A central Victorian family is investigating how it can lease parts of its land to would-be farmers unable to afford starting their own businesses from scratch.
Approaching retirement but not wanting to let go of their family’s organic farm, Katie and Hugh Finlay are hoping they can attract a co-operative of enterprises keen to put their Harcourt lot to good use.
The idea for a Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance was first planted two years ago when a pair of gardeners asked whether they could grow market crops on the Finlays’ land.
The landowners approved and are now in negotiations to do the same with a micro-dairy, poultry farmer and vermouth producer.
The Harcourt farm is also seeking a leasee for its 10-hectare orchard, in which a mix of apples, pears and stone fruit grow.
All budding farmers would need to be in consideration was a commitment to organic farming principles.
Ms Finlay said the collaborative approach to agriculture would save parties from buying land, as well as cut back their equipment and maintenance bills.
It also meant they would reap the results of their work faster, she said.
While new orchards needed time for trees to become established, those who took over the Finlays’ plantation will be able to pick fruit in their first year.
Sharing the space also meant land was used to its fullest potential, Ms Finlay said, explaining only a fraction of her 60 or more hectares were currently farmed.
Asked what it was like to share their home turf with newcomers, Ms Finlay said it was wonderful to see the “shared reverence” business operators showed her land.
The sharing initiative was also a novel way to ensure the land remained in farmers’ hands; none of their five children had shown interest in taking over the family business, Ms Finlay said, adding that struggles to find a successor often meant farmland was repurposed.
The site’s potential will be explored in a business development plan towards which the state government has put $9000.
Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards announce the cash injection at the farm on Wednesday morning, explaining the grant was part of a $20 million fund improving the business and export skills of producers.
“We’re proud to invest in our world-class growers right here in Harcourt, helping raise their profile, increase export potential and deliver quality produce to consumers domestically and on the international stage,” Ms Edwards said.
The farm is also exploring ways marketing could be carried out collectively and Ms Finlay said it was even possible their farmhouse could house enterprises.