Thursday, December 08, 2005

Te Ohu Whenua II, Massey University, September 8-9th, 2005

The following summaries are published in the second Tahuri Whenua newsletter

The second Te Ohu Whenua Conference was held recently at Massey University, following on from the inaugural conference in 2004. Balance Nutrients were again the Platinum sponsors, with HortResearch, the National Research Centre for Growth and Development, and Agricultural ITO, also contributing.

Highlights included a mini-workshop on sheep genetics by Hugh Blair. Hugh walked attendees through some of the modern concepts of breeding sheep (certainly a lot harder than even ol’ Cecil, the ram off Footrot Flats, made out!). Of course, the question was asked what effects these new and exciting techniques could have on issues close to Maori, such as wairua. Hugh neatly sidestepped the controversy by explaining he was a scientist, and the debate was a wider one of ethics in which the entire community should engage. Well, Hugh did ‘step out’ for, I think, the Manawatu rugby union back in the day, but we can be sure gene techniques – not all of these technologies involve ‘engineering’ - will not disappear, and they will certainly offer Maori farmers and growers greater options in the future.

Nick Roskruge spoke on ‘Nga Maara kai ki te Ao Hurihuri’, ‘Garden Foods of the Future’. Trends in fruit and vegetable consumption point to more emphasis on convenience and locally-sourced produce. Quality is increasingly important, particularly in such attributes as taste, smell and eating sensations. Discerning consumers are also willing to pay more for foods that are produced in a sustainable manner. The food industry admits that the consumer is ‘King’, although kings that are increasingly busy and ‘fussy’, demanding better taste, more health benefits, and convenience.

These demands will require growers to invest in training and education (for themselves and their workers), and in new technologies, especially in the areas of crop health, harvest and grading activities and crop prediction modelling. Maori continually hark back to the wisdom and courage of our tupuna. Let us acknowledge that they were quick to adopt innovations in growing and marketing produce from their lands.

Nick communicated two key objectives for Maori in horticulture. The first is the need to apply more than one discipline to our growing. Horticulture is a rapidly advancing industry, and the skills needed to be successful are various and demanding. The second objective is to ‘take ownership’ of our lands produce, ‘from paddock to plate’.

This theme was repeated by Peter Ensor, Executive Officer of the Approved Supplier Programme. The Programme originated as a pro-active move by New Zealand growers to address consumer concerns relating to food safety, the environment and quality assurance issues. Growers also sought an efficient, cost effective management and production system that removed the need for multiple auditors. They wanted ‘just the one auditor walking through the farm gate’.

Vegfed launched the Approved Supplier Programme in 1999, and were joined by the NZ Fruitgrowers Federation in 2000. A successful pilot in 2003 saw flower growers also seeking accreditation and adopting the Approved Supplier Programme as the standard for their industry. Details are available on:

Last, but by no means least, Joe McLeod spoke of ‘Our Maori Cultural Culinary Cuisine’. Joe is a well-travelled chef who has ‘come on home’ to promote, develop and secure Maori cuisine for the the future. Joe contributes to a website:

Copies of the Conference Proceedings are available from: Centre for Professional Development and Conferences; Mail Code PN415; Massey University; Private Bag 11-222; Palmerston North, NZ.

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Simon Lambert

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