Australia boasts the largest area of certified organic growing land on the globe. Organically grown food is one of the top 5 growth industries in the nation as consumers and markets embrace organic food. The Australian Organic Market Report of 2012 reported 1 in 20 Australians regularly purchase organics, and nearly 2/3 have purchased organics in the past year. According to the Australian Organic official website, fruit and vegetables are the most frequently purchased organic items.
According to Australian Organic, the organic growing market is worth $1.27 billion in Australia and is expected to grow by up to 15% annually. That rate exceeds the global growth range, which is approximately 2-11%. Meat has increased dramatically in growth for Australian organic food. Sales of organically raised beef are up by 111%, lamb by 64%, and poultry is up by 15%. Dairy products, up 63%, and organic grapes for wine, up 107%, are areas of enormous growth according to industry experts.
36% of Australian adults told the Report they would refuse to purchase a product if it were not certified as organic. Australian Organic growers can only become certified after they have been growing with standardized organic principles for three years.
Specific standards are now in place to oversee the organic growing industry Australia. These are The National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce for exported food, and The Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products for domestic and imported food. These help verify that any organic product in the country is traceable and authentically organic. However, Australia has not restricted use of the term ‘organic’, so consumers should take care to purchase only from certified producers of organic food.
Comparisons of the nutritional content of organic vs. conventionally grown plants generally show no significant differences in vitamin and mineral content. Small differences have been shown in lower levels of nitrates, higher vitamin C content and higher levels of selenium in organic grown food. Polyphenols are naturally occurring antioxidants, and organic foods have slightly higher levels of them. More relevant to most purchasers of organic foods is the lack of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides or growth hormones in organic food.
Organic foods promote more sustainable use of resources such as maintaining soil fertility and managing water source pollution. Food price inflation throughout Australia and the ongoing cost of living increases for families contribute to the growing popularity of organic gardening. Families unable to purchase a home can create container, balcony or windowsill gardens in apartments. Some localities have started a community garden plot to accommodate those without space to allocate to organic mini-farming.
Here are a few easy tips and fun projects to get started:
- Start organic growing with a simple apartment window herb garden or by scattering seeds across a field near your home. Many certified organic seed companies provide easy starter projects for your home garden. Salad kits, berry kits, and tomatoes are popular options. It only takes a few weeks to have a window, balcony or garden plot filled with your favorite selection of plants.
- Plant some flowers. Flowering plants will attract beneficial insects to your outdoor garden and planters. Good bugs attack pests such as tomato hornworms and aphids, and bees are pollinators. They can help keep your plants producing food for the table long after the initial plant has been consumed. Flowers will also help your windowsill, balcony or garden look prettier, and you will always have lovely centerpieces for your organic table.
- Use rescued and recycled materials in your garden. Use galvanized tubs, old pots and boxes, or the plastic tubs from cat litter gardening pots. Use old car tires to build miniature raised garden beds in the back yard. Coat the tires, tubs or boxes with bright spray paint or wrap them with sisal rope for an awesome outdoor look.
- Get the kids into the act with some simple organic growing projects. Grow upside-down tomatoes or strawberries from kits found on the internet or in your local home store. Potatoes can be grown in a tall box or a 5-gallon bucket.
- Plant a butterfly or hummingbird garden to attract beautiful friends to your home.
- Plant a garden focused around a specific meal, like pizza. Make the garden contain all the herbs and veggies needed for that meal.
- Install a trellis or small fence and grow vertically if you lack ground space. Melon or bean plants trellised on a balcony will provide lovely filtered light in the summertime, plus a tasty addition to the table on a regular basis.