Organic Articles: Education, Education, Education

The Organic Consultancy

Education, Education, Education

Simon Wright
The Organic Consultancy

This article originally appeared in the November 2001 edition of Organic Business.

The Organics: Luxury Or Necessity debate organised by the Guild Of Writers illustrated that the proponents and detractors of organic production agree about very little. However there were also major points of difference amongst the pro-organic lobby. One area where there was concensus amongst all key players was the essential role that education must play in developing the organic sector.

A few days earlier Jayne Seabridge of Taylor Nelson Sofres had emphasised to the Food and Drink Federation Organic Group that currently the key committed organic consumers are older than average, typically at the empty-nest stage and so able to afford to spend more on organic food. As this core group – the 7% of consumers who account for 57% of organic sales – continues ageing the organic sector must begin to encourage other groups to buy more organic food.

I suggest we target children. They have pester power, currently applied mainly to highly promoted snack and convenience foods. They are voracious for know ledge. They can be very motivated about environmental and animal welfare issues, two areas where organics scores highly. And they are future consumers in their own right, so if we can establish pro-organic purchasing habits now we are investing in the future of the organic sector.

The ideal would be for every school-age child to visit an organic farm so they can see farming at its finest. When I took a group of new supermarket buyers round Sheepdrove Farm everyone was massively impressed with the commitment to best practice shown by Charles Maclean and his team. Spending a morning walking through organic fields populated with contented organic cows stops organics from being a theoretical concept worthy of support and really brings the benefits of organic farming to life. Sheepdrove Farm is a member of the Soil Association network of 25 organic demonstration farms, designed to show the benefits of organic agriculture to other farmers and anyone else who is interested. The network received 115,000 visitors this year – if you weren’t one of them get out your wellies!