Four organic fruit and vegetable growing operations are the beneficiaries of a million-dollars in grants and interest-free loans that will allow them to upgrade production systems and develop expansion plans, ensuring that they remain sustainable into the future.

Woolworths has awarded $1 million in grants and interest-free loans to four organic farms across Australia in the second round of the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund.

The $30 million Fund was established in 2018, and has committed to a five-year partnership with Heritage Bank to help Australian growers meet the increasing consumer demand for organic fruit and vegetables.

The four successful recipients in the second funding round – Gingin Organics, N&A Group, Biofarms Australia and Pairingi Farms – grow a wide range of fruit and vegetable varieties on farms based in Western Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania.

“We’re proud to be backing the expansion plans of entrepreneurial growers across Australia through our Organic Growth Fund,” Woolworths Head of Produce Paul Turner said.

“We’re seeing double digit growth in customer demand for organic fruit and vegetables, and believe the trend will only continue over coming years.

“We’re particularly interested in working with conventional growers who are looking to diversify crops and convert to organic production.”

Gingin Organics – Neergabby, WA

Owned and operated by Lynda and Noel Harding, Gingin Organics is the first Western Australian recipient of funding. The operation grows a range of organic and seasonal vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and cauliflower.

The Hardings will use the $200,000 grant to develop six hectares of new organic farmland and upgrade their packhouse over the next year.

“We have a reputation for quality and consistency of supply in varied vegetable lines, including challenging lines such as organic celery, that we want to build on,” owner Lynda Harding said.

“With the expansion of our farm, we’ll be able to grow more organic vegetable varieties and boost our supply to Woolworths customers year-round.”

Biofarms Australia – Forth, Tasmania

Biofarms Australia, run by brothers Chris, Mark and David Benson, produces a diverse range of certified organic vegetables such as broccoli, beetroot and pumpkin.

The Tasmanian organic vegetable growers will use a $500,000 interest-free loan from the Fund to buy new machinery and equipment, and upgrade irrigation systems to improve productivity and efficiency on the 300-acre farm.

“We initially started our farm growing vegetables conventionally over 20 years ago. We were keen to eliminate the use of chemicals for environmental reasons, so we decided to start organic production in 1999 and haven’t looked back,” owner Chris Benson said.

Owners of Biofarms (L-R) Mark, David and Chris Benson.

N&A Group – Batlow, NSW

Nestled in the south-west slopes of NSW, the N&A Group has been supplying Woolworths as a conventional supplier since 1956 and decided to diversify into organics in 2015 in response to increasing demand for organic produce. It will use a $150,000 interest-free loan to fund protected cropping at its Ardrossan Orchards in Batlow.

“This interest-free loan will significantly improve our ability to produce a more consistent supply of high-quality organic berries by reducing the impact of heat and controlling pests and birds,” Ardrossan Orchards Manager Ian Cathels said.

“Other farmers should consider applying to the Organic Growth Fund as they will be able to develop and scale their organic production in a more-timely manner. By providing greater all-round consistency and quality for Woolworths shoppers, we can help drive growth throughout the entire category.”

N&A Group’s (L-R) Ian, Hannah and Rob Cathels.

Paringi Farms – Paringi, NSW

The Kazzi family are third-generation growers. They own Paringi Farms, which will use a $170,000 interest-free loan to convert its electricity supply to renewable sources and invest in new packing equipment.

The farm uses different growing practices including glasshouse, shade net and field production to produce organic vegetables such as capsicums, zucchinis and tomatoes. It is currently going through conversion to become fully-certified organic.

“The demand is there for organic produce from consumers, and if the price point is right, more producers will come on board and the market will continue to grow,” co-owner Scott Kazzi said.

Fred Kazzi from Paringi Farms, who owns and manages the operation with brothers Scott and Daniel.

Find out more

Please visit the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund page.

This article first appeared in the winter 2020 edition of  Vegetables Australia. Click here to read the full publication.