- 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
ORICoop has been in deep conversations with our members, producers, supply chain businesses and investors that are interested in a more sustainable and resilient food and farming system. We are keen to share our learnings – and to ask the question of the future of our food and financial systems. And what is the true colour of money?
Right now – Farmers around the country are innovating and transitioning quickly. Quicker in fact than Governments and Industry bodies realise. They are pressured by commodity prices, by wars overseas, by severe climatic events and rising interest rates. Yet with the current rising inflation – producers are not being paid much more than they were 5 years ago. Despite their costs increasing just like everyone else’s. Perhaps this is our new normal as outlined by The Guardian recently.
The elephant in the room is the consumer. The end buyer. The supermarkets. What people are willing to pay for healthy, local nutritious food. And has this split changed over the past 50 years – with regard to our lifestyles, work-life balance, debt and the priority of food over housing or other lifestyle choices. The deeper realisation of the value of health and how nutrient dense food affects the cost of maintaining good health.
What does this mean for farmers? This means that many producers (dairy and grain growers are good examples) are being asked to grow more volume per hectare of land than ever before. To the detriment of the nutrient density of the food and the land that it’s grown on. With the ambition to increase our agricultural production to over $100B from the National Farmers Federation. On land that is more expensive than ever in history with input and labour costs also at an all time high. And yet – the end price producers are receiving at the farm-gate is not that different to 10 years ago. In no way increasing comparative to the increased costs of food provided to consumers at the supermarket. Or linked to the highly profitable returns of the major supermarkets. The system is broken.
“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” John F Kennedy
So, how do we change this paradigm? Global Domestic Product measures the increase of our economy, yet does it attribute the true cost of this economic measure. Or considering the profitability and productivity opportunity across Agriculture – if we measured this ‘true cost’ paradigm differently. With increased labour costs, some of the highest in the world. How can Australia sustainably grow food comparative to many other countries. Yes with some of the largest swathes of land in the world. Noting New Zealand has a subsidised Pacific Island labour program. Europe has a heavily subsidised agriculture sector. And the US has strong support for commodity based agricultural production systems. Is Australia being left behind? Should we have an incentivised land stewardship package? Or is there a risk we will be priced out of the market? Or have we not demonstrated our clean and green image well enough to the rest of the world? Should we be more focussed on feeding our population before selling into these larger world commodity markets that may actually be part of the overall problem.
ORICoop with our ORCA ‘Farmers Own’ brand is on a bold mission. To provide bulk organic products that streamlines a more efficient organic supply chain. That provides healthier food economically to more people. And ensures that producers are sustainably growing what the market is demanding. Keeping the supply chain efficient, nimble and ensuring that the grower and end buyer understand the different parameters of a complex supply chain.
We are determined to build a stronger domestic organic market. So food travels less distance to more people, is more affordable and has a stronger provenance story. It can be healthier, grown and transported with less of a carbon footprint and more of a conscious understanding of how it was grown. Organic products have market fluctuations based on seasons, based on the capacity to plant or harvest crops. It takes innovative producers to manage significantly different years – from 2019 (severe drought) to the last two years of abundant rainfall and flooding in some regions. What producers need is markets that work with their capacity to grow and innovate. And to ensure that products grown have the best opportunity into the market – not just the perfect looking apples, or premium 14% protein grains or only Autumn flush dairy milk. We must get better at growing, manufacturing and utilising food in a truly sustainable way that ensures we are efficient, less wasteful and understand the planetary boundaries of truly sustainable agriculture.
What does this have to do with the Colour of Money? For many years investors have invested into Agriculture as a straight property investment. Not to underwrite our food security or support transition to better land stewardship practices. What if we used ‘true cost accounting’ to reflect the invisible cost to consumers of ameliorating the cost of the externalities of the industrial food production system? To reconsider the lucrative returns of 12-14% year on year. With the plan to exit after 7-9 years with a real estate property acquisition that includes significant capital growth. They call it ‘ethical impact’. The reality is, most agricultural investments provide a low (3-5%) cash return on investment (ROI) annually with a higher proportion allocated to capital growth – in the range of 5 – 8% annually. But is this model truly sustainable? For our population? Or for the planet?
