- The person pays a once-off joining fee ($50)
- The person has applied for 5 organic shares at $10 per share
- The person is able to use or contribute to the services of the co-operative
- Is supportive of the overall mission of ORICoop
Located on Wiradjuri Country in Peak Hill in Central New South Wales lies two farms belonging
to seasoned biodynamic farmers Ray and Judi Unger. Named Waratah and Marylyn, these
farms feature unique characteristics that make them suitable for different forms of agricultural
activity. Marylyn is formed of heavy clay loam soil packed with rich minerals, making it the
perfect medium to grow cereal crops like spelt, wheat, oats, lupin and pasture.
The fenced tree lines border most of the paddocks on Waratah and create wildlife corridors,
reduce wind erosion, attract bird life and provide fodder to stock during droughts. Waratah
comprises a lighter red ironstone soil type more suited to running their livestock of Merino sheep
for wool and White Suffolk cross for lambs as well as Hereford cattle stock. These distinct but
complementary farm types allow Ray and Judi to run a diversified mixed-farming broadacre
enterprise that offers long-term climatic resilience.
“We have 3,500 acres, and we could nearly crop all that, but we never do,” says Judi.
“We only ever crop about a third as the maximum every year because we do crop rotations, so
we try to crop about one [rotation] every eight years, so we’re sparing the country, we’re not
flogging the soil in the process of growing healthy biodynamic crops and pastures. We’re trying
to build up the organic matter and put it into the pasture phase and use it for grazing. It’s all
When Ray’s father bought the farm several decades ago, farming systems were rather
exploitative and heavily reliant on chemical inputs, extracting a considerable toll on the already
marginal agricultural land.
“The farm was heavily impacted by cropping and heavy stocking rates,” recalls Judi, prompting
the Ungers to consider ways in which they could improve the quality and health of their land and
in turn, their crops and livestock.
At a conference in Cowra in 1993, Ray heard an organic farmer speak about organic principles and practices and was immediately drawn to the concept. Organic agricultural methods could help produce high-quality agricultural products in a way that protects and improves the natural environment while safeguarding the health and welfare of all farmed species. Without hesitation, Ray and Judi decided to “go cold turkey” on synthetic fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides in the mid-90s and start the journey towards organic certification and farm management.
“I felt this immense weight off my shoulders; we were now in charge of our own destiny,” says Judi.
“We didn’t need an agronomist. We didn’t need people telling us what chemicals need to be
applied and when and where.”
Instead, by adopting the organic philosophy and mindset, Ray and Judi committed to learning
and observing their land, soil and biology to grow healthier food more sustainably. Following the
completion of a TAFE course in organic agriculture, the process of conversion took the Ungers
three years, becoming fully accredited with Australian Certified Organic in 1996 and receiving
A-grade certification for the crop they grew that year. Shortly afterwards, they began looking into
Founded on similar principles to organic agriculture, biodynamic agriculture is a holistic,
whole-systems approach to bring plants, animals, soil, ecosystems and people together.
Biodynamic systems aspire to generate their own on-farm fertility through practices such as crop
rotation, composting and integrating animals to enhance on-farm biodiversity, nurture soil fertility
and enable greater farm resilience against extreme weather events. The Ungers have been
practicing relatively consistent methods for more than 25 years.
But the agricultural sector has changed significantly over this time. The deregulation of
agricultural markets, fluctuating government support and investment, the privatisation of
infrastructure and agricultural services, rising costs for fuel and machinery, and increasing
consolidation amongst farms and across the entire food chain have reshaped Australian
“It’s changed a lot in the 28 years we’ve been doing it,” says Ray.
“A lot more dairy farmers have gone down the organic track, but then dairying has retracted;
there are fewer dairy farms around because they got bigger, just how most farms got bigger.
Cost of production has certainly increased, as has machinery. We probably wear more
machinery out than conventional farmers. They can spray 1000 acres in a day and I can plough
100 acres in a day. We’ve had lots of problems, but conventional farmers have had lots of problems too.”
Conventional and organic farming methods have a range of different impacts on soil fertility, biological diversity, livestock health and the health of the farming enterprise.
“We don’t have issues that conventional farmers have with bloat and worms. They’re in a situation where they go into town to buy something to fix their problem and basically they’re told, “If you don’t use this stuff, the sky is going to fall!” says Ray.
“Well the sky doesn’t fall. I can look back now and see we’ve been used by the chemical companies. I couldn’t even tell you what Round Up costs anymore.”
Fluctuating climatic conditions, from the intensifications of droughts and floods, to
unprecedented bushfire conditions, have created increasing pressure on Australia’s agricultural
systems and can restrict growing seasons or wipe out entire harvests.
“The current market has been tough. There are more organic grain producers around and we’ve
had a couple of good years so there’s plenty of organic grain about,” says Ray.
