Teaching how to make kimchi, building a bug vacuum to control pests, repurposing harvest waste, ensuring consistent product supply and producing cider from surplus fruit are just some of the innovative and interesting ideas developed by the finalists for Organic Farmer of the Year at the 2022 Australian Organic Industry Awards.
The countdown is on for the announcement of this year's awards, hosted by Australian Organic Limited, with the presentation to winners taking place on November 25 at in Lovedale, NSW.
AOL chief executive Niki Ford said the calibre of entries was first class.
"These awards are much-deserved recognition for our talented and dedicated producers, but also a celebration of the contribution our two-billion-dollar industry makes to the health and wellbeing of our fellow Australians," Ms Ford said.
"I congratulate all of our finalists and look forward to the announcement of the winners in each category."
Finalists in the category of 2022 Organic Farmer of the Year are:
Brendon Hoyle, Ashbern Farms - Sunshine Coast, QLD
Ashbern Farms grows organic winter strawberries on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. Working with entomologists, Mr Hoyle uses eight biological control agents (beneficial insects) and has built a bug vacuum to control fruit fly and Rutherglen bug.
He measures soil moisture, electrical conductivity and temperature with cloud-based monitoring probes and advocates for registration of inputs to use in the organic industry.
"It's such an art, such a science to grow the sweetest berries," Mr Hoyle said.
"That's where I get my biggest reward, understanding how the crops function and how they work and quality checking at all stages to produce the best experience in the punnet for our customers. It's not always easy, especially with the weather."
Ashbern Farms also grows conventional summer strawberries in Stanthorpe of the Granite Belt.
The farm hosts pick your own to offer people the experience of visiting a commercial strawberry operation.
Jason Smyth, SA Organics - Adelaide Hills, SA
SA Organics is the largest privately owned organic home delivery business in the state.
The company operates a range of certified organic businesses from a farm in the Adelaide Hills, growing and selling boxes of fresh vegetables, herbs, fruit, and eggs as well as producing alcoholic wine and cider.
In 2020, Mr Smyth and partner Vanessa bought an organic Riverland orchard with commercial fruit production, which will be planted with new varieties of fruits and will be used for vegetable production from 2023.
"Often the blood, sweat and tears that go into a smaller farming operation are not seen, so being selected as a finalist is a positive way to promote what we're doing," Mr Smyth said.
"To succeed you need passion, resilience and innovation, along with being flexible and open to change."
He believes consumers need to understand the cost of farming organically is often in the labour required to produce food, such as hand weeding rather than using chemicals.
Mick Dan, Good Harvest Organic Farm - Sunshine Coast, QLD
The 2021 Organic Farmer of the Year has endured three floods in the past 12 months on his farm at Woombye in south-east Queensland.
He recently ran a series of highly successful workshops to teach people how to apply organic principles to their market gardens and home veggie patches.
On the farm, applying the latest research findings to rotation, cover cropping, low tilling, custom compost applications and regular microbial introduction programs has tripled soil organic matter in a year.
The team also set up the Good Harvest Waste Minimisation Program, by developing a network with local charity OZHarvest to distribute any unsold or second-grade produce to local people in need and converting waste product from their three farms into a highly nutritious compost to be recycled and incorporated on farm.
"We're looking forward to building on the education component of our business to encourage more of our community to get growing!" Mr Dan said.
Shane Eldridge, Eldridge Fresh Organics - Murray Bridge, SA
Based in Murray Bridge, SA, Shane Eldridge has been in business supplying organic wholesalers in every capital city except for Canberra, and more recently to major supermarkets.
He believes the market expects consistency in all aspects of the certified organic supply chain - consistency of timing, range, quality, value, and distribution - and says if producers get these factors right, they'll go a long way.
Mr Eldridge sees uncertainty in weather conditions and reliable energy sources as the biggest challenges for the industry.
"We need more access to renewable energies and more reliability from them, as well as the cost savings they bring," he said.
"Energy affects everyone but with the smaller-scale economies in organics, it becomes even more crucial."
Mr Eldridge sees the biggest opportunity for the industry lies in ensuring a consistent supply of produce lines, mainly vegetables, all year round.
"We do a decent job considering the number of growers we have but supply chain gaps still occur," he said.
Sue Glynn, KimchiMe TASFresh - Stanley, TAS
Sue Glynn was born and raised in Seoul, Korea, where making and eating kimchi was a part of everyday life.
The traditional side dish of salted and fermented vegetables is used with a wide variety of seasonings and in soups and stews.
Ms Glynn moved to Australia when she was 21 and seven years ago set up KimchiMe with her husband Tom in Tasmania, where they grow vegetables to use in a range of certified organic products.
She runs make your own kimchi classes and on farm uses indigenous microorganisms and sprays made from fermented plant juices as well as water-soluble calcium phosphate from animal bones. '
Her aim is to be an agricultural innovator and build on a long legacy of organic farming.
"The official history of organic agriculture in South Korea began nearly 4,300 years ago," Ms Glynn said.
"We'd like to share our methods through a field day to promote understanding of the sustainability of organic farming."