To underwrite our food security we need to measure capital differently. One that views food security and land stewardship as critical to our very survival. Economically but also metaphorically. Did you know that producers pay a higher rate of interest on farmland (property) than standard interest rates? Even though land is property with property security? The front porch is not very palatable when you’re wanting something to eat, it is a question of priority? Why are producers left to fend for themselves when markets fluctuate and do not always reflect the true cost of food production. If true cost accounting was used in real terms farmers would be considered to be slaves, when considering their net profit (outside of a real estate gain), comparative to other lucrative and increasing wage levels across essential industries. Walden Mutual in the US is a leading example of how investment can be done differently. We need models like this in Australia, urgently.
To change this paradigm, investors must passionately support a fairer food and farm transition with a deeper lense, beyond just a philosophical idea. Investors that are patient and driven by ethical, sustainable and reasonable returns that considers farmers, and the health of the land and the food we eat. Investors that are looking for a co-beneficial relationship that revolutionises food and farm systems in a sustainable and earth centric manner. To invest into food systems that are innovative, multi-layered, diverse and resilient for food, farming and community benefit. Food systems that have short supply chains and are not commoditised for the benefit of the large agri-business sector – but are driven by the needs of our communities. First and foremost.
The ORCA investment Phase 2 is opening for investment shortly. This is an exciting step for ORICoop. It provides opportunity for larger investors to participate in supporting infrastructure investment into localised organic supply chains – infrastructure that enables grain to be processed within shorter distances. Including grain that is grown in a more regenerative and sustainable manner – that includes cover crops, legumes and specialty grains (lupins a prime example). Rather than a commoditised wheat, oat and barley focus that depletes the carbon and nutrient bank in the soil if not managed well, and is significantly affected by world markets. This limits the growth of the organic sector that has much capacity to flourish and expand into these premium niche markets. Australia has more than 55M hectares of farmland that is certified organic farmland. That is more than half the world’s total certified land area. From that land our organic sector is worth more than $3.6B (according to the Australian Organic Market Report), noting the US market has just exceeded US$60 Billion for the first time in history (from less land area). The Australian market is growing at 12-14% annually. What if this increased to $5B annually, or by 20% year on year these dividends were reinvested to improve on-farm knowledge, supply chain knowledge and efficiency with strategic market development? Whilst addressing climate change mitigation, adaption and addressing biodiversity loss as additional dividends. Australia can be a leader in supplying Asian markets and the Middle East for quality organic food and fibre. While looking after our land and our regional communities.
What the food and agriculture sectors need is a new Colour of Capital. One that is driven by urgency, yet patient and compassionate to the seasonality of agriculture and food systems in a changing climate. That understands we are all in this together. Australia must get better at growing and processing local food at scale. Like our forefathers and mothers did. To rebuild and scale efficient and local processing capacity, and to re-energise food production that enhances regions for their climatic and farming strength. And to build and value community driven food systems for the better. To have an innovative investment capacity that exemplifies our strength of markets, our capacity to grow large volumes of product in a sustainable manner, our seasonal diversity and access to land.
The world needs a different Colour of Capital that builds long term impact for the better. If you are interested in finding out more you can complete the EOI here.
Written by Carolyn Suggate,
Executive Director of ORICoop
E – Carolyn’s email
** Photo Credit – David McFall
1. Community driven business structures – Thursday 3rd Dec 6.30pm-7.45pm 2020 and Thursday 10th December 6.30pm – 7.45 2020
Eager to connect with your fellow growers and find ways to get your food to a local, engaged and appreciative audience. Hear from those who’ve trodden this path already, hear first hand about their wins, challenges, growing pains and opportunities. Most importantly ask the questions which allow you to consider what will work for you and meet other growers and producers on a similar trajectory.
