Consumer demand to dictate agriculture
New Zealand Organic of the Year, Cathy Tait-Jamieson, believes environmental regulations are here to stay.
She says regulations around water quality and animal welfare will increasingly dictate on-farm practices.
“Consumer demands will dictate which practices will achieve the best economic results for farms; supply and demand will dictate prices,” she said. Dairy news.
Cathy and her husband Jamie run BioFarm, one of New Zealand’s oldest organic farms. BioFarm has been organic since 1979 and was certified organic in 1986.
Yogurt is BioFarm’s main product, sold in stores across the country. Between 75 and 120 cows are milked on the farm, depending on grass growth and market demand. BioFarm also operates 200 Drysdale hornless sheep and several hundred slaughter goats. All cattle are also hornless.
Cathy says winning the best gong at the 2021 Organic NZ Awards this month was “somewhat confusing.”
“The traditional New Zealand pastoralist farming that has been practiced on this farm for at least 80 years is now considered ‘the leader’. Some would call our methods backward.
BioFarm’s decision to go organic 35 years ago was sparked by a persistent weed problem.
“We could see that biological control of the major weed problem, groundsel, was the only viable option,” says Cathy.
Over the years, the farm’s fertility has been enhanced with organic fertilizers from grazing animals and “the usual soil amendments”. The farm does not use herbicides or nitrogen and no stock or feed is imported.
Cathy says the switch to organic has given the farm a point of difference because most other farms have moved away from “the traditional self-contained family farm.”
“Organic certification simply provided the quality assurance consumers needed to be confident that the farming practices they were promoting were audited annually by a third party.
“This point of difference has allowed us to establish our own unique brands.”
BioFarm yogurt is processed in a specially designed factory on the farm.
Cathy says the product is popular with consumers. “They say they like it because it’s tasty, has few ingredients, and is reasonably priced.”
BioFarm has exported products in the past but in the current climate they are focused on the domestic market.
Cathy believes that organic farming is here to stay and that in the future all food producers will have the same type of quality assurance and risk management programs that are used in organic certification.