Rosewarne represented in Europe
Dr Stephen Roderick of the Organic Studies Centre at Duchy College, Rosewarne recently attended the first meeting of a new EU-funded concerted action programme: Sustaining Animal Health and Food Safety in Organic Farming (SAFO).
Steve was an invited guest at the workshop, which was held from September 5-7 at the Istituto Agronomico per L'Oltremare (IAO) in the beautiful and historic city of Florence, Italy. As well as being invited to chair a plenary session on "Socio-economic aspects in the food chain of organic livestock products", Steve was also able to take an active part in the various discussions pertinent to the work of the Organic Studies Centre. The workshop participants were particularly interested in two of the Centre's organic livestock projects. A study of organic poultry production, completed last year, provided evidence to the participants that organic poultry farmers are able to improve efficiency and profitability through vertical market integration along the food chain i.e from farmer, to abbatoir, to retailer and customer.
A workshop session on improving advice to organic livestock farmers allowed Steve to explain details of the centre's collaborative research with the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Bristol. The project has been evaluating how benchmarking of on-farm animal welfare assessments can assist farmers in improving health planning on their farms. This is of particular interest to organic farmers, as they set high welfare standards whilst minimising reliance on veterinary drugs. Interest in this work was extended to an invitation for Steve to present results of this study in more detail at the second international workshop at the University of Kassel in Germany during March 2004.
As well as attending the technical workshop, Steve also joined other participants on a morning tour of organic farms and an abattoir in the Communit¿ Montana Mugello in the nearby Tuscany hills. This is an area of the country where more than 20% of the land area is under organic production. The visit included a tour of an organic dairy herd run by a workers co-operative and a chance to try locally processed organic yoghurt. This was followed by a tour of a local abattoir with a strong sense of commitment to local production and then on to a large organic farm producing beef from the world famous Italian breed, the Chiannina. Inevitably, the tour ended with a magnificent buffet of local organic food and tremendous hospitality by the organic producers of the region. It is Steve's view that the organic farmers in this region have created a farming environment that not only emphasises quality and sustainability, but also one based on local produce. This is a model of food production rarely seen in the UK.