By 2012, all Woolworths locally grown fresh produce will either be produced organically or through newer, more sustainable farming methods.
The initiative, called "Farming for the future", aims to improve soil and plant health, preserve resources like water and soil and protect biodiversity by moving away from conventional, industrialised farming methods.
Initial trials conducted with farmers who've already adopted this farming model show that yields are more consistent and that land, water, insecticide, pesticide and fertiliser usage is reduced.
Currently, only 50% of Woolworths' fresh produce is farmed in this way, but the strategy will be implemented at all Woolworths produce supplier farms around the country during the next two years.
"Having realised several years ago that conventional farming methods were not sustainable and were, in fact, depleting the soil's capacity to produce quality fruit and vegetables as its carbon and biodiversity content shrunk, Woolworths decided to work with our produce farmers to look for alternatives," says Woolworths CEO Simon Susman. "Our agricultural experts have now spent three years developing the practices with our suppliers."
Working with nature
In a nutshell, the initiative is a holistic approach based on working with nature instead of against it, and combining the best of conventional farming with the best of organic farming.
Each farm that forms part of the initiative has been individually and independently audited to establish its baseline use of "Farming for the future" methods and to set goals. In the following two years, they will be audited on their management of soil minerals, soil microbes, pests, plants, water, biodiversity and waste water.
"Farming for the future is a significant paradigm shift and a giant leap forward on how we farm fresh produce in South Africa. In my view, Farming for the future will help to secure the sustainability of South Africa's soils, water resources and productive capacity in the long term. It's clearly kinder to the environment, better for true biodiversity and, best of all, yields and quality are more consistent and there's no extra cost to our consumers."
Start checking for the "Farming for the Future" logo on Woolworths produce, and make your contribution to a more sustainable future.
(Health24, November 2009)