BioLogical - a journal for change || Issue Two || May 2021

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Natural Capital in farming Family Farms for the Future

The Future is Organic Recovery and Listening


flowers in our garden not only for “ Wetheirplant beauty, but as food for our bees and food for ourselves. We love that borage ticks all these boxes!

Ellyn Bicknell

Why rethink sustainability?

Because sustainability’s not a policy on the wall, it’s unrealised opportunity.

A FARMERS VOICE.. BioLogical is the united voice for organic, biodynamic and biological farmers at a commercial scale. A platform to reflect upon farming businesses broader and collective aims and visions 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, eaters, businesses and investors. We aim to offer a platform for education, inspiration and the 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.

CONTENTS What a time it is to be farming


Recovery & Listening || Eva Peroni


Bushfire Appeal Update || ORICoop


Fruit Fly Control || ORICoop


Hope is Contagious || Brenna Quinlan


Biodynamic Blueberries || Elizabeth Burns


Out of the Box || Deb Dogenhuber & Jade Miles


Australian Standard 6000 || Tim Marshall


Preserving Family Farms || Carolyn Suggate


Why Carbon Offset? || Rob Gell


Eco-Credit || ORICoop


Book Reviews




A Tale of Two Houses || Brenna Quinlan


ORICoop 4 Pillars Focus


Farmers need WWOOFers || Lynette Vint


A True Exchange of Empowerment || Cerys ap Rees


Natural Capital || David McFall


Farmer Guide to Soil Sampling Post Natural Disaster || Gerhard Grasser


Connect with ORICoop


We need to move beyond “transactional forms of listening to

something more transformational. Not only to reshape emergency response and recovery, but also to reshape our sense of community and the ties that bind us. Eva Peroni

BIOLOGICAL THE OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF ORICoop The Causeway Level 5, 306 Little Collins St Melbourne 3000 PRODUCTION EDITOR || Jade Miles GRAPHIC DESIGN || Cerys ap Rees ADVERTISING || Carolyn Suggate FRONT COVER || Tree over Dam COVER PHOTO || Josh Robenstone CONTRIBUTORS || ISSUE TWO Eva Peroni Jade Miles Carolyn Suggate Brenna Quinlan David McFall Deb Dogenhuber Elizabeth Burns Rob Gell Tim Marshall Lynette Vint Ellyn Bicknell Gerhard Grasser 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 || © 2021 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 the ORICoop guarantee the accuracy of statements made by contributors or advertisers, or accept any responsibility for what they may express in this publication.

We would like to introduce you to Achacha – think of the cha-cha with Ah in front of it. It is Bolivian by origin but like so much of our fantastic produce, Queensland is the equally perfect location. This is what these first group of entrepreneurs did - went to Bolivia, researched it all thoroughly and then brought it to Australia. Now established with domestic and export markets the largest plantation of the fruit and has plant breeder rights until 2036. This is an opportunity that does not come along very often as it is not the fruit that provides the most excitement, delicious as it is. Research and product development shows the use of the skin and the pulp means the whole harvest has its purposes.

This is a fruit you probably have ever never heard of, with a product range you may have never considered. When we finally got to try it ourselves with harvest this year it was Wow, wow and more wow. If we had another life, we would seriously consider buying it ourselves we are so impressed.

Eco Property real estate specialists all around Australia provide a range of services for property owners and real estate agents. Real estate for eco homes, farms, businesses, housing projects, in both urban and suburban, rural and regional.

Vic Taggerty Forest farm perfect for organic paddock to plate health and well-being retreat

NSW Lorne Organic farm and bushfoods on mid North Coast

NSW Milbrodale Organic vineyard and winery with potential for Hunter Eco Resort

NSW Armidale Greenchange lifestyle B&B with organic food and sustainability

The conversion to organics and biodynamics it is now ready for the next group of ecopreneurs. Suitable for a family or group buying with its 3 titles, 2 houses already and perfect site for a gorgeous eco homestead now, or one day. All located with easy access to a major regional centre and all the benefits of northern Australian lifestyle. Or, some of you do not even need to live there with many roles and functions within the business operations. What it does provide is an established business, the biggest plantation, plant breeder rights and an enormous upside for the entrepreneurial problem solver. For what is now another perfect product for Australian horticulture. Request the Prospectus. There is also an excellent Investor Presentation. It also qualifies for the Significant Visa Program. If not for you, think of anyone who is an engineer, creative, entrepreneurial in your family or networks, and introduce them to Achacha. 300 acres, more than enough water (water neutral), plenty of diversity.

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GROW YOUR SOIL Compost Equipment Compost Tea Brewers Compost Booster Ingredients Microbes and Soil Life

Phone: 1300 804 486

Image Courtesy of Jodi James

WHAT A TIME IT IS TO BE FARMING Hello there, Welcome to Issue two of BioLogical. George Washington said “farming is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man”. We agree unabashedly, although can’t help but feel the hypocritical bile rise in the throat given our knowledge of how detrimental industrial agriculture has been to our sustainable existence on the planet. We (humans) know we need to be fed and we know the western world is more urbanised than ever before so the number of folk capable of feeding themselves is fewer than ever before. The truth is, the majority of us have lost a connection to the land, the farmers and the food on our plate, in many regards we’ve lost the deep and primal knowledge of what it is that truly sustains us. An appreciation of our interconnected relationship with the natural world. Of course the journal in all its forms has weathered the last 18 months of drought, bushfire and covid 19 pandemic realities alongside our farming comrades. We salute these farmers - always - but particularly in the last 12 months when their reality has been filled with the vagaries of drought, fire, pandemic and now flood. ORICoop lurched into action with its bushfire recovery fund, this has evolved to become the ‘resilience fund’ so is now in the throws of supporting flood affected farmers. Issue two is a cracker! We’ve settled and deglossed a little since Issue one. This somewhat grittier version was intentional as we want the tales and knowledge oracles to shine in this twice yearly (for now) journal. You’ll find hope in the post fire story from an Adelaide apple orchard, get in-depth intel on carbon sequestration and eco credit programs, be prompted to consider the complexity of farming succession, learn how previously unused land is now being farmed in Mildura and Tim Marshall offers a ‘from the beginning’ explanation of the Australian organic certification standards’. Supporting those who grow our food might seem somewhat removed from our urbanised lives but growing food is actually everyone’s business. Enjoy the downtime that reading this affords you. Jade Miles & Carolyn Suggate and all the contributors who made this edition worth the read.

Jade is an ORICoop board member, regenerative orchardist, author and fair food advocate. Carolyn is an ORICoop board member, certified organic farmher and mum, passionate about land stewardship, access and family farm preservation.


Eva Peroni

Recovery & Listening:

Eva is a writer and PhD candidate who explores the ways food is produced, distributed, and consumed and its impacts on the environment and global health. Her work profiles environmental and community leaders crafting a positive vision for the future of food.

In the first six months of this new decade, cumulative environmental, economic, social and health crises have exposed an array of vulnerabilities across society, as well as the natural world. As we continue to struggle to respond and adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, and numerous countries navigate eruptive political and social unrest, some of the earlier yet equally immense events of 2020 seem like a lifetime ago. Australia’s turn of the decade witnessed an incomparable summer of devastating bushfires that scarred the nation and stunned the world. While the ashes may


BioLogical || a journal for change

have settled, the multiple, deeply pervasive impacts to Australian landscape, wildlife, and the very fabric of familiar life for individuals and their communities continue to unfold. For our nation’s farmers, the devastation was particularly deep. Often portrayed as stoic, lone rural underdogs pitted against a harsh and unrelenting environment, this farmer-as-Aussie battler image takes on new meaning when contextualised by the unparalleled intensity and duration of the Black Summer bushfires. There are those who lost loved ones,

friends or neighbours. Those who lost their homes, vital infrastructure and equipment, livestock and crops. There are many who have suffered major disruptions to their livelihoods, where the already significant daily workload of running a viable farming business is now done in addition to the arduous tasks of rebuilding what was lost. And with the megafires burning relentlessly for up to six weeks in some areas — at times threatening the same properties on multiple occasions from multiple firefronts — the traumatic and mental health impacts will

likely reverberate long after fences are rebuilt and pastures are resown. For many farmers directly impacted by the bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be severely disrupting the steps to recovery. Immediate needs like clearing debris, rebuilding homes and infrastructure, restarting businesses and regaining income, or the revitalisation of community organisations and spaces have all been put on hold. For some, these back-to-back shocks have arrived hand-in-hand with years of unrelenting drought. For others, the provision of information and resources to support their unique needs may be insufficient or inapplicable. Organic, biodynamic or regenerative farmers, for instance, are not able to accept conventional feed for their cattle, inputs like composts and fertilisers to rejuvenate the soil, or seeds, shrubs and trees to support farm recovery made available through charitable donations, as it would jeopardise their certification. No fire plan or emergency response is sufficient in safeguarding people and properties against such an unprecedented and unimaginable chain of catastrophes: you can only plan for what you can envision. So where do we start, as individuals, communities, cities and global networks, in the journey from disaster to renewal? To create meaningful pictures of not just the challenges

of recovery, but also of a collective ethics of care towards our communities and the Earth, we must remember the great value in taking time to listen. But the voices of impacted communities are often smothered by the sensationalist tendencies of the media or by a political environment and institutional culture that privileges ‘professional knowing’ over practical knowledge born out of years, if not lifetimes, of experience. And, while there may be community consultations or open hearings for community members to share their knowledge and experience, as is the case with bushfire inquiries, this local knowledge and experience can be overlooked or ignored when it reaches policymaking levels. According to a recent senate committee report on major bushfires in Australia, ‘previous inquiry processes have not resolved the issues that have been so consistently brought to the attention of governments.’ This is not the kind of listening we need. We need to move beyond transactional forms of listening to something more transformational - not only to reshape emergency response and recovery, but also to reshape our sense of community and the ties that bind us. For organic, biodynamic and regenerative farmers, having their voices heard and needs met particularly

during a crisis, can further be complicated by the fact that they are a relatively small group when compared to ‘conventional’ farmers. But there is a growing movement of farmer networks, community organisations, researchers and advocates working to share the many stories of these farmers: their courage, community action and resilience, alongside their struggles, frustrations and fortitude. Following are the stories of three organic and biodynamic female farmers who have each experienced the enormity of loss through fire. They do not centre on their individualised experiences of the bushfires, but draw on their insights garnered from the physical and emotional work of rebuilding their lives, homes, businesses and communities. They each speak of the importance of both listening and being listened to.

Kathy: The process of renewal starts with a conversation For several decades, Kathy and her partner Graham have been managing close to 600 acres of land as a family-owned organicturned-biodynamic farm Recovery & Listening || Eva Peroni


situated on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Their farm integrates a diversity of plant and animal life, with special attention and effort dedicated to building up the soil’s health and fertility. They faced the megafires for six ongoing weeks, coming under threat on multiple occasions. While they managed to salvage their house and shearing shed, the fires destroyed all of their farm infrastructure, machinery, tools and firefighting tank as well as their perennial pastures and immediate seed banks.

immediate and basic needs were met, the main onfarm priorities were urgent ones: clearing dangerous debris, replacing crucial infrastructure like water tanks and fencing, handfeeding remaining livestock, sowing crops, - all the while assessing the damages and sorting out insurance claims. In this exhausting space of rebuilding and recovery, there is little time or energy for anything else. Yet farmers, Kathy explains, also have to make the time and the trip into town for community recovery meetings.

