I awoke this morning with a lump in my throat. Hoping that the IPCC report didn’t confirm what we have all known. Some have known for decades. Others since the last natural disaster they or their business has had to endure. What are we to teach and pass onto our children, if it cannot be the urgency and need for us to curb our desire for more and more, with less and less concern or consideration for the earth and its planetary boundaries. Like a mother that feeds its young – sometimes almost to her own detriment. So what does our country look like if a 1.5 degree rise by 2030 is in fact true. What does it mean for our Pacific neighbours? For our communities still in recovery from the last drought, bushfires or floods?
Organic Agriculture – the Next Generation..
With the Prime Minister announcing his ‘big moves’ to be in technology and hydrogen. These ‘big moves’ although positive, come directly from the more production, higher yields, cheaper prices and commodity-capitalism mindset that got us into this mess in the first place. I gasp for air, as I know personally the number of farmers and producers that are farming our land and feeding our nation that know agriculture is a huge part of the solution – if it were managed correctly with the right incentives for exemplary regenerative land management over time.
Farmers and producers have been at the coal face of planetary boundaries for years. Since Australia made its last feeble commitment to reducing our carbon footprint in 2005, I personally can recall enough bushfire events (from Black Saturday to the horrific events of the last Black Summer), to the worst floods in history, unprecedented cyclones, droughts and extreme natural disaster events across our country. Too many to count on one hand, and should be too many for any producer to endure in one lifetime that alone in just 15 years. What if we only have 60 harvest years left, what if the degradation of soils and water systems could be our last frontier? Climatic change is upon us, urgency has surrounded us, and together we can watch with fear, act with courage, or pretend that someone else will be the change we are desperately hoping for. I hope that you will call on your courage to be the change. We need you now.
ORICoop together with many contributors, advisors, farmers, producers, experts in their field and businesses are seeking to act on this urgency. One step at a time. Now. We encourage you to take as many of these steps as you can.
Know your footprint – for your business, your household, your school
Reduce your footprint
Install solar, reduce your fossil fuel use
Reduce business and household waste
Reduce car/fuel use
Buy more food seasonally
Support local businesses with less of a footprint
Check food labels (less imports)
Reuse and Recycle fashion
Plant a garden, grown your own
If you are a farmer ….. (this one’s for you!)
Assess your farm sustainability footprint (ask us how)
Provide your children’s teachers with practical solutions for the kids (not just fear)
Speak to your local MP, State MP, Federal MP about key outcomes
Vote for a better world!
Today’s news pulls no punches. For some the glimmer of hope lies in our pastures, in the soil, in the biodiversity and ecosystem that we all should take responsibility to look after. Every meal we eat. Every farmer we know. We all need to be part of the urgency in planetary care, of as much carbon drawdown as possible, and as little leach into the atmosphere as we can manage in our daily lives. You’re part of it. As is your community.
As a climate scientist, I’d like you to know: I don’t have hope. I have something better: certainty.
We know exactly what’s causing climate change.
We can absolutely 1) avoid the worst and 2) build a better world in the process.
Environmental Sustainability Goals (ESG’s) In Quarter 2 alone, the European Union has amended three major financial, investment, and insurance regulations to include “sustainability” (2021/1256, 2021/1255, 2021/1257). The SEC has formed a 22-person enforcement task force focused on scrutinizing Green Investments & Climate-Related Disclosures. Even the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), which groups market regulators from the United States, Europe and Asia, found that the Trillions of ESG-related investments are burdened with different frameworks, key indicators and metrics, relative weightings as well as qualitative judgement. We need business to lead with united values and urgency.
At the core of Eco-Credit is the simple idea that data should be collected at the farm level, and that this data remains the property, and under the control, of the farmers. For the long term benefit, and to reward their land stewardship practices for carbon drawdown and preserving natural capital. To actively demonstrate the capacity of every farmer and land steward to be part of a key part of our drawdown mission – one farm at a time. With the ability to directly offset organic processors, businesses and financiers footprint – with full traceability and transparency.
