Millton Vineyards and Winery (BioGro No.99)
While the 2009 John Manhire Award is a fitting recognition for one of the country’s organic pioneers, Gisborne winegrower James Millton refuses to accept the accolade alone. He has plans for the future that promise to make his achievements to date pale by comparison: the wholesale conversion of the nation’s wine industry to BioGro certification – as the most practical business strategy for that industry. On 5th of September 2012 James was invested at Government House and made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
I think that for everybody who is involved in organics and biodynamic growing, any form of recognition – received singularly or jointly – should be celebrated, because we certainly have an agenda out there that has to be heard, seen, memorised, taught and spoken to.
It’s hard to be green if you are always in the red. Of course we have to make money to pay our bills like everybody else, but we’re here to make the best show of what it is we can do.If consumers can appreciate what we’re doing, and if politicians and scientists and others who want to steer the pathway for the future, can stop and listen to what it is we have to say, then I think that would be the best payment that we could ever have. Just to get their ear.
Both Annie and myself are not lifestylers or second generation, coming from another occupation trying to find the ideology. I’ve been growing biodynamically for more than 28 years in Poverty Bay. I think they think I’m a local now. Mind you they still think I’m mad!
We launched a wine brand called ‘Crazy by Nature’. It says that in 1984 they thought we were crazy to do what it is that we do, where we do it and how we do it. We’ve spent the last 28 years proving that they were right. We are crazy. Now, it seems everybody wants to be crazy and that’s just what the planet needs.
We’re certified as biodynamic (Demeter) and certified as organic (BioGro).It seems to me that the simplest way to get into an export market is with organic certification, because that is quantified.
A lot of other certifications are all ifs and buts, albeit that have some degree of certification and this is backed up by the amount of audits BioGro itself has to undertake to achieve international entry.
But in my game, which is growing wine, the largest interest is in Europe, America, Japan and Australia. As a result of that we have to export our product while still appreciating that our national and, most importantly local market are the most important to us.
Being certified as biodynamic is one thing, but getting into particular markets is more difficult, hence the need to be organically certified by BioGro.
The future must lie in understanding the practice of organics, so that people can see that by applying healthy stimulants to the soil in the form of compost, and applying air and clean water to the soil that is clean is the natural pathway to correct farming. As practitioners we have to stop being soft and sentimental, and maybe be a bit more reactionary, and learn the speak of science and politics, so that we can voice our opinions in the language that they understand. Most importantly though is the need to understand the callings of Mother Nature and know when to react positively to the windows of opportunity she offers.
My greatest joy is going to be getting BioGro to speak to our industry governance –Winegrowers NZ – and for them to come to an understanding that BioGro’s Organic Standards for wine growing should be adopted as the standard for the New Zealand wine industry.
Don’t go mucking around to try to come up with some other international certified standard which is created without recognition of the practical aspects of the adoption. BioGro's standards are very profound.
They do need to embrace some more ecological requirements which other systems analysis require, and in particular energy and waste water requirements, so that these standards are more dovetailing with the wine industry’s Sustainable program. It is mostly a story about tails and dogs. I’ve never seen the tail wagging the dog.
BioGro is a profound and internationally recognized trademark that is accredited by IFOAM and audited by other certifying agencies. It is a trademark that symbolizes quality and it’s also a trademark that is maintained by a group of people who are totally dedicated to what it is that the product stands for.
BioGro is an amazing organization run by people with good warm hearts. They are not in a position to have endless money. If only this government could realise what BioGro has done for this country in the last years and were able to give some support to it then BioGro would be in an even better place to promote the riches of our country: innovation, diversity, nutrient dense foods, ecological, social, cultural and financial responsibility - all things which bio-technology fail to consider in their race to the bottom of the cliff with patent control and product competition.
Our BioGro number is 99. I’ve been around for a fair few years. One quote I’d like to have in BioNews [BioGro’s newsletter] would be that...
‘a BioGro audit is the best business plan anyone can have in order to reflect on the years’ activity and plan for the coming seasonal requirements’.
Every year I spit and swear at having to renew my BioGro certification, but once I’ve done it I just have this warmth that flows over me and I think ‘Wow, that’s a really good retrospect of what I’ve done this last year’.
That’s what I said to BioGro’s CEO the other day. ‘Let’s turn our certification into a retrospective appreciation of what it is we’ve achieved in the last year, and put it in such a format that it can become a document that other people can refer to as a point of reference.’
Technology and information doesn’t have to be held up in the ivory towers. So I’m in full support of BioGro. I would hate to think that we’re going to have another series of trademarks that are more producer-friendly or more market entry oriented. I think BioGro does a fantastic job and as time gets on, they can be a little bit more stringent.
There’s nothing like having the goal posts raised now and then. Just don’t shift them.