Organic Week with Chris Morrison

Organic Week is New Zealand's largest annual celebration of all things organic, brought to you by the collaboration of Aotearoa's organic community. We sat down with our Co-founder Chris, who also happens to be the Chair of Organics Aotearoa New Zealand to discuss the importance of organics and so much more. You can find out more about Organic Week here.

on March 21, 2022

When did you first start learning about organics? What ignited your passion for organics? 

I first started learning about organics after I left school and travelled to Canada. I began growing organic vegetables and became really interested in growing healthy food without chemicals. From then on I was very committed and interested in the whole organic world.

I’ve always been interested in healthy food and healthy soil. From my own gardening experience, I didn't see any need for anyone to use artificial fertilisers and chemicals on the soil, when you can use organic compost and work with nature. The more I learnt about organics, I also became very interested in using food as medicine and realised it was a solution to a lot of problems we face today. 

People often associate organics with chemical free food, but there’s so much more to it. How does organics help people and the planet?

Organics help people by contributing to healthy food. To get healthy food we need healthy soil i.e. looking after the soil, feeding it with compost and not using toxic chemicals like herbicides/pesticides.

Having healthy soil gives us a really healthy base for growing food. The health of the soil goes into the plants, which then gives you safe and nutritious food, then when you eat the food it provides you with the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need and it gives you a healthy body. This is super important for people and their health.

Having healthy soil is really important, there are lots of things that go into creating healthy soil e.g. seaweed, mulch, returning waste vegetables/food which creates resilient soil. For example, resilient soil holds water, prevents runoff and leaching because you have a complex soil system. This contributes to a healthy planet and in turn healthy waterways (not having toxins run into the water). Growing and consuming organics solves many solutions to the problems we face globally. 

Do you think the culture around organics in New Zealand is changing?

I do think so, yes. More and more people are focussing on making sure they have resilience and their bodies can deal with toxins. We’ve seen with COVID-19, people are wanting to ensure their immune systems are really strong. Although it’s been a very difficult time for a lot of people, we’ve seen the demand for organic healthy food continue to grow and that’s a very good sign. 

You’ve started several well known businesses selling organic food and beverage products, what advice would you give to companies thinking about going organic? 

Like any business, you have to make sure you have all the basics figured out. For example, you have a very strong business case, there is demand for your product and you know your cost of goods etc. If all of those are stacking up, I believe organics is the right path to travel down whether it’s food, drinks, clothing or agriculture. Organics makes sense, there is more and more demand for organic goods and consumers are also willing to pay an extra premium for organic products, as they are supporting the values and benefits that organic agriculture/ production provides.

How do you think COVID-19 has affected consumers' behaviour towards organics?

With COVID-19 we’ve seen an increased awareness of healthy food and the importance of building a robust strong immune system. If you want to do this you need to be consuming organic food and beverages to nurture your body and create a strong healthy immune system. 

What do you think the barriers are to consuming organics? Are there any myths you’d like to bust about organics?

I completely understand there may be barriers to consuming organics, I know that organics can be more expensive than conventional but there are strong reasons for that. It costs more money to take care of our earth, and provide for future generations by developing healthy soil that will provide for generation after generation.

The cheaper method, to just extract and to add chemicals to the soil (to fight weeds etc) is a short cut. Eventually the soil will be exhausted and it’s an enormous cost to repair the environment/ soil and it may take many, many years.

When choosing organic, not only are you getting healthy nutritious food, but you are investing in the future for future generations - so they can also have healthy food from healthy soil. 

In regards to myths, some people say that there is no difference in nutrition of organics vs conventional or that organics are too expensive etc. However, organic food is the true cost of agriculture. Paying 50 cents for a head of broccoli isn’t taking into consideration all of the external factors like the damage to the soil, the damage to the waterways, the damage to the growers and the health of the consumers. With organics this is all taken care of!

The true cost of food is closer to what you pay for organics, rather than the subsided food through conventional farming and food structures. 

What would you like to see in the next 10 years in the Organic movement? 

I’m very optimistic! I think we are going to see a strong movement towards organic regenerative agriculture, because that is going to provide the solutions that we desperately need. We need this for climate change and the health of our population and our planet.

What we need to do is get back to the basics; healthy soil, healthy growers, healthy consumers and healthy food. 

You’re passionate about gardening and growing organic food. What is your favourite vegetable to grow?

This is a very difficult question! My favourite organic fruit would have to be berries such as blueberries and raspberries and of course bananas! When it comes to vegetables I’d say lettuces, herbs, rocket etc - the staples that you have in your everyday meals. 

What are your top tips to start living a more organic lifestyle?

Become a conscious consumer. For example, understanding what it means to choose an organic lettuce vs a conventional lettuce. Consider who grew your food, where did it come from and what are the implications on our planet and the consumer and the grower? This also applies to your clothing, cosmetics etc 

How will you be celebrating Organic Week? 

I will be celebrating all of the businesses that contribute to a healthier planet and healthier New Zealand. I’ll be making sure I support those businesses by buying their products, networking with them and just enjoying all the good work they are doing and the products they are creating.