- The person pays a once-off joining fee ($50)
- The person has applied for 5 organic shares at $10 per share
- The person is able to use or contribute to the services of the co-operative
- Is supportive of the overall mission of ORICoop
Located on Wiradjuri Country in Peak Hill in Central New South Wales lies two farms belonging
to seasoned biodynamic farmers Ray and Judi Unger. Named Waratah and Marylyn, these
farms feature unique characteristics that make them suitable for different forms of agricultural
activity. Marylyn is formed of heavy clay loam soil packed with rich minerals, making it the
perfect medium to grow cereal crops like spelt, wheat, oats, lupin and pasture.
The fenced tree lines border most of the paddocks on Waratah and create wildlife corridors,
reduce wind erosion, attract bird life and provide fodder to stock during droughts. Waratah
comprises a lighter red ironstone soil type more suited to running their livestock of Merino sheep
for wool and White Suffolk cross for lambs as well as Hereford cattle stock. These distinct but
complementary farm types allow Ray and Judi to run a diversified mixed-farming broadacre
enterprise that offers long-term climatic resilience.
“We have 3,500 acres, and we could nearly crop all that, but we never do,” says Judi.
“We only ever crop about a third as the maximum every year because we do crop rotations, so
we try to crop about one [rotation] every eight years, so we’re sparing the country, we’re not
flogging the soil in the process of growing healthy biodynamic crops and pastures. We’re trying
to build up the organic matter and put it into the pasture phase and use it for grazing. It’s all
When Ray’s father bought the farm several decades ago, farming systems were rather
exploitative and heavily reliant on chemical inputs, extracting a considerable toll on the already
marginal agricultural land.
“The farm was heavily impacted by cropping and heavy stocking rates,” recalls Judi, prompting
the Ungers to consider ways in which they could improve the quality and health of their land and
in turn, their crops and livestock.
At a conference in Cowra in 1993, Ray heard an organic farmer speak about organic principles and practices and was immediately drawn to the concept. Organic agricultural methods could help produce high-quality agricultural products in a way that protects and improves the natural environment while safeguarding the health and welfare of all farmed species. Without hesitation, Ray and Judi decided to “go cold turkey” on synthetic fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides in the mid-90s and start the journey towards organic certification and farm management.
“I felt this immense weight off my shoulders; we were now in charge of our own destiny,” says Judi.
“We didn’t need an agronomist. We didn’t need people telling us what chemicals need to be
applied and when and where.”
Instead, by adopting the organic philosophy and mindset, Ray and Judi committed to learning
and observing their land, soil and biology to grow healthier food more sustainably. Following the
completion of a TAFE course in organic agriculture, the process of conversion took the Ungers
three years, becoming fully accredited with Australian Certified Organic in 1996 and receiving
A-grade certification for the crop they grew that year. Shortly afterwards, they began looking into
Founded on similar principles to organic agriculture, biodynamic agriculture is a holistic,
whole-systems approach to bring plants, animals, soil, ecosystems and people together.
Biodynamic systems aspire to generate their own on-farm fertility through practices such as crop
rotation, composting and integrating animals to enhance on-farm biodiversity, nurture soil fertility
and enable greater farm resilience against extreme weather events. The Ungers have been
practicing relatively consistent methods for more than 25 years.
But the agricultural sector has changed significantly over this time. The deregulation of
agricultural markets, fluctuating government support and investment, the privatisation of
infrastructure and agricultural services, rising costs for fuel and machinery, and increasing
consolidation amongst farms and across the entire food chain have reshaped Australian
“It’s changed a lot in the 28 years we’ve been doing it,” says Ray.
“A lot more dairy farmers have gone down the organic track, but then dairying has retracted;
there are fewer dairy farms around because they got bigger, just how most farms got bigger.
Cost of production has certainly increased, as has machinery. We probably wear more
machinery out than conventional farmers. They can spray 1000 acres in a day and I can plough
100 acres in a day. We’ve had lots of problems, but conventional farmers have had lots of problems too.”
Conventional and organic farming methods have a range of different impacts on soil fertility, biological diversity, livestock health and the health of the farming enterprise.
“We don’t have issues that conventional farmers have with bloat and worms. They’re in a situation where they go into town to buy something to fix their problem and basically they’re told, “If you don’t use this stuff, the sky is going to fall!” says Ray.
