Apply for our “instant orchard” opportunity now open—closing 31 July 2023

We (Hugh and Katie Finlay) are looking for an enthusiastic person (or people) who are well placed for an on-farm learning adventure to take over the lease on a beautiful certified organic orchard in Harcourt, Victoria. Our well-established mixed orchard is about 4 ha and includes cherries, apricots, plums, apples, and pears.

It’s a great opportunity for you to consolidate or learn a wide range of fruit-growing skills.

The ideal person or people will have a strong interest in organic fruit growing. They’ll have at least some farming experience and knowledge of organic farming, and farming will be their chosen career. It’s a big job for one person, so would be ideal for a couple or partnership.

As a lessee on our farm, you’ll also become a member of the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op (HOFC).

Why has this opportunity come up?

We first leased our organic orchard in 2018, to Ant Wilson. He ran it as Tellurian Fruit Gardens for 3 years before handing the reins to The Orchard Keepers (OKs). They are a collective of six friends and fruit enthusiasts who have enjoyed two years at the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-operative (HOFC) managing the orchard.  Here’s what they have to say about why it’s time for them to hand over the role of orchard keeping.

“We are passionate about farming and food systems and we entered into this lease with various degrees of previous experience in different parts of the food system including: growing up on farms, working on CSA projects in Europe, cooking at a commercial scale, coordinating volunteering community ag programs, projects in regional food economies, landsharing and small-scale agriculture supply chains and more.

“Even with our experiences, it was a wonderful learning curve and a great joy to learn on a project of this scale as generously mentored by landowners and previous orchardists Katie and Hugh.

“Why are we moving on? We’ve found that it was too much of a stretch for any of us to continue coordinating the orchard. This has as much to do with our current life responsibilities (kids and care work, mortgages, living off farm, and other work projects) as anything else. As one part of the HOFC land-sharing experiment, we are excited to share the HOFC model with others and think this opportunity will perfectly suit the right people.”

The new lease begins on or after 1 July 2023 and runs until 30 June 27.

About the opportunity…

The role involves taking over the lease (which runs until mid-2027), managing a small commercial orchard to certified organic standards, and becoming a member of the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op.

Managing the orchard involves a wide variety of farm & business tasks including pruning, spraying, netting, harvesting, grading, machine maintenance, composting, fertilising, spraying, product distribution, farmers markets, business administration, and of course, eating delicious fruit.

This business requires at least one person working at 1 x FTE plus extra seasonal labour, but would be well-suited to two or more people distributing 2  x FTE between them. The work is seasonal so tends to be more intensive from spring until the end of harvest (September – April), and less so in the cooler months.

Suitable candidates will need to have some experience in farming or horticulture. Experience in co-operative/collaborative working environments is a bonus. The farm work is physical, so physical fitness is necessary.

About the farm…

The Orchard is part of the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op (HOFC). HOFC is an innovative and ever-evolving group of farmers farming co-operatively on 30 hectares on Dja Dja Wurrung country.

HOFC is a collaboration of six organic businesses: Sellar Dairy, The Orchard Keepers, Gung Hoe Growers, The Murnong Mamas Bush Food plot, Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery and Grow Great Fruit. We operate under a unique Co-operative farming model with four of the businesses leasing the land.

Accommodation (caravan on-site) can be provided for the successful lessee.

Support from Hugh and Katie

Support will be available from us in the form of training, mentorship, and a 12-month membership of the Grow Great Fruit program (worth over $2,000) to the successful applicant.

Either Hugh or Katie (or both), as required and when on-farm, will be available for skills development and equipment induction. We will also be available for a weekly planning meeting with the intended Lessee for at least the first 12 months. (We’re also available informally at other times.)

The Lessee has access to a number of online Orchard Resources. This includes access to the competencies and standard operating procedures (SOPs) listed in the prospectus, the Grow Great Fruit online training program, and the Landholder’s reference library.

Support from the Orchard Keepers

Mentoring, labour, and support from the existing Orchard Keepers team are offered for the first 12 months. They expect this to amount to 1-2 days per week. They will also provide a thorough upfront handover in all areas of operations from communications and marketing to day-to-day orchard tasks, planning, distribution, and caring for the trees.

The Orchard Keepers are also willing to hand over all of their business infrastructure including communications, marketing, and accounting systems, their database, website, and social media channels as well as equipment such as branded marquee at no cost to the new lessees.

Remuneration and financials

You’ll be charged an annual lease payment, and for your outgoings (e.g., rates, water, and power). You’ll also pay a membership fee and levy to the Co-op which covers some shared costs (e.g. organic certification). You’ll be responsible for all other costs associated with running your business. All the income from the orchard business will be yours.

All financial, picking, and distribution records for the orchard over the past 10 years will be made available on submission of an expression of interest (EOI). In recent years the orchard has made $60,000-$100,000 per year depending on the season. The running costs have averaged $40k a year including wages.

The Orchard Keepers spent about $35k on their start-up costs (legals, website, branding, marquee, etc.) which will be included at no cost to the new lessee.

The Prospectus (supplied on submission of an EOI) also includes ideas and projections for possible business add-ons to increase profitability.

What we’re looking for…

Adventurous folks keen to get stuck in for 4 years immersing themselves in farming, food, and community. People with a clear understanding of the challenges of the project but a willingness to give it a go and commit for the 4 year term.

Process for selection—EOIs close on 30 June

Katie and Hugh, and/or a member of the OKs, are happy to chat with you on the phone about the orchard and respond to any questions you have before you submit the EOI. You’re also welcome to get in touch to arrange to visit us on the farm.

When you submit an EOI we’ll send you a copy of our prospectus including our history, a description of the orchards, a seasonal work calendar, a breakdown of the main tasks, and a list of the equipment and resources that are included in the lease.

We expect to shortlist 2-3 applications. These shortlisted applicants will be contacted to undertake an interview process with Hugh & Katie with a follow up on-farm visit if required. We plan to advise those selected for the lease by early June This will enable the possibility of a long lead-in time.

Next steps…

  1. Submit your Expression of Interest in the Contact box to the right, telling us a bit about yourself and briefly why this opportunity appeals to you.
  2. We’ll send you the Prospectus.
  3. If you decide to apply for the position, send your application to  APPLICATIONS CLOSE ON 31 JUly. Late applications may be accepted, so please get in touch. Your application should include:
      1. A brief resume.
      2. A brief cover letter that includes answers to the following questions:
        1. Why are you interested in this opportunity?
        2. Why have you chosen farming as your career and where do you see yourself in 10 years?
        3. Do you plan to have an off-farm income?
        4. The job is too much for one person so how do you envisage managing the workload (e.g., you’re applying as a couple or a team, you’ll be seeking a business partner, employing people, using WWOOFers or volunteers, etc.)?
        5. Do you have any experience with farming, or with using farm machinery, e.g. tractors, forklifts?
  4. We’ll shortlist applicants, and get in touch to arrange a Zoom interview or let you know you were unsuccessful. We anticipate that interviews will take place during May-June.
  5. We’ll aim to make a decision and offer the successful applicant the lease by the end of June.
  6. A schedule of induction/handover/training days will be set up by arrangement.

Expressions of Interest closing soon!








Expression of Interest

Get our FREE ebook – 10 Key Steps to Growing Great Fruit

This useful ebook will give you answers to all the topics you need to know, from pests to pruning, and it’s completely free!

You'll soon be enjoying abundant harvests.

When you download the ebook, you'll also get our free Weekly Fruit Tips newsletter to help you stay on track with the little jobs that keep your trees healthy and fruitful.

Just hit "Get my ebook!" to download your free copy.

You have Successfully Subscribed!