The Organic Growers Alliance at ten
Those in the know, will be aware that the original OGA, the Organic Growers Association, has a longer vintage than ten years. That OGA was absorbed into the Soil Association to become their Producer Services department. The reincarnation of the OGA came after many smaller organic growers were feeling unrepresented, as the corporate organic juggernaut seemed unstoppable, lacking a voice. Many of those plotting the formation of the Organic Growers Alliance were involved in the original OGA. It was at the ORC Organic Producers’ Conference at Cirencester in December 2006 that the intention to resurrect the OGA was announced. It wasn’t until 2007 that growers came together at Growing with Nature for the official launch.
In the Summer of 2007 the first issue of The Organic Grower was published. Tim Deane wrote in the editorial for the first issue: “The OGA is about representation and about organic horticulture having the means to speak for itself, something it has not been able to do since sometime back in the last century. Growers don’t need persuading of the uniqueness of their craft – we know there is nothing else like it, and that it takes a grower to understand growing, and growers. The OGA is about communication and the exchange of information, through which there is nothing really to be lost and much that can be gained. Beyond that it’s about support. Or, as that word is now debased by overuse, let’s say fellowship. We can preserve our differences, but there is a lot to be said for recognising common ground and for drawing strength from that which we share.”
Join the OGA here
So, how can we reflect on the first ten years?
Ben Raskin, Horticulture Manager at the Soil Association said: ” For me, the OGA is the only organisation that provides targeted technical and policy support for small to medium scale growers. If it had existed when I was starting out there's no question I would have been a better grower.”
Wendy Seel, Vital Veg, Scotland: “I think the OGA has done a great job over the last 10 years doing what it says on the strap line - being the voice of organic horticulture. Alan especially has made sure that the voice of small scale organic growers has been heard in the Soil Association, Defra, the Organic Research Centre and other places where it has been important to make sure that the interests of small enterprises don't get forgotten. I have been trying to emulate this in Scotland. In the world of food and farming many OGA members are classed as ‘hobbyists’ by government, simply because we farm on less than 3 ha. We need the OGA to shout for us, and I think that given the paucity of our resources the OGA has done that well.”
Jason Horner, Leen Organics, Ireland; “I don't think we should underestimate the impact of the OGA over the last ten years. It has informed, educated, inspired, represented and initiated a community of organic growers. Things which on their own growers would have struggled to do. The focal point of this is the Organic Grower magazine is something we can be immensely proud of thanks to Phil Sumption and the people who put it together.”
Kate Collyns of Grown Green near Bath said that the OGA has been able to “connect existing and new growers to share experience, knowledge, advice and job/land/equipment information. It is a hub for organic horticultural information and developments.”
Alan Schofield, OGA Chair said: “For me (a key achievement) would have to be the bursary places we have helped to fund for new entrants so they could attend an event (such as the Organic Producers’ Conference) and also the technical articles within the Organic Grower allowing the inexperienced to have the confidence to grow a new crop.”
Iain Tolhurst wrote that The Organic Grower is “probably the best of its type in the English language.” That is praise indeed! The forum on the website is very active
Tim Deane wrote ten years ago: “Organic horticulture has long led organic practice in development and innovation, and is indeed the wellspring of the whole phenomenon of the organic market today. Its importance and influence far outweigh the small proportion of organic land that it occupies, while due to the diversity of its practices it rests on a body of knowledge and experience hard for non-growers to appreciate. For all these reasons we believe that organic horticulture deserves its own organisation, and that growers can only benefit from its existence. If you haven’t joined yet – join now!”
The OGA, is however, still relatively small in membership terms (hovering around the 200 growers mark), and hasn’t grown as much as many of us expected or hoped. Many growers dropped out of organic production in the recession. ‘Organic’ became out of fashion, the butt of jokes as a synonym for elitism. All of that is slowly changing and the organic market is on the rise again. The OGA is still needed and the small group of growers who run it on a voluntary basis need your support. We also need new blood and new energy to build an organisation fit for the next ten years and beyond.
Aims of the Organic Growers Alliance.
To bring growers together so that through this alliance we have the ability to promote our interests, wherever matters affecting our work are determined, and the means to benefit individually and collectively from opportunities to share our experience of growing and of all that goes with it.
Join the OGA here
We will seek to represent the interests of organic growers generally where those interests are influenced or affected, and in particular to the following bodies:
• Research organisations e.g. Garden Organic, ADHB, ORC
• Regional support centres
We will also look to liaise with the horticultural supply trade and with any organisation offering advice, vocational courses, training or any other type of support to growers including access to land, planning, etc.