‘Being biodynamic, our first instinct was to look after the soil that we had remaining,’ Kathy recalls. ‘So we sold off all [our livestock] bar our core-breeding stock, because we didn’t want anything roaming on the burnt paddocks to further damage the soil.’

‘Throughout the whole process, there hasn’t been somebody to come and sit down and actually go through with every farmer individually [to determine] what they need,’ says Kathy. ‘We all run our operations differently, be it organic or conventional, and even within those systems, everybody’s different. People’s immediate needs, and what they need to get them back on track are also different.’

Kathy and Graham have only recently begun to put a light number of stock back on their paddocks, giving the land and soil time to heal. But this doesn’t imply that they’ve otherwise been idle. Once the personal threat of fire had passed, and their


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Making time for individual conversations may not, at first glance, cohere with the urgency of addressing immediate needs. The time needed to develop a thorough understanding of the issues and opportunities, to acknowledge farmers’ history and culture, or to build and honour personal relationships, may seem at odds with both the ‘need for speed’ imperative in disaster response and the prevailing short-termism inherent in

government processes of community recovery. But the sad truth is that some farmers and community members have more experience being cut off, misunderstood or ignored in community recovery meetings than heard to their satisfaction. Building relationships and taking the time to listen to people’s stories, Kathy believes, can be more useful than following a checklist of to-dos that has been developed in some distant city office. It helps facilitate a necessary shift from an imposed, one-size-fits-all perspective of what can and will be offered, to one of seeing what can be created together and how it can best be achieved. Listening to the requisite variety of voices needed to make sense of the complexities and challenges may seem like extraneous work, but together these various viewpoints are what help guide the oftentimes messy, long-haul work of recovery. Kathy also highlights that calling or meeting people in the comfort and safety of their own homes may help reach some of the most severely affected community members who may be reluctant to seek help. ‘There are people that enjoy the solitude [of farming or rural life], but once their world is thrown into chaos, they don’t have the connections for support, and they generally are not going to ask for help,’ says Kathy.

‘There is a stigma associated with not coping, and some people do not want other people in their community to know [that they are not coping]. So CFS [Country Fires Service] volunteers need to drop in and have a cup of coffee or a phone chat … they need to go and see people.’ For some people, the offering of social support can be more important than what could otherwise be an overwhelming agenda of fixing, advising, advancing or doing. And for community members with the desire to help, Kathy once again advises that the process of recovery and repair starts with an honest, mindful conversation. ‘Make some scones and biscuits, go and find somebody you know, take it out there, sit down and talk to them about where they are at. Really focus on the person right in front of you. Then you may be able to find some way you could assist.’

Christine: The importance of a holistic culture of care Christine and Chris Watts grow five varieties of garlic with their three children on their family-owned and run farm Blue Sky Organics near Buchan Victoria. Their garlic is grown without the use of any pesticides, chemicals or artificial fertilisers and is handplanted, hand- weeded and hand-harvested. Their property is nestled in a remote area surrounded by state forest and their intent in farming ecologically is mirrored in their reverence for their surrounding bushland. In speaking to Christine, you gain a sense of the intimate connection her family has developed with their soils, crops and farm environment and how their work expands beyond tending to their crops to ecological stewardship.

impact on wildlife. They spent several weeks searching the surrounding bushland for native animals with heatsensitive binoculars. It was several weeks before they came across some wombats or heard the familiar sounds of birdsong. ‘[Assessing the impact on] wildlife was really our first port of call. The support that came in from around the world was simply amazing, it was absolutely brilliant. But it didn’t help save an inch of wildlife.’

‘There really are no words,’ Christine said.

Christine communicates a powerful reflection on conventional notions of care. She extends its significance beyond ensuring that the material and emotional needs of people are met to the care of animal and plant species that co-inhabit our common home. Enacting a holistic culture of care is central to the maintenance of the interdependent web of human, plant and animal life, and is embodied in her family’s sustainable farm management approach and ethos. They pay close attention to the longterm balance of natural resources related to their farmland, adjacent land and water and the presence and movements of wildlife, working with nature through thoughtful observation.

Reflecting their vision that all animals, plants, people and nature are to be treated with the best intent, Christine and Chris’s primary concern upon returning to their farm was the

Learning how to listen to the non-human world, as well as one another, is central to the process of recovery and renewal and key to cultivating a holistic culture of care.

On New Year’s Eve the bushfires went through their farm. As was the case in other parts of the country, there were several wildfires burning at once, with the biggest blazes burning for months. Already grappling with the difficult work of harvesting while surrounded by billows of smoke, the challenge of coping with the pervading sense of anxiety was immense.

Recovery & Listening || Eva Peroni


Kim: Acknowledging working through grief


Kim is a farmer and selfemployed regenerative agriculture coach and consultant at Integrity Soils working to empower farmers to create financially viable and healthy farming ecosystems to produce nourishing food. In her previous role as a rural financial counsellor, Kim has worked closely with farmers facing the aftermath of floods, droughts, fire and hailstorms, developing practical pathways to resilience to manage climatic variation and market volatility. Several months before the recent wave of bushfires swept across the country, Kim and her partner Angus suffered extensive damage to their property as a result of the Tingha Plateau fire in February, 2019. ‘The immediate impact of fire on our landscape brings trauma and extreme stress to the people who inhabit the landscape,’ Kim reflects. The form and course of this trauma and the subsequent working through of grief, Kim discovered, is not necessarily a linear process, but rather a distinct individual, social, and relational experience. ‘Emotionally this period of time felt to me like being on a pendulum, swinging between devastation for what had been lost, and gratitude for what we still had.’ Individual and community recovery from disasters can be a complex and often lengthy process, with different


BioLogical || a journal for change

people and environments recovering at different rates. Those impacted by the bushfires may experience a gamut of emotions — ranging from shock, sadness, anger, guilt, depression, disorientation, acceptance, or hope — and are likely to criss-cross this spectrum of emotions as they work through the grief process. Not only are they working through the loss of property, livestock, or livelihoods, but also the familiarity of daily life and its standard routines. Understanding some of the feelings and dynamics that underscore grief and trauma is an important step in people’s journey forward. Failure to express or process them may increase emotional distress or manifest in physical illness. This process of emotional recovery is just as essential and significant as the process of rebuilding and recovering the physical environment but receives far less emphasis in the public arena. Major disasters can inspire an initial outpouring of generosity and donations from communities near and far. But after the fires are out and the communities are safe, after the financial aid starts and then stops, after the world has turned its attention to the next major event, then comes the long-haul work of cultivating people-centred processes for recovery, restoration and renewal. Key to this process, Kim advises, is being careful not to impose expectations of

‘recovery’ on others suffering deep loss. Her advice echoes Kathy’s. ‘Create more space people to listen.’


Spaces that allow the safe ventilation of the feelings, fears, and concerns. Spaces that don’t impose premature reassurance or dictate a particular pathway for ‘returning to normal’. Spaces that facilitate communication across different ways of knowing, feeling and being in the world. ‘We often don’t hold space for active listening. People just want to placate the pain, to “fix it”, or to distract [those suffering a loss] from the trauma. We need to be mindful not to push people through a process they are not ready for,’ Kim said. ‘Let’s stop responding to disasters with stuff people don’t need, and instead connect with them on an emotional level.’ Towards renewal As the bushfires spread across the country, the world watched. Some say the severity of this summer’s bushfires might stimulate a paradigm shift in the thinking about emergencies and community recovery. But with the rapid-fire nature of news cycles, the shorttermism of political, social and emotional responses to disasters, and now, the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, the world, and many Australians

have already turned their attention elsewhere. How can a sustained, transformative dialogue about recovery and renewal emerge? One that doesn’t necessarily dictate a particular pathway for ‘recovery’ or ‘resilience’, but brings together the collective experiences, voices, and defined action of people from impacted communities? As each of the women sharing their stories communicate, providing opportunities for shared validation of people’s experience, that delicately and respectfully uncover the layers of stress, trauma, grief and loss, will be a significant starting point. To do so, we must make the time, within our daily lives, organisational structures or institutional cultures, to learn how to listen better. Some may think that the simple act of listening to another person is too passive

to make a meaningful difference in the context of a major disaster, but when done with care and respect, it can be both deeply cathartic and pragmatic. In her book, The Ethics of Listening, Elizabeth S. Parks outlines ten values as guidelines for good listening: be open, cultivate understanding, practice authenticity, engage in critical thinking, invest in relationships, care for the dialogue, focus on what matters, be intentionally present, remember the ongoing story, and be responsive to need. This deeper level of listening is often called ‘empathic’ or ‘attuned’ listening, where we attend fully to the emotions and experiences of another and allow them to feel heard and respected. This helps cultivate trust and respect, enables the speaker to release their emotions, reduces interpersonal

tensions, and encourages the surfacing of information that is conducive to collaborative problem solving. When someone practices this kind of listening, be they a friend or emergency worker, seemingly insurmountable problems can be brought to the light and broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces. It can be a powerful form of validation; that honours people’s time, validates their experience, their knowledge, and ultimately, their sense of self. It helps return the magnitude of a disaster to a more human scale and pace. In a world full of increasing complexities and challenges, we need to practice the kind of listening that allows us to engage, empathise and cooperate, so that we can better engage in a spirit of solidarity and repair. BACK TO CONTENTS

Recovery & Listening || Eva Peroni


Carolyn Suggate

ORICoop Bushfire Appeal Update A year on we continue our support for these farmers and other farmers in their time of need.

A year on from when ORICoop launched the bushfire appeal, we would like to honour all the recipients of the appeal. And the many donors that have offered their support in their time of need, and beyond. We are calling out to communities, businesses and farmers to continue to support bushfire affected


BioLogical || a journal for change

organic farmers. You or your business can register to volunteer for the upcoming ‘Organic Farm Blitz’, with a farm close to you. You can also contact us to coordinate an event, make seed pods, plant &/or grow seedlings or build native animal boxes. And we will ensure they get to your nearest bushfire affected farmers!

