It was the weather forecast we didn’t want to hear. More rain. Alot of it – measured in metres.. More incessant weather. Already rain-soaked pasture and farmland. Exhausted communities that have faced bushfires, previous floods and now the 2022 devastating floods.
My farming grandfather always told me he set aside a shed full of hay for that ‘bad year’ to share with a farmer in need, or to get his farm through a difficult patch. He had a flood plan farming on a floodplain. He also had a bushfire plan (as his upper area had bushland surrounding), he also transitioned and diversified his dairy farm to include other enterprises when the dairy sector failed. This was in 1960. Now in 2022 there has never been more pressure in farming to be resilient against every natural disaster, each year. We are ready.
ORICoop is an Organic Farmers Cooperative. We have organic and biodynamic producers across the country that connect and care about other like minded producers. We have done this before. We will do it again. In 2019 we raised over $100,000 in cash and grants, we more than trebled these funds through physical donations of hay, fodder and biological inputs, in-kind support and many generous supporters to bushfire affected producers, exceeding $500,000 of support directly to producers. This included fodder donations that went from a certified organic or biodynamic farm – to organic producers in need. Some may not have stayed in business if we hadn’t of been there.
It is seriously overwhelming. Tonight it has been detailed that 2,000 of 3,500 homes in Lismore may be uninhabitable. What does that mean for these communities? For these families. For local producers. And what about the landholders who are yet to reclaim their land – or wait for the flood waters to recede as their crops are under 3m of flood water. Some have lost their entire herd. Or have nowhere to house them while the land recovers? There is much to do….. We are ready….
We know it’s a long road back. However we have these producers’ backs. We are a Producers Cooperative. We have other producers that know what natural disasters look like. They have been there before. Sometimes it’s a phone call. Reaching out to ask ‘R U ok’? How can we help? What do you need?
For flood affected Organic Producers – you can register for help HERE
For donors, businesses or supporters – you can DONATE here
For those keen to help – either in person or remotely – you can REGISTER here
** For existing organic or biodynamic producers interested to donate fodder, agistment, seeds or other farm related generosity –contact us directly HERE
We call on the Federal and State Government to support these communities, producers and businesses in their journey back. How can Australia better support these at-risk communities for the long term. To distribute the risk from consumers and business – and to empower producers to transition to climate resilient farming systems. These communities cannot carry this burden on their own. We believe it is a national responsibility – to carry the burden of natural disasters. To build a pool of resources and people that can help when it’s needed. And fast. We all need to understand the call of the new normal. Sadly this is not as it has been.
We are so incredibly proud of the producers that we have supported previously. Of their courage to keep going. Of their willingness to accept offers of help. For the organic producers that have contacted us to donate hay, fodder or agistment. And the many people that have shared our posts, helped us with marketing, or raised funds in your business. We thank you.
Help when help was needed. The right help, compassion, and commitment for those of us who faulted amongst the bushfires
Stephen & Jo-Ellen Whitsed, Corryong, Victoria, Bushfire Survivors
After the devastating 2019 bushfires in Corryong, ORICoop contacted us to offer help. We needed hay and they organised two Semi Trailer loads of certified organic hay for us which was fantastic. From that a great friendship has been formed with Carolyn and other ORICoop members and organic producers.
Cooperatives are an old way of doing business. The old way. That care about each other. Look out for each other. Share the wins. And the losses. Be there for your neighbour. We endeavour to return this to farming. In everything we do.
In the Lenswood Hills of South Australia, this organic farmer of 50 years, combines 6 generations of farming knowledge with an insatiable curiosity and a desire to genuinely observe the apple and cherry trees he stewards for a commercial bounty. He is somewhat of an apple whisperer and far from his self title of being a “silly old bugger on his soapbox” his kernels of wisdom are graceful, gentle and shred only if you desire them.
