Nathan wins Nuffield Scholarship

FreeCongratulations to young organic farmer Nathan Free for being awarded a prestigious Nuffield Scholarship.

Nathan will study variety selection and soil amendments during conversion from conventional to certified organic farming.

As managing director of Alkira Organics, Nathan is responsible for vegetable production, packaging, marketing and dispatch at his family’s certified organic horticultural production business in Victoria.

The 350 hectare property comprises organic stone fruit and organic vegetables, including zucchini, melon, pumpkin, tomato, corn, broccoli and kale.

The family converted their stonefruit and vegetable ground to organic with Australian Certified Organic five years ago, giving them an opportunity to develop their business using systems they find to be more ethical and sustainable.

“When we converted, we were surprised with the lack of help within Australia, ensuring that useful information is readily available to support transitioning farmers will be key to them having greater early success in the industry,” he says.

Nathan believes there is massive potential for the organic industry to develop, but the more demanding crops and the ability to achieve higher yields is holding the industry back.

“I intend to identify which varieties of vegetables are working well using organic production methods on an international scale.

In addition, I hope to tap into knowledge around the world regarding soil amendments that can bridge the gap during the conversion to organic as well as building the organic matter in soils,” he says.

Nathan will travel to the USA to visit The Rodale Institute and inspect the Californian stonefruit and organic seed industries, as well as England, to meet with the UK’s largest organic group the Soil Association.

AUSVEG CEO Richard Mulcahy says, “Nathan is certainly a young talent to watch. He has shown enthusiasm, dedication and commitment to the Australian vegetable industry beyond his years, and is also a recent recipient of the AUSVEG Young Grower of the Year Award.”

Nuffield Australia is an organisation which provides an opportunity to Australian farmers to travel overseas on an agricultural research scholarship. It is a 16 week program consisting of both group and individual travel. The next groups will be travelling through New Zealand, Brazil, USA, Mexico, the UK, South Africa, Kenya and Europe in March to April 2015.

The Nuffield Scholarship is supported by Horticulture Australia Limited, using funds from the National Vegetable R&D Levy and matching funds from the Australian Government.

Read more about Nathan.

If you are interested in converting to organic farming the Australian Organic Onboarding Program gives you all the help you need to be profitable and sustainable.