Affected Regions included: • Bega Valley • East Gippsland • Braidwood • Mid-North Coast NSW

Breakdown of $379,518 raised (and mostly distributed) bushfire appeal funds includes: • $89,000 cash raised • $28,907 donated organic inputs • $72,000 donated organic fodder • $14,611 freight subsidy (fodder) • $105,000 donated professional time • $45,000 donated volunteer coordination • $25,000 BCCM bushfire funds grant. We want to give a huge shout out to the many supporters of the Organic Farmers Bushfires Appeal that have offered their support towards the ongoing recovery of these farmers. • Dr Bronner – including their most recent appeal over January/February 2021 • CERES – offering significant financial and physical support • BCCM – Bushfire Appeal grant funds to extend the appeal to June 2021 • AgriSolutions – for Gerhards ongoing farm support and advisory • Organic Advisory Services – for Greg’s ongoing farm support and advisory • Nutri-Soil – for generous organic input donations • Vitec – for generous organic input donations • Omnia – for generous organic input donations • Australian Kelp – for generous organic input donations • Converte Plant Food – for generous organic input donations • Bio-Tech Organics – for on-

farm support and advisory • EAL – for generous at-cost soil tests for all farmers included in Appeal • 15 Trees – for their donations of trees and ongoing support into the next year • Southern Cross Certified, for reduced certification for bushfire affected farmers • Elmore Compost – for donation of organic compost • Peats Soil –for donation of organic compost • Benalla Mushroom Compost – for donation of organic compost • Organic Market & CAFE in South Australia for their fundraising efforts • Dunn & Walton in Western Australia dedicating coffee sales to bushfire appeal • Gung-Hoe Growers for their champion fundraising efforts • Next Rural – for their support in transition and succession discussions • Sheia from Life Force Farm – for her business reset coaching • Organic Angels – for their ongoing donations • Eva Perroni – for her heartfelt storytelling capacity for these farmers • Jade Miles – for hosting our zoom connect meets for our farmers • And …. our Bushfire Committee (Antony, Hugh, Christine & Carolyn) that have steered this ship through the seas! Where to from here? We are calling for sponsors interested to support Organic Farm Blitz projects for each of these farmers. Any donations

can be tax deductible, thanks to the generous support from Australian Mutuals Foundation (select bushfire appeal) Your business involved by:



• Sending a team to a farm for a team building weekend (teams of 3 – 20 welcome) • Donating/sponsoring the food required for each weekend (organic of course) • Sponsor an Organic Farm Blitz in your area (Sponsorship can be tax deductible) • Show your support by: • Registering for our volunteer crew for our next Farm Blitz in your area • Gather some friends to arrange your own fundraiser and donating to this cause • Sharing details of the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal • Sponsoring one of the Organic Farm Blitz events • Purchasing trees to be planted over the next 12 months • Suggesting to family and friends to pledge support instead of gifts • Suggesting to local businesses to make on ongoing pledge • Offsetting your carbon footprint directly with these farms via the Eco-Credit BACK TO CONTENTS

Bushfire Appeal Update || ORICoop




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


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



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 6. REPORT any suspect damage



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:




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


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


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



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.


Certifiers who are accredited with USDA


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


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.



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

IMAGES: Agribusiness Yarra Valley, RobBob’s backyard, Deb Yarrow and DISCLAIMER: This information is current at the time of printing, but should be verified by organic producers with their certifier at the time. ORICoop makes no verification as to the accuracy or interpretation of existing organic standards.






BioLogical || a journal for change

Elizabeth Burns

Biodynamic Blueberries:

Growing blueberries Biodynamically in Victorias Central Highlands I am a 5th generation Central Highlands farmer Victoria. My Cornish ancestors (Trewhellas) were berry farmers who bought raspberries with them in the 1850’s. They dug enough gold at Blackwood to buy their farm, famous for their berries and fruit until about 100 years ago, when my grandfather’s generation discovered there was a demand for their land clearing inventions. So for the past 100 years the Trewhella name was more associated with the Jack rather than berries. My dream has always been to return the Trewhella name as prime berry growers. So, it was an honour to be awarded a National ‘Delicious Produce’ gold medal this year.

Podolinsky on my return to Australia, it was not until the 1990’s that I started experimenting with his teachings.

I studied Agricultural Science at Melbourne University in the 1970’s. However, the application of this training to food production left me concerned about the impact on our soil, environment and human health. A traineeship in Denmark opened my eyes to a gentler, more sustainable form of food production that was reinforced by my travels through Europe and South America.

If fruit and vegetables tasted better and kept better, there would be much less food sent to landfill and a healthier population. However, if everyone decided to eat the recommended intake of fruit and vegetables, we would have to import 90% as our capacity to meet the dietary guidelines from our own production systems would not cope.

I first discovered Biodynamics at an Aid project in Ecuador. It was most appealing for its sustainability and did not involve purchasing inputs or seeds. While I looked up Alex

Despite a brief stint with the National Parks Service and as the Blueberry Industry Development Officer, most of my professional life was as a Community Health Dietitian, educating consumers about their food and developing Community Gardens. I farmed in my spare time. Raised on home grown (organic by default) food, I became increasingly concerned about the lack of flavour and keeping qualities in commercially produced food.

This is my journey in producing the best flavoured blueberries. My gold standard has been Moondarra. Having a loyal consumer base that seems addicted to our berries and willing to pay a

fair price, no matter what the rest of the industry is doing is more secure than being subjected to the free market price fluctuations/ Experiencing the extremes of environmental conditions over the last 11 years, has given me even more respect for the Australian Demeter Biodynamic method as developed by Alex Podolinsky. We have tools to deal with most situations. From drought, to flood, humid, hot or cold overcast summers, frosts and snow in late spring and last year potential flood conditions with 1500mm rain. It should be noted that these are merely observations from growing five of the oldest varieties (from Moondarra) on mature 30 year old roots at Musk in the Central Highlands of Victoria. The main varieties are Brigitte, Blue Rose and Denise from the early Knoxfield breeding program and Northland and Elliot from the USA. They were all planted in the early 1980’s by Shane Johnson and his partner Chris Wealthy who

Biodynamic Blueberries || Elizabeth Burns


established the Musk Berry Farm. I watched them develop a pristine 16 ac berry farm of a diverse range of berries with smaller plantings of Nashi Pears, Heritage Apples, Medlars, Feijoas and Chestnuts all designed to provide something to harvest over 9 months of the year. They provided employment to many of the youth of the area every summer for over 10 years. Their parents helped with the sorting, the farm gate sales and managed a Pick Your Own operation. However, a series of tragedies left Shane managing the whole operation on his own. I marvelled at his energy and commitment, Not realising that I would find myself in a similar situation many years later. 20 years ago he sold a pristine operation at its peak to a Melbourne family who struggled with the steep learning curve and health problems and it went backwards as the wild blackberry and broom moved in. We (my late partner, Peter Liddelow who had a Marketing & Tourism background and interest in Eco-Tourism nicely complemented my Agricultural Science degree) purchased the run down Musk Berry farm mid-winter 2005. However, he sadly developed health problems and died in 2012. While our two children have been a great help with their own individual talents, they are not farmers. Over the years I have wound back to an operation that I can


BioLogical || a journal for change

manage on my own I have been mentoring a couple of new growers who have planted newer varieties at Trentham so in time I will gain more knowledge of their characteristics. Denise requires a hotter climate than we generally have to bring out its full flavour, but then she is my buffer for when we do have hotter summers. But she is the most challenging to harvest and keep. The blueberry really needs to be treated as a unique plant rather than trying to adapt research from other plants, except for that done by the Viticulture Industry. Each farmer needs to work out what works best for them with their conditions. My aim has been to identify the factors involved in flavour development. It is flavour that sells & flavour that brings customers back. Unfortunately, the conventional food production systems research has focused on yield, transportability, appearance and shelf life. Breeding programs have also focused on these factors with flavour often an after-thought. While genetics is the basis of flavour potential, I believe that as much variation in flavour is derived from the growing conditions. Flavour guides us to what is ready or suitable to eat. Plants rely on a range of methods to spread into different environments and to maximise their genetic diversity to enable

adaptation to environments.


Blueberries use colour and flavour to be eaten at optimum time of seed ripening. They need to be eaten, passed through a digestive tract, preferably as far away as possible, for maximum survival. My varieties of Blueberries grow best in acid, low nutrient; high carbon (organic matter) well drained soils in full, cool sunlight. Research has suggested that their flavour and antioxidant levels are higher at higher altitudes and latitudes. Blueberries in their natural state rely on a relationship with a soil fungus for actively taking up nutrients from the soil as required, as they do not have feeder roots. These soil fungi require a high carbon diet. Many of my practices are directed at keeping this relationship happy. Unfortunately, conventional practices of fertigation (forcing soluble nutrients in with water) and herbicides destroys this fungus and produces a berry with less flavour, poor keeping qualities and more prone to pest and diseases. They also require more irrigation water. One of my first research areas was looking at the best source of carbon material to feed both the soil fungi, influence the flavour and provide weed control. In the process of assessing flavour (via pickers and customer feedback) I learnt that flavour perception partially depended on the

age and sex of the consumer. However, the ultimate flavour was uniformly selected as the best by all of my tasters. I set up a trial to see whether there was a link between flavour and antioxidant levels. That is, does flavour help us determine what is best for us? I lined up the nutrition department at one of our major universities with the state of art antioxidant testing equipment so students could analyse the 20 samples collected over the season at different stages of ripening. The same samples were submitted to my taste panels. Sadly the samples submitted to the University were lost and I could not match the taste panels’ assessment with the phytochemical composition of the berry. However, I did learn that while most people agree on the absolute peak of flavour, there is a continuum on either side of the acid/sugar balance for preferences in taste. Mature women seem to appreciate the early ripening with more fullness of blueberry flavour and less sugar, while men and children prefer the over sweetness at the end of the ripening process. After several years of testing different mulch materials, I’ve settled on wood chip from our Blackwood/Eucalypt pruning’s as the most effective weed control, but our old hay (with up to 40 different plant species) gives the best flavoured blueberries. So I’m now alternating them. Last year, I needed to clear out old hay, in preparation for a bumper hay season, so all

the blueberries were mulched with this hay that to my surprise still had some green clover leaf evident and my cows still relished. Better still is the hay left out over winter as its partially degraded and the wood chips are best left for a couple of years to start their breakdown process. As blueberry plants cannot translocate (move water and nutrients from branch to branch), the whole root zone needs to be moist and have equal access to nutrients. If I was setting up a new plantation, I would prefer micro-jet irrigation. But as my plants are nearly 30 years old with very deep and expansive root systems (over a metre depth) and an average 1000 mm rainfall, they do not require irrigation. Instead, I use the previously installed drip system as an adjunct to rain. Or I use it as a cooling system during the extreme heat events, the evening before a predicted hot day.

flavour. Our native heath in the bush surrounding the blocks brings in a range of indigenous pollinators in August, prior to the blueberries flowering in September when it is still too wet and cold for the honey bees that become more active later in the flowering season. The eastern spine bill birds also visit the blueberry flowers when it’s too wet for any insect to work the flowers. An entomologist friend has a special interest in indigenous pollinators. So far she has identified over 30 different species and suspects that our potato industry could also play its part. A couple of seasons ago, flowering started too early for the bees, but pollination did not seem affected.