“It’s supply and demand: the current prices [for organic wheat] aren’t enough to cover your
costs. In comparison to the droughts of ‘18 and ‘19, where [demand was high and] it was very
difficult to buy organic grain to feed livestock. That will happen again when there’s another dry
Ray and Judi have subsequently invested in sealed storage and silos for grain as a form of
on-farm insurance. It grants the ability to store grain in good years and to carry that through to
market when climatic conditions may impact production, and there is less supply of organic
grain. It’s another way in which the Ungers can take control of when and where they market
their grain, and into which market they sell.
While grain crops such as cereals, pulses, legumes and oilseeds make up a small percentage
of total organic production in Australia, the organic grain industry has a significant opportunity to
expand with the right market development and indicators. Demand for organic products in
Australia and abroad has been rising over recent years, as consumers are increasingly
considering the health benefits and environmental effects of their food choices. This rising
demand is also motivating manufacturers to make organic food more accessible to mainstream
The Ungers have been considering new ways to add value to their business and tap into this
rising demand, but need to consider the added costs carefully, whether that be in time,
machinery, or labour of value-adding activities. Cleaning, processing, growing special items,
packaging, milling, storage, or distribution operations can all be considered as “value-adding” to
basic farm commodities like grain.
“I’ve looked at trying to value-add products; to clean grain and bag it,” says Ray.
“But you’d need a fair amount of capital to get that all organised; you’d need to set up sheds,
buy machinery and you’d need to employ someone possibly to run that side of the business. But
that comes with more risk.”
“We’re good at what we do, whether that’s wool or sheep or cattle or grain, but we’re flat out
running the farm as we are. So there’s no opportunity without spending a lot more money and
employing more people to go and value-add.”
The Organic and Regenerative Cooperative Australia (ORCA) pilot project seeks to determine
the best and most profitable products for organic grain farmers like Ray and Judi, together with
identifying the market, processing and access barriers that could be resolved through better
collaboration, producer representation or investment in storage or processing facilities.
“If ORCA was able to set up a plant to clean grain and then bag it, hopefully, we could get a
better return and share in the profit from that operation,” says Ray.
Increasing the availability of local abattoirs for the organic industry is another opportunity for
investment that Ray believes will help farmers in the region.
“30 or 40 years ago there used to be an abattoir in most towns, but now there aren’t enough
abattoirs,” says Ray.
“Sometimes our stock, our lambs and our cattle, as well as our wool, goes into the conventional
The ORCA project endeavours to unlock some of these barriers and to enable strategic
investment into facilities and technology that will lead to better prices for producers. ORCA
investigates market trends and opportunities while providing farmers with the technology and
data they may need to thrive in the organic grain farming industry. Through a tailored online
platform, producers can achieve the transparency and traceability of organic produce now
demanded by processors and consumers, as well as achieve fairer pricing along the entire
Research, education and innovation are key areas that Ray and Judi believe will help them
manage their farm more efficiently and profitably and the long-term sustainability of the organic
industry more broadly. They suggest that agricultural drone systems, for example, have an
unrealised potential to assist with microbial applications for crops or to support and surveil
cattle, all while minimising fuel costs and further impact upon the soil.
Due to the rural isolation that many farmers face, Judi believes that current information and
education systems must evolve to meet the needs of organic growers and younger farmers
wishing to enter the industry. Different knowledge-transfer activities that are organised by and
targeted at the organic farming sector, will help increase knowledge and skills on organic plant
and animal production, processing and marketing.
“Organic farming is a process of continual learning,” says Judi. “Part of it is experimentation and
trialling new techniques and being able to demonstrate what works. It would be great to get a
uni student out on the farm to do a case study and have that research published.”
Judi believes that harnessing the in-depth knowledge acquired through decades of practical
experience and translating this into an evidence base that can be shared throughout the organic
industry will strengthen the sector. Testing new approaches and technologies, building and
compiling rigorous evidence about what works, and disseminating this knowledge widely to
farmers, researchers and policymakers can help improve economic and environmental
outcomes for producers. Judi also believes that such education is key to equipping future
generations of farmers with the skill sets required to prosper in the sector and take full
advantage of innovation.
Ray and Judi are taking part in the ORCA project alongside other organic farmers in the
Riverina agricultural district in NSW. Together, these farmers are sharing their experiential
knowledge, insights and networks to collectively grow together and to diversify and build a
better and more resilient organic market. The vision is to strengthen and sustainably grow the
entire organic value chain, with shared benefits for farmers, manufacturers and consumers.
