Earlier this year as part of the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal, we put out a call for people to support our friends in East Gippsland and purchase trees for landholders in areas that had been devastated by the February fires. Many people heard the call, and together with 15Trees we were able to offer Chris and Christine Watts, of Blue Sky Organics, 100 trees (and guards) for a revegetation project that will help restore native bushland. Organic farmers were heavily impacted by the bushfires across many areas of south east Australia and the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal continues to support each farmer in ways that they need.
Blue Sky Organics is a family farming venture located in the East Gippsland located on the Murrindal River, VIC. Their family team consists of Madeline, Talsy, Jaklan, parents Chris and Christine Watts and grandparent Ian Watts. Last month, 100 native trees and shrubs were planted out along their creek beds, a true family affair!
A note from Christine ‘We had some significant pockets of gorgeous gullies and creeks etc before the fires. Alas not so gorgeous now! And so we have concentrated our revegetation efforts in these areas. The creek banks are a priority as the trees will stabilise the banks (roots hold the soil together), provide habitat to native wildlife and help keep the creek water clean (so important for down stream ecology).
The bush up the back has not come back at all yet. We are still hopeful. We will not re-plant there as it is rocky and mountainous. Nature is going to have to do her own thing there.
We are actually wildlife rescuers and we do have a particular love of wombats. The wildlife here suffered immensely with the bushfires. Simply heart-breaking. I guess I would like people to understand that wildlife need us to care and regenerate their land. And with the help of Fifteen Trees and ORICoop we can make a start.’
Thank you to everyone who contributed in any way. Christine Watts | Owner | Blue Sky Organics
ORICoop is pleased to be working with Fifteen Trees to continue to raise the funds needed to purchase 1500 trees (+ tree guards) for this district and other affected by bushfires over the last Black Summer. If you are interested to support you are invited to contribute to this ongoing support. Colleen from Fifteen Trees will keep a tally of all trees purchased and offer more trees to this area in 2021.
This past summer was one of the most challenging Australian seasons ever and giving support to East Gippsland will be an on-going commitment.
Registering for our volunteer crew for our next Farm Blitz (post Covid restrictions)
And remember that many of these farmers are a long way from being ‘out of the woods’. Many are still dealing with the heartbreak of last Summer. Many are still managing their recovery and getting their business back on track. ORICoop is excited to continue to walk with them, and to support each of them in their journey towards recovery.
“Never has it been more necessary to find solidarity with those whose values align and more important to garner skills from those who have beaten the path before us. ORICoop with the support of BCCM have created an online workshop series to help us all build skills and community. With a 90% subsidy being offered by BCCM, a broad range of topics, guest speakers and interactive Q and A time on each gathering, its a low cost, high value offer that can all be booked and undertaken online by clicking here – book into one or all five”
The Co-operative Farming program offers a 90% bursary for this course. You can find out more and apply at https://coopfarming.coop/learn/educational-bursaries/. Subject to approval, you will receive a discount code that you should apply at the checkout, this will ensure your payment is reduced to 10%.
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.
As the end of this financial year runs to screaming halt – it’s time for us to take stock, and assess the type of world we live in – and how each one of us could be part of the solution to a better world!
Given the incredible outcomes of the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal, we are excited about the next steps from here for ORICoop. And how we as a member owned Co-operative can step up to help when it’s needed. And stick to our key mission of increasing and enabling more organic farmers to be better stewards of more land over time. And meet the specific needs of our farming community, member to member. While connecting our friends, eaters, farmers and investors more closely together, for a better and more aligned food and farming system.
Choose to invest your funds to enable ethical and sustainable returns that don’t cost the earth
We are launching the FIRST edition of BioLogical shortly. Here you will get the first glimpse of this collaborative journal, that covers organic farming, local stories, bushfire recovery, ethical investment and our community.
And make sure at this complex time, that you connect more closely with your local farmers and your food system. One bite, one meal, one good investment at a time!
You can keep up with ORICoop via Instagram. Or subscribe to our blog for our regular updates.
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:-
$89,000 cash raised
$28,907 donated organic inputs
$72,000 donated organic fodder
$14,611 freight subsidy (fodder)
$85,000 donated professional time
$35,000 donated volunteer coordination
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.
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)
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.
Farmers tell their stories
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.
You can also catch up with more stories around the Bushfires, in our upcoming BioLogical Journal. And you can follow our Instagram page HERE.
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!)
The stories are shadowed right now by COVID – 19, but we know these bushfire affected farmers are rising from the ashes, and their resilience will be a shining light to all of us. We are thinking of the regional communities affected by bushfires, and their impending risk and impact of the virus on their people and place. May strength and resilience be our friends through these uncertain times.
As these farmers take stock and move forward with their recovery journey – it has been incredible to see the photos of the greening orchards, the response to the rains, and natures’ assurance of ‘it’s going to be ok’. And how the environment has a way of it’s own in recovery, some of which we don’t give her credit for. At least not to the extent we should!