The size of the berry is related to pollination. Having a diverse range of pollinators maximises pollination and therefore size and yield. They also prefer cross pollination with different varieties, so mixing several varieties that flower at the same time gives a better pollination rate and larger berries. I used to curse Chris and Shane for taking this advice too literally so different varieties are mixed within the rows making harvesting even more challenging. Until last summer I came across a Brigitte surrounded by Northland with even cherry sized blueberries and intense Biodynamic Blueberries || Elizabeth Burns


When we lost 90% of our blueberry blueberry flowers during a week of late frosts and snow in October 2006; Alex suggested that we should use the Valerian spray the next spring at the first sign of a frost in the late afternoon during flowering. This has been an enormously valuable tool as one can feel the warmth and protection of the Prep 507 Valerian spray, which is used sparingly. Very few blueberries have been lost due to frost since. But as the Bramble berries flower later, I had not been giving them a Valerian spray until the year before last, the berries from the bottom half of each plant was lost to a


BioLogical || a journal for change

late frost. So they too are included in the Valerian spray program. .The production system that has evolved over the last 10 years commences in Autumn around the Equinox as the blueberries that ripen after this date, do not seem to have as good a flavour nor keeping qualities except for this last season, they surprised me with continued ripening up to late April. I attributed this to sunlight hours rather than temperature. As soon as the harvest is finished, the plants all get a good soaking either from the dam but preferably from the sky. This aids the plant in forming fruit buds for next season.

The nets are then removed for the birds to complete the final clean up; inter-rows mowed and any remaining mulch raked out to provide maximum access for the Biological soil Activator Prep500 to make contact with the soil. Ideally, the mulch has broken down by itself and doesn’t need to be removed. Applying the mulch in Spring is a skill in itself to work out just enough to cover the soil but allowing for summer rain and air to penetrate and for most to be reabsorbed into the soil by Autumn. Once the Prep 500 has been sprayed out, compost making starts while waiting

for full dormancy to commence pruning. The window of opportunity for pruning is getting smaller and smaller each year. So this becomes the priority on every dry day. Pruning’s are left in the rows to dry out enough to be mulched in with the spring slashing. The Fruit Tree prep made from Clay, Cow Manure, Sulphur and Potassium Silicate is applied as soon as pruning is complete. This seals the bark from over wintering pests and diseases and provides some nutrition at bud burst. It has particularly been effective in protecting my plants from Elephant Weevil damage. This is the major pest to Victorian growers. The spring 500 is applied as the soil warms up after which the compost is spread and covered with mulch. This happens around flowering, so gives me a great opportunity to watch that pollination is occurring and to watch out for impending frosts. I always carry a pair of secateurs for minor pruning and sometimes a final bit of weeding around the base of each plant to allow good air circulation. The sight of small green blueberries developing always brings great pleasure. The Preparation 501 (ground quartz silica) is sprayed out early one morning in moist conditions and avoiding strong sunlight. Nets to protect from birds are then rolled out as loosely as possible to ensure that they

remain in place until postharvest. Then when the Currawongs turn up, I know the blueberries are ready. They only come when the blueberries are at their peak flavour. They sit on the top of the nets and harvest those I cannot reach. They are territorial and discourage the parrots and strangers of all sorts. In fact, as the parrots are seed eaters, I have found that leaving patches of grass go to seed gives them an alternative and preferable feed source. I get the sense it’s the same flock coming back each year and we have developed a kind of understanding of each other. It is essential to harvest berries at their peak ripening during the cool of the day and keeping berries cool maximises their keeping qualities. Blueberries cannot ripen post harvest. Underripe blueberries literally implode from inside and become mouldy in storage. There is nothing that can be done with an under ripe blueberry and given that they put on a further 25% in weight to full ripening, harvesting under ripe blueberries affects the final yield. Whereas, a perfectly ripe blueberry picked and kept cool, can last 3 months in the cool room, minimising waste. I’ve done the bulk of the picking over the last two seasons, as it also provides me with feedback on my pruning techniques and environmental factors

influencing flavour. Blueberries rely on photosynthesis from full sunlight reaching the leaves, preferably the earliest morning sun possible. The best berries are well hidden in the leaf canopy. If the temperature rises above 30 degrees, the leaf shuts down and the ripening process is hindered by lack of sugar development. However, the tart blueberry holds its flavour better in the freezer, so hot weather is not a real problem. As with all fruit, nut and vegetable production, there are gluts during the peak season that need to be managed. For me, freezing not only improves the nutritional value of the berry, but evens out my income during the off season. Frozen berries have more available antioxidants. Traditionally, blueberries would be dried by the Native Indians for use over winter. All the research into the health benefits of blueberries has been done on the freeze dried form as it can be powdered and put into capsules for double blind crossover trials. We are just assuming that the same health benefits are in the fresh form. One of the other observations gained by doing my own picking is the interaction with other plants in flavour development. I have counted over 40 different plant species growing on my land that makes up my hay and the inter row plants, that has led me to observe that blueberries that are genetically identical have a

Biodynamic Blueberries || Elizabeth Burns



BioLogical || a journal for change

variation in flavour partly due to the neighbouring plants that chose to grow within their root zone. For instance Eucalypts bring in a menthol flavour. Docks indicate drainage problems and blueberries do not thrive in poor drainage and can taste off; clover suggests that the pH may be getting too high and sorrel indicates that the pH is perfect. A selfsown currant bush amongst the blueberries brought a sourness that no amount of sun can shift – so it’s coming out this winter. All good traditional farming was a mixed system with animals and plants complementing each other. While my animal production has been to support my horticultural enterprises, I am about to explore horticulture as a support to animal production while meat prices are good and waiting for Australian consumers to appreciate quality plant foods. I have a small herd of Dexter cows (a dual purpose, small Irish cow that is easy on the land, quiet, calves easily and can be milked or provide meat) grazing my paddocks and provides us with good fire protection, weed control, manure and meat and a source of converting waste horticultural produce. My neighbours are part of my Demeter certification and so get the value of living on a certified Demeter biodynamic property, sharing produce and save fossil fuel and costs from slashing every spring. Animals graze neatly up to the fence line. I also get

a great buffer zone around my berry production; manure and hay for compost making AND best of all extra sets of eyes at calving time. Dolphins Hill is unique in its mineral composition. The water that flows from its many springs is pristine. Sometimes, I wonder just how much the water contributes to the flavour. My poultry are producers of high phosphate manure to complement my cow manure in the compost. Some years ago, Alex suggested that I incorporate Blood and Bone into my compost as we both agreed that the blueberries were showing signs of insufficient phosphate. I decided to try my poultry manure first, which I had left out knowing that blueberries do not like excess Nitrogen. The idea that I could raise poultry under my blueberries as a pest and disease control and fertilizer system is also something to explore further. Diversification of product and markets and the interrelationships between enterprises helps with economic survival in farming. Flavour and word of mouth not only is the best marketing tool but also saves landfill from the alleged 40% of food that is discarded each year. I suspect that a lot of food is purchased and not eaten due to poor flavour or keeping qualities and therefore discarded. If a food system was based on flavour and good keeping qualities, a lot of waste and fossil fuel could be saved. The improved nutrition from an increased consumption of fruit and vegetables could

have great savings to the health budget. Last summer, I set myself the challenge to harvest every berry at its peak flavour. Effective netting resulted in less than 1% wastage until a hiccup at the end of season with a transport issue, which increased my losses to 10% - still a lot lower than the conventional industry. However, to achieve such efficiency requires superior skilled labour than is available and produces a more expensive product. Having worked out how to produce a well flavoured blueberry that can last 3 months in the fridge with minimal inputs and waste, I will now turn my attention to educating consumers to support such food systems and other growers prepared to put in the labour. Ultimately, I believe that it is the development of the Australian Demeter Biodynamic method by Alex Podolinsky that has the capacity to provide superior quality food, with less inputs, less waste and less water. To be fully present and in tune with the farm and timing of processes simply does not give time for off farm work. This is our greatest challenge – to enable farmers to be fully present on their land and paid a fair return for their labour.


Biodynamic Blueberries || Elizabeth Burns


Jade Miles & Deb Bogenhuber

Out of the Box: Matching farmers with unused land for their local food systems. Tell us a little about the out of the box and food next door project. Food Next Door Co-op is the organisation and Out Of The Box is the food product created to provide a means for distribution of local fresh food. Based in Mildura, with vast multiculturalism and newly established refugees moving into the area, their farming skills were underutilised.

“Food Next Door matches under-utilised farmland with landless farmers to support small-scale regenerative farming, growing diverse crops & engaging people from diverse backgrounds to supply food to local households.” Tell us a little about the food system in your region? Mildura is dominated by food grown for export - 99% of the table grapes are exported from the region. There are still a lot of family owned farms but large scale and commodity focussed. The majority of what’s grown


BioLogical || a journal for change

is table grapes, wine grapes and dried fruits + almonds are also increasing. So the local food system has a very small market share. There are 15 supermarkets in the Mildura region alone some have local produce but if they do it’s mostly travelled to Melbourne and then come back. How has the project evolved and developed? Food Next Door came about via a group of community members who had identified a need for better access to local food and the realisation that there was a lot of empty unused land in Mildura which would be ideal for food growing. Some of the land owners were open to having their land used for the purposes of growing local food. It was when this group of volunteers connected with a research project that Food Next Door evolved. The project being carried out by researchers from the Universities of Melbourne and Wollongong looked at

the skills and knowledge of new migrant farmers in Australia, and how their skills and knowledge of farming translated in the Australian context. The main finding for new migrant farmers in Mildura was that their skills and knowledge were not being utilised because the farmers did not have the resources to access land. So Food Next Door formed from bringing together farmerless land, landless farmers and consumers who wanted local food. It was a perfect outcome. Out of the Box was born in September 2017 with 30 family boxes and now they do 70 boxes weekly. There are now 12 or so local growers that supply produce, plus our own farms - the Community Demonstration Farm and River Farm. The community demonstration farm offers farm tours to stakeholders and hopes to offer tours for school programs in the future. In your experience, how can we assist more ecological farming practices?

