Environmental sustainability for flower production reaches a new benchmark
Industry recognition of environmentally sustainable flower production has reached a new benchmark, with Freshcare announcing Brushtop Farm as its first “Flower and Foliage” member certified to the Freshcare Environmental Standard (ENV3).
Freshcare General Manager, Industry Development, Clare Hamilton-Bate said the certification highlighted the commitment of the farm and was a positive step for the wider industry.
Brushtop Farm is located in the New South Wales Southern Highlands and operated by WildFlowers Australia Chairman, Ben McInnes.
Ms Hamilton-Bate said the Environmental Code of Practice Standard is outcomes based and designed to aid businesses like Brushtop Farm in demonstrating real environmental outcomes in horticultural production.
“The decision by Brushtop Farm to complete the three-stage process of training, implementation and annual auditing will hopefully encourage other producers to get involved and obtain certification.”
Freshcare has worked with members of WildFlowers Australia (WFA) over the past 18 months to develop an environmental certification option for flower and foliage producers.
Mr McInnes explained that long-time WFA member Premium Greens Australia initially led the way, undertaking research to determine suitable environmental standards for flowers and begin work on standards for the sustainably managed wild harvest of native foliages.
This work then fed directly into the development of the Standard which has now been finalised through Freshcare.
Mr McInnes said the research highlighted the Freshcare certification was the best option for flower growers to show their commitment to environmental sustainability.
“The Standards goes further than organic certification in that it requires you to consider a holistic approach to environmental issues with consideration of issues ranging from the impact of chemicals and fertilisers, through to water use, waste and fuel and energy efficiency.”
He said the process of certification was simple enough and took only minimal preparation, as Brushtop Farm was already doing many of the things required.
“Freshcare also provides helpful templates for record keeping, with the trainer able to assist you as you go through the initial process.”
“Importantly, the training works through how to integrate the program requirements into the business. For my business, it picked up the need to update the approach to fertiliser use and storage, and importantly to document the processes for the implementation phase of the certification. By the end of the training, there were only a couple of things to revisit before the audit.”
Mr McInnes said the Freshcare certification was not about cutting out all pesticide use completely though; it is about ensuring all activities are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.
“Consumers want to know where products are grown and that they have been produced appropriately. Other growers could use Integrated Pest Management for example, which allows for well-considered pesticide use.
“The more businesses that get certified, the more certified product will be available for environmentally conscious purchasers to choose from, and this will build the long-term environmental reputation of the industry. Ideally, there would be growers of all the various flower types certified so that florists could choose to only source environmentally responsible product.”
Mr McInnes said he recommended starting the certification process as early as possible.
“I delayed starting because I read the audit was to be done in the harvest season, but some things took a little longer than expected, so to take some pressure off, my advice would be to start with the training earlier and then book in the audit for later when your harvest does start.”
Mr McInnes said he knew plenty of businesses who were growing to a sustainable standard and would not have issues in gaining the certification.
Ms Hamilton-Bate said Freshcare was looking forward to working with more cut flower and foliage producers on the certification process.
“It is fantastic to start with such a committed business like Brushtop Farm, as it shows just what can be done and paves the way for others to follow.”
To learn more about the Freshcare Environmental Assurance for the Australian Flower Industry, please contact Freshcare on 1300 853 508 or via email – [email protected]