By collectively working through some of the common barriers faced by organic farmers and
unlocking opportunities for greater on-farm profitability, ORCA is committed to improving and
amplifying the benefits of organic, regenerative and biodynamic farming across the Riverina and
Written by Eva Perroni, as part of the ORCA project
We are writing to you as constituents, businesses and producers that are involved in the organic industry across Australia. We ask you to support the future of our country’s clean and green reputation, and the urgency in preserving our ecosystems and local food security. The organic industry provides a model for the rest of agriculture, that is localised, transparent and without the additional dependency or high externality costs of conventional agriculture. Our industry needs your support – and we look forward to adding your voice to our charter.
For too long Organics had been thought of as a niche market or component of Agriculture, but if one takes a world view instead of looking at the microcosm of Australia, we have entities such as the EU wanting to transition 25% of their Agriculture to Organics by 2030 via The Green Deal and Farm to Fork initiatives
Organic and regenerative farming systems can:
In so doing Organics addresses triple bottom line objectives including:-
– Organic Farming enables and accelerates the transition to a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system. Government investment is required to address deficiencies in advisory services, financial instruments and more importantly participatory research and farmer led innovation are needed instrumentally as they can help resolve tensions, develop and test solutions, overcome barriers and uncover new market opportunities.
Key Requests from the Organic & Biodynamic Industry to the Federal Government:-
The time is now….
Agriculture in Australia is at a crossroads. Producers are attempting to increase their yields with reducing on-farm profitability while managing higher climate risk exposure than ever before. We need to capture premium markets (like organics) and empower producers with better business profitability and diversified income streams. Our Country needs best in class producers that are resilient against natural disasters and rewarded with better crops, profitable and diversified businesses, healthier and improved natural ecosystems. We need to review the existing farming model that reflects a more sustainable and resilient farming infrastructure that invests in the next generation of producers, better markets with full consideration of the impact on the environment.
References from around the world:-
Your CALL to ACTION:-
Add your name HERE to our growing list of supporters, so a bipartisan voice can advocate for healthy agriculture and business production systems for the long term.
If you would like more information or to be kept up to date please subscribe to our blog HERE
We look forward to speaking with you further about how you can support the organic industry more in your region.
Sincerely in Action
Partners in our Mission (Add your Name to show your support)
The Eco-CreditTM scheme was created by the Organic and Regenerative Investment Cooperative (ORICoop), which aims to unite the food value chain and increase the uptake of organic and regenerative practices across Australia by increasing collaboration between farmers, businesses and consumers.
Eco-CreditTM buyers can now offset their existing carbon footprint, with full transparency as to where and how each credit is generated and determine other environmental co-benefits, by visiting https://www.organicinvestmentcooperative.com.au/services/Eco-Credit
Each Eco-CreditTM represents 1 tonne of CO2 positive emission drawdown, validated annually through rigorous testing, and are provided by ORICoop’s organic, net-positive regenerative farmers who run diverse farm businesses including dairy, cropping, livestock and mixed farming systems.
ORICoop EO Carolyn Suggate said that the Eco-CreditTM concept was developed by ORICoop in conjunction with farmers looking to advance farm system approaches to provide safe, secure and affordable food with a regenerative ecological impact.
‘The scheme links those farmers to external buyers, be that corporate, small business or Mum’s and Dad’s keen to play a role and do their bit in fostering sustainable practices and reducing their own carbon footprints’ Ms Suggate said. To activate carbon drawdown urgently we need all contributors to be empowered to participate.
Victorian farmer Stephen Whitsed is the first ORICoop producer to offer Eco-CreditsTM to the market, and aside from the environmental benefits can see immediate environmental, CSR, and other economic benefits for businesses, producers and local communities.
”It’s an environmentally-friendly credit that rewards organic producers and builds stronger connections between businesses and our on-farm practices that enable carbon benefits to be exchanged. As organic producers we are looking forward to demonstrating our on-farm practices that are increasing carbon drawdown and legitimise better environmental stewardship for the long term,” Mr Whitsed said.
Mr Whitsed said the Eco-Credit process is straightforward for farmers and ‘definitely beneficial’ to his farm and environmental management, and hopes investors will benefit from their transition beyond net-zero and the planetary impact.
“The validation process is through soil testing every year, including GPS points to ensure we soil test in the same place every year. Following that we send the soil samples to a laboratory to be tested, and wait for the results,” he said.
Farmer and organic industry advocate and researcher, Greg Paynter, sees a range of benefits the Eco-Credit scheme will provide, including environmental and ecosystem functioning, farm viability and improved social and mental health outcomes for farmers where stress is alleviated by the additional revenue stream provided by the scheme as a reward for best practice land stewardship.
“It’s a dividend that doesn’t come from production output, it comes from a different stream, the productive and regenerative capacity of the land,” Mr Paynter said.
