Join our new farming opportunity

We have a vision to create a new model for farms across Australia.

The newly established Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance is seeking a new partner(s) to join us on this journey. We know first hand that the approach to 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 info@growgreatfruit.com.

What’s the Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance?

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 Alliance is set to launch on 1 July 2018. Foundation members include the following:

  • Tellurian Fruit Gardens – Ant Wilson will be leasing the existing orchard business (currently called Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens).
  • 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 doubled the size of their patch twice.
  • Sellar Farmhouse Dairy – Tess Sellars will be running a micro-dairy of 10 cows on the farm, using rotational grazing, a mobile dairy and processing the milk in an on-farm creamery
  • Harcourt Heritage Fruit Tree Nursery – Sas Allardice and Katie Finlay will be growing and selling 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 Alliance that outlines the business structures we’ll be using. Each enterprise will (a) have an individual lease with the landowners, and (b) become a member of a collective business entity designed to facilitate the way we work together. We’re also waiting with bated breath for the outcome of funding applications to help provide the infrastructure we need for Stage 1 (the ‘Hub’) including bathroom, kitchen facilities, water tank, storage space etc. 

The Opportunity

So, where do you come in? We’re looking for one or two Alliance member to start new enterprises that are compatible with the existing operations and use only organic practices. These may include:

  • 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 3 year lease, with two additional 3 year options (3+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 the enterprise as a not-for-profit.

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.

One of the big advantages is that you get an ‘instant community’ which has already done a lot of the thinking and planning around setting up a collaborative farming community.

What’s the history?

We’re Hugh and Katie Finlay. We’ve been running 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.

We’re ready to take more of a back seat on the farm, and see our role at this stage of our lives as implementing, building and guiding the Alliance, while at the same time providing pathways and mentorship into organic farming for emerging farmers.

What are the details?

The lease will include access to:

  • land sufficient for the purpose
  • secure irrigation water and infrastructure
  • potential to use equipment including tractors and attachments, compost tea brewer, weigh scales, cherry picker, and farmers market equipment.
  • access to established markets in collaboration with other enterprises (retail, pick-your-own, farm-door, online)
  • assistance with establishing systems (e.g. marketing, sales, farm record keeping, organic certification)
  • advice and mentoring
  • contacts and assistance with applying for funding as part of the alliance

The lease will not include:

  • A house on the farm (but we’ll be happy to discuss options, e.g., your own on-farm caravan or tiny house)

What’s the financial arrangement?

You’ll be charged an annual lease payment, plus a share of the outgoings (e.g., rates, water, electricity), and will be responsible for all other costs associated with running your business. You’ll need to pay a membership fee to the collective business entity, which will return value to you via reduced costs, market access etc.

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!

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