Harcourt co-operative set to develop organic farming hub

PROJECT: Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens' Katie Finlay, Tellurian Fruit Gardens' Ant Wilson and Gung Hoe Organic Vegetable Growers Sas Alardice discuss organic farmer. Picture: DARREN HOWE
PROJECT: Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens' Katie Finlay, Tellurian Fruit Gardens' Ant Wilson and Gung Hoe Organic Vegetable Growers Sas Alardice discuss organic farmer. Picture: DARREN HOWE

A GRANT for a newly-formed organic farming co-op in Harcourt will help develop new infrastructure for young farmers.

The Harcourt Organic Farming Alliance received $45,025 grant from Food Source Victoria program. It will help establish infrastructure for the co-op at the Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens.

Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens owner Katie Finlay said potential for new infrastructure would help local agri-businesses grow.

“It’s going to be fantastic. We are building a hub that gives young farmers the infrastructure they need,” she said.

“We have been working on this actively for the last 18 months and are hoping to launch on July 1.”

Along with the Mount Alexander Fruit Garden, the organic co-op includes Sellar Farmhouse Dairy, Gung Hoe Organic Vegetable Growers, Maidenii Vermouth, and an organic orchard trainee. 

The new organic hub will help showcase innovation in the organic farming industry in Australia and explore new marketing opportunities.

“We can't find anyone else doing something like this. The state government is really supportive of innovation, collaboration and seeing farmers working together and that's why our project appealed to them,” Ms Finlay said.

“One way we are really innovative is that most co-ops are a single enterprise – like a fishery or dairy – but ours is a mixed enterprise co-op with a market garden, organic orchard, a micro dairy, a tree nursery and a vermouth (brewer).

“At the moment we are run out of (the Mount Alexander Fruit Garden) house, which has functioned well but as we were adding more people, we realised we needed a dedicated space.

The new hub will include value-adding facilities such as a commercial kitchen, office space and workshops as well as aspects to facilitate business growth, education and collaboration.

Ms Finlay said the group is in the planning and design phase now.

“We are well into the design phase and would like to get that done as soon as possible,” she said.

“We are aiming to be in (the new hub) by next fruit season, which is next spring. We have got until December, 2019, to finish the whole project but from spring onward the whole farm is busy because of fruit and vegetable season.”

Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards hoped the new project would encourage further investment in the collaborative farm model and support increased horticulture exports and organic produce in Victoria.

“Investment in regional Victoria is vital to ensure it continues to be a prosperous place to live, work and do business,” she said.