The national Farming Together program has worked with 180 co-operatives in less than a year … possibly the fastest uptake of the business model in Australian farming history. The two-year program helped establish ‘baby’ co-ops as well as strengthen existing groups among farming communities across the country.
Farming Together has helped form groups in sectors as diverse as sandalwood in WA, merino producers in Tasmania, cropping data across the Mallee/SA and dairy in Victoria. Other groups include:
- A turf-growers co-operative now represents 10% of the national industry in less than a year of existence.
- One garlic co-operative has seen a 200% lift in sales while another sold out its first season at double market prices.
- A honey co-op is now supplying export customers.
- A fishing co-operative has launched a successful online auction system.
- A cropping supply-chain logistics project resulted in a 200% return with its first two deals.
The program has created free co-op builder – the world’s-first online DIY registration tool – for not-for-profit and both for-profit entities. It, together with free online video guides, templates and tips are among the specially developed tools available online at http://co-opbuilder.farmingtogether.com.au/ and at http://learning.agworks.com.au/courses-overview/
Lorraine Gordon, program director said: “There are so many things that Farming Together has achieved in its two-year pilot. We were tasked by the Australian Government to have interaction with a total 2000 farmers. We have had contact with more than 28,000, and now possibly rank as Australia’s largest farmer agency.
“We have created a world-first template to create co-ops. We have seen worldwide interest in what we have achieved; last March the UK Government announced a £10m fund to help farmers develop co-ops. It sounded familiar.
“Beyond the figures will be impacts not yet apparent; benefits that will surface two, five, maybe 10 years hence. But trace back their lineage and you will find their wellspring will be this exceptional program.
“Farming Together has rewritten the ‘how-to’ manual of government assistance. Members of the Farming Together family often comment how it felt like a partnership. We chose promising projects and backed them.
“The pilot is now polished. Around 200 agricultural consultants drawn from across Australia have been tried and tested by our projects. The ones we work with now are the best-of-breed. We have trialled many operational models and the ones now in place are those that performed best. The staff who came from multiple agricultural background, and from across three states, are now some of the best-connected networkers in Australian agriculture.
“Agriculture is a sector that gives, and gives again – regardless of bad seasons or trade volatility. The people of agriculture are likewise generous of spirit. It has involved a marvellous team of workers, the board and engagement staff of Southern Cross University and the Australian Government for bringing this game-changer to life. We have been honoured to work alongside some of this nation’s most visionary primary producers and hope their early efforts to value-add and improve margins will continue to be supported.”
WHAT HAS FARMING TOGETHER DELIVERED TO DATE?
In its two-year pilot program, Farming Together has supported more than 730 collaborative farm, fish and forestry groups.
In its first year the program turned a $9.21m Australian Government investment into $20.45m of value-added production, creating 131 full-time equivalent jobs.
It has supported more than 224 co-ops (established, forming or registered), with 57 new co-ops established directly through the program.
The program has also supported 254 other collaborating business entities.
Farming Together has invested more than $2.5m in co-op support and education, delivering 75 specific services and events to support the co-op sector.