Environmental stewardship starts in your own backyard

There are many factors that contribute to strong environmental stewardship in the vegetable industry, and improving soil management and plant health is an important component of business sustainability. But when it comes to finding evidence of the strengths and gaps of your growing operation, it can be difficult to know where to start. 

The EnviroVeg program can help growers identify these opportunities and take action to ensure their vegetable growing business is environmentally responsible. The program has existed for many years as an industry-led best practice management program for vegetable production businesses in Australia. Recent improvements have been made to the program and piloting with vegetable growers from key vegetable growing regions has resulted in the program now available to growers. To date there are 300 members nationally and the program is accepting vegetable growers in 2021.

“EnviroVeg aims to support the longevity of vegetable growing regions by benchmarking individual businesses against wider industry data, and ultimately developing industry recognition for environmentally responsible and sustainable production methods,” Program Coordinator Danielle Park said. 

How it works

The first step for vegetable growers looking to get involved in the EnviroVeg program is to conduct a free online self assessment, which is housed on the Hort-360 platform. 

Growers are guided through questions in 10 focus areas: Land and Soil, Biosecurity, Chemicals, Fertilisers and Soil Additives, Water, Biodiversity, Waste, Air, Energy and Business Management. All previous answers are saved in the system and can be adjusted, allowing growers to complete the assessment in their own time. 

During spring 2020, the EnviroVeg program also conducted group sessions to support growers to complete the self assessment phase. The initial group sessions have included a focus on soil and land management practices, the current management being used on farm and discussion of potential changes that might provide a benefit into the future. 

The EnviroVeg program has been able to offer this option to assist interested growers to get started. Similar sessions are available to support vegetable producers to complete their EnviroVeg self assessment upon request. One-on-one support may also be available. 

Relevant questions also link to supporting materials within the EnviroVeg Manual, which provides further information about achieving sustainable vegetable production. When all questions are completed, an individualised business report is generated for each focus area. 

“The feedback report provides a summary of how the grower is performing in each of the 10 sections as well as providing benchmarking information against the wider industry. It outlines any environmental risks and possible actions for management,” Danielle said. 

“Growers can easily identify where they are performing well and where they need to focus going forward. It’s a simple review of your system and how your business operates.

“All data is confidential and the live benchmarking function within the system also allows you to track change over time within your own business, as well as against other vegetable producers. There’s value in being able to track improvement and in having that detail available.”

This information also provides an opportunity for growers to reduce input costs, which continue to rise causing declining terms of trade. 

Training can then be organised to further a grower’s knowledge of environmental management techniques. The program also provides a pathway to Freshcare Environmental certification, which allows members to use EnviroVeg branding for marketing and industry representation. 

An opportunity to reassess

Danielle explained that the self assessment process provides growers with sufficient data to review their business and identify areas for improvement. 

“The value of this program to the vegetable industry is that it allows growers to take a step back to see where the gaps and opportunities are in their business, and the practical actions to begin to address those gaps. It also opens up linkages to other projects, technical information, resources and people who can help growers become responsible stewards of land, water and biodiversity.”

For more information, please visit www.ausveg.com.au/enviroveg or watch our webinar recording on the new resources, benefits of the program and technical insights. 

You can also contact EnviroVeg Program Coordinator Danielle Park at danielle.park@ausveg.com.au or 0432 324 822.

The EnviroVeg program is funded by Hort Innovation using the vegetable research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government. Project Number: VG16063

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