As growers we share a mutual craft. What we have in common will always be greater than our differences and we have more to gain by talking to each other than by keeping our distance. The Alliance aims to organise an annual or biennial symposium (conference) and a number of farm walks each year in different parts of the UK. These events will be technical and practical in nature, but the social element will not be forgotten. We will produce an organic horticultural journal dedicated to covering all aspects of organic growing. We will also host a website (www.organicgrowersalliance.co.uk) as a means of immediate grower communication.
Where members have specific problems with officialdom - for instance with a certifier, planning authority or Trading Standards, the Alliance should be looked to for support in presenting their case.
Join the OGA here
In order that the Alliance can be effective in its role and responsive to the needs of its members we propose that its organisation and administration be in the hands of an elected committee. Although this might be seen as cumbersome, we believe that only with such a structure (formal but simple, and transparent), can members be properly represented within the Alliance and its continuity ensured.
Membership and Funding
Membership will be open to all who are actively engaged in commercial organic growing. Some outside administrative assistance is possible, however the Alliance will be ultimately reliant on members’ subscriptions for its running costs. We recognise that the small number of organic growers in the UK and the small potential for profit in growing will limit its income. Many of the aims outlined above can be achieved by the application of energy rather than expense. Of course - the greater the membership the greater our resources and the more to be gained for organic horticulture as a whole!
Join the OGA here
Follows is the full, formal constitution of the OGA...
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
CONSTITUTION FOR AN UNINCORPORATED ORGANISATION HAVING A MEMBERSHIP
The name of the Association is the Organic Growers Alliance hereinafter called "The Association".
2. OBJECTS AND POWERS
a. The Association is established to support, represent and promote the work, livelihood and development of organic horticultural producers throughout the UK.
b. In furtherance of the said objects but not otherwise the Association may:
i. Recruit, subject to good equal opportunities practice, employ and pay any person or persons to co-ordinate activities on a contractual basis.
ii. Establish local area groups for the coordination of activity
iii. Arrange and provide for the holding of conferences, meetings, workshops, training courses and other activities as part of an integrated programme.
iv. Hire or otherwise acquire any property and any rights and privileges necessary for the promotion of the said objects and construct, maintain and alter any buildings or erections necessary for the work of the Association.
v. Produce marketing and promotional materials including printed pamphlets, brochures, posters and reports.
vi. Subject to such consents as may be required by law, borrow or raise money for the said objects and accept gifts on such terms and on such security as shall be deemed to be necessary.
vii. Raise funds and invite and receive contributions from any person or persons whatsoever by way of subscriptions and otherwise PROVIDED THAT the Association shall not undertake permanent trading activities in raising funds for the said objects.
viii. Invest the moneys of the Association not immediately required for the said objects in or upon such investments, securities or property as may be thought fit, subject nevertheless to such conditions (if any) as may for the time being be imposed or required by law.
ix. Do all such other lawful things as are necessary for the attainment of the said objects.
x. Publish journals, newsletters, bulletins or any other information of interest to organic horticultural producers
Full membership is open to all who derive a significant part of their livelihood from organic horticultural production or associated activities and who support the objectives of the Association and complete a membership form and pay the annual subscription.
Associate Membership is open to those who may support the objectives of the Association but who do not derive a significant part of their livelihood from organic horticultural production or associated activities.
4 THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT
a. At the Annual General Meeting, the Association shall elect a Board of Management hereinafter referred to as The Board.
b. The Board shall set policy and manage the general affairs of the Association and shall normally meet four times but in any case not less than two times per calendar year and shall consist of no less than seven members.
c. The members of the Board shall be confirmed at the Annual General Meeting of the Association in accordance with Clause 7 hereof.
d. Election of the Board shall be for three years.
e. In addition to the members so elected the Board may co-opt up to 4 further members being full members of the Association whether individual or representative or a combination of both who shall serve until the conclusion of the next Annual General Meeting after individual co-option.
f. The proceedings of the Board shall not be invalidated by any failure to elect or any defect in the election, appointment, co-option or qualification of any member.
g. The Board shall appoint and fix the remuneration of all employees (not being members of the Board) as may in their opinion be necessary.
h. The Board may appoint such special or standing committees as may be deemed necessary by the Board and shall determine their terms of reference, powers, duration and composition. All acts and proceedings of such special or standing committees shall be reported back to the Board as soon as possible.
i. The annual subscription will be set by the Board of Management and ratified by the membership at the AGM
j. A Board member who does not attend at least 50% of the formal meetings of the Board of Management called within a calendar year shall be deemed to have resigned from the Board. Exceptions may be made to this under extraordinary circumstances.
