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Interview: John Bostock on organic production

Interview: John Bostock on organic production

John Bostock is the man behind BOSTOCK New Zealand and the pioneer of commercial organic apple production in NZ. In celebration of Organic Week Aotearoa – an annual celebration of all things organic, we sat down with John and talked organic production – from certifications and regulations to sustainability and Bostock products.

How and why did you start growing organic produce?

My late wife, Vicki and I started out as conventional apple and squash growers in the 1980s. We lived on a conventional apple orchard with our three sons. We became concerned with the industry’s liberal use of pesticides and other artificial substances, so started looking for healthier and safer alternatives. Vicki wanted our family to grow up without pesticides around, so in 1996 we started converting our Hawke’s Bay apple orchards to organic and were the first growers in NZ to approach organic apple production on a commercial scale.

How are Bostock’s products different from competitors?

Our biggest point of difference is that we grow organic and are increasing our organic footprint each year. On our Bostock orchards, we only grow organic apples and most land which we have bought, we are converting to organic. BOSTOCK New Zealand has grown to over 1400 acres of BioGro certified apple orchards and is responsible for marketing and exporting 85% of New Zealand’s organic apple crop to the world. 

What are the benefits of eating organic?

Organic means non-GMO, so the use of genetically modified organisms is prohibited in organic products. Our apples are grown naturally in rich, fertile soils, high in organic matter and nutrients which means they’re bursting with flavour and are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re also free of synthetic pesticides and artificial substances and are safe to eat straight from the tree.

Organic produce tastes better as there are no artificial soluble fertilisers used. This makes organic produce more nutrient dense and tastier.

In NZ, what does it mean to be organically certified? 

Producers must undergo a thorough certification process with a three year conversion period before full organic status is given. Only approved organic products can be used on the land; i.e. no synthetic chemicals or fertilisers are allowed to be used. Producers also work in partnership with nature to control pest & disease and ensure the health of the soil and environment are protected. 

Why is organic food typically more expensive than conventional food?

It takes a lot more work and time to grow organic produce. Organic crop yields are also lower. Most of our processes are done by hand, so its more labour intensive. For example, we don’t use chemicals to thin our apple trees or kill the weeds in our onion crops. We do it all by hand. 

What regulations are in place to ensure all organic food is actually organic?

In New Zealand, there is a certification process as mentioned above. We are BioGro certified and regularly audited and organic packaging must be clearly labelled in New Zealand. We have the BioGro logo on all our packaging which shows our organic certification.

Is organic food more sustainable /  better for the environment/ climate change than conventional food?

Organic food is produced more sustainably than conventional produce. Everything we do is with a focus on preserving and enhancing our environment. We aim to improve long-term soil structure and fertility, encourage biological cycles, maintain genetic diversity, avoid pollution, and cycle organic matter and nutrients within the production system. Organic production enhances soil structure and biodiversity.