2. Getting to Know Your Region and Community – 4th February 6pm – 7.45pm and 11th Feb, 6pm – 7.45pm
While every community beats to a different drum, many follow similar patterns and the insights of others who’ve observed and engaged in community building is a valuable process to support you in your existing efforts or as a foundation of knowledge before you begin. Meet food system pioneers, leapfrog with their learnings and kickstart or reboot your own efforts to work collaboratively as a whole community.
3.Taking Your Collective Business Online – 25th March and 1st April, 6pm – 7.45pm
While we know the increasing influence of online marketplaces, Covid showed us just how powerful it can be for farmers wanting to diversify their paths to market, work collaboratively and be the price maker for their hard grown produce. Learn practical skills, loopholes and opportunities from those who’ve done it and specialise in supporting you to do it too.
4. Resilience in Your Business – 22nd April 2021, 6pm – 7.45pm
Business stability is about being diverse yet focussed, nimble yet strategic, committed yet open to change, having an excellent relationship with your market and always looking to the horizon of innovation and adaptation. Learn from farmers who’ve developed business plans in consideration of these complexities and seek advice and guidance relevant to your specific farming and business needs.
5.Transitional Ownership Pathways to next generation, 13th May 2021, 6pm – 7.45pm
Succession planning is one of the single greatest threats to farming enterprises yet when undertaken successfully, one of the most powerful and rewarding aspects. The complexity of building a successful succession plan is a well trodden path and our expert panel will share a diverse range of case studies of well executed plans, and some of the common pitfalls.
Any enquiries can be sent to email@example.com
The Organic & Regenerative Investment Cooperative kicked off the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal with the fires in November 2020. What started as a $12,000 load of hay to NSW bushfire affected farmers has grown into a significant appeal. Now capturing more than $324,000 (including financial, donations & in-kind support) in value, this has directly benefited each of the bushfire affected organic farmers in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia!
Collectively between supportive organic farmers, best practice organic advisors, volunteer teams, our bushfire committee and donors, ORICoop has brought together a band of knowledge, experience and learnings. This network can only enhance the long term resilience and benefit of the organic industry. We thank each of you – and we are not finished yet!
Breakdown of $324,000 raised (and mostly distributed) bushfire appeal funds so far includes:-
Best Practice Organic Farm Expertise
For many of the bushfire affected farmers – the best ‘value’ of the Appeal, has been their appointed volunteer bushfire recovery consultant. They have walked through the biology (courtesy of AgPath) and soil nutrient (EAL) tests with each farmer. From this data they identified the effect of the bushfires and the needs of their farm recovery. Together with ascertaining the physical damage and parameters using a Visual Soil Assessment and photos, these farmers are now on their road to recovery. Though the journey ahead is likely to be long and hard, the farmers won’t be walking alone.
Donated organic inputs
We would like to pay tribute to the organic input providers that have generously supported this Appeal. These are all organically certified products – and each has been tailored to the needs of these farms and their recovery.
Where to from here?
The Bushfire Committee is currently finalising the last of the applications for the Appeal and putting in place plans for ongoing support of the fire affected farmers. Now with the COVID-19 restrictions easing, the Committee is looking forward to finalising plans around bushfire recovery workshops and volunteer projects.
ORICoop has a need for volunteers to assist with the following (depending on the COVID-19 restrictions of course)
Register to be a volunteer HERE
Fundraising and community networking
Contact us if you are interested in hosting a community fundraiser – with funds to support bushfire affected organic farmers in your closest region. ORICoop is keen to see these farmers be supported for the long term. For some this is going to take months to years to recover. Ongoing community support for these farmers to continue is very important. Some of the farms have lost 30-40% of their orchards, with much of the bushland and wildlife destroyed. Many have lost infrastructure not least fencing, thousands of metres of irrigation and annual fodder stores.