About ORICoop ORICoop is a National Cooperative of organic and biodynamic farmers. Of businesses and people that care about food, farms, people and the planet. Together we can be the leaders of powerful systemic change, to bring value back to producers and landholders at the face of this risk, and demonstrate with our actions to uphold the provision of safe food and habitat for all planetary communities. And for business to invest in this change, with the urgency of our future as the wind in their sails. We believe through connecting land, people, business and ethical values we can be strong allies and enact solutions that together can be the change we all hope for. And our children need to believe it will be enough.
ORICoop engages with Organic and Biodynamic Farmers collectively to demonstrate the direct relationship between healthy food, healthy farms and a healthy planet. Did you realise that organic agriculture can and should be a leader in the mitigation of carbon drawdown? See this latest article from FIBL on Organic Farming & Climate Change. A summarised list of these key features included here:-
Organic agriculture has considerable potential for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
Organic agriculture in general requires less fossil fuel per hectare and kilo of produce due to the avoidance of synthetic fertilizers.
Organic agriculture can improve soil fertility and nitrogen supply by using leguminous crops, crop residues and cover crops.
The enhanced soil fertility leads to a stabilization of soil organic matter and in many cases to a sequestration of carbon dioxide into the soils.
This in turn increases the soil’s water retention capacity, thus contributing to better adaptation of organic agriculture under unpredictable climatic conditions with higher temperatures and uncertain precipitation levels.
Organic production methods emphasizing soil carbon retention are most likely to withstand climatic challenges particularly in those countries most vulnerable to increased climate change.
Soil erosion, an important source of CO2 losses, is reduced by organic agriculture and as a consequence prevents the loss of energy that would occur due to the embedded energy used in industrial agricultural systems.
Organic agriculture has the capacity to provide one (1) calorie of food energy for every calorie of energy utilized to produce that food. Typically industrial agriculture requires twenty (20) calories of energy primarily sourced from fossil fuel to produce a calorie of food, hence a higher carbon footprint
Organic agriculture can contribute substantially to agroforestry and mixed production systems.
Organic systems are highly adaptive to climate change due to the application of traditional skills and farmers’ knowledge, soil fertility-building techniques and a high degree of diversity.
The Way Forward
Our practical actions of supporting organic and biodynamic producers in our everyday lives is a key part of the solution to mitigating our climate emergency and carbon drawdown as a country. At ORICoop we believe the more farmers that produce food more sustainably, the more land that is managed in a carbon negative manner and the healthier the food is, with a lesser carbon footprint. It means taking responsibility and action for your business footprint as part of being a responsible citizen. Every business and family can reduce their footprint and have an impact – and then offset what you can not reduce. It means that we urgently need to own the overshoot of our lives. Of business. Of agriculture. And drastically make changes today that can peel back the damage our excess of the last 50+ years has created.
To find out more or to be involved in ORICoop you can join HERE.
We know it’s been a rough year for many. We are rallying support in the last days of the financial year towards organisations that continue to ‘do good’ through these tough times. Here is our hot list for any tax deductible donations that align with your values …..
* Invest your funds to enable ethical and sustainable returns that don’t cost the earth
Could your business achieve Net-Zero by EOFY 2021?
We are urgently calling on all ethical, organic, conscious businesses to aim for Net-Zero by the End of this Financial Year. Let’s show some love for our planet! Here is how you can start your journey….
* Calculate your carbon and environmental footprint * Choose credits that align with your business values * Reduce your footprint through best practice sustainability
Our newly released Eco-Credits can help you achieve this – while directly benefiting organic producers that are increasing the carbon across their farm businesses. Key outcomes include:-
As the end of this financial year runs to screaming halt – it’s time for us to take stock, and assess the type of world we live in – and how each one of us could be part of the solution to a better world!