“In Australia, we are striving for $100 billion worth of production from agriculture annually, but our understanding of the research that comes out of Canada, a very similar country to Australia, is they produce that amount, but 98% of it goes into the cost of production or services to provide that production, so the net profit or return on investment of effort is not very high,” he said.
“But if you value land stewardship and make it worth something, the production of food or fibre you get from the land is a reward and you do it in a manner of organic and regenerative production systems, that conserves the basis of the production system into the future. There is talk of only 60 harvests left in some places in Europe and the soil will be destroyed, so we need to act with urgency – and what the Eco-CreditTM does is offer an incentive to do something whilst still maintaining a living.”
Fourth generation Western Australian farmer and agroecological farm system advocate Mr David McFall said the Eco-CreditTM project links businesses who want to do better, and rewards practices to adjust to the changing climate that are not seen to be outwardly ‘commercial’, especially natural capital management like tree planting, increasing biodiversity and soil carbon and water works for habitat and land cooling.
“This is one mechanism that is farmer-derived and farmer-led. It ticks the boxes in terms of accessibility and linking people who have capacity with people who want to do things in the landscape,” Mr McFall said.
“It’s a journey we’re doing for very practical reasons, there’s farmers like Stephen Whitsed and myself who want to do better, but the ‘do better’ that’s asked of farmers is not necessarily an upfront conventional outcome. So this mechanism takes the risk out of the investment and becomes a shared journey as it connects people who want to see good done, but are perhaps urban-based or don’t have access to land, develop partnerships with a farmer,” he said.
“Each farmer is motivated at different levels, and the intelligence behind this system is that it’s not just carbon, it’s approaching it from an ecosystems services platform – that’s embracing revegetation, and in time will embrace cleaner water and air, and keeps toxic substances out of our food and agricultural production systems.”
Iain Smale, of Pangolin Associates, feels the release of the Eco-CreditTM will be popular for businesses, providing alternative options for carbon credits. He also expects they will raise awareness of the growing organic and regenerative agricultural industry in Australia working to capture carbon and mitigate the key drivers of climate change, which is especially important given per-capita carbon emissions in Australia are amongst some of the highest in the world.
“With the Eco-CreditTM, you’re having a bigger environmental impact than just a carbon credit,” Mr Smale said.
“Australia as a nation in the developed world has close to the highest per capita emissions. Per person it’s around 23-24 tonnes, NZ is around half that, and a lot of Europe is less than half that. It’s because Australia has two main drivers – we’re heavily reliant on fossil fuel, coal and gas generation and it’s the tyranny of distance – people have a lot of transport miles, including for heavy transport, trains and trucks, and we don’t have any high speed rail, so much of our economy is based on fossil fuel,” he said,
**. To buy Eco-CreditsTM, register HERE
** To follow the Eco-Credit journey of this and other farms click HERE
Eco-Credits is a nationwide scheme open to organic and biodynamic producers. Other ORICoop farmers will shortly be stating their pledges and looking to develop partnerships with businesses and processors associated with their farm.
|Empower the world you want to be part of ……
We know it’s been a rough year for many. We are rallying support in the last days of the financial year towards organisations that continue to ‘do good’ through these tough times. Here is our hot list for any tax deductible donations that align with your values …..
* Make a donation to ORICoop Bushfire Fund (tax deductible via AMF)
* Offset your carbon footprint directly with organic producers
* Support our friends at CERES who continue to do incredible things across Melbourne
* Fifteen trees – buy your own tree to be planted and watch them grow
* Buy a carbon credit that goes directly to indigenous communities
* Trees for Life – connecting seeds with farmers one by one
* Buy a piece of rainforest – from just $2.50
* Bush Heritage – supporting bushland conservation
* Tasmanian Land Conservancy – preserving farmland in Tasmania
* Offset Earth – for only $2.50/week
* Firesticks – supporting Indigenous communities
And your yearly financial health check up list!
* Transfer your super to one that aligns with your investment criteria
* Review your banking (and mortgage choices) to an ethical one
* Switch your browser to Ecosia and plant some trees
* Close down that ‘extra’ credit card
* Invest your funds to enable ethical and sustainable returns that don’t cost the earth
Could your business achieve Net-Zero by EOFY 2021?
We are urgently calling on all ethical, organic, conscious businesses to aim for Net-Zero by the End of this Financial Year. Let’s show some love for our planet! Here is how you can start your journey….
* Calculate your carbon and environmental footprint
Our newly released Eco-Credits can help you achieve this – while directly benefiting organic producers that are increasing the carbon across their farm businesses. Key outcomes include:-
* Verified independent soil tests confirm carbon drawdown
* Quantification of biodiversity quality and density in every farm system
* Annual ecological reports (including natural capital)
* Eco-Credits™ are only offered once and then retired
* All purchasers receive an Offset Certificate to verify your offset
Or contact us for more information