Consistent demand for organic produce over the last 40 years is a missed opportunity dairy farmers can’t afford to ignore any longer, says organics stalwart Bob Crowder.
Crowder’s comments are a response to a payout forecast of $9.20 for organic milk solids, more than double the price of conventional milk, which he believes has the potential to take New Zealand back to being a world leader in organics.
He laments New Zealand letting its status as a frontrunner in organics slide. “At one time we were one of the top certified organic nations in the world. Now we’re almost insignificant in the global picture,” says Crowder.
Crowder puts this down to a cheap food mentality with no thought for quality or origin, which means organics have not advanced as far as he thought they would when, as a senior horticulture lecturer at Lincoln University (then College), he established the Biological Husbandry Unit (BHU) in 1976.
Although Crowder was looking for 'another way of doing things’ he says much of the impetus came from students who wanted a more practical degree with a focus on sustainability and organics. The so-called ‘Sandwich Degree’ introduced to Lincoln in 1978 for horticulture students was critical to the success of the BHU as it allowed students to work on the site as part of their studies.
“Students in the 1970s were very radical. They weren’t forced to be organic. What we were doing had to be integrated into the general teaching. The BHU was for the teaching and demonstration of holistic environmental aspects. It was based on good scientific principles, not muck and mystery.”
The BHU is celebrating 40 years of organic status this year. It has grown from an area for teaching and demonstration based on a holistic organic philosophy and historic research, to a charitable trust which now incorporates a Training College, the Future Farming Centre and the BHU Farm