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“The speed with which country can be converted is very much influenced by its use in the past. For example, our grazing country became organic first while some of the cropping country will take longer because of herbicide/pesticide use.
“At this stage we’ve got about 7,287ha of our 9,717ha certified fully organic, the remainder is ‘in-conversion’,” Miles said.
The couple agreed the biggest initial challenge was the paperwork and engaged a consultant, Organic Systems and Solutions, to help them get started.
“Their input in process as well as providing us with a broader understanding of the organic farming principles relevant to our system was absolutely invaluable," Miles said.
Each year the enterprise is audited, which costs several thousand dollars, however, Miles believes this to be reasonable in the context.
“We’re hoping to achieve full organic status within the next two years.”
He said the key benefit of becoming certified organic will be their ability to maintain cashflow while reducing stock numbers, enabling their property to recover faster and become more resilient to drought.
Miles believes there is nothing like a severe drought to road-test a production system and the management system behind it.
“We’ve been drought-feeding on and off for almost three years,” Miles said. “Prior to going organic, we supplemented with blocks and barley straw hay.
“Since becoming in-conversion, we’ve only been able to feed them our own organic grain stubble and mulga.”
However, he sees another protracted drought as a key challenge for all organic production systems.
“Being able to source reliable supplies of organic supplementary feeds is a big concern – without them, producers may be forced to sell-off stock but, in our favour, these options are increasing in number and variety all the time,” he said.
For the full story on Miles and Pennys' transition to Organic check out the MLA website