We look forward to sharing more about these farmers, and their courageous stories of resilience and recovery. Christine Watts and Kym Green joined Carolyn, talking about the Bushfire Appeal as part of the Farming Secrets Summit HERE Both of these farmers show much courage and grit from the devastation they felt. And the heart behind their farming choices.
Stay Well – and now more than ever, support your local organic farmers!
(photos supplied by Kym Green – credit to Nutri-Soil for their generous donations!)
Story by Eva Peroni. Reprinted from Sustainable Food Trust
It’s hard to paint an accurate picture that encapsulates the scale and extent of Australia’s current bushfire season, and with more than 50 separate fires still burning across the continent at the time of writing, it may be some time before the magnitude of the crisis is fully understood.
Unprecedented in their intensity and geographical scope, fires have been burning across every state, but particularly fiercely through the coastal and eastern ranges of New South Wales (NSW) and north-eastern Victoria. As of 14 January, 2020, bushfires this season have burned through an estimated 18.6 million hectares (46 million acres), destroyed close to 2,500 homes, damaged more than 10,000 buildings and resulted in the loss of 33 lives. Air quality across the country has reached hazardous levels prompting a rise in people seeking emergency treatment for respiratory problems, with both Melbourne and Canberra’s air quality rated the worst in the world on several dates across January. The cumulative smoke from the bushfires has, on several occasions, surged more than 17 kilometres up into the stratosphere, blanketing New Zealand’s South Island and travelling approximately 11,000 kilometres (6,800 miles) across the South Pacific Ocean to South America. The ‘fire clouds’ that have formed as a result have stimulated their own weather systems, with thunderstorms and lightning strikes igniting new and unpredictable fires – and, at this writing, it’s only halfway through the summer.
As the driest inhabited continent on earth, bushfires have been a natural part of the history and mythology of the Australian landscape for tens of thousands of years. The fire conditions of the current 2019/2020 bushfire season, however, are without parallel on several fronts. Beyond the geographical scale and intensity of the fires, this season’s bushfires have burnt through areas and ecosystems comprised of typically fire-proof vegetation, such as wet eucalyptus forests, rainforests, heathlands and dried-out swamps. World Heritage-listed national parks that are considered some of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, like Western Australia’s Stirling Range, have experienced severe casualties of rare and threatened flora and fauna, and may never fully recover. While images of dehydrated koalas and singed kangaroos have captured the world’s attention, a (highly conservative) estimate of 1 billion mammals, birds and reptiles have perished, not counting the losses of bats, frogs or the invertebrates that make up the foundational elements of the food chain. The numbers are particularly harrowing considering Australia already bears the highest rate of species loss for any region in the world.
The climatic backdrop precipitating the spate of fires is one of several years of historically hot and protracted summers. Australia’s mean temperature in 2019 was 1.52 degrees Celsius higher than average, making it the warmest year since records began in 1910. Continental-scale droughts, affecting the eastern states most acutely, have been endured for several years, while water levels in key catchment areas, such as the Murray Darling Basin, have been at their lowest levels in a decade. Coupled with record lows in rainfall and soil moisture, and the soaring temperatures and wind speeds of this summer’s weather, the conditions were prime for small fires to become major infernos across large swathes of the country. Amid these conditions, Australian cities and towns in the past month alone have also endured tropical cyclones, hailstorms with stones the size of golf-balls, duststorms and heatwaves. Well and truly before this year’s bushfire season even began, the impact of droughts and flooding rains culminated in mass fish kills, hundreds and thousands of livestock losses and the decomposition of precious wilderness areas. A fragile and dry continent, Australia seems continually caught in the grips of extreme weather roulette, with the stakes likely to become more erratic in the context of a rapidly warming world.