“Well the sky doesn’t fall. I can look back now and see we’ve been used by the chemical companies. I couldn’t even tell you what Round Up costs anymore.”
Fluctuating climatic conditions, from the intensifications of droughts and floods, to
unprecedented bushfire conditions, have created increasing pressure on Australia’s agricultural
systems and can restrict growing seasons or wipe out entire harvests.
“The current market has been tough. There are more organic grain producers around and we’ve
had a couple of good years so there’s plenty of organic grain about,” says Ray.
“It’s supply and demand: the current prices [for organic wheat] aren’t enough to cover your
costs. In comparison to the droughts of ‘18 and ‘19, where [demand was high and] it was very
difficult to buy organic grain to feed livestock. That will happen again when there’s another dry
Ray and Judi have subsequently invested in sealed storage and silos for grain as a form of
on-farm insurance. It grants the ability to store grain in good years and to carry that through to
market when climatic conditions may impact production, and there is less supply of organic
grain. It’s another way in which the Ungers can take control of when and where they market
their grain, and into which market they sell.
While grain crops such as cereals, pulses, legumes and oilseeds make up a small percentage
of total organic production in Australia, the organic grain industry has a significant opportunity to
expand with the right market development and indicators. Demand for organic products in
Australia and abroad has been rising over recent years, as consumers are increasingly
considering the health benefits and environmental effects of their food choices. This rising
demand is also motivating manufacturers to make organic food more accessible to mainstream
The Ungers have been considering new ways to add value to their business and tap into this
rising demand, but need to consider the added costs carefully, whether that be in time,
machinery, or labour of value-adding activities. Cleaning, processing, growing special items,
packaging, milling, storage, or distribution operations can all be considered as “value-adding” to
basic farm commodities like grain.
“I’ve looked at trying to value-add products; to clean grain and bag it,” says Ray.
“But you’d need a fair amount of capital to get that all organised; you’d need to set up sheds,
buy machinery and you’d need to employ someone possibly to run that side of the business. But
that comes with more risk.”
“We’re good at what we do, whether that’s wool or sheep or cattle or grain, but we’re flat out
running the farm as we are. So there’s no opportunity without spending a lot more money and
employing more people to go and value-add.”
The Organic and Regenerative Cooperative Australia (ORCA) pilot project seeks to determine
the best and most profitable products for organic grain farmers like Ray and Judi, together with
identifying the market, processing and access barriers that could be resolved through better
collaboration, producer representation or investment in storage or processing facilities.
“If ORCA was able to set up a plant to clean grain and then bag it, hopefully, we could get a
better return and share in the profit from that operation,” says Ray.
Increasing the availability of local abattoirs for the organic industry is another opportunity for
investment that Ray believes will help farmers in the region.
“30 or 40 years ago there used to be an abattoir in most towns, but now there aren’t enough
abattoirs,” says Ray.
“Sometimes our stock, our lambs and our cattle, as well as our wool, goes into the conventional
The ORCA project endeavours to unlock some of these barriers and to enable strategic
investment into facilities and technology that will lead to better prices for producers. ORCA
investigates market trends and opportunities while providing farmers with the technology and
data they may need to thrive in the organic grain farming industry. Through a tailored online
platform, producers can achieve the transparency and traceability of organic produce now
demanded by processors and consumers, as well as achieve fairer pricing along the entire
Research, education and innovation are key areas that Ray and Judi believe will help them
manage their farm more efficiently and profitably and the long-term sustainability of the organic
industry more broadly. They suggest that agricultural drone systems, for example, have an
unrealised potential to assist with microbial applications for crops or to support and surveil
cattle, all while minimising fuel costs and further impact upon the soil.
Due to the rural isolation that many farmers face, Judi believes that current information and
education systems must evolve to meet the needs of organic growers and younger farmers
wishing to enter the industry. Different knowledge-transfer activities that are organised by and
targeted at the organic farming sector, will help increase knowledge and skills on organic plant
and animal production, processing and marketing.
“Organic farming is a process of continual learning,” says Judi. “Part of it is experimentation and
trialling new techniques and being able to demonstrate what works. It would be great to get a
uni student out on the farm to do a case study and have that research published.”
