More than $1 million in new grants has been awarded to four organic farms across Australia in the third round of the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund. The $30 million Fund was established in 2018 in partnership with Heritage Bank to help Australians farmers meet growing consumer demand for organic fruit and vegetables.

The four successful recipients in the third round of the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund – Cantrill Organics, Kalafatis Fresh, Wattle Organic Farms and Twin Apple Packhouse – grow a wide range of fruit and vegetable varieties on farms based in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

Woolworths General Manager of Fruit and Vegetables Paul Turner said Woolworths is proud to be backing the expansion plans of entrepreneurial farmers across Australia through the Fund.

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

“As we look to the next round, we’d particularly like to encourage applications from conventional growers who are looking to diversify crops and convert to organic production.”

Kalafatis Fresh Produce Managing Director Jimmy Kalafaits is a grant recipient who has seen the consumer shift towards organic produce.

“Consumers are putting more organic produce into their shopping baskets every week – that’s what we’re seeing, and what the statistics are telling us,” Mr Kalafaits said.

“Australians are becoming more educated about how their food is produced and are looking more to methods of growing produce that don’t require chemicals or pesticides.”

Below is a brief overview of the round three recipients.

Cantrill Organics: Nashdale, New South Wales

Cantrill Organics has secured a $170,000 Woolworths Organic Growth Fund grant to continue to purchase new cherry varieties, as well as funding for infrastructure upgrades to solar panels, the pack shed and upgrades to the dam.

Operating Australia’s largest organic cherry orchard, Cantrill Organics is a family-owned farm in Nashdale, near Orange in New South Wales.

The Cantrill Family has been farming in the Orange district for nearly 170 years and is committed to providing certified organic, high quality produce including cherries and a variety of other organic crops.

The family transitioned to full organic certification about 12 years ago and is continually searching for cost-effective, risk reducing and sustainable ways to produce an organic crop that provides customers with the best and freshest product possible.

The Cantrill family from Cantrill Organics in Nashdale, NSW.

Kalafatis Fresh: Goulburn Valley, Victoria

Kalafatis Fresh will use its $500,000 grant to help purchase orchard infrastructure to farm organic pears and plums. The infrastructure will include a vertical espalier trellis to cover the crop with pest-proof netting.

An irrigation system will also be established above the orchard floor to allow for mowing between the trees, a critical task when herbicides aren’t in use. A commercial-sized mower and sweeper will be purchased under the grant for the sweeping and mulching of leaves to reduce potential infection from fruit diseases like black spot and canker.

Jimmy, Sarah and Emily Kalafatis from Kalafatis Fresh in Goulburn Valley, VIC.

Wattle Organic Farms: Lake Boga, Victoria

Wattle Organic Farms had its beginnings more than 10 years ago, with the aim of producing healthier and more sustainable fruit and vegetable crops. The property is run by Nathan Free and his parents, Kelvin and Deanne, at Lake Boga near Swan Hill in Victoria. They grow 130 hectares of certified-organic land devoted to the year-round production of vegetables and stone fruit. The $80,000 grant will allow the Frees to expand and improve their most in-demand stone fruit lines.

Nathan Free from Wattle Organic Farms in Lake Boga, Victoria.

Twin Apple Packhouse: Donnybrook, Western Australia

Twin Apple Packhouse (branded as Prime Organics in WA) is a family-owned and operated Certified Organic apple orchard located at Donnybrook, in the heart of the Geographe fruit-growing region, south of Perth.

Twin Apple Packhouse will use its $300,000 grant to develop a new orchard and help expand production. A long-time organic supplier to Woolworths, the grant will help increase availability of Certified Organic apples with planting in the new orchard and renewing plantings in the existing orchard in 2021.

Jason Jarvis from Twin Apple Packhouse in Donnybrook, WA.

Find out more

For further details or to apply for a grant, please click here.

Woolworths has committed to invest up to $30 million over a five-year period in the form of financial grants and interest-free loans. Applicants who successfully apply to the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund for an interest-free loan will be issued the loan by Heritage Bank.

This article is appearing in the spring 2020 edition of Vegetables Australia. The full publication will be released shortly.