We are about to launch our own PGS (participatory guarantee system) with 2 farmers plus the Food Next Door farms as a trial. This is as much about building support systems and education opportunities as it is about certification. The food produced by members of the PGS will be offered priority for supply to Out of the Box and a premium price. Why was this initiative so important for your community? It’s the one vehicle that Mildura has for locally grown food to guarantee a fair return for growers, it’s transparent about the growing practices and it supports those with farming skills. Out of the Box is a subscription model so there is a consistent weekly order, this gives growers security of planning for what they are going to grow each season. Food Next Door also offers a training course for new migrant farmers who can then sell what they grow to an established market; so as well as learning how to grow they also learn about ordering cycles, post harvest management, and business management. What are the primary challenges for biological farming practices in your region? The established organic

growers tend to be medium scale and they sell everything to the Melbourne markets. The really small scale growers are faced with the challenge of finding a strong path to market. The farmers market operates twice per month and getting a stall is difficult due to competition control. There is an appetite in the area from consumers to buy biologically grown food but connecting the growers and the eaters is the biggest challenge. What are some of the opportunities/complexities of working with a broad range of cultures? English language and literacy levels range from very low to good, so multilingual staff are needed for the project. We have a translator-artist on the team who is engaged to translate more complex ideas into graphics. How do you share the knowledge you’ve gleaned in the last five years? We are forever sharing at every opportunity. We are often Invited onto panels, discussions, workshops, conference presentations and we distribute a quarterly newsletter. Social media and our website are a powerful tool. Lots of local media! How can eaters connect better with their local

multicultural communities? There are always opportunities to volunteer on local food projects, becoming a member of Food Next Door Co-op and actively shopping there. Attend on-farm harvest feasts and regenerative farming workshops. What farming practices are your farmers using? Our farmers are Burundian and Congolese: All of our farmers have always farmed using organic practices. They come from a place with a very different climate and different soil so that’s been a very steep learning curve but they’ve accepted the biodynamic ethics with ease - they are very spiritual people and the spiritual dimension of biodynamics sits comfortably with them. Is there one other pearl of wisdom you can share with Biological readers? We have a really great opportunity in Australia to expand and develop this type of farming with our African migrants which is a growing community in Australia. They are all connected to farming so their skills and their knowledge is intuitive. It’s in their blood. It’s a really unique opportunity to see food growing through their eyes. BACK TO CONTENTS

Out of the Box || Deb Bogenhuber


Tim Marshall

Australian Standard 6000 (AS6000): History, status and relevance to the future of the organic industry The first organic certifications in Australia were implemented in the early-mid 1970’s by the Organic Food Movement (OFM), a short lived South Australian venture, and the BDRI (Bio-Dynamic Research Institute), which is still in existence. Neither organisation produced a significant written standard. OFM used a twopage document and BDRI used the International Demeter Standard, but it was not widely disseminated, even among certified operators. The first written organic standard in Australia was produced by the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia Ltd. (NASAA) in 1987, and it was followed by the


BioLogical || a journal for change

Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA) Standard in 1988. BFA transformed into Australian Organic Ltd. (AOL), and these two ‘private standards’ are still in existence. In 1990 the Department of Agriculture established the Organic Produce Advisory Committee (OPAC) which produced the National Standard for Organic and BioDynamic Produce (the National Standard), first published in 1992, and the current version is 3.7 available here. The National Standard was the first organic standard in the world to be fully operational (USA and EU standards were under development but not

implemented). The National Standard was mandated under the Export Control (Organic Produce Certification) Orders, by the Federal Minister of Agriculture, and applied to exports only. It became the default ‘domestic standard’, there being no other available document, but it had no legal force. In 1989 NASAA had made an approach to the ANZ Food Authority, the precursor to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), to request regulation of the word organic, and the Department of Agriculture made a formal request in 1992. Both were refused.

In August 2007, the ACCC brought a case against an egg producer, G O Drew P/L, and Timothy Drew, the Manager, for selling eggs with the NASAA label, in contravention of the Trade Practices Act. They were fined $270,000 plus costs but Justice Grey said that he could only find them guilty of misusing the NASAA label and could not determine if the eggs were indeed organic. About $30,000 of the fine went to NASAA, as the offended party, and the remainder was used by the Organic Federation of Australia (OFA) to encourage Standards Australia to develop the Australia Standard (AS) 6000 Organic and Biodynamic Products, and the associated control document, the MP100 Procedures for certification of organic and biodynamic products. The MP deals with technical matters that do not appear in the standard itself, such as equivalence, conformity assessment, competent authorities, and other systems for determining what is an acceptable standards and certification system, and whether the products of that system can be included in

AS6000 compliant operations. The AS6000 does not mandate certification or labeling, so it remains possible to sell organic products that are not certified. However, the courts and the ACCC may refer to Australian Standards and could determine that produce clearly not in compliance with AS6000 is not eligible to be sold with an organic claim. The current situation 1n 2021, two standards are used by the Australian organic industry. The National Standard and export control orders regulate export and is used by five CBs (NASAA Certified Organic, Australian Certified Organic, AUS-Qual, BDRI and OFC), and the AS6000 is used by Southern Cross Certified (SXC). In fact, the landscape of standards is more complicated than that, and farms, handling operations and produce are often certified and recertified using the two private standards owned by the largest certification bodies (CBs) or to compliance systems in other countries, for export facilitation, in accordance with deals negotiated by the CBs. Private

standards may also be used for domestic-only certification (e.g. a small grower scheme operated by NASAA) or organic inputs (e.g. allowable fertilisers or crop protectants) or for retailer certification. The application of separate standards in export and domestic markets is not compliant with WTO policies, which demands one standard, and therefore will inhibit attempts to negotiate mutual recognition arrangements with other countries. Mutual recognition, such as we have with the EU (for most categories of certified organic product) and Japan (for fewer categories) is generally cheaper and preferable for exporters because it avoids the need for the CBs to negotiate individually with foreign countries or certifiers, and it avoids replication of the audit process as part of those arrangements. The current push for domestic legislation developed by AOL is supported in principle by the entire organic industry, but the dominant view of AOL about how to formulate the legislation

The AS6000: History, and status and relevance to the organic industry || Tim Marshall


is not, especially their refusal to consider anything other than the National Standard as the relevant foundation document. The most common view is that the AS6000 already has some applicability in the domestic market, and that we have not done our due diligence as industry managers unless we consider the cost, benefits, and problems with each of the standards, and that whatever standard is selected should be used in both domestic and export situations. Broad applicability will require amendments to

whichever standard (and standard management system) is selected, to make it fit for purpose, so why limit our choices by not considering the AS6000 in this important consideration? Only one document has compared the National Standard and the AS6000 with respect to their suitability for use in both domestic and export conditions. That is a Deloitte report Organic Orders Review, delivered to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (as it was then called) and distributed

Ladybeetles are our “heroes when it comes

to keeping aphids away from our stonefruit and brassicas!!

Ellyn Bicknell


BioLogical || a journal for change

to the organic industry at the Canberra ‘Love Organic’ workshop in February 2018. The Organic Orders Review does not definitively propose either standard as the basis of future regulation, but it does make many comments in favour of the AS and it raises doubts about all the considerations usually cited against the AS6000. Whichever standard is selected, the following issues are relevant and critically important: The standard should benefit all producers, processors and traders regardless of which

Image Courtesy of Ian James, Western Australian organic grain producer

certification system they use. The AS6000 requires some minor updating to be equivalent to the National Standard, and MP100 needs changes to incorporate current/future administrative arrangements. A single standard must be able to manage organic claims in domestic and export markets and include clear rules for acceptance of imported organic produce. The Standards Australia (SA) standards management system is widely respected as an exemplary system (and importantly emphasizes broad industry and consumer representation). The Organic Industry Standards and Certification Council (OISCC)

is currently responsible for managing the National Standard. Membership of OISCC does not include consumer representation and Organic Industries Australia (OIA, the new peak body for the organic industry, that has now replaced OFA) has requested OISCC to broaden its membership beyond certifier interests. The AS6000 would likely be acceptable to all our current export trading partners. Continuing to operate a domestic and international standard is not acceptable and will prevent negotiation of mutual recognition between Australia and our major trading partners. It is not clear which standard is

cheaper to run and a thorough evaluation of cost must include current expenditure on maintaining the National Standard and the cost of CBs individually negotiating market access. Neither standard is currently ‘owned’ by the organic industry, but the AS6000 could be produced by a Standards Development Organisation (SDO) established by the organic industry. The SDO should be owned by the organic industry (ideally established by OIA with engagement of all CBs, producers, processors and consumer interests). Whichever standard is used must be readily and freely available to current and intending certified operators. BACK TO CONTENTS

Australian Standard 6000 || Tim Marshall


Image Courtesy of Frank Harvey (and Grandson)

Carolyn Suggate from ORICoop

Preserving Family Farms - One by One Organic farming investment opportunities for co-investors Through the establishment of ORICoop and embarking on the daunting journey of preserving family farms, we are excited to share our learnings and pathways towards seeing more farms retained by existing organic farming families, by aligning ethical co-investors to be part owners and to enable the next generation access to affordable and profitable organic farmland. Raising capital and talking about investment is complex! It’s prickly with family, can go south with friends, and can be just plain awkward with others! To successfully preserve


BioLogical || a journal for change

some of the existing, profitable organic farms around Australia - we need to explore ways to connect capital with people to protect the future of sustainable farming in Australia. ORICoop has established a pathway for farmers to register their interest in seeking external capital in their family farm. There are some key steps in this process: • Establish the physical parameters of farm • Ascertain the family dynamics of a farm transition • Consider the future production potential of the farm (and diversity)

• Establish a farm management plan for the next 5+ years • Explore suitable investment structures based on the coinvestors • Create an Investment Proposition that investors understand This process takes time, trust and money. It’s not a fast process, and sometimes it doesn’t end the way you thought. This can be through family dynamics, capital appetite, profitability or farm management expectations. Beyond the mechanical process of farm transitions, there is also

an underlying pressure of how we as people view ‘farm ownership’ and investment. Including our expectations of returns, both financially, environmentally and socially. What if there was a new normal of ‘land commons’ that set aside significant land. That preserved it for our next generation of farmers, like land was in our earlier days. That land was valued on these key parameters of food, people, land and culture. And not just as a commodity that is ‘valued’ and extracted upon for what it produces. We are excited by the variety of investment concepts across farmland that we are working on. Including organic cropping farms, organic dairy, multiple enterprise farms, vertical integration plus education and research opportunities. Over the coming months ORICoop will host a number of farm owner/investor think tank conversations. So farmers are empowered to formulate and structure

the business, transition and investment strategy and deep dive their investment concepts with feedback from experienced and aligned potential investors. And to look at ways that we can support our farm members to raise additional capital they need to expand their farm, buy out a larger share or move to a new enterprise. We hope that you will join us as part of the crowd, either as a co-investor, a customer of the farm, or a supporter of the farmer!

to enjoy an Investor visit over time as well! Investment Criteria Guide • Existing certified organic farmland (or managed organically) • Suitable & appropriate farm management • Located in suitable regional area (community and climate) • Suitable farm infrastructure • Business with good resilience & diversity • Good water and land security

These are the steps required for you to invest into these organic farmland opportunities: 1. Become an ORICoop member 2. Read our Disclosure Statement 3. Read the Investment Documentation provided 4. Nominate your Investment choice 5. Purchase Investor Shares here

As a co-investor you will get to enjoy the feedback on the farm. The annual report of your investment. And depending on the farm get


Preserving Family Farms || Carolyn Suggate



BioLogical || a journal for change

Rob Gell, Executive Director, ReThink Sustainability.

Why carbon offset?

Many people are looking for ways to help manage the climate crisis we all face.

