Organics producer leading the way

Organics producer leading the way
Scott Lawson and partner Vicki Meech farm to an organic philosophy using biological horticulture processes.

Organic farmer, Scott Lawson, says he is thrilled that in September last year Hawke’s Bay District Council became the first local body in New Zealand to block genetically modified food production in its district.
Scott and partner Vicki Meech own and operate Lawson’s True Earth™ Organics, growing blueberries, potatoes, carrots, pumpkins and onions on 65 hectares of rich and fertile land 15 minutes from Hastings at 302 Ngatarawa Rd. The couple farm to an organic philosophy using biological horticulture processes.
All the produce grown on their land is certified Bio Gro NZ, something the couple say they are extremely proud of. To gain and retain Bio Gro status requires a rigorous and assessed process.
The property became certified organic in 1994, two years after Scott started the garden. Five years later, in 1999, the True Earth™ Organics brand was launched.
“With this decision by council to prohibit release and field trials of GM crops in its region we can add value to our organic products because the whole area we farm in is GM-free,” Scott says.
“Consumers here want to eat the very best pure quality organic produce. They are becoming very discerning about the nutritional value of eating food grown organically and this decision is tremendously positive for our sector.”
The business employs anywhere between 10 to 70 seasonal workers made up of a mix of local and backpackers.
During the busiest time in the yearly cycle, from November to May, seasonal workers from Vanuatu join the eclectic mix of pickers, sorters and packers.
Scott is the general manager and strategist, overseeing the whole operation but very much with his head tuned toward growing the brand and pushing the cause of organic production, while Vicki looks after finances, health and safety, employment and compliances.
Together they have grown Lawson’s True Earth™ Organics into one of New Zealand’s largest certified organic berry fruit and vegetable producers. All produce grown on site is also processed, packed and stored there.
Scott describes his farming practice as liken to the old sustainable ways of the past. This, he says, also brings its fair share of challenges.
Coming from a conventional agricultural background which traditionally relied upon intensive applications of artificial inputs, Scott says demand initially from Japan saw him shift to organic production.
“True organic farming is very labour intensive. We’ve essentially replaced herbicides with labour, agri-chemicals for people and so we have to be very focused on our costs of production.”
When asked about the challenges facing New Zealand’s organic growers generally Scott sites a lack of minimal national standards.
He says this runs at odds with the rest of the world where consumers can readily access information regarding a product’s country of origin and can be assured that “organic” means truly that.

Organics producer leading the way
Lawson’s True Earth™ Organics is one of New Zealand’s largest certified organic berry fruit and vegetable producers.

“Multiple New Zealand governments have ignored this issue to the detriment of growers and consumers alike. “The standards we operate to in order to keep our Bio Gro certification impacts on all aspects of how we operate.
“Yet when it comes to egg production for instance, there is no way that consumers can be assured that what is described as organic actually means a minimum standard has been attained, unless an internationally recognised certification such as BioGro NZ or Assure Quality Organic is quoted.”
While produce grown is not supplied directly to consumers, Lawson’s True Earth™ Organic berries and vegetables can be bought from specialised organic food retailers throughout the North Island, along with the major supermarket chains.
Beyond the day-to-day operation of the farm, Scott is also involved in governance as Chairman of the Hawke’s Bay Vegetable Growers Association (HBVGA) and as a member on LandWISE, a incorporated society which aims to promote sustainable production practice for the horticulture sector. Scott represents the HBVGA on the collaborative working group TANK.
The community wide stakeholder group is aiming to help the Hawke’s Bay RegionalCouncil manage the Heretaunga Region waterways and aquifers.
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