Having tried both conventional and organic farming, Otago
sheep and beef farmer Glenn Mead is convinced organic is the
way to go.
A fourth-generation farmer with 20 years' experience farming
in Northland, Waikato, Wairarapa and Otago, Mr Mead is
chairman of the Organic Dairy and Pastoral Group.
The group, originally known as the Organic Dairy Producers
Group, was formed by dairy farmers who saw a need for support
and leadership in the organic farming industry.
As the group evolved, it was decided to encourage members
from the overall pastoral sector, hence the name change. It
now boasts more than 200 members.
Mr Mead and his partner, Kate, farm a 260ha property between
Lawrence and Clydevale that has been certified organic with
BioGro since 2007.
It was while travelling overseas, including being in the UK
during the foot and mouth outbreak, that he started thinking
about organics and a better way to farm, he said.
After returning to New Zealand and working on the family farm
for a few years, the couple decided it was their turn to farm
They bought their property in 2005 with a view to going
organic, and started the conversion process.
It was an involved process, but Mr Mead had previously
completed a correspondence course in organic agriculture and
a small business management course in organic farming.
Getting that prior knowledge, and talking to organic farmers,
gave them an idea of what they were getting themselves into,
They farmed about 1450 Wiltshire-cross ewes and usually about
50 cattle. Prices had come back a bit this year from last
year's peak and there was a reluctance from both retailers
and meat companies to have organic contracts too far above
conventional at the moment, he said.
He had no regrets about turning organic, saying he was now
certain that organics was a better way of farming for the
producer and also better for consumers.
Keeping away from chemicals and knowing you were trying to be
better stewards of the land was also important, he said.
Both production and financial performance had been slowly
improving on the property, which did not rely on chemical
At the moment, the numbers involved in organic farming were
''relatively static'', with a few retiring and a few new
There was a large increase about late 2006-07 and numbers
tended to increase when conventional schedules for meat and
milk plummeted, he said.
His role as chairman of ODPG was varied and complex. It
included working with other farmers to try to extract the
best value from current export markets and open up new ones,
talking to groups such as the Ministry for Primary
Industries, meat companies and Fonterra, doing administrative
work, and organising field days.
It was a very hands-on role, which could be time-consuming,
but it provided ''such a good insight'' behind the industry
and he could see the perspectives of all the different
players, as well as the effects of legislation, particularly
international, coming through.
It was an excellent insight into the future of farming in New
Zealand and the global food supply.
Mr Mead saw a great future for New Zealand if it could
realise its potential for developing high-value-output and
low-cost-input sustainable agriculture. But he was concerned
about ''unsustainable'' farming practices, such as genetic
engineering, threatening that potential.
He believed a lot of current pastoral farming practices in
New Zealand would become unacceptable to overseas markets in
''As long as New Zealand farming follows the right path,
we've got a very strong future,'' he said.