Farmers in particular observe changes in climate that are critical to long term farm management and to maintaining productivity. Understanding the issue, many are developing new techniques for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in production cycles. Businesses are also beginning to understand that their contribution to reducing climate changing emissions through operations not only reduces costs but offers an opportunity for product differentiation in competitive markets. Consumers are increasingly aware of their purchasing power and becoming more

discerning about the products they purchase. Many identify and preferentially purchase products that demonstrate reduced impact on the global climate. Sustainability is being assessed at all levels in the production, manufacturing, marketing and retailing, consumption continuum. Major food companies and organisations are working to improve the sustainability of the food industry by reducing waste, improving packaging and responding to consumer demand for healthier choices. Regenerative and organic

agriculture provides an opportunity for companies to move their products and supply chains from being carbon-emitters to being part of a solution that fights climate change, maintains biodiversity while supporting farmers and building more resilient agriculture systems . Increasingly standards are being set and measurement and monitoring programs are being initiated to ensure that production processes deliver

emissions reduction targets to meet global emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement.

Why Carbon offset? || Rob Gell


‘Carbon-neutral’, ‘net-zero’ or ‘climateneutral’? These terms all reflect a desire to reduce an organisation’s impact on the climate and are in effect an alternative version of a target. A carbonneutral target relates to carbon dioxide only, whereas a ‘net-zero’ goal includes all greenhouse gases, and a ‘climate-neutral’ goals extends to other effects such as radiative forcing . As a first positive step on the journey towards netzero emissions, a ‘carbon neutral’ goal is a strategy to reduce net emissions by purchasing carbon offsets in tree-planting or soil carbon projects, energy efficiency or renewable energy projects to reach a carbon-neutral target immediately. This requires measurement of your organisation’s emissions to determine how many


BioLogical || a journal for change

offsets or ‘credits’ you need to purchase to become ‘carbon neutral’. Your emissions profile includes emissions from vehicles and company facilities and indirect emissions from purchased electricity and gas for heating and cooling. This can be extended to include emissions from upstream activities such as waste, transportation, travel and downstream activities such as processing, use and treatment of sold products . The important ‘first step’. Before you ‘jump in’ to installing solar panels to reduce your dependence on fossil-fuel energy or purchase credits to offset your entire emissions profile you should minimise your operational demand on energy use. This

energy efficiency assessment will identify where your emissions can be minimised and you can save money too. An energy management framework provides for a sequenced approach to an understanding of your energy use and includes contracting, monitoring, efficiency, generation and storage opportunities. To start the process ReThink Sustainability offers a no cost, no obligation, retailer obligation service which will confirm whether or not you are currently paying the lowest available cost contracts for energy provision (electricity and gas). The process is managed by accessing the website: www.leadingedgeenergy.

If a better contract is available a new contract option will be communicated to you for your consideration. Energy monitoring tools such as carbonTRACK are relatively inexpensive and are particularly valuable if solar energy generation and storage is employed. A range of technologies are now available that will deliver significant energy efficiency improvements in normal use and subsequent costs reductions. Retrofitting with LED lights typically deliver a 40- 60 % energy saving. Retrofit of refrigeration compressors with Variable Speed Drives typically delivers an operational energy/cost saving of 30 - 60%. Depending on a facility’s requirements, retrofitting with improved efficiency hot water units can deliver considerable savings of approximately 50%. After energy demand is understood a photovoltaic solar installation should be considered together with battery storage to provide valuable flexibility. So the mantra “reduce what you can, offset the rest” applies. Shrink your impact then offset what’s left. Introducing The Eco-Credit™ ORICoop brings together these different components

and offers the Eco-credit™ as an opportunity to offset your carbon footprint to become carbon neutral, directly benefiting organic and regenerative farmers. The Eco-Credit™ utilises the organic certification audit process as its basis and in doing so values farmland, biodiversity, nature and wildlife as environmental assets, while assessing the natural capital footprint of the overall agricultural production system. Importantly Eco-Credits provide the opportunity to promote and transition the uptake of organic farming to agriculturalists, organic products to consumers and directly connects businesses to farmland and farmers by enabling investment in organic farms (via the EcoCredit) to offset greenhouse gas emissions for business. Farmers can benefit from the value of their natural capital value by implementing fundamental and sustainable principles of organic agriculture, and measuring them! To improve productivity and address ecological outcomes and parameters, while restoring and improving the surrounding landscape for long term and mutual benefit.

accounting standards[1] [2] farmers can capture the value of existing and future investments that have been undertaken to maintain and improve their natural capital. Through standardised accounting metrics, these records then provide validity to the businesses that are interested in their carbon, biodiversity and water footprints, and also in the wider view of ecological and natural capital preservation and restoration. See our next edition for further information and the first case studies of existing organic farmers involved in the Eco-Credit.

Using global natural capital

Hungry for more || Watch out for further details about this ground breaking concept that brings together businesses, farmers, the land and our communities for the better.

You can register for Eco-Credit here..


Rob Gell || Executive Director, ReThink Sustainability





The Eco-Credit™ is designed for businesses and farms to directly reduce our collective carbon

footprint. Through the Eco-Credit™ ORICoop aims to improve the advocacy to practice regenerative land management that increases carbon and ecological health into farmland over time. Eco-Credits enable businesses and farms to mutually benefit each other by a direct carbon offset. Enabling better market opportunities, shorter supply chains and best practice knowledge around carbon neutrality and healthy farm systems. An ecological and farmer driven market instrument that offers a pathway to a stronger, sustainable and more robust organic and regenerative farming industry. That is empowered to withstand existing market pressures on farm production systems, together with diversified, measured and beneficial outcomes. Demonstrated by transparent supply chains, increased food security, reliable on-farm market data, and a transparency that enables farmers to be rewarded for their work with full supply chain and business footprint knowledge and traceability.


Measure your current emissions and take active steps to reduce them.



Offset the balance via the purchase of an Eco-credit™


With targeted incentives that relate directly to ecological benefits of the soil, land, biodiversity and water systems. Eco-Credits™ provide measurable outcomes of land stewardship in terms of nature, wildlife, animals, land sustainability and long term ecological preservation and restoration




BioLogical || a journal for change

Through farm to end consumer supply chain transparency, consumers are able to fully understand the whole carbon footprint ecosystem.


THE VISION: To strengthen our food and farming communities we need to connect them more closely. Working towards long term adaptation and adoption of best practice for regeneration


of farmland, ecological systems, communities and our food system.

BIODIVERSITY QUALITY THIS INCLUDES: Vitalise capital to connect business, food and farming for long term sustainable outcomes


Improve farmers capacity to capture the value of natural capital in their farming systems Empower businesses to achieve carbon neutrality and long term sustainability

An exchange of Eco-Credits™ provides a credible and definable mechanism that connects our carbon footprint from business to farmers for long term and direct co-benefit to farmers and the land.





OUTCOMES OF ECO-CREDITS Eco-Credits enable conscious businesses to offset their carbon footprint directly with organic farmers. Eco-Credit™ commitments include increasing the amount of carbon stored in the soil and improving the area and quality of biodiversity across each farm ecological system. Each Eco-Credit™ beneficiary is assured of these outcomes via the Annual Report including: Verified soil carbon increase Biodiversity quality and increase Ecological verification including birds, insects, wildlife & water quality Tree planting evidence Eco-Credits™ are only retired once





Book Reviews ||

Sand Talk: || Tyson Yunkaporta Reviewed by Jade Miles

Sand Talk is an extraordinary reading experience. Yunkaporta’s goal was to “start out-of-thebox conversations with everyday people to generate diverse dialogues about resolving some of the complex sustainability issues facing the world”. Written from the perspective of a culture more than 60,000 years old, his goal was achieved. But of course it’s not so simple . Like many of Australia’s First Peoples, he has a complex identity and history but it’s this that gives him authority to write in a way which connects the wisdom of the past to the needs of the future. This book demands a longer term perspective. It’s both philosophical and practical, compassionate yet realistic. It’s filled with humility and an other-worldly understanding of humanity. At the core of Sand Talk is a deep respect and understanding for Indigenous Knowledge. He urges us to consider the non linear complexity of the world. A world without hard and fast rules, times frames and industrialised expectations. He challenges our expectations, points out cultural shortcomings and invites us to recognise indigenous concepts and their history. Importantly he shows how these patterns have the potential to be incorporated into our non indigenous thinking which builds hope and possibility to benefit us all - all through the simple art of telling a ‘yarn’. A spectacular read that has the potential to shift the thoughts of a generation.


BioLogical || a journal for change

The Regenerative Grower’s Guide to Garden Amendments || Nigel Palmer Reviewed by Catie Payne

Reading Nigel Palmer is like putting on a pair of prescription glasses for the first time. Suddenly all this extraneous stuff -- weeds, debris and waste -- draws into focus, revealing free and abundant resources to boost the fertility of your garden or farm. Inspired by Korean Natural Farming principles, Palmer is all about tapping into local waste streams to make mineral rich and biologically active drenches, foliar sprays and amendments. Think eggshells, fish bits, bones, weeds, leaf litter and everyday ingredients destined for landfill. Palmer’s recipes may be simple, but his approach is disruptive. Because not only does he empower the reader with no-cost alternatives to commercial fertilizers, cutting out all that importing, manufacturing and packaging, he challenges consumer culture itself. Do we really need another ready-made thing? Or can we take matters into our own hands, intercepting waste and using it to create life? Closing the loop to become truly sustainable growers and humans? From culturing indigenous microorganisms (IMO) to fermenting fish in your living room, this soil health cookbook will become one of those well thumbed and grimy bibles that’s never far from your elbow.


Book Reviews ||



BioLogical || a journal for change

Books || If you are eager to know more about the power of a regenerative food system; • The Omnivores Dilemma || Michael Pollan. Bloomsbury 2006 • The Apple Grower || Michael Phillips. Chelsea Green publishing 2005 • Farming Democracy - radically transforming the food system front he ground up. || Edited by Paula Fernandez Arias, Tammi Jonas and Katarina Munksgaard. Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance. 2019

• The Local Food Revolution - How humanity will feed itself in uncertain times. || Michael Brownlee. North Atlantic Books. 2016

• The Resilient Farm and Homestead. || Ben Falk. Chelsea Green. 2013 • Restoration Agriculture - Real world Permaculture for farmers. || Mark Shepard. Acres USA. 2013 • Call of the Reed Warbler - A New Agriculture a New Earth. || Charles Massey. University Queensland Publishing. 2017

If you want to upskill for resilience; • • • • • • • • •

Low Tox Life || Alexx Stuart. Murdoch Publishing 2018 Retrosuburbia - the downshifters guide to a resilient future. || David Holmgren. Melliodora publishing. 2018 A Year of Practiculture. || Rohan Anderson, Hardie Grant Publishing. 2015 Milkwood. || Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar. Murdoch publishing. 2019 Grown and Gathered- traditional living made modern. || Matt and Lentil Purbrick. Pan McMillian Plum 2016 The Village - Food to come home to. || Matt and Lentil Purbrick. Pan McMillian Plum 2016 The Art of Fermentation. || Sandor Katz. Chelsea Green 2012 The Complete Book of self Sufficiency. || John Seymour. Corgi. 1978 The Art of Frugal hedonism - the art of spending less while enjoying everything more. || Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland. Melliodora Publishing. 2017

