Organic Trust Australia was set up to manage funds received from private and public sources for research and education in organic agriculture in Australia.
For organic agriculture to progress, several groups of people need to know about different aspects of organic agriculture.
First of all, there are the consumers – if nobody is interested in eating organic food, and therefore not willing to pay for it, producers would have less incentive to grow it. But what are the benefits of organic food; and how do we know that what we buy is organic; and in what kind of places can we get it? This is the kind of information OTARE is keen to be involved in – so a project in that area has been proposed (see ‘Consumers’).
A second group is organic producers, for whom the emphasis of farming is on the soil. In Australia, one of the major production problems for farmers is the availability of phosphorus for their crops and livestock, so OTARE’s projects focus on soils and on available phosphorus in the soil.
Those are projects for producers, but there are also projects about producers, and in particular projects that can be used by others in the food-chain such as those who provide inputs for farmers, or take their produce to the market. Those people need to know what is happening in farming. How many farmers are there – and where, and in which kinds of industry? Inputs for orchardists (for example insect lures) are different from those for the grain industry (for example methods of weed prevention) and dairy farmers (for example feed for stock). What are they producing – and where are the markets for those products?
So some of the projects proposed by OTARE are not only for farmers, but also about farmers and for traders. Those included at present are projects on data. One project was to look at what data are available in Australia at present and how to get better data. The next step is to analyse the data that has become available from official sources. OTARE also sponsored a project in Gippsland profiling organic farmers and benefits to the community.
A fourth group which OTARE wants to support is educators. Funds were donated for one large project to educate consumers, producers and the general public.