Given the incredible outcomes of the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal, we are excited about the next steps from here for ORICoop. And how we as a member owned Co-operative can step up to help when it’s needed. And stick to our key mission of increasing and enabling more organic farmers to be better stewards of more land over time. And meet the specific needs of our farming community, member to member. While connecting our friends, eaters, farmers and investors more closely together, for a better and more aligned food and farming system.
Choose to invest your funds to enable ethical and sustainable returns that don’t cost the earth
We are launching the FIRST edition of BioLogical shortly. Here you will get the first glimpse of this collaborative journal, that covers organic farming, local stories, bushfire recovery, ethical investment and our community.
And make sure at this complex time, that you connect more closely with your local farmers and your food system. One bite, one meal, one good investment at a time!
You can keep up with ORICoop via Instagram. Or subscribe to our blog for our regular updates.
The Organic & Regenerative Investment Cooperative kicked off the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal with the fires in November 2020. What started as a $12,000 load of hay to NSW bushfire affected farmers has grown into a significant appeal. Now capturing more than $324,000 (including financial, donations & in-kind support) in value, this has directly benefited each of the bushfire affected organic farmers in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia!
Collectively between supportive organic farmers, best practice organic advisors, volunteer teams, our bushfire committee and donors, ORICoop has brought together a band of knowledge, experience and learnings. This network can only enhance the long term resilience and benefit of the organic industry. We thank each of you – and we are not finished yet!
Breakdown of $324,000 raised (and mostly distributed) bushfire appeal funds so far includes:-
$89,000 cash raised
$28,907 donated organic inputs
$72,000 donated organic fodder
$14,611 freight subsidy (fodder)
$85,000 donated professional time
$35,000 donated volunteer coordination
Best Practice Organic Farm Expertise
For many of the bushfire affected farmers – the best ‘value’ of the Appeal, has been their appointed volunteer bushfire recovery consultant. They have walked through the biology (courtesy of AgPath) and soil nutrient (EAL) tests with each farmer. From this data they identified the effect of the bushfires and the needs of their farm recovery. Together with ascertaining the physical damage and parameters using a Visual Soil Assessment and photos, these farmers are now on their road to recovery. Though the journey ahead is likely to be long and hard, the farmers won’t be walking alone.
Donated organic inputs
We would like to pay tribute to the organic input providers that have generously supported this Appeal. These are all organically certified products – and each has been tailored to the needs of these farms and their recovery.
The Bushfire Committee is currently finalising the last of the applications for the Appeal and putting in place plans for ongoing support of the fire affected farmers. Now with the COVID-19 restrictions easing, the Committee is looking forward to finalising plans around bushfire recovery workshops and volunteer projects.
ORICoop has a need for volunteers to assist with the following (depending on the COVID-19 restrictions of course)
Contact us if you are interested in hosting a community fundraiser – with funds to support bushfire affected organic farmers in your closest region. ORICoop is keen to see these farmers be supported for the long term. For some this is going to take months to years to recover. Ongoing community support for these farmers to continue is very important. Some of the farms have lost 30-40% of their orchards, with much of the bushland and wildlife destroyed. Many have lost infrastructure not least fencing, thousands of metres of irrigation and annual fodder stores.
Farmers tell their stories
We look forward to sharing more about these farmers, and their courageous stories of resilience and recovery. Christine Watts and Kym Green joined Carolyn, talking about the Bushfire Appeal as part of the Farming Secrets Summit HERE Both of these farmers show much courage and grit from the devastation they felt. And the heart behind their farming choices.
You can also catch up with more stories around the Bushfires, in our upcoming BioLogical Journal. And you can follow our Instagram page HERE.
Stay Well – and now more than ever, support your local organic farmers!
(photos supplied by Kym Green – credit to Nutri-Soil for their generous donations!)
