Join our new farming opportunity
We have a vision to create a new model for farms across Australia.
The Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op is seeking a new partner(s) to join us on this journey. We know first hand that the collective use of farmland and enterprise can work, unlocking new opportunities for both growers and the land that we work on. Read the details below and consider expressing your interest to the right, or email us at email@example.com.
What’s the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op?
We want to make our farm as productive as possible, and at the same time give emerging farmers (without access to land) the chance to run their own viable farming businesses.
The Co-op launched on 1 July 2018. Foundation members are:
- Tellurian Fruit Gardens – Ant Wilson leases the orchard on the farm (previously called Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens). Ant sells his fruit via CSA, farmers markets and wholesale.
- Gung Hoe Growers – Sas Allardice and Mel Willard have been leasing land from us since 2015 to run their market garden, and in that time have expanded a number of time. They sell to local restaurants, CSA, and through the Weekly Castlemaine Farmers Market.
- Sellar Farmhouse Creamery – Tess Sellars runs a micro-dairy of 10 mainly Jersey cows on the farm, using rotational grazing, a mobile milking parlour, and processing the milk in an on-farm factory.
- Carr’s Heritage Fruit Tree Nursery – Sas Allardice and Katie Finlay, under the mentorship of Katie’s dad Merv Carr, grow and sell a wide range of heritage fruit trees.
We also have two non-land based foundation members in the Alliance:
- Grow Great Fruit – Hugh and Katie Finlay’s online organic fruit growing education business
- Maidenii Vermouth – Gilles Lapalus and Shaun Byrne make this delicious drop, and are looking for the right partner to grow the wide range of botanicals used in the vermouth
With funding from Regional Development Victoria (RDV), we’ve developed a Business Development Growth Plan for the Co-op that outlines our business structure. We have also received RDV funding to help build infrastructure for the Co-op, including bathroom, space for commercial kitchen, water tank, Gung Hoe packing shed, storage space etc.
Each enterprise has an individual lease with the landowners, and this qualifies them to become a member of the Co-op. The Co-op facilitates the way we work together, e.g. we have collective organic certification with NASAA (#3683).
So, where do you come in? We’re looking for one or two new Co-op member to start enterprises that are compatible with the existing operations and use only organic practices. These may include (but are not limited to):
- the Maidenii botanical garden
- native food or medicinal plants
- native nursery
- pick-your-own berries
- vegetable seedlings
- value-added products
- bees (honey/beehives/workshops)
- worm farming
- compost production
- chickens/poultry for eggs or meat
We’re looking for someone with the drive, ambition, and desire to run their own successful organic farming business. We’re offering an initial lease that will expire at the same time as existing Co-op members (on 30 June 2021) with two additional 3 year options (x+3+3).
It would best suit someone with previous farming experience, as well as experience with organics. It may suit a couple, or a group of people wanting to work together, learn together and share the profits, or you could even run your enterprise as a not-for-profit, if you have a viable and sustainable business model.
You’ll need to have (or develop) a business plan, and be able to demonstrate the financial viability of your idea – we can help with templates and guidance as to the format. If you can show your idea is viable, you’re welcome to apply to become a member of the Co-op.
One of the big advantages of farming here is becoming part of an existing supportive farming community. The community decides together who can join the Co-op, which means part of the application process includes opportunities to get to know each other in a variety of informal ways (this might include sharing meals, a presentation of your idea and how you see it fitting into the Co-op, and you volunteering) so we can all decide whether a prospective new member feels like a good “fit”.
What’s the history?
We’re Hugh and Katie Finlay. Before we leased the orchard to Ant we ran Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens, our organic orchard, for almost 20 years, first managing and then later buying what had been Katie’s family farm. It’s a 30-hectare farm in the beautiful Harcourt valley, a mainly apple growing district in central Victoria less than 1.5 hrs from Melbourne.
After we took over the farm from Katie’s dad, it went through a couple of transformations, the first one being to replant the orchards with small quantities of a large number of fruit varieties, to suit selling at Farmers Markets. The second transformation was converting to organics, which we achieved in 2008.
These days we take more of a back seat on the farm, and see our role at this stage of our lives as implementing, building, participating in and guiding the Co-op.
What are the details?
The lease will include access to:
- land sufficient for the purpose (the limited land available for lease at the moment include two separate 1 ha blocks, both with accessible water, and a number of other smaller areas).
- secure irrigation water and infrastructure
- potential to use some equipment
- access to established markets in collaboration with other enterprises (retail, pick-your-own, farm-door, online, weekly Castlemaine Farmers Market)
- assistance with establishing systems (e.g. marketing, sales, farm record keeping, organic certification)
- advice and mentoring
The lease will not include:
- A house on the farm
What’s the financial arrangement?
You’ll be charged an annual lease payment, a share of the outgoings (e.g., rates, water, electricity, organic cert costs), and a levy on your sales through the Co-op. You’ll be responsible for all other costs associated with running your business. There may also be a membership fee to the Co-op, and/or you may be required to participate in Co-op income generating activities (various options are currently being explored), which will return value to you via reduced costs.
How do I apply
If this sounds like you, please get in touch and tell us why! We’d love to hear about your experience, goals, and ambitions. Drop us a line by filling out the Expression of Interest Form on this page or just sending an email, and we’ll be in touch. Looking forward to hearing from you!