The great outcome from the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal, has been connecting some of the leading biological and organic consultants together, to nut out the best process and plan for recovery for these organic farmers. As these farmers recover, we look forward to sharing their stories, and the journey of their soil, farm and businesses being restored.
The first steps to recovery for any farm post bushfires, or other natural disasters is assessment. Both physically, biologically, and above the ground.
All these farmers have been encouraged to follow this process, outlined by Gerhard HERE. These steps can be followed by any farmers looking to become more aware of the biological strengths and weaknesses of their soils. These key steps include:-
Once these tests are done – you can put all three together to obtain an accurate picture of the effects of the bushfire, both on the biological response, and the nutrient load or bank. It has been really interesting seeing these results come through for each of the bushfire affected farmers. And the diversity of farm systems (all organic), together with the expertise of the farmers themselves (some with more than 30 years of experience in organic farm systems), with the biological consultants. If you are interested to engage with any of these specialist consultants, you can contact us directly and we will put you in touch. You can also join the Organic & Biodynamic Farmers Facebook group – to ask any questions of your fellow farmers.
I was privileged to join a call between Gerhard Grasser and Greg Paynter, both pioneers and long term supporters of the organic industry. Highly experienced in soil agronomy, biological principles, organic standards and sustainable growing systems. Together they discussed the latest soil and biology tests for each of the farmers, the way that the Bushfire Appeal funds could be best utilised to get the most efficiency from the existing nutrients from the results, and to restore the biology to support the tree and soil systems over the long term.It is so clear that there is not one single answer. That every farm is different. That every farmer has a different response. The one aspect that is clear – is that together we are better. Together when farmers can share their stories of fire affected pastures and orchards, when leading consultants can liaise together to learn from each other’s strengths – that is when our industry has the opportunity to grow and prosper. We look forward to fostering that. More and more.
ORICoop is proud to have stepped forward to assist these farmers in their hour of darkness. And we will put together these stories as case studies for future farmers to use. And we hope that with each natural disaster, we can build case studies of resilience, or ways that farmers have used natural means to work with nature, and to see restoration as a journey, not a destination.
If you are a bushfire affected organic or biodynamic farmer – make sure you have applied to the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal. Due to COVID-19, it has been agreed that the Appeal applications will close mid-April. So the funds raised can offer direct assistance to those that need it. And see their farms through recovery. As much as possible.
** We would like to take this moment to thank all our biological consultants for their efforts to date. Offering pro-bono support to these bushfire affected farmers. And to EAL and AgPath for offering their soil & biology tests at cost to these affected farmers (cost covered by bushfire appeal funds).
In conclusion. It’s with a heavy heart that we announce the postponement of our ALL volunteering events for bushfire affected farmers until further notice. We are saddened to have cancelled all the volunteer projects in the pipeline – due to COVID-19 risk.
The overriding need for ORICoop is to display social responsibility and enact the Ethic of Care for People, both those volunteering and the affected farmers. The idea of spending time around other people practicing social distancing on farm volunteer weekends, cooking and eating dinners together and close proximity is too complex and risky for all. And really… no contact affects much of the intention and purpose of our volunteer projects. We are really sorry. Both to the hundreds of keen volunteers, but mostly to the bushfire affected farmers, that were all looking forward to hosting these projects, and seeing works done in their road to recovery.
Thanks to the many good folk that helped promote these events and we’ll be back in touch with some alternative dates in the springtime. Thanks especially to Penny & Amy, for all their work in pre-planning and promotion of these events.
We are all in this together. Thank a farmer for your next meal! Share this blog with your friends – we are stronger together.
As we launch into such uncertain times – it is critical we connect local farmers, food, events (virtually) and encourage all of use to look out for each other and see the world through old wise eyes.
Our grandparents lived through war times, of basic rations, of raw food, of eating what was available. We all need to return to our roots, and remember what our elders taught us. We need to be the shining lights to our farmers, communities, and localised food systems. Now more than ever. And to deeply care about each other, our communities and the planet.
As many events and conferences are either cancelled or transitioned to a virtual format, ORICoop recognizes that farmers, food servers, and all those who labor to grow, harvest, prepare, and serve our food are among those most impacted by economic and health effects of COVID-19 and many with limited access to quality medical care in regional areas. Adopting attitudes of empathy and care is needed more than ever to protect our most vulnerable.
At a time when we are seeing impacts on global supply chains, we see the urgent need for our local economy and community resilience. It is a critical time to buy nutrient-rich food from local farms in your area and to take advantage of home delivery where possible. By supporting policies and models for locally owned land and shared ecological stewardship, we can all ensure there is a future where local organic agriculture supports our health, carbon is sequestered in our soils, and sustainable stewardship of the earth provides a pathway for our generation and future generations to connect with the land and to each other.
ORICoop brings together farmers, eaters, businesses and partners to directly support farmers in their time of need. Together we are focussed on increasing the amount, diversity and productivity of organically and regeneratively managed farmland around Australia, while building a resilient food and farming system that can change the way our farmers do business…. for the better!
There has never been a better time to care more about your community! Join ORICoop today, and connect more closely with your food system, one meal at a time.