The Vegan Organic Network (VON) has produced the world’s first set of stockfree (animal free) organic standards. We worked closely with VON (Vegan Organic Network) to establish these standards and were the first farm in the world to become registered as such. Consumer led, the Stockfree Organic standards were set up for those wanting high quality, locally available and organically grown food without the use of slaughterhouse by-products or animal manures. The symbol actively promotes local food production and by removing animal inputs presents fewer pathways for pathogens – an ever increasing concern with regard to diseases such as e.coli.
Why no animal manures?
Most consumers assume that organic production relies on animal manures to support fertility. Certainly any organic farm that has livestock will naturally use any manures available to support fertility, but the organic standards clearly state that primary fertility must come from the use of fertility building crops and that manures are only to be used as an adjunct to well designed rotations using grass or other fertility building crops. Most farmers growing vegetable crops do not have livestock, so they need to develop fertility systems that are sustainable and not dependent on bought in fertility. The organic standards presently allow growers to import manures from non organic farms, although this will become restricted in the future. The use of non organic manures poses several problems:
- Bringing manure in from another farm is depriving that farm of its own fertility.
- Non organic manures may contain unacceptably high levels of antibiotics or other chemical residues.
- The transport of manures is expensive in terms or energy and adds traffic and pollution to the local environment.
- Non organic manures are often a by-product of livestock systems that depend on imported feedstuffs, some of which may have traveled halfway around the world.
We began to seriously question the wisdom of importing fertility back in the early nineties and started by banning the use of fish blood and bone on our farm. This organic fertilizer is used by some organic growers, but we were concerned about possible health problems and in the light of the BSE crises we were very pleased to have removed this product from our system. It is still allowed in organic production, primarily mixed with peat to provide potting composts.
We see a big future in stockfree organic systems as they use considerably less land than livestock dependent systems, have a much lower carbon footprint and lower energy requirements. We are pleased to have been at the forefront of developing this important food growing system.