It’s 2030, imagine if…

The revitalisation of small scale farming through the 2020s was activated by the Harcourt Organic Farm Co-op (HOFC). Collaboration was embodied across its operations - from the co-operative farming model that multiplied and diversified small farm capacity, to the meaningful relationships established across the supply chain. The rise in 'family' farms also saw a rise in soil regeneration and carbon sequestration. The HOFC non-familial succession model challenged equity in land ownership and giving leaseholders access to a farming livelihood without the inheritance of wealth has led to the average age of farmers falling from 68 to 41 in recent years. This new framework forged a culture of support and sustenance across organic agricultural and regional communities.

Summary of solution

The number of family-run small scale farms has sharply declined and have been replaced by large scale agricultural farms. Corporate-run farms tend to practice industrial agriculture with a greater reliance on fossil fuels and chemicals, monocultural production, loss of biodiversity, and declining soil health. They also result in long supply supply chains which makes locally produced food inaccessible for local communities.

This project poses a genuine alternative to corporatised industrial agriculture, and has already proven the initial concept and is looking to share their model to support replication. They have established a new mixed-farming co-operative model in an attempt to solve the challenges driving the decline of small scale farms - the ageing farmer population and inaccessibility to farmland for young farmers due to the high price of land. This project demonstrates that co-operatively run farms can restore soil health, grow nutritious food, mprove watersheds, increase land co-operation between the enterprises, improve land capability, and feed the local community.

Why is this solution innovative

This project has a vision of a new type of “family farm” for Australian communities that will retain and regenerate farmland, provide local employment, and feed local families. They have tested a new model of co-operative farming that is likely to have application for other family farms. This model has already created a localised food system and multiplied the capacity of the small family farm to produce organic food. Additionally, this project offers a succession solution for ageing farmers and enabled young farmers to start their own independent small-scale regenerative farm businesses without the capital expense of buying land. This allows the retention of existing farmland and improves its productivity, profitability, and social capital.

Really strong and grass roots driven. Looks to include many levels of community and I can see they are building and tapping into really strong regional and national networks.