If you want to build your foundational systems knowledge; • • • •

The Biggest Estate on Earth. || Bill Gammage. Allen and Unwin. 2012 Dark Emu. || Bruce Pascoe. Magabala books. 2017 Permaculture-principles & pathways beyond sustainability. || David Holmgren. Holmgren Design Services. 2002 Surviving the Future - Culture, Carnival and Capital in the aftermath of the market economy. || David Flemming. Chelsea Green 2016

• One Straw Revolution || Masanobu Fukuoka. New York Review Books. 1978 • The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible. || Charles Eisenstein. North Atlantic. 2013 • Radical Homemakers - reclaiming domesticity from a consumer culture. || Shannon Hayes. Left to write Press. 2010

If you seek inspiration to connect more deeply with your natural world • The Secret Network of Nature - The delicate balance of all living things. || Peter Wohlleben. Penguin 2017 • Creating Sanctuary. || Jessi Bloom. Timber Press 2019 • Coming Back to Life || Joanna Macy, Molly Brown. New Society Publishers. 2014

To create more ritual in your life; • For Small Creatures Such as we - Rituals and reflections for finding wonder || Sascha Sagan, Murdoch. 2019

Podcasts ||

Magazines ||

• • • • • • • • • • • •

• • • • • •

Investing into Regenerative Agriculture For the Love of Soil Futuresteading Dumbo Feather Making Permaculture Stronger Regenerative Agriculture Unblocking us - Brene Brown Peak Prosperity Pip Permaculture Go Simone Slow Beginnings The Slow Home

Pip Magazine Dumbo Feather Breathe Biological (online) Resurgence and Ecologist (online) Orion


Resources || Jade Miles



BioLogical || a journal for change


The Tale of Two Houses || Brenna Quinlan


ORICoop FOUR PILLARS FOCUS Actions are designed to build, strengthen and give resilience across the ecosystem.


BUSINESS RESILIENCE Resilience Fund Organic Best Practice Workshops & Regional Networks Insurance provision for farmers

Sustainability assessments Business & Farm Offsets Natural capital Accounting Business Adoption Aligned Partners Eco-Credit Farm Register


ECONOMIC & INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT Workshops Podcasts BioLogical Journal Market Development Classified Offerings Volunteer Engagement


BioLogical || a journal for change



Succession Strategy & Support Business and Investment Valuation Models Investment Structures Asset Management Investment Readiness Capital Raising Investment Market Development


















Four Pillars Focus || ORICoop



Lynette Vint

Farmers need WWOOFers: Now more than ever..

40 years ago, the dream of WWOOF Australia was born. Founder Lionel Pollard is one of those special individuals who never leaves your mind after that first interaction. We visited the now 84-year-old Lionel at his home in South East Victoria, and he was as sharp as ever. It was an honor and a privilege and a day I will keep in my heart forever. The beginning: Lionel’s interests started in alternative rural


BioLogical || a journal for change

communities and alternative power sources. Still living in Boronia Victoria at this time of his life, Lionel’s dream was to own land and live a sustainable lifestyle with his wife Valerie and family. He had many subscriptions to various groups and societies across Australia, from Organic gardening communities, alternative communities, spiritual communities, and he had at that time a yearly

subscription to the Tasmania Organic Farming Society. In late 1980 Lionel read a story about an English girl who had already WWOOFed back home in England. She was extremely disappointed to learn on a visit to Australia that there was no WWOOFing organization here, and Lionel could not let that go. He called the Editor and told them yes, there now was one, and hence on that day WWOOF Australia was born.

their 88 Day Visa signed off, and this had a huge impact on the business. The homes of the WWOOF Team and the WWOOF office itself went through the devasting bush fires of 2019/20, and now we are all living in the COVID-19 world, for better or worse. How have we survived? Resilience is the answer, along with a passion for keeping the dream alive! This passion and loyalty to WWOOF also shines through in our wonderful Hosts, some of whom have been members since the early days of WWOOF.

of life that have had time to contemplate their life’s journey and, let’s face it, we have all had time to stop and think during this time of isolation. Sadly, some have lost their jobs. All have had time to reflect on what they want to do for the rest of their life. For the first time in my lifetime food shortages have been witnessed on our store shelves, and this has been a real wake up call for many. Families and singles who live in the city and outer suburbs that we regularly speak to would love to grow their own food, but often they do not know how to begin.

Thankfully, we are receiving calls daily from individuals of all age groups and walks

Lionel began going through the contacts he had collated over the years from his many subscriptions, and reached out to those like-minded people across Australia and the WWOOF Community began to grow (note this was prior to the technical world we now know, and was all done with phone calls and letter writing) Dreams are important. I started this story because now, 40 years on, WWOOF Australia is stronger than ever. We have been through the 2015 government changes which stopped international travelers who joined WWOOF from having Farmers need WWOOFers || Lynette Vint


What is WWOOFing? Travelling on a budget around Australia, volunteering for 4-6 hours per day while living, and especially learning, on organic Host properties, with both your food and accommodation provided.

WWOOFing created space for us to feel a deeper connection to the land and brought us holistic awareness to the food we consume.

We have hosts from many different urban and rural farming industries ready to teach you new skills, of which these hosts have a passion and expertise. You can live with the families and experience first-hand what it takes and what is required for their farm. We have cattle, alpaca, pig, chicken and sheep farmers, herb specialists, vegetable growers, essential oil producers, pearl farms, vineyards, orchardists, and the list goes on, if you can imagine it, we most likely have a host who grows it! WWOOFing offers a way to experience our unique community cohesion. Numerous hosts have been with us for many years, some from that beginning 39 years ago, offering the interconnectedness that many are searching for during these times of uncertainty.


BioLogical || a journal for change

What is a WWOOF host? A WWOOF Host is one that is ready to teach others their skills, and who work alongside WWOOFers who are there to learn and can assist you in finishing those tasks that you thought would never get done. They show WWOOFers the local sights, enjoy companionship, and foster cultural exchange. Hosts can be commercial or hobby farms, urban or rural. WWOOF hosts must: || Grow or produce organic products, but not necessarily be ‘Certified Organic’. || Provide experiences to WWOOFers in sustainable land care: organic, bio-dynamic or permaculture techniques. || Provide all food and clean comfortable accommodation to WWOOFers in exchange for 4 to 6 hours maximum of volunteering daily (Maximum 38 hours in 7 days). || Be an ‘Ambassador for Australia’ and provide a safe haven for WWOOFers. || Treat WWOOFers with respect and consideration.

Hungry for more || If you would like any further information about being a WWOOF Farm Host or a WWOOFer volunteer, please feel free to email Lynette at or call 0455-023-173


Farmers need WWOOFers || Lynette Vint


Cerys ap Rees

A True Exchange of Empowerment

Have you thought about welcoming future farmers into your operation? Empower the future generation by offering educational opportunities for them to live and learn through your guidance. Many young future farmers don’t have access to land, to generations of learnings, observations, or perhaps even traumas. You could count this as a blessing, but also as a curse. I feel privileged to be entering the industry without the generational trauma of lasting through droughts, wildfires, floods and whatever else mother nature throws our way. However I did feel ill-prepared for life on the land, without access to the learnings of the generations that have come before me.

could offer me mentorship in the practical application of the theories I’d studied. In return, I felt I could offer my time, hands, skills and of course the odd belly laugh. A true exchange of empowerment.

On completing my Horticulture studies, I knew the only way I would feel equipped for what my future holds was to put myself out there and find people that

At Black Barn Farm, I spent most of my days shadowing Charlie (a hydro-geologist by trade), each day I was armed with a wealth of knowledge at my disposal.


BioLogical || a journal for change

For me, this exchange began when I reached out to two seperate family-owned first generation farms, Jade and Charlie of Black Barn Farm and Erika and Hayden of Epicurean Harvest. Both of whom I had long admired.

He was patient with me as my practical skills developed, offering me countless opportunities to further my learning. No matter how many times I asked “why?”, Charlie would answer me with a grin and a poignant response. Nearing the end of my 3 months at BBF, Charlie would delegate independent tasks to me in areas he knew I’d enjoy, we’d built a beautiful level of respect and trust. Afterall, I’d learnt from the best. Jade taught me about the importance of building a brand and marketing a business. She showed me the practicality of the principals of permaculture, from humanure to preserving produce for the seasons to come. Being on her local

Co-op Board she reassured me of the importance of community, and building connection. I left with a fondness for farming that was the strongest I’d felt on my journey so far. When I arrived at Epicurean Harvest, I thought I would solely be learning about market gardening. From crop successions, to harvest and the benefits of building soil to grow nutrient dense food. But after 3 months I’ve learnt so much more, there’s been rotational grazing of cattle, ecological verification testing, rainfall management and I’ve even learnt how they continue to farm whilst raising a toddler. Erika organised for us to do a farm tour to visit Aaron at Harvest Farms with Alice (Loop Growers and friend of theirs), where he showed us how he rotationally grazes goats through bassalt soils to enhance the ecology. Erika and Hayden also gave me the opportunity to attend the Farming Matters Conference in Albury in their stead, where I heard many of my idols speak about the importance of regenerative agriculture and holistic management in creating a financially viable business whilst focusing on improving ecology. I am so grateful for the kindness that these two have shown me, they have welcomed me into their lives, and we’ve developed a friendship that will last many lifetimes. So from one future farmer to the next, I encourage you to get out there and seek opportunities to live and

learn, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in your learning. Gone are the days of text books and criteria. If you want to radically change your perspective and improve your abilities you’ve got to get your hands dirty. It is truly uplifting to be surrounded by those who have taken the path before you. First, second or fifth generation, you’ll hear stories of hardship, transformation, joy and optimism - regardless you’ll walk away knowing that you’ve absorbed all you can from your time. You’ll build confidence and leave ready to begin your own journey of regenerating the land. And if you’re like me, you’ll be lucky to call them mentors for life. To current farmers, I hope that by hearing of my experience you can feel empowered to create the space for those without access to land and without access to generations of learnings. Reflect on how you got to where you are, and think of all that knowledge you could share by offering internships or residencies in the future. Not only is it a great alternative to paid work, but I have no doubt that you have an enormous amount of passion and a strong ethos - why not share it with those that admire you and your work, and empower them to build courage of their own. My time at Black Barn Farm and Epicurean Harvest has given me the critical opportunity to discover the challenges of farming and build practical skills that will make me a better farmer in the future. As we all know

farmers must wear every single type of hat. From day one of entering the industry, I have been met with love and respect. Never have I been surrounded by so many humble, kind and courageous individuals. It’s an industry that I am proud to be joining, and one that I feel will make a difference for future generations. When I reflect on my last 6 months of living and learning, of the endless opportunities that I’ve been given my heart starts pumping. I feel hope for my future, and for the future of those to come. I have no doubt that one day I’ll be able to offer my mentorship to a future young farmer, and give back to the community that’s given me so much. I believe all likeminded farmers have to walk the journey together, every success and failure is an opportunity to collaborate and learn. So if you take the leap, we’ll all be better off for it!


