The ODPG was formed by dairy farmers who saw the need for support and leadership within the organic farming industry. The ODPG was originally the Organic Dairy Producers Group but as the group has evolved over time, it was decided just a few years ago to encourage and welcome members from the overall pastoral sector, hence the Organic Dairy & Pastoral Group came about.
Over the past 13 years, many fielddays and seminars have been held, mainly in the Waikato region, but increasingly in Northland, Taranaki, and the lower North Island. The South Island is also experiencing a surge in organic development and there are more and more regional-type meetings and discussion groups held in this area.
The ODPG is an Incorporated Society, bringing with it a more formal structure. Regular executive meetings are held, with an AGM in late summer.
We are now entering an exciting era for organics. Growth in the organic food sector is occurring at unbelievable rates. Fonterra have a formal policy on organic milk and continue to actively seek new suppliers – they currently have over 100 suppliers, mainly in the North Island. Dairy farms continue to start the conversion process, helped considerably by the conversion premium offered by Fonterra.
The increase in organic suppliers is causing a shortage of organic supplements and grazing during extreme weather events such as have been experienced in recent years. As the number of producers continue to grow, there is a rising need for co-ordination of processing and marketing of organic products such as meat , feed, livestock and grazing.
As a combined voice of producers, the ODPG has been effective in bringing about premiums, working with certifiers to anticipate and/or sort out certification issues. The ODPG has also successfully obtained funding for research and extension.
Through discussion groups and our email network there is support for members and communication enabling sales of feed and livestock as well as discussion on current issues. Anyone who may even just have an interest is invited to join the ODPG and encouraged to contribute to discussion via internet email.
ODPG members have been kept informed of upcoming events and discounts off certain products have occurred. Discussion of a website has been ongoing for several years and we are now the proud owners of our very own website. In recent times we have decided on a much more proactive approach, and also to keep the website as up-to-date as possible.
We have a representative on the OANZ council.
Funding has been granted from Organic Aotearoa New Zealand, DairyNZ, and Fonterra for the delivery of workshops and field days. AgFirst has become the preferred option for the delivery of these events. We have received funding from the Sustainable Farming Fund and DairyNZ for a three year project aiming to lift the production on individual farms. DairyNZ provides funding for a trial on mastitis.
Our membership is nearing 200 members and is currently is made up of around 65% organic dairy farmers , 15 % drystock farmers, 10% input providers and 10% conventional farmers.
We consider ourselves to be under the umbrella of the broader pastoral theme, as we are all related to either the soils, the pastures or crops that grow within those soils, or the animals that graze those pasture or crops. Generally, we all face a similar family of issues.
With the low density of organic farms, there is a lot to be gained from combining resources and extending services to cover all sectors. This reduces duplication, enables different regions to be better serviced by extension programmes whilst still allowing for specialist groups to work across the regions. It creates a network that encourages organic growth.