As we launch into such uncertain times – it is critical we connect local farmers, food, events (virtually) and encourage all of use to look out for each other and see the world through old wise eyes.
Our grandparents lived through war times, of basic rations, of raw food, of eating what was available. We all need to return to our roots, and remember what our elders taught us. We need to be the shining lights to our farmers, communities, and localised food systems. Now more than ever. And to deeply care about each other, our communities and the planet.
As many events and conferences are either cancelled or transitioned to a virtual format, ORICoop recognizes that farmers, food servers, and all those who labor to grow, harvest, prepare, and serve our food are among those most impacted by economic and health effects of COVID-19 and many with limited access to quality medical care in regional areas. Adopting attitudes of empathy and care is needed more than ever to protect our most vulnerable.
At a time when we are seeing impacts on global supply chains, we see the urgent need for our local economy and community resilience. It is a critical time to buy nutrient-rich food from local farms in your area and to take advantage of home delivery where possible. By supporting policies and models for locally owned land and shared ecological stewardship, we can all ensure there is a future where local organic agriculture supports our health, carbon is sequestered in our soils, and sustainable stewardship of the earth provides a pathway for our generation and future generations to connect with the land and to each other.
ORICoop brings together farmers, eaters, businesses and partners to directly support farmers in their time of need. Together we are focussed on increasing the amount, diversity and productivity of organically and regeneratively managed farmland around Australia, while building a resilient food and farming system that can change the way our farmers do business…. for the better!
There has never been a better time to care more about your community! Join ORICoop today, and connect more closely with your food system, one meal at a time.
It’s hard to paint an accurate picture that encapsulates the scale and extent of Australia’s current bushfire season, and with more than 50 separate fires still burning across the continent at the time of writing, it may be some time before the magnitude of the crisis is fully understood.
Unprecedented in their intensity and geographical scope, fires have been burning across every state, but particularly fiercely through the coastal and eastern ranges of New South Wales (NSW) and north-eastern Victoria. As of 14 January, 2020, bushfires this season have burned through an estimated 18.6 million hectares (46 million acres), destroyed close to 2,500 homes, damaged more than 10,000 buildings and resulted in the loss of 33 lives. Air quality across the country has reached hazardous levels prompting a rise in people seeking emergency treatment for respiratory problems, with both Melbourne and Canberra’s air quality rated the worst in the world on several dates across January. The cumulative smoke from the bushfires has, on several occasions, surged more than 17 kilometres up into the stratosphere, blanketing New Zealand’s South Island and travelling approximately 11,000 kilometres (6,800 miles) across the South Pacific Ocean to South America. The ‘fire clouds’ that have formed as a result have stimulated their own weather systems, with thunderstorms and lightning strikes igniting new and unpredictable fires – and, at this writing, it’s only halfway through the summer.
As the driest inhabited continent on earth, bushfires have been a natural part of the history and mythology of the Australian landscape for tens of thousands of years. The fire conditions of the current 2019/2020 bushfire season, however, are without parallel on several fronts. Beyond the geographical scale and intensity of the fires, this season’s bushfires have burnt through areas and ecosystems comprised of typically fire-proof vegetation, such as wet eucalyptus forests, rainforests, heathlands and dried-out swamps. World Heritage-listed national parks that are considered some of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, like Western Australia’s Stirling Range, have experienced severe casualties of rare and threatened flora and fauna, and may never fully recover. While images of dehydrated koalas and singed kangaroos have captured the world’s attention, a (highly conservative) estimate of 1 billion mammals, birds and reptiles have perished, not counting the losses of bats, frogs or the invertebrates that make up the foundational elements of the food chain. The numbers are particularly harrowing considering Australia already bears the highest rate of species loss for any region in the world.