A number of contributing policy failures and government inaction surrounding land and bushfire management have also compounded the risk and severity of the bushfire season. While the federal and NSW and Victoria state governments have announced independent expert inquiries into the bushfires, it should be noted that since 1939, there have been at least 18 major bushfire inquiries in Australia. According to former senate committees, ‘Previous inquiry processes have not resolved the issues that have been so consistently brought to the attention of governments.’ Some of these issues include inadequate protective burning and fuel reduction (both on public lands and around assets), insufficient resources for fire and land management agencies, and the disregard of local knowledge and experience – including traditional ecological knowledge and land management practices – in managing publicly and privately-owned land. These well-established concerns are likely to resurface in the next series of parliamentary inquiries, the question is whether the recommendations from these will be implemented.
It will take some time before the economic, environmental and social costs of the bushfires can be truly ascertained. Significant impacts are already being felt by the agricultural sector, the repercussions of which are likely to affect Australia’s broader food system. While farmers have been grappling with the ongoing impacts of low soil moisture, water and feed shortages for some time now, the localised impacts of bushfires have manifested in unprecedented and highly complex conditions. While tens of thousands of livestock are likely to have perished (or had to be euthanised) as a result of the bushfires, farmers must now face the grim task of burying the carcasses to prevent potential public health and biosecurity risks. The task is so considerable that Australia’s Defence Force has been assigned to dig mass graves, while 100 veterinarians have been deployed across the country to assess and euthanise thousands of stock injured by the blazes. Some farmers have been in imminent danger and continue to face the threat from multiple firefronts, but due to their daily farming enterprises cannot leave their farm. Notwithstanding the defence of their properties and livelihoods, farmers also make up a large proportion of the more than 70,000 volunteers of the Rural Fire Service. It is not uncommon for these volunteers and their families to suffer significant losses or be made homeless while protecting the homes and lives of others.
As food, fuel and water run low in bushfire-hit regions, and some communities are cut-off from electricity and telecommunications for days on end, everyday farming tasks such as milking cows, feeding cattle, weeding or watering crops are no longer tenable, impeding production. Damage to vital infrastructure, such as sheds, storage facilities or machinery is critical, while the destruction of fencing leaves farmers with no way to safely contain their animals. In the absence of physical damage, excessive smoke can taint fruit and vegetable crops, with wine grapes being particularly susceptible. Entire cattle holdings, timber plantations and vineyards have been completely wiped outand charred by flame. When the landscape is burnt and blackened, microbial populations in the soil, particularly fungi, can suffer extensive damage. Depending on the intensity of the fire, it can create bacterially dominant soils and may destroy organic matter, opening up areas for the take-over of invasive weeds. High-intensity fires can also impact water quality by increasing the sediment and nutrient concentrations in waterways. With all the ash and silt pouring into estuaries and waterways, several oyster farms have been closed for harvest due to higher readings of algae, ash debris and other contaminants. Production losses are just the beginning. A whole network of vital infrastructure involved in packing, cool-storing and transporting goods can become impeded by road closures or power outages. Consumers can expect to see higher food prices as the costs of the bushfires add up.
As the bushfire crisis unfolded across Australia, the world watched attentively. But with the rapid-fire nature of news cycles (and now the downpour of rain and floods across NSW), global attention and conversation has already shifted. How can a transformative dialogue emerge and be sustained after the fires are out? One that not only considers the risks posed by nature on human life and property, but also triggers a re-evaluation of how people conceive of themselves and others in their relationship with(in) nature? Such a dialogue will likely involve deep questioning about cultural and social values and beliefs, regulatory, legislative and financial institutions and the interdependence of biological and environmental systems. As people begin the long process of recovery, restoration and regeneration, how can they stimulate conversations and activities that don’t necessarily dictate a particular pathway for ‘resilience’ or ‘adaptation’, but rather, opens up possibilities for more sustainable futures to emerge?