A True Exchange of Empowerment || Cerys ap Rees


David McFall

Natural Capital: How do we value it?

Quite often the true value of something is not fully realised until it is gone. Take for example water, land and air. Without it what life on the planet and/or grain in the bin?

sensibility ‘equity’ and ‘quality’ are just two aspirational words that come to mind – as do ‘truth’ and ‘transparency’.

A mature society respects the learnings of history, is aware of the now and ever mindful for the future. Everything ultimately is merely passing through.

Each and every human will need to consciously consider their position points on these words and in response set about a desire to action matters ‘in hand’ and if possible those ‘out of hand’.

Grappling with destiny and

If that consideration is placed in


BioLogical || a journal for change

the wellness of the planet then it is hard not to do your level best with what time and capacity you have. Understanding your place mark is a good start and for those privileged to manage land it is obvious that there is an entrusted stewardship of preserving ‘natural capital’. The precaution is simply to not equate ‘natural capital’ as an ‘asset’ rather a ‘gift’. It’s a valued task to take time, reflect

one form and converting it to another for usable ends. Farming prosperity therefore sits within the totality and functionality of an ecosystem that is great and small, to infinity and in all directions. Style of farming is also about choice and there are many. So, what’s my choice? I chose to develop a ‘systems’ approach to farming that seeks to strike an intuitive balance between that which was the pre-existing natural landscape and the postcolonial cleared or ‘disrupted’ landscape. If we are to take our cues from what was ‘preexisting and functional’ as a statement of stability then core elements of the design and investment leans heavily towards integration of many complementary natural and build structures.

and consider the two levels of emotion and energy that surrounds those simple words i.e. is newborn life an asset or gift? In the latter all capability will be orientated to reverence, treading lightly and doing well communally. The former lacks heart and being more head based is subject to less attachment and action to care…after all capital is a common economic term and invites prospects of winners and losers.

How does this relate to farming? As indicated earlier access and authority over land and expression of your creativity and values onto it is a privilege. Despite the clinical application of cold terms like agribusiness/ units this or that and or other prescriptive style talk farming remains an environmental interface activity culturally driven towards capturing energy in

Diversity, robustness and the inter relationship of influencing factors sun land water air biology and management all come into play when you look at principles of a systems design. Those features are expressed through matters of enhancing vegetation cover, landscape hydration and soil health management. If you are to coin a ‘phrase’ describing this approach then ‘agroecological’ is a near fit though that term in

Natural Captial: how do we value it? || David McFall


itself does not capture the subtleties and full extent of the applied planning and implementation philosophy. You will have to venture into indigenous thinking and landscape management and connection to get a full appreciation of the other layers. Put simply the cornerstones of life come via the grace of sun energy water air and biology. If there is ‘life’ it


BioLogical || a journal for change

logically needs to be ‘lived’ and therefore the expression of vitality is a core measure of how we see and experience things going on here and elsewhere. Vitality and it’s expression through birds, bees, ants, earthworms, flowers and lustre is a very important measure of natural function that is good enough to simply experience rather than exact.

What are the next steps? Ecology is forever dynamic and so to ‘farms’ as a subset. Unfortunately denial and disconnect are two human factors that drag a long heavy chain for substantive change in a reasonable timeframe however obvious the need. Fear and doubt two other. Not insurmountable emotions

once out in the open though often lurk in the valley of death shadows for many considering transitional moves to better preservation of ecosystem values at a farm level. Notwithstanding the need for pathway guidance aided and abetted by policy support and fair investment the real barrier to overcoming adversity seems to rest in the matter of expressed will. I am encouraged that there are many innovative and

aligned people coming together to engage and share knowledge and collectively set about the task of making good better in a positive wilful manner. Groups like ORICoop, COBWA in Western Australia are in place because there is care for people and the planet and an expressed will to advocate truth and transparency in the clean food production and ecosystems leadership space.

Why is it important? If new life awaits, indeed a human foetus is the personification of evolving life then it deserves the best in sustenance and opportunity. I personally am happy to make a statement here that farming as we do to deliver a product which is grown in a manner it is and with wellness to all who consume it is with the best of intent and a heartfelt gift in return.

Hungry for more || Click here to view the Certified Organic Biodynamic Western Australia (COBWA) website

Click here to access the Organic Farmers Facebook Group

Click here to register for the Eco-Credit with ORICoop


Natural Captial: how do we value it? || David McFall


Gerhard Grasser, AgriSolutions P/L for ORICoop

Farmer guide notes for soil sampling post natural disaster As an organic, biodynamic or regenerative farmer, you will not need to be told a healthy and functioning soil is the real bottom line to your farm business. To underpin the importance of this primary asset, the following guideline has been compiled by ORICoop consultants as a way of methodical diagnosis of soil and plant health, following any type of natural disaster. While most agronomists and land managers see soil primarily as a nutrient pool, we view soil (and plant root interactions) as a combination of nutrients, physical conditions and key biology each requiring equal attention and treatment. This is especially so when recovery from trauma such as drought, fire or flood are being managed. Before venturing out to perform your soil and plant condition benchmark, consider the prevailing conditions just prior to the trauma of fire, floods or drought. This is important for future repeatability of follow up testing to accommodate seasonal shifts. For example, note whether a particular tree or plant is flowering, budding or setting seed and repeat the testing the following season when this indicator is evident. Using the calendar alone can cause differentiation of seasonal conditions for up to 3-4 weeks to what is actually taking place in the soil.


BioLogical || a journal for change

As part of your soil recovery and restoration, we encourage you to take a Visual Soil Assessment, as well as soil nutrient & biology tests with this holistic framework in mind. The more detailed and diligently the tests are taken, the better outcomes that you will achieve in your recovery process. This soil nutrient and biological testing is funded to approved disaster affected organic farmers as part of the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal or Organic Farmer Flood Appeal. Any questions around the Appeal, contact Carolyn Suggate. Physical Condition • Visual Soil Assessment (VSA) is most important. No amount of data can describe all soil physical attributes as can the eyes, nose and touch on a plug of soil dug up and pulled apart out in the field. • If unfamiliar or a bit rusty on the VSA format, click here for the original 8 step PDF version or for the printed revised 2nd edition not available on-line but can be bought here with all the updates. • To prepare for the VSA, read through the preamble and instructions. Print or copy scorecard of PDF version Page 13. A basic tool kit will need to be assembled before venturing out armed with

your camera – and allow ¾ hour to perform this detailed assessment until you become more proficient. **Note: Edition 1 has an 8 step scorecard while Edition 2 is 10 steps but don’t let this stop you! • While VSA is a methodical way to read and record soil conditions in the field, the use of a soil penetrometer will further enhance the experience and information gathering. Three other observations should be added to the VSA – 1. Soil temperature at 10cm, 2. Soil smell at the top compared with soil smell from the bottom of the 30cm hole. 3. Soil adhesion on the plant roots indicating microbial activity in response to root exudates (sugars) from plant photosynthesis. • While an experienced farmer might use an unmetered probe or piece of wire togauge for soil compaction, a soil penetrometer with a fitted gauge provides hard data for those less experienced or wanting to record figures for future reference. You can refer here for details on how and why a soil penetrometer could be used to help understand what is happening in the ground below.

Nutrients • Soil sampling and analyses is practically mandated measuring available, exchangeable and total nutrient pool levels to quantify inputs and actions. (Particularly important when the land has experienced trauma such as drought, flood, fire, over harvesting/ grazing, cultivation/fallowing, chemical applications/ residues). • We recommend EAL’s RAPack-003 which includes heavy metals potentially affecting growth and presenting possible toxicity after fire events (refer to the Chromium 3 to Chromium 6 effect due to high temperatures). Where heavy metal testing is not required, use EAL’s RA-Pack-002. • The process of soil sampling in itself presents the greatest error in obtaining accurate data. Refer to EAL here and read/print instructions and soil testing summary here. Be mindful that a stainless steel or plastic soil corer should be used (ideal thickness 2040mm diameter). • Print and fill in the Soil Submission Form customised for ORICoop by EAL here, and securely pack the composite soil sample in a lunch ziplock bag and EXPRESS POST with form enclosed addressed to:

EAL, PO Box 157, LISMORE NSW 2480 • Don’t forget to sign the postage declaration on front of the satchel! Results should be received by email the following week. In consultation with your biological consultant, advice can then be provided on a likely action plan towards soil & plant recovery

Key Biology • Some soil fundamentals such as fungal:bacterial ratio to suit specific crops and earthworm counts are essential indicators of an active and healthy Soil Foodweb. Maintaining the correct F:B in the rootzone to meet plant requirements is as important as having the correct soil pH. (Bacteria support weeds and lower order annual plants, whereas fungi are needed to successfully grow woody and higher order perennial plants). • As part of the VSA, smelling the soil and compost for its ‘earthiness’ and fungal overtones can provide an approximation of its suitability while earthworm activity, numbers and diversity together will represent the general health and well being of the compost, soil and the rhizosphere. • Soil structure and porosity in the VSA also indicate the probable microbial populations and species but this can only be confirmed by Soil Foodweb microbial analyses for active and total bacteria and fungi, protozoa, nematodes and mycorrhizal colonisation. • Hosting a diversity of microbes and higher order soil biology will offer pest and disease resistance, optimum plant growth and soil function under a wide range of conditions. A full Soil Foodweb Assay by a qualified laboratory is desirable to quantify the various soil organisms and calculate nutrient cycling potential. Refer to AGPATH or SoilFoodWeb for more details on testing. (The lab used is dependent on your location). • Look beyond the soil food web and record any other insects such as dung beetle activity, cockchafers, army beetles, clover fleas, aphids,

grubs, etc as soil and plant health indicators. Disease indicators should also be noted and monitored pre and post recovery. Don’t forget to use the camera! You can also participate in this biodiversity climate science program here. While managing these 3 parameters (Physical condition, Nutrients and Key Biology) as the essential cornerstones to a healthy and functioning soil, it is the overarching management that can just as quickly undo the work being done at soil level. Rules such as 100% cover 100% of the time, increasing diversity (of plants, animals and microbes), retaining adequate solar receptors (leaf area) to supply microbial populations, building soil organic carbon to aid in soil water holding capacity and provide for the soil foodweb will determine the growing system resilience and ability to recover from trauma. ORICoop has a team of leading biological consultants working with our farmers in natural disaster recovery. We are excited that some of the best soil experts have volunteered to help farmers bring their soils back to life and growth. It is also an opportunity to learn more about soil biology and the nature zoo under our feet while reassessing the organic business post what is a long journey to recovery. We are cheering for all of you!


Farmer guide to soil sampling post natural disaster || Gerhard Grasser


May 26-27, 2021 9:00 am-1:00 pm AEST


Two days of virtual learning & dialogue to catalyse investment in regenerative agriculture & food in Australia and the Oceania region.

Bringing diverse actors together to discover the What, Why, and HOW of investing in regenerative agriculture. For more information, contact Sarah at

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