5 HONORARY OFFICERS
a. The Board of Management shall appoint the officers of the Board which shall
consist of the following positions:
and any other officers which the Board may determine.
b. The Association may appoint qualified auditors or book keepers and may determine their remuneration (if any).
6 MEETINGS OF THE ASSOCIATION
a. The First General Meeting of the Association shall be held not later than the end of March 2008, and once per calendar year thereafter an Annual General Meeting of the Association shall be held at such time and place as the Board shall determine. Notice shall be given in writing by the Secretary to each member. At such Annual General Meetings the business shall include the election of full members to serve on the Board; the appointment of named persons to inspect the accounts; the consideration of an annual report (which may be verbal) of the work done by or under the auspices of the board; approval of the inspected statement of accounts; and the transaction of such other matters as may from time to time be necessary.
b. The Chairman of the Board may at any time at his/her discretion call a Special General Meeting of the Association.
7 NOMINATIONS OF BOARD MEMBERS
Nominations for members of the Board must be made in writing and must be in the hands of the Secretary before the Annual General Meeting. Should nominations exceed vacancies, election shall be by simple show of hands by those present or a ballot.
8 RULES OF PROCEDURE AT MEETINGS
a. Quorum: The quorum at a meeting of the Board shall be no less than 4 members.
b. Voting: All questions arising at any meeting shall be decided by a simple majority of those present and entitled to vote thereat. Arrangements for proxy voting may from time to time be made by the Board PROVIDED ALWAYS THAT no such arrangements shall be made with regard to clauses 10 and 11 hereof. No person shall exercise more than one vote notwithstanding that he or she may have been appointed to represent two or more interests, but in case of an equality of votes the chairman of the meeting shall have a second or casting vote.
c. Minutes: Minute books shall be kept by the Board and all other committees, and the appropriate secretary shall enter therein a record of all proceedings and resolutions.
a. All moneys raised by or on behalf of the Association shall be applied to further the objects of the Association and for no other purpose PROVIDED THAT nothing herein contained shall prevent the payment in good faith of reasonable and proper remuneration to any employee of the Association or the repayment to members of the Board or of any committee appointed under Clause 4 (h) hereof of reasonable out-of-pocket expenses.
b. The Honorary Treasurer shall keep proper accounts of the finances of the Association.
c. The accounts shall be inspected at least once a year as advised by the treasurer.
d. An inspected statement of the accounts for the last financial year shall be submitted by the Board to the Annual General Meeting as aforesaid.
e. A bank account shall be opened with such bank or banks as the Board from time to time decide. The Board shall authorise in writing the signatories to sign cheques on behalf of the Association. All cheques must be authorised by two of the appointed officers of the Board.
10 ALTERATIONS TO THE CONSTITUTION
Any alteration of this Constitution shall receive the assent of not less than two thirds of the full membership of the Association for the time being whether individual or representative present and voting at a meeting specially called for the purpose PROVIDED THAT notice of any such alteration shall have been received by the General Secretary in writing not less than 42 clear days before the meeting at which the alteration is to be proposed. At least 28 clear days' notice in writing of such a meeting, setting forth the terms of the alteration, shall be sent by the Secretary to each member of the Association.
If the Board by a simple majority decide at any time that on the ground of expense or otherwise it is necessary or advisable to dissolve the Association, it shall call a meeting of all members of the Association who have the power to vote, of which meeting not less than 28 days' notice (stating the terms of the Resolution to be proposed thereat) shall be given. If such decision shall be confirmed by a simple (two-thirds) majority of those present and voting at such meeting the Board shall have power to dispose of any assets held by or on behalf of the Association. Any assets remaining after the satisfaction of any proper debts and liabilities shall be given or transferred to such other charitable institution or institutions having objects similar to the objects of the Association as the Board may determine.
Any notice may be served by the Secretary on any member either personally or on its own appointed representative as the case may be, or by sending it through the post in a prepaid letter addressed to such member at his, her or its last known address in the United Kingdom, and any letter so sent shall be deemed to have been received within ten days of posting.
For the interpretation of this Constitution, the Interpretation Act, 1978, shall apply as it applies to the interpretation of an Act of Parliament.