For farmers Penny Kothe of Caroola Farm and Vicki Jones of CSM Organics, it was the catastrophic fires of Black Saturday that raged through Victoria over a decade ago that sparked a total rethink of the way they approach their farmland, families and community. As they began the physical and emotional work of rebuilding their lives, homes, businesses and towns, both farmers made the choice to shift from conventional to regenerative agricultural practices. Predicating the interdependent relationship between humans and the landscape, regenerative farming systems utilise a set of farming practices not just to grow food but to progressively improve the ecosystem in which that food is grown. A holistic and diversified approach, regenerative agriculture seeks to mimic the natural, self-organising properties of a healthy ecosystem by focusing on diversity and the health of integrated natural and human systems.
For Penny Kothe, the Black Saturday bushfires were not only a catalyst for reassessing her farming practices, but they also spurred a deeper contemplation of her place on the land and humanity’s collective responsibility for managing it. ‘Losing everything in a house fire made me realise the important things in life – family, health and community – and from that, I started out on a whole new track. Whilst I’d previously read books on permaculture and holistic management, the fire gave me a whole fresh start and determination to lead my life the way I wanted. It made me reflect seriously on the question: what are we even here for?’ For Vicki Jones, the Black Saturday fires prompted contemplation of issues such as farm succession, learned helplessness among farmers and the link between rural isolation and mental health. The rising input costs of feed and fertiliser, the social isolation experienced in supplying long and fragmented supply chains, and the financial volatility of the market during the global financial crisis were factors to consider in the family succession of her farm. These cumulative pressures prompted a shift from conventional to certified organic dairy farming, as well as sourcing an alternative market for her products. Vicki now sells through Prom Coast Food Collective, a producer- and community-centric, low waste model that returns 95% of the dollar to farming families
As both farmers attest, authentic regenerative agriculture requires the broader community to adopt an ethos in their approach to food, landscapes and culture. ‘Regeneration’ in this sense, requires a reshaping of the human journey, one that cultivates the values of environmental stewardship alongside more localised economies that strengthen solidarity between farmer, eater and the Earth. It encourages farmers’ social participation and connectedness with their local communities while instilling a strong, collective ethics of care in response to the social and ecological challenges of our time. As Kothe reflects, ‘It is through such disasters that we re-evaluate the meaning of our lives, come together as communities and divest ourselves of our consumeristic attitudes that have become so ingrained in our way of life.’
It is the collective experiences, voices and defined action of people from impacted communities that will help shape the vision for long-lasting, impactful, transformative change. For frontline farming communities, the solution starts with building thriving local economies which provide farmers with dignified livelihoods that are ecologically diverse, healthy and resilient. It continues beyond the farm through opportunities for integrated land management that draws on indigenous knowledge and the best of modern science. The local and global impact of Australia’s current bushfire crisis is being felt through grief, stress, frustration and disbelief. But perhaps from the ashes, transformative dialogues and new narratives can emerge – ones that create opportunities and pathways for a regenerative future.
You can keep updated with our ongoing stories around the Bushfire Appeal via Instagram
Photograph: Ian Barbour
Certified organic fodder due to arrive Christmas Eve!
When we launched the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal two weeks ago, our aim was to raise $14,000 to purchase and transport a B-double load (approx. 50 tonnes) of certified organic fodder to farms in need in NSW.
Since then, thanks to the momentum our supporters have created through the support of this appeal, we’ve had an amazing 120 tonnes of certified organic fodder donated by generous organic producers in Victoria – worth over $60,000! And thanks to the fodder being donated, we’ve also secured $40,000 worth of transport subsidies through the NSW Govt Rural Assistance Authority. This means for every $1 dollar donated – it has created $15 directly to these farmers!
The first of six truck loads of fodder will be delivered to organic & biodynamic farms just in time for Christmas, next Tuesday!
This will help keep stock alive and businesses afloat over the next few months at the following farms:
– Tony, an organic farmer from Comboyne
You’re helping to save these farms – thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Your donation will go so much further than we could have anticipated when we launched this appeal. As summer rolls on, this means that we’ll be able to provide further support to more farmers affected by drought and bushfires, as needs arise.
You can share details of our Appeal with your local organic retailer or grocer with this flyer, please encourage them to support us!
Carolyn & the ORICoop team