The climatic backdrop precipitating the spate of fires is one of several years of historically hot and protracted summers. Australia’s mean temperature in 2019 was 1.52 degrees Celsius higher than average, making it the warmest year since records began in 1910. Continental-scale droughts, affecting the eastern states most acutely, have been endured for several years, while water levels in key catchment areas, such as the Murray Darling Basin, have been at their lowest levels in a decade. Coupled with record lows in rainfall and soil moisture, and the soaring temperatures and wind speeds of this summer’s weather, the conditions were prime for small fires to become major infernos across large swathes of the country. Amid these conditions, Australian cities and towns in the past month alone have also endured tropical cyclones, hailstorms with stones the size of golf-balls, duststorms and heatwaves. Well and truly before this year’s bushfire season even began, the impact of droughts and flooding rains culminated in mass fish kills, hundreds and thousands of livestock losses and the decomposition of precious wilderness areas. A fragile and dry continent, Australia seems continually caught in the grips of extreme weather roulette, with the stakes likely to become more erratic in the context of a rapidly warming world.
A number of contributing policy failures and government inaction surrounding land and bushfire management have also compounded the risk and severity of the bushfire season. While the federal and NSW and Victoria state governments have announced independent expert inquiries into the bushfires, it should be noted that since 1939, there have been at least 18 major bushfire inquiries in Australia. According to former senate committees, ‘Previous inquiry processes have not resolved the issues that have been so consistently brought to the attention of governments.’ Some of these issues include inadequate protective burning and fuel reduction (both on public lands and around assets), insufficient resources for fire and land management agencies, and the disregard of local knowledge and experience – including traditional ecological knowledge and land management practices – in managing publicly and privately-owned land. These well-established concerns are likely to resurface in the next series of parliamentary inquiries, the question is whether the recommendations from these will be implemented.
Farmers on the frontlines
It will take some time before the economic, environmental and social costs of the bushfires can be truly ascertained. Significant impacts are already being felt by the agricultural sector, the repercussions of which are likely to affect Australia’s broader food system. While farmers have been grappling with the ongoing impacts of low soil moisture, water and feed shortages for some time now, the localised impacts of bushfires have manifested in unprecedented and highly complex conditions. While tens of thousands of livestock are likely to have perished (or had to be euthanised) as a result of the bushfires, farmers must now face the grim task of burying the carcasses to prevent potential public health and biosecurity risks. The task is so considerable that Australia’s Defence Force has been assigned to dig mass graves, while 100 veterinarians have been deployed across the country to assess and euthanise thousands of stock injured by the blazes. Some farmers have been in imminent danger and continue to face the threat from multiple firefronts, but due to their daily farming enterprises cannot leave their farm. Notwithstanding the defence of their properties and livelihoods, farmers also make up a large proportion of the more than 70,000 volunteers of the Rural Fire Service. It is not uncommon for these volunteers and their families to suffer significant losses or be made homeless while protecting the homes and lives of others.
As food, fuel and water run low in bushfire-hit regions, and some communities are cut-off from electricity and telecommunications for days on end, everyday farming tasks such as milking cows, feeding cattle, weeding or watering crops are no longer tenable, impeding production. Damage to vital infrastructure, such as sheds, storage facilities or machinery is critical, while the destruction of fencing leaves farmers with no way to safely contain their animals. In the absence of physical damage, excessive smoke can taint fruit and vegetable crops, with wine grapes being particularly susceptible. Entire cattle holdings, timber plantations and vineyards have been completely wiped outand charred by flame. When the landscape is burnt and blackened, microbial populations in the soil, particularly fungi, can suffer extensive damage. Depending on the intensity of the fire, it can create bacterially dominant soils and may destroy organic matter, opening up areas for the take-over of invasive weeds. High-intensity fires can also impact water quality by increasing the sediment and nutrient concentrations in waterways. With all the ash and silt pouring into estuaries and waterways, several oyster farms have been closed for harvest due to higher readings of algae, ash debris and other contaminants. Production losses are just the beginning. A whole network of vital infrastructure involved in packing, cool-storing and transporting goods can become impeded by road closures or power outages. Consumers can expect to see higher food prices as the costs of the bushfires add up.