Judi believes that harnessing the in-depth knowledge acquired through decades of practical
experience and translating this into an evidence base that can be shared throughout the organic
industry will strengthen the sector. Testing new approaches and technologies, building and
compiling rigorous evidence about what works, and disseminating this knowledge widely to
farmers, researchers and policymakers can help improve economic and environmental
outcomes for producers. Judi also believes that such education is key to equipping future
generations of farmers with the skill sets required to prosper in the sector and take full
advantage of innovation.
Ray and Judi are taking part in the ORCA project alongside other organic farmers in the
Riverina agricultural district in NSW. Together, these farmers are sharing their experiential
knowledge, insights and networks to collectively grow together and to diversify and build a
better and more resilient organic market. The vision is to strengthen and sustainably grow the
entire organic value chain, with shared benefits for farmers, manufacturers and consumers.
By collectively working through some of the common barriers faced by organic farmers and
unlocking opportunities for greater on-farm profitability, ORCA is committed to improving and
amplifying the benefits of organic, regenerative and biodynamic farming across the Riverina and
Written by Eva Perroni, as part of the ORCA project
We are writing to you as constituents, businesses and producers that are involved in the organic industry across Australia. We ask you to support the future of our country’s clean and green reputation, and the urgency in preserving our ecosystems and local food security. The organic industry provides a model for the rest of agriculture, that is localised, transparent and without the additional dependency or high externality costs of conventional agriculture. Our industry needs your support – and we look forward to adding your voice to our charter.
For too long Organics had been thought of as a niche market or component of Agriculture, but if one takes a world view instead of looking at the microcosm of Australia, we have entities such as the EU wanting to transition 25% of their Agriculture to Organics by 2030 via The Green Deal and Farm to Fork initiatives
Organic and regenerative farming systems can:
In so doing Organics addresses triple bottom line objectives including:-
– Organic Farming enables and accelerates the transition to a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system. Government investment is required to address deficiencies in advisory services, financial instruments and more importantly participatory research and farmer led innovation are needed instrumentally as they can help resolve tensions, develop and test solutions, overcome barriers and uncover new market opportunities.
Key Requests from the Organic & Biodynamic Industry to the Federal Government:-
The time is now….
Agriculture in Australia is at a crossroads. Producers are attempting to increase their yields with reducing on-farm profitability while managing higher climate risk exposure than ever before. We need to capture premium markets (like organics) and empower producers with better business profitability and diversified income streams. Our Country needs best in class producers that are resilient against natural disasters and rewarded with better crops, profitable and diversified businesses, healthier and improved natural ecosystems. We need to review the existing farming model that reflects a more sustainable and resilient farming infrastructure that invests in the next generation of producers, better markets with full consideration of the impact on the environment.
References from around the world:-
Your CALL to ACTION:-
Add your name HERE to our growing list of supporters, so a bipartisan voice can advocate for healthy agriculture and business production systems for the long term.
If you would like more information or to be kept up to date please subscribe to our blog HERE
We look forward to speaking with you further about how you can support the organic industry more in your region.
Sincerely in Action
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With recent questions over the legitimacy of the Australian carbon offset scheme, it’s never been more important that carbon emissions are offset with legitimate credits and are free of greenwashing.
Unfortunately, few offerings in the market consider the natural environmental variables faced by the landowners generating the credits, and have the data transparency and accuracy required to inspire confidence that the investment is actually achieving its drawdown goal.
The farmer-owned credits are backed by extensive data collection and have been developed in accordance with the conditions, biodiversity and operations of each farm they’re provided by. Their transparency of data and the ability to directly purchase Eco-Credits from each farm means investors avoid the greenwashing associated with other carbon credit offerings.
ORICoop EO Carolyn Suggate said ‘All farms are assessed as to their suitability for the program, based on their existing farming practices, the area of the farm and the intentions of future management.’
“We don’t want producers to be at risk from any carbon credit program, to overstate their carbon drawdown, or to be exposed by a natural disaster or severe weather event should the carbon levels in their soil or biodiversity decrease,” Ms Suggate said.
These limits are a key part of the design- providing investor security, and lessening the risk of overstating any values, especially following farming challenges or natural disasters that can negatively impact soil carbon improvement efforts such as the extensive flooding occurring throughout NSW and QLD recently.
“Through a collective of the credits, ORICoop’s specialist advisory committee oversees each of the credit applications and validation reports. This includes assessing the management practices, the land management zones, the footprint of the farm business plus the soil testing and results. For each project we determine suitable buffers that enable producers to bank a portion of their credits – the credits are validated annually, and depending on buffer limits, a portion is liquidated at the producer’s discretion,” Ms Suggate said.