We are calling out to communities, businesses and farmers to continue to support bushfire affected organic farmers. ORICoop continues to walk with these farmers – and we need your help! You can register to volunteer for the upcoming ‘Organic Farm Blitz’, with a farm close to you. You can also contact us to coordinate an event, make seedpods, plant &/or grow seedlings or build native animal boxes. And we will ensure they get to your nearest bushfire affected farmers! EAST GIPPSLAND VOLUNTEERS You can join Chris & Christine from Blue Sky Organics, to assist them to plant trees, weed, and lend a hand in East Gippsland, not far from Bruthen over the coming months. And to assist with the planting of their 2021 crop in the Autumn (April & May). You can complete an Expression of interest HERE to register your interest directly with Blue Sky Organics in East Gippsland, and make sure you include when you are available over the coming months. Chris & Christine will be in touch with those that register directly. During time in East Gippsland last February a few keen volunteers rallied to assist Soorya from Ontos Organics sort and process his garlic crop after he and his family were burnt out in January last year. Soorya runs a mixed organic farm, incorporating garlic, heritage seed and goats on their family farm. You can assist Ontos Organics farm, and learn about heritage seed and garlic harvesting by REGISTERING HERE. Work required includes weeding, sorting, processing and their ongoing recovery work. It may be that you can help both Blue Sky and Ontos Organics over a weekend or visit to the wonderful Gipplsand Lakes region. BEGA VALLEY – NSW VOLUNTEERS Kaye & Gregg Saarinen of Saarinen Organics, from the Bega Valley were tragically burnt out over Black Summer. They grow organic herbs, and make lovely organic face and hand creams and salves from these products. They also utilise full solar in their processing, a unique and truly carbon neutral business model! They have much to rebuild – and are calling out for teams of 5-10 people to assist them to restore their fencing and rebuild their garden area over the coming months. If you are interested, you can complete an Expression of Interest HERE with Saarinen Organics farm located in the Bega Valley, and include when you are available. MID NORTH COAST – NSW VOLUNTEERS Plateau Organics (near Wingham) are situated on the Mid North Coast in NSW, a stunning certified organic farm high on the plateau. One of the leading certified organic avocado and citrus producers in the region. We are keen to rally a small team of helpers to assist them in their rebuild, as they were devastated by fires on two seperate fire events last year. The work includes clearing around the trees, mulching and fertilising. This farm is remote, beautiful – and worth the time to experience such a plateau! Self contained accommodation is required for any interested volunteers and 4wd for access only. (or you can contact owners for further opportunities) You can complete an Expression of Interest HERE directly with Plateau Organics (located in NSW) Ideally they are looking for 1 or 2 keen singles or couples for 3-4 days between February & April, for mulching of trees, pruning and bushfire recovery of the fruit orchard. BRAIDWOOD (Sthn NSW) VOLUNTEERS Christina and John from PRANA produce need help to clean up wood after the fires, weeding and clearing areas that were bushfire affected. Ideally people that have their own tools (gloves, secateurs, even a wheelbarrow) and are keen to offer their hands and hard work for a day or two! A Saturday or Sunday in March would be fantastic. Happy with a few keen people or even a group of 20 could be of use. Lunch included.
You can complete an Expression of Interest HERE for Prana Produce (near Braidwood) If there is not a farm in your area included – but you are keen to be involved, you can register your interest via our Volunteer Register HERE. There will be more Organic Farm Blitz opportunities over the coming months and will notify all those registered first. We are also considering having some city based events – where you can plant seeds, make seed bombs or native animal boxes. Contact us if you are interested to be a host or fundraising champion! Over the past year the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal has continued to support these farmers along their recovery journey. With donated inputs, professional organic farm advisory, soil tests, donations of trees, coordinating online zoom calls between affected farmers, and enabling the farmers to share their stories, we are incredibly grateful for the time we have spent with each of the farmers. And to all the businesses that have offered financial, personal and physical support. We want to give a huge shout out to the following supporters of the Organic Farmers Bushfires Appeal, that have donated towards the ongoing recovery of many of these farmers.
Dr Bronner – including their most recent appeal over January/February 2021
CERES – dedicating $5/box last Summer and providing facilities to process the garlic
BCCM – Bushfire Appeal grant funds to further extend the appeal
Eva Perroni – for her ongoing storytelling capacity for these farmers
Jade Miles – for hosting our zoom connect meets for our farmers
And …. our Bushfire Committee (Antony, Hugh, Christine & Carolyn) that have steered this ship through the seas!
ORICoop is pleased to continue working with many businesses across different steps of the bushfire appeal. We are calling for sponsors interested to support these Organic Farm Blitz projects as per above. Any donations can be tax deductible, thanks to the generous support from Australian Mutuals Foundation (select bushfire appeal)Your business can get involved by:-
Sending a team to a farm for a team building weekend (teams of 3 – 20 welcome)
Donating/sponsoring the food required for each weekend (organic of course)
Any other suggestions contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org – and show your support for these courageous farmers! We honour and celebrate these farmers, for their courage, resilience and digging deep over the past year. We encourage you to remember and reach out to them. Buy some of their product or volunteer a weekend with your workplace to lend a hand.ORICoop Bushfire Committee
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.
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!)