Hotel childhood fostered sustainability

Roger Archibald is commercial manager for BioGro.

Growing up on a “100 acre farm with the hotel in the middle” which served guests homegrown, home-cooked meals and where recycling was second nature, clearly influenced Roger Archibald’s future.

No, he didn’t become a publican but instead an advocate for sustainability, waste management and the production of safe, healthy, tasty foods. All of which ideally equips him for his new role as commercial manager for BioGro, New Zealand’s largest and best-known certifier for organic produce and products.

When he was growing up, Roger’s parents owned and operated the Taratahi Hotel near Carterton.

“The hotel happened to be in the middle of a 100-acre farm where we grew most of our own food, including free-range pigs which we fed on leftover beer and garden scraps.”

Labels like environmental and economic sustainability, recycling and growing chemical-free, and great tasting foods, weren’t attached to how his family lived – but in effect that’s what they were instinctively doing.

Recycling programmes

Those principles became part of Roger’s career path, which has included working for Cart Holt Harvey involved in recycling programmes, and later as an advisor for the Ministry for Economic Development and then a sustainability advisor for the Ministry for Social Development.

Roger went on to become the sustainable business facilitator for the Greater Wellington Regional Council, followed by the position as the sustainability advisor for the New Zealand Retailers Association.

When he began working with staff at the two ministries, Roger says many found it hard to grasp the concept of recycling, including separating waste into bins and doing away with their under-the-desk bins in which everything had been chucked.

“Now recycling is taken for granted in most offices and many households,” says Roger, who began his new role at BioGro in late last year.

He sees this as a chance to enhance the service the certification body provides to producers; to attract new entrants to the organic industry; and to raise the profile of organically grown foods and products among the public.

Process simplified 

He told an organic kiwifruit field day organised for its growers by Seeka in November that he wants to see the certification process simplified and made more cost-effective for producers.

“I also plan to put everything in plain English so it’s clear and easy to understand.”

The auditing process is already being streamlined and Roger told growers at the meeting he’s keen to hear what they and other producers want from BioGro. Giving BioGro and its producers a stronger voice with the Ministry for Primary Industries is another aim.

“I also want to see BioGro itself grow. It hasn’t grown in five years.”

Like many primary industries, the age of organic producers in increasing and encouraging more young people to become organic producers is another goal.

“I also want to raise the profile of BioGro and organic foods and products among the public. I’m not sure that people fully understand what certificated organic products are – and that organic certification also means it’s non-genetically modified.”

Ugly fruit

There may be a potential in future of a “non-GMO” – Genetically Modified Organism – brand which BioGro could certify.

“There is a growing interest among the public in knowing exactly what is and isn’t in their food and I think supermarkets would also be keen on such a branding.”

The return of ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables – those which may have harmless skin blemishes, or be slightly misshapen would please Roger too. “There’s a growing ugly fruit and vege movement which aims to see foods normally discarded because they don’t look good, made available to the public.

“I think it’s a great idea because ‘ugly’ fruit and veges often taste better than the perfect ones we see in supermarkets now.”


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