Each Eco-Credit represents 1 tonne of CO2 drawdown, in addition the credits represent measures each local organic producer has undertaken to actively improve soil carbon, water efficiency and biodiversity within their properties and farming practices.
“If it turns out that ACCU projects are not delivering contracted reductions, despite high costs of participation, that’s the worst of both worlds. Hopefully the regulator will improve market integrity, and not just by adding more layers of consultant reports,” Mr Coleman said.
“A simpler, more transparent certification process, with low verification costs, can also offer greater integrity. Certification gets done and reported in a way all users understand and accept. Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCM) should be designed with that in mind, which is what ORICoop has set out to achieve.”
Iain Smale, of Pangolin & Associates, said the Eco Credit will be popular for investors by providing other options for carbon credits which also offer a local impact, which is especially important given per-capita carbon emissions in Australia are amongst some of the highest in the world.
“With the Eco-Credit, you’re having a bigger environmental impact than just a carbon credit,” he said.
The environmental impact of our producer operations is key for Australian-owned organic dairy processor & manufacturer Paris Creek Farms. Paris Creek Farms’ Marketing & Communications Manager Alex Donovan said they are committed to increasing the sustainability of their operations, actively working with their producers to achieve this with Eco-Credits initially playing a vital part.
“With bio-dynamic and organic practices, we’re already using one of the most sustainable and regenerative methods of farming in the world, but we are striving to be even more sustainable. Our ultimate goal is to have our farmers generating their own Eco-Credits,” Ms Donovan said.
Ms Suggate said there are many ways the agriculture sector is transitioning beyond net-zero, and that collaboration to improve trust, legitimacy and the urgency for improving how sustainably we produce food is vital, especially after considering the ‘business as usual’ impact on the environment and the urgency of our changing climate as seen recently by some of the worst floods in history.
“We need science to be well funded to enable technology to be more accessible and trusted across the industry. This includes the measurement capability, satellite data, plus legitimate footprint data for farms across all commodities,” Ms Suggate said.
“In the meantime, our organic farming ORICoop members are dedicated to measuring and validating their soil tests and farm footprint. As their credits are validated, these producers form part of the organic farming ecosystem that invests into best practice, research and sustainability programs through a legitimate farmer-led carbon credit based on international guidelines,” she said.
“That includes soil carbon and biodiversity, rewarding producers for sustainable land stewardship practices, while offering these credits to businesses looking to offset their carbon footprint with legitimate credits that are traceable back to each farm that has generated them.”
If your business is committed to achieving net-zero, offset your carbon emissions directly with credits you can trust – register here now.
400 Acres has been certified organic for more than 15 years supplying Organic Dairy Farmers of Australia. Irrigating more than 400 acres in North East Victoria, Doug Fehring of 400 Acres runs an organic dairy operation which shares some of its acreage with a pair of young brothers running a free-range egg enterprise. The painted ‘wheeled henhouse’ engages the principles of sustainability by travelling in the wake of a grazing organic dairy herd. Each day the chooks feast on the grubs growing in the cow pats, scratching the soil and spreading their own brand of goodness on the pasture as they go.
Starting out as conventional farmers, the Fehring’s had developed a “more on” mentality until more on didn’t work any more! This drove the quest to find out more about soil biology and ecology, which led to the discovery of how biological farming could improve both soil health and the overall health of the farming ecosystem. Experimentation with organic agricultural techniques finally led to organic certification.
The Fehring’s have employed a young girl that loves cows and is enthusiastically learning how to work in conjunction with nature rather than trying to control nature across the four seasons. Under the Fehring’s guidance, this young farmhand is learning how to be proactive and resilient, circumventing potential future issues through good ecological management in the present.
400 Acres joined the Organic Dairy Farmers Cooperative while it was still in its infancy nearly 15 years ago. “Since joining we have continually received a premium over and above conventional milk price and have never had a step down in price.”
“I like the concept of a ORICoop and can see that there is a need for a better connection between the end user of organic products and the producers of the products.”
By Doug Fehring, Edited by Eva Perroni
Positive money is a not-for-profit based in London that seeks to change the uk banking and monetary system to be (in their words) democratic and sustainable. There are some major differences between positive money and global 4c, and in this blogpost the major differences between the two initiatives are explained…… Read more HERE