The Gold Coast opts for organic

3 Apr

 

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Organic Farmer, Ross Sigley is always smiling on Sunday mornings at the Miami Organic Farmers’ Market. Picture: Robyn Fairbairn

By Robyn Fairbairn, Bond University Journalism Student

Gold Coast residents are following a national trend to put health first by choosing organic when it comes to buying their groceries, whether they shop at the weekly farmers’ markets or the major supermarkets

A study by Market Analyst Company IBISWorld said Australia’s organic industry is growing at an exponential rate, and valued it at $919 million.

The IBISWorld study predicts the value of the organic industry could be $1.2 billion by 2022 and the link of global demand for organic produce is rising due to increasing health concerns about food.

The organic farming industry provides a variety of products including meats, fruit, vegetables, eggs and dairy products, which are produced through a set of ecologically oriented practices.

Whereas conventional farmers typically use chemical fertilisers to promote plant growth, organic farmers use manure, compost, or other natural fertilisers.

The Miami Organic Farmers’ Market is one of 16 popular farmers’ markets on the Gold Coast and attracts locals every Sunday from 6am to 11.30am.

Farmer for Pocket Park Produce located in Byron Shire, Ross Sigley is new to the Miami  market and at his stall sells everything from corn to free range eggs and spicy ginger root.

“People just want safe, clean and fresh food, which they can get here,” he said.

Mr Sigley said people go to markets to get to know the farmers but mainly because they know they can trust the produce.

“In our day and age, the number of cases of cancer is rising rapidly and people are concerned about their health and that is why they are buying certified organic,” he said.

Mr Sigley said it is hard for people to trust the big monopoly supermarkets as their products are full of chemicals and even their ‘fresh’ vegetable are sprayed with pesticides.

He said the markets are great value for money.

“Our most expensive product would be our turban garlic that we sell at $40 per kilogram but if you were to buy this at bigger supermarkets you would be paying between  $50 to $60 per kilogram,” Mr Sigley said.

He said the markets benefit farmers because they are able to sell their fresh produce at retail price instead of the normally lower wholesale price.

“These markets allow farmers to cut out the middleman, enabling us to grow and sell the products ourselves,” he said.

Young mother and loyal Miami Farmers’ Market customer Nina Sheeran has been going to the Miami market every Sunday for the past two years.

Mrs Sheeran said being a mum has changed her perspective on food and health.

“I go to the markets because I feel safe with what I am feeding my daughter,” Mrs Sheeran said.

“The friendly atmosphere is just a bonus.

“I buy all my groceries from the markets and only what I don’t get at the market I will buy from Woolworths or Coles.”

On ground Produce Manager at Woolworths in Robina Town Centre, Jon Reed said Woolworths has had an exclusive organic range for the past three years.

Mr Reed rolled his eyes when asked if costumers could trust big supermarkets ‘fresh’ produce.

He said their organic section receives deliveries daily from their distributor in Brisbane that sources produce from the local famers.

“Big supermarkets like Woolworths and Coles are so large that that we would never get away with selling non-fresh food,” Mr Reed said.

“Since the push for organics we now have three sections dedicated to just organics in our store and one is located at the very front of our store,” he said.

“There is definitely a push for organic foods and more customers come seeking them.”

He said their organic range is more expensive than their non-organic certified produce but that people are willing to pay a little more for their own peace of mind.

He said local organic markets are great initiatives and help contribute to the awareness of organic produce but do not pose a threat to the larger supermarkets, which will always be more accessible.

Customer Service worker at Woolworths, Sarina Skelton said she sees young mothers with children and elderly people come in every day seeking the organic range.

Mrs Skelton said these people have been advised by their health practitioners to avoid processed or genetically modified foods for various health conditions.

“At the end of the day we are what we eat, and more and more customers are choosing our organic range because they want to take responsibility over their life,” she said.

Mrs Skelton, who grew up on a farm in Victoria,  said she is well aware that the non-organic produce sold in big supermarkets has been sprayed with pesticides and various chemicals but the organic range is trustworthy.

“Big supermarkets now offer chemical-free produce that has been screened to be certified organic,” she said.

“I myself always buy from the organic sections.”

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