, it is shaping the future. It is incredibly important to cut through greenwash and have your money support the future you want.

HUNGRY FOR MORE Leaf Ratings investigates and rates ethical funds in Australia, MORE List of Australian banks who are divesting from fossil 35 fuels MORE


Ethical investment

INVESTING IN AUSTRALIAN AGRICULTURE. THE BUSINESS OF FARMING WORDS Jim Benson

When looked at from a property investment perspective, many other sectors are struggling. Retail is under immense pressure from online sales, manufacturing is on the decline, and the service sector is historically flat. Only residential has shown significant growth; however, there are clear danger signals ahead. BioLogical ISSUE ONE 2020 | 36

A

gainst this backdrop, local and overseas investors are turning their focus to the agricultural industry. Unfortunately, external investment in Australian agriculture has produced a history of broken dreams, especially when there is a disconnect between the investor and the farm operator. Farming is driven by an intrinsic passion that enables persistence in the face of adversity and an exceptionally high work ethic. It is not a 9-5 job, and if wages are the only reward, external investments often fail at the operational level. The key to success is to introduce this investment in a way that does not diminish the drive and passion of the farm operator. Experience has taught us that investment in Australian agriculture must be made from a perspective that mitigates risk but takes advantage of the considerable upside. To achieve this end, the following key considerations need to be taken into account.

is caused by the strong codependence between the two. The business cannot operate without the land. Further, the quality (and value) of the landholding is directly related to the nature of the business practices. A degradation in farming land is often the result of farming enterprises that do not (or cannot) embrace best practice in their business procedures and/or financial management. The key to successful farmland investment is to manage the connectivity between the business and the land investment. The investor (or landlord) needs to have active participation and involvement in monitoring the ongoing performance of the business. Further, the investor needs to understand the impact that their investment will have on the associated farm operator. There are many reasons why successful farm operators may wish to embrace external investment.

NATURE OF THE INVESTMENT

О To

fund a future retirement

Consideration should be given to investing in land only (as distinct from a business) as this enables a more precise profiling of risk and a relatively straightforward due diligence process. In Australia, there is often a misunderstanding of the distinction between land ownership and farm business ownership or operations. This

О To

release working capital

As an example: О As

part of their transition to the next generation

О To

improve levels of production

О To

enhance economies of scale

О To

take advantage of advanced production capacity, such as the utilisation of existing processing plants etc.


Investing in Australian agriculture in contrast to other forms of investment, the strong and consistent return from agriculture is starting to gain significant attention from both private and institutional investors. Jim Benson from Next Rural explains, “By facilitating and understanding the nature of this transition, the investor can create a better relationship with the farm operator and ensure the future success and sustainability of their investment. This relationship can be managed through a collaborative farming agreement.”

NT

5.2% QLD

WA

5.0%

The agreement could include: О Identification

of parties – farm owners, landholders, farm manager etc.

О Definitions О Identification

of farm area

О Rights

and obligations of all parties

О Specification

of required farming practices and tasks

О Treatment

of costs and outgoings

О Treatment

of revenue and/ or share of production

О Sharing

arrangements

О Reporting

and overseeing arrangements

О Consequences

of non-compliance

О Termination

F B B B N N S B D C M M s F F f A p I

• •

6.3%

• •

SA

6.3%

NSW

7.0%

• •

A

VIC

6.5%

Figure 1. Average annual growth in farmland median prices over 20 years. Source: Rural Bank (Australian Farmland Values 2017)

COLLABORATIVE FARMING AGREEMENT (CFA) As an alternative to a simple leaseback, the investor can establish a collaborative farming agreement.

