Local organics co-op: an Aussie first

An Australian first in organic farming is blossoming at Harcourt with the formation of a unique local mixed organic farming co-operative.
Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens is a driving force behind the formation of the Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance – a new organic farming co-operative with five founding members.
Besides Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens these include Sellar Farmhouse Creamery, Gung Hoe Organic Vegetable Growers, Maidenii Vermouth, and Harcourt Heritage Fruit Tree Nursery.
On Friday the new local co-operative received a major boost – a $45,000 state government grant through Regional Development Victoria, which the co-op members will match to build valuable new infrastructure.
Announced on site by Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards, the $45,000 Food Source Victoria grant will enable the new alliance to establish a value-adding hub with a creamery, commercial kitchen, packing, storage, safety and workshop facilities – along with a large water tank.
“We’re so delighted to have the funding,” Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens Katie Finlay said.
“It means we’ll be able to build the infrastructure that we need for our co-op members to be able to get their businesses established and then expand.”
The new infrastructure will be built at the Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens property and is hoped to be operating by next summer with all co-op members to have organic certification.
“The organics industry is massively under-supplied. It’s one of the fastest growing farming sectors both in Australia and world-wide,” Ms Finlay said.
“There’s both a domestic focus and an export focus in this project. We’ve still got space for two or three more growers to join the co-op. We’re looking for a berry grower and a honey producer and maybe even a poultry producer.
“One of the ways this co-op is different to any other model that we’ve seen in Australia is that it’s a co-op of diverse farming enterprises. Most co-ops are all single farming types.”

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