Woolworths has awarded $1,140,000 in new funding to three organic growers in the latest round of the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund.

Victorian-based organic broccoli, zucchini and celery growers, Butler Market Gardens, received a $500,000 interest-free loan – building on an almost 50-year-long supply partnership between Woolworths and the Butler family.

Sixth-generation farmer Rick Butler purchased the Butler Market Gardens business from his parents in 2015, expanding into organic production for the first time. The loan will help the business double its organic production and increase water efficiency through irrigation upgrades and expansion.

“Sustainability is at the core of what Butler Market Gardens is all about and today’s customers are more interested than ever in ensuring their food is grown in an environmentally-friendly way,” Rick said.

“We believe organic farming is inherently sustainable, and we’re pleased this grant will also help us conserve natural resources through water efficiency. This is a great opportunity for our business and one of the many reasons we’re proud to be a long term partner of Woolworths.”

Woolworths’ Commercial Director of Fruit & Veg, Paul Turner said to date Woolworths has invested millions of dollars into 17 established and transitioning organic farms across Australia.

“We’re proud to be backing family-owned Australian businesses like the Butlers who are sowing the seeds to help meet the demand for organic produce in the years ahead,” Paul said.

“Over the last three years, demand for organic fruit and vegetables has increased by around 30 per cent, as customers become more interested in where their food comes from and how it’s grown.”

Family-owned South Australian organic date farm, Gurra Downs Date Company, received a $414,000 grant to help increase the availability of locally-grown dates in the heavily import-reliant market.

Located in South Australia’s Riverland region, the Reilly family has been growing organic produce for more than 30 years. The grant will see the Reilly’s packhouse receive a power upgrade and new equipment to help wash, dry, grade and sort the fruit, reducing extensive manual labour and increasing their overall production capacity.

Adelaide Hills business SA Organic Strawberries also received a $232,000 grant to install packing shed technology that helps cools strawberries quickly, extracting heat once they’re picked to retain quality and extend shelf-life for customers.

Round six of the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund is now open and Woolworths is inviting farmers to apply by 28 February 2022.

The Woolworths Organic Growth Fund was established in 2018 in partnership with Heritage Bank – one of Australia’s largest customer-owned banks – to provide financial grants and interest-free loans to support organic fruit and vegetable production. Any interest-free loans awarded through the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund are issued by Heritage Bank.

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