By Harriet Kendrick, Australian Organic Ltd
This article is proudly provided by Australian Organic Ltd as part of our promotional partnership.
Australia has had it tough these past few years: areas of the country are in the midst of one of the longest droughts in living history, while the recent bushfires have had a devastating impact on more than 820,385 hectares of agricultural land, accounting for about 14 per cent of all land burned. A difficult time for us all, but particularly difficult for Australian producers.
Australian Organic has reached out to some of its members in the organic agricultural community that have been affected by the fires – highlighting their concerns, risks and requirements to move forward and rebuild their businesses. Many have experienced immediate crop and livestock loss, with large areas of land burnt by the fires. With no crops in the ground and no active livestock, there’s no source of income – posing a financial stress both in the short and long term.
Some farmers have not only lost their animals, they have also lost the next generation of livestock. Restocking certified organic animals requires a large financial investment, and surviving animals will need to maintain their strict certified organic diet to retain organic certification. A difficult feat when the drought has impacted organic fodder supplies.
The fires have also caused a loss of mulch and soil coverage, meaning there’s a much greater potential for soil erosion and water run-off. One of the requirements under organic standards is that burnt land must be mulched organically. With large areas of organic land affected, the supply now far outweighs demand for mulch that meets organic certification requirements.
Organic farms support a greater diversity of insects. These diverse predators and complimentary insects – including bees and other flying pollinators – have been wiped out in fire affected areas. Not only will affected organic farms need to rebuild their own infrastructure, business, and regenerate the land, they will also need to regenerate the biodiversity of the surrounding areas as well as their own property.
Financial support is definitely at the top of our farmers’ must-have list, but they are also in need of access to advice on rebuilding their business and ongoing mental health support to cope with losses and financial stresses. Support from the community around them and the consumers who buy their goods may sound less important, but the small act of stopping at a farm gate to buy fresh produce can mean a lot to that farmer.
What you can do to help
So with the challenges of the bushfires and drought ongoing, we all have a role to play in the recovery. Start by supporting local farmers by continuing to buy Australian produce. Whether you do this at the supermarket, at your local farmers’ markets, your local store, or buying organic produce straight from the farm gate, buying local means supporting local businesses and communities.
You can also support farmers by shopping at businesses that promote local produce. Think cafes and restaurants that stock organic produce from nearby farms, or stores that use local suppliers. Campaigns such as ‘Australian Made’ and ‘Buy from the Bush’ promote locally made Australian products and gifts – which in turn supports Australian businesses.
For more information about the work Australian Organic Limited is doing visit austorganic.com.
First published: February 2020