From the ashes: recovery, restoration and regeneration
As the bushfire crisis unfolded across Australia, the world watched attentively. But with the rapid-fire nature of news cycles (and now the downpour of rain and floods across NSW), global attention and conversation has already shifted. How can a transformative dialogue emerge and be sustained after the fires are out? One that not only considers the risks posed by nature on human life and property, but also triggers a re-evaluation of how people conceive of themselves and others in their relationshipwith(in) nature? Such a dialogue will likely involve deep questioning about cultural and social values and beliefs, regulatory, legislative and financial institutions and the interdependence of biological and environmental systems. As people begin the long process of recovery, restoration and regeneration, how can they stimulate conversations and activities that don’t necessarily dictate a particular pathway for ‘resilience’ or ‘adaptation’, but rather, opens up possibilities for more sustainable futures to emerge?
For farmers Penny Kothe of Caroola Farm and Vicki Jones of CSM Organics, it was the catastrophic fires of Black Saturday that raged through Victoria over a decade ago that sparked a total rethink of the way they approach their farmland, families and community. As they began the physical and emotional work of rebuilding their lives, homes, businesses and towns, both farmers made the choice to shift from conventional to regenerative agricultural practices. Predicating the interdependent relationship between humans and the landscape, regenerative farming systems utilise a set of farming practices not just to grow food but to progressively improve the ecosystem in which that food is grown. A holistic and diversified approach, regenerative agriculture seeks to mimic the natural, self-organising properties of a healthy ecosystem by focusing on diversity and the health of integrated natural and human systems.
For Penny Kothe, the Black Saturday bushfires were not only a catalyst for reassessing her farming practices, but they also spurred a deeper contemplation of her place on the land and humanity’s collective responsibility for managing it. ‘Losing everything in a house fire made me realise the important things in life – family, health and community – and from that, I started out on a whole new track. Whilst I’d previously read books on permaculture and holistic management, the fire gave me a whole fresh start and determination to lead my life the way I wanted. It made me reflect seriously on the question: what are we even here for?’ For Vicki Jones, the Black Saturday fires prompted contemplation of issues such as farm succession, learned helplessness among farmers and the link between rural isolation and mental health. The rising input costs of feed and fertiliser, the social isolation experienced in supplying long and fragmented supply chains, and the financial volatility of the market during the global financial crisis were factors to consider in the family succession of her farm. These cumulative pressures prompted a shift from conventional to certified organic dairy farming, as well as sourcing an alternative market for her products. Vicki now sells through Prom Coast Food Collective, a producer- and community-centric, low waste model that returns 95% of the dollar to farming families
As both farmers attest, authentic regenerative agriculture requires the broader community to adopt an ethos in their approach to food, landscapes and culture. ‘Regeneration’ in this sense, requires a reshaping of the human journey, one that cultivates the values of environmental stewardship alongside more localised economies that strengthen solidarity between farmer, eater and the Earth. It encourages farmers’ social participation and connectedness with their local communities while instilling a strong, collective ethics of care in response to the social and ecological challenges of our time. As Kothe reflects, ‘It is through such disasters that we re-evaluate the meaning of our lives, come together as communities and divest ourselves of our consumeristic attitudes that have become so ingrained in our way of life.’
It is the collective experiences, voices and defined action of people from impacted communities that will help shape the vision for long-lasting, impactful, transformative change. For frontline farming communities, the solution starts with building thriving local economies which provide farmers with dignified livelihoods that are ecologically diverse, healthy and resilient. It continues beyond the farm through opportunities for integrated land management that draws on indigenous knowledge and the best of modern science. The local and global impact of Australia’s current bushfire crisis is being felt through grief, stress, frustration and disbelief. But perhaps from the ashes, transformative dialogues and new narratives can emerge – ones that create opportunities and pathways for a regenerative future.