Educating consumers about the positives of Australian agriculture is a top priority of Bulmer Farms, located at Lindenow, in Victoria’s East Gippsland region.
One of Australia’s leading salad produces, the Bulmer family have been growing vegetables for thirty years and farming the land for over sixty. Spinach is a major focus of the operation and the farm also produces salad mixes, supply McDonald’s and a host of other processors across the country with iceberg lettuce and harvest up to 100,000 bunches of baby broccoli a week.
Andrew Bulmer, Managing Director of Bulmer Farms, believes no matter the scale of the farm, all consumers benefit from the positive practices being used by Australian growers, and that informing buyers about those initiatives is essential.
“Our business has adopted Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques for a lot of years now. We see it as critically important,” Mr Bulmer said. “Although I think it is still something the consumer doesn't really understand – that there are good bugs and there are bad bugs.”
“Someone might be happy to find a ladybeetle in their salad, but a caterpillar might not be acceptable. How we can continue to educate the consumer is important.”
Mr Bulmer explained one of their new communication tools involves applying an environmentally friendly, sustainable farming trust token on their produce boxes – a frog.
"We've adopted a frog token to show consumers that the environment our salad is grown in is healthy, that there is an ecosystem at play there," said Mr Bulmer. "So, rather than getting upset about potentially finding an insect in produce, recognise that it’s part of a healthy environment.”
Mr Bulmer said growing reliable and sustainable produce requires good soil health, rotational crops and cover crops and an informed spray program.
As part of Bulmer Farms focus on IPM and soil health, products are selected for use on farm that help to protect the key beneficial insects and provide sustainable options going forward. IPM compatible products such as Corteva’s Zorvec Enicade for Downy mildew and Success Neo for insect control are used.
“We don't want to build up resistance in the field,” Mr Bulmer said. “We target pests or diseases specifically to have a real impact. It’s about looking after the land, paying it forward. It's not for us, it’s for the next generation.”
Gregg Baynon, Corteva Territory Manager for Southeast Victoria, and Tasmania, said the adoption of sustainable farm management is ever-increasing, and like Mr Bulmer, he believes there is a knowledge gap with consumers.
“Every summer we seem to get one or two reports in the media about people unhappy they have found an insect in their salad or vegetables,” said Mr Baynon. “They don’t care whether it’s a grub or a ladybird, to them it’s a bug and they don’t want it.”
“We almost have a dichotomy. Customers want to have clean produce but at the same time they don’t want chemicals used. Good bug or bad bug, they see no difference.
“IPM is not new but the adoption of it is ramping up, certainly within Australia’s vegetable production areas.
“Using IPM in conjunction with strategic compatible sprays, like insecticide Success Neo and fungicide Zorvec Enicade for Downy mildew, is common sense and important for sustainable crop production and protection.
“IPM reduces the overuse of products that can lead to resistance and using natural enemies to help control things as well prolongs the life of the product.
“There are also many other advantages. Less residue. Fewer applications requiring less diesel and decreasing soil compaction and so on.
“More and more growers are adopting positive farm management approaches, so getting that message out to consumers and what that means is important.”
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