• • • • • • • • •

TAS

7.7%

Thi bio hea for to t inv The The nea to m wis wor T inv wit bes new bot

The agreement creates a О Investment procurement THE ROLE OF THE ASSET By facilitating and understanding the unique relationship between and capital raising MANAGER nature of this transition the investor can thecreate landholder and the with the farm By utilising the services of an asset a better relationship О Assistance in investment business, giving rights andsuccess and manager, the investor can be comfortable operator and ensure the future evaluation that the care, management and maintenance sustainabilitytoofboth their investment. obligations parties. of their investment is being addressed Thisinvestor, relationship can beensure managed О Identification of investment For the it can through open lines of communication with through a collaborative farming agreement. opportunities that best farming practices are the farm operator. maintained and complied with COLLABORATIVE FARMING О Inspection suitable It is theof role of the asset manager to report asAGREEMENT a condition of(CFA) ongoing use onareas the treatment of the land assets. They can Nex land of As theanland by the alternative to abusiness. simple lease back, also play a vital role in identifying potential Ma farm the investor can establish a collaborative О Financial investment opportunities. Typical services inve Investment farming agreement. include: analysis har agreement could include: • Establishment of acquisition parameters THE The ROLE OF THE farm analysis • Identification of parties – farm owners, О Business of a potential asset Con ASSET MANAGER soil/land/market landholders, farm manager etc. • Investment procurement and capital Jam By•utilising the services of an Definitions raising Nex О Business practice audits • Identification farminvestor area • Assistance in investment evaluation 180 asset manager,ofthe • Rights and obligations of all parties • Identification of investment opportunities jim О Business performance audits can be comfortable that Specification of required farming • Inspection of suitable land areas ww the• care, management, О Non-Compliance reports practices and tasks and maintenance of their • Treatment of costs and outgoings Agreement codifies О Non-Compliance investment addressed • Treatmentisofbeing revenue and/or share of of the relationship be restoration process through open lines of production Farm Manager and the communication with the farm • Sharing arrangements О Site inspections • Reporting overseeing arrangements operator. It isand the role of the • Consequences of non-compliance О BusinessInvestor sustainability asset manager to report on Collaborative Farming Termination of the land analysis the• treatment The agreement creates a unique assets. They can also play a О Design and management relationship between the landholder and the vital role identifying business,ingiving rights andpotential obligations to of the Collaborative investment both parties.opportunities. For the investor it can ensure Farming Agreement (CFA) that best farming practices are maintained О Monitoring of business/ Landholdings and complied with as a condition of ongoing family dynamics use of the land by the business.

Typical services include О Establishment

of acquisition parameters www.farmingahead.com.au of a potential asset

О Monitoring

of business plans and future strategies

37

Fa


О Financial

projections & benchmarking

О Feedback

to owner/ farmer/investor onfarm development

О Annual

business report and outlook prognosis

О Investor

reports

POINT IN CASE For example, let’s for a moment examine an organic, producing great tasting, healthy dairy products. Demand is strong for its high-quality produce. In response to this, they have made a significant investment in new processing facilities. Their major problem is continuity of supply. There are several excellent farm properties nearby that could be further developed to match

BioLogical ISSUE ONE 2020 | 38

their requirements. They do not wish to extend their bank debt and use vital working capital. The alternative is to seek external investment and work in collaboration with potential investors. Their striving for best practice will enhance the value of the new investment and create a win/win for both parties. Next Rural provides a range of Asset Management services to enable both investors and farming enterprises to work in harmony and align their respective interests. Collaborative Farming Agreements in a Farming Business codifies the nature of the relationship between the Farm Manager and the Landholder.

HUNGRY FOR MORE James Benson, Next Rural MORE Carolyn Suggate, ORICoop MORE


DIG DEEPER PODCASTS Future Steading Living like tomorrow matters Regenerativeagriculturepodcast Global leader and best priactice in regen ag.

Ground Cover The Regenerative Journey with Charlie Arnott

BOOKS “Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy” David Fleming

“Climate - A New Story” and “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible” Charles Eisenstein Milkwood : Real Skills for Down to Earth Living Kirsten Bradley and Nick Rittar The Biggest Estate on Earth Bill Gammage Dark Emu Bruce Pascoe Doctor Wooreddy’s Prescription for Enduring the Ending of the World Mudrooroo Nyoongah The Holistic Orchard Michael Phillips Mycorrhizal Planet Michael Phillips The Carbon Farming Solution Eric Toensmeier The Bio Integrated Farm Shawn Jadrnicek Chelsea Green Publishing

Facebook and Website

The Soil and Health Sir Albert Howard The Omnivore’s Dilemma Michael Pollan Retrosuburbia : The Downshifter’s Guide To A Resilient Future David Holmgrem “The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction To Natural Farming” Masanobu Fukuoka Reed Warbler Dr Charles Massey

39


Connect with ORICoop Are you an Organic or Biodynamic farmer? Or involved in organic food or farming businesses? Or are you interested in connecting more closely with your local farmers?

Become an ORICoop member today HERE

Together we are stronger ‌ Together we are stronger to change our farming and food system with each acre that is farmed more ecologically and each dollar that we choose to invest in a fairer food and farming system. All organic and biodynamic farmers around Australia, eaters, investors and aligned partners are encouraged to become a member of ORICoop. ORICoop represents a part of the overall ecosystem by being more connected with our food, farmers and the financial systems for the benefit of all.

ORICoop MEMBERSHIP GIVES YOU * One member - one vote * Collective contribution to the ongoing direction of ORICoop * Opportunity to stand for open positions on ORICoop Board * Transitional pathways to farmland preservation * To network with other like minded members * Opportunity to acquire Investor Shares * Seasonal farm update * BioLogical subscription and access to discounted membership sponsorship rates

organicinvestmentcooperative.com.au

Profile for ONEONEOH Publishing

BioLogical Journal  

Welcome to our VERY first issue of BioLogical journal. Long term drought, fires, and COVID-19 have affected us all in many ways forcing us...

BioLogical Journal  

Welcome to our VERY first issue of BioLogical journal. Long term drought, fires, and COVID-19 have affected us all in many ways forcing us...

Profile for oneoneoh
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