Home' Grower : April 2013 Contents The South Australian Grower -- April 2013
Frees relish progression
into organic certification
AFAMILY that has been
growing stonefr uits for
four generations has
achieved organic certification,
making it one of Australia's
largest organic stonefruit pro-
The Free family near Swan
Hill, Victoria, supplies major
supermarkets and organic retail-
ers with nectarines, peaches,
plums, and apricots.
They were known by the trade
name Free Fresh Fruit in the
conventional market and after
certification by Australian
Certified Organic, go by the
name Alkira Organic.
Kelvin Free says they are
achieving economies of scale
with organic growing methods.
"It's not difficult to get organ-
ic certification, but to farm
organically is difficult," he said.
"We farm in an environment
surrounded by conventional
growers and agronomists so
there is little support available
to help with technical growing
It takes three years to achieve
This season is the first time the
Frees have sold certified organic
fruit and for them, it realises a
long-held desire to supply con-
sumers with a genuine healthy
product at a fair price.
The family started farming on
50 hectares in 1944. They never
fully followed mainstream farm-
ing practices so taking on bio-
logical farming and becoming
certified organic was a natural
Stonefruits are one the most
difficult crops to farm organi-
cally because of the amount of
pests and diseases they attract.
According to a Friends of the
Earth report, conventional nec-
tarines and peaches are
Australia's top 10 foods with
the most pesticide residue.
Kelvin says converting to
organic farming called for an
extensive period of trial and
error and believes a mix of bio-
logical farming principles and
scientific research will lead to a
vibrant organic industry.
The Frees are successfully
using compost applications to
build soils, and biological con-
trol methods for pest and dis-
They are also working to per-
fect application times and fre-
quencies but say that overall,
their 65-year-old farm is thriv-
"Some positive evidence has
been that tree blocks which
have had fruit quality problems
and light crops have been
much more productive under
an organic system," Kelvin
"We have noticed our fruit
does not go brown as quickly
when cut; we have cut fruit up
for a cheese plate and been
astounded when the apricot
still hasn't gone brown by the
end of the night.
"There have been many posi-
tive developments but we have
not reached the pinnacle of
The organic stonefruit indus-
tr y is valued at more than $6
million and retailers have strug-
gled to keep up with demand,
according the 2012 Australian
Organic Market Report.
Alkira Organics is supporting
the new consumer initiative --
the Bud Organic Club.
It was developed by
Australian Organic (formerly
Biological Farmers of Australia) to
educate people about organic farm-
ing and the benefits of buying
organic food and fibre.
Australian Organic marketing
manager Debra Drury congratulat-
ed Alkira Organic for achieving
organic status and making more
organic food available to con-
"We also applaud the Frees for
putting back into the community
by becoming a sponsor of the
Club," she said.
"Bud Organic Club is a free con-
sumer club created to help people
learn and live the organic way."
The Frees are in good company --
organics is one of Australia's top
five growth industries in 2013.
"We want to grow our business so
that more people can access organ-
ic fruit. We are working to grow
our markets, to supply more con-
sumers," Kelvin said.
"We are striving toward a future
of sustainable farming, where we
can produce high-quality fruits and
vegetables that taste great but also
do the right thing by the environ-
"Where all is equal, good always
Details: Debra Drury 07 3350 5716
Nathan, Kelvin, Barry and Colin represent three generations of the Free family
near Swan Hill, Victoria. This season, the family sold certified organic fruit for
the first time.
Top 5 growth sectors
Certification takes 3 years
Extensive trial period
Coles sets new sourcing policy
By LECHELLE EARL
Acting CEO Onions Australia
THE Australian onion industry has been
heartened by news from Coles
supermarket that red and white onions
will no longer be imported during times
of seasonal shortage.
Coles recently announced it will no
longer be importing onions during the
six-week gap that often happens
between cold storage running out and
new-season onions hitting shelves late in
The company said it was working with
its growers on this matter.
Two years ago, the supermarket giant
had to import red and white onions when
there were seasonal shortages in
A Coles spokeswoman said the
supermarket was "particularly pleased
that we have now been able to close the
gap on imports".
"Coles has an Australia-first sourcing
policy whereby we are working with
growers to extend their growing season
so we can source purely from Australia
and avoid imports whenever and
wherever possible," she said.
"We do this because our customers
want to buy Australian and because we
are committed to helping rural Australia
to grow," she said.
"Currently 96 per cent of our fresh fruit
and veg is Australian grown and we are
continually working to close the gap on
all imports of fresh produce."
This can only be good news for
Australian growers, who all too often
face near-impossible competition from
Onions Australia has been boosted by
this support from Coles.
While the latest growing season has
seen bumper crops and reasonable
prices, it is imperative for Australian
supermarkets and consumers to
continue their support to local growers.
Australian growers take heart from Coles initiative.
For further information contact:
Helena Whitman: 0407 772 299
David Milburn: 0438 413 505
Thursday 2nd May & Friday 3rd May 2013
for the future
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