Avocado grower's hard yakka pays dividends
Miloudamat, a four-hectare avocado orchard owned by Michael Hogan, of Alstonville, is the first avocado farm in Australia to be certified under the BestFarms program.
Mr Hogan already sells his fruit to the organic markets in Sydney, but the BestFarms certification should mean more than money in his pocket.
However, he said it was not about putting a sticker on a product to sell at the markets for a premium price.
"It's about environmental sustainability," Mr Hogan said.
"We're organic because we want to do it that way. It's hard work."
BestFarms certification sets a standard for simple, farm-based methods of farming. This means his produce is not only organic, but also grown using environmentally sustainable methods.
For Mr Hogan, one of these methods is his water system.
"Sensors for the irrigation system check the water in the soil. The info is then downloaded directly on to my computer," he said.
Under the BestFarms EMS (Environmental Management Systems) Program, participating farmers must develop a management system which identifies and implements ways to ensure ongoing environmental improvement.
"It is based on catchment issues and developed by farmers, for farmers," said BestFarms co-ordinator Kirsten Skraha, who visited from Western Australia to deliver the certification. "We get them to identify and implement methods, as well as monitor and record them to ensure ongoing environmental improvement."
Marc Carter, Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority project officer, and Colin Hastie, of Landcare, help people build an EMS framework through regular workshops.
"We help steer people in the right direction," Mr Hastie said.
"It's best to have a plan and get advice before going ahead with anything"