The long haul

It seems like an age ago but remember this time last year when we were breathing the orange smokey air while bushfires burned the country from Kangaroo Island right up the whole East Coast?

Wanting to do something, Fair Food got behind the Organic Farmers Bushfire Appeal, donating $5 from every home delivery and lending our warehouse to help process Blue Sky Organic’s fire affected garlic.

The Appeal, lead by the unstoppable Carolyn Suggate and her team, raised $108,720 along with over $300,000 worth of donated feed, inputs and business assistance (you can see the list of everyone who gave below).

Carolyn describes the support as helping farmers through the overwhelming “How the hell do we get through this?” stage.

The material and consulting support the Fund provided was the practical part, but what it really did, she says, was give farmers time to rebuild the hope they’d need to stay on and continue to farm.

Carolyn tells me about Kim, a K angaroo Island apple grower the Fund has been supporting.

Kim felt he was as badly damaged as his orchard, but now, a year later, he’s finally ready to take out the apple trees that aren’t going to come back and begin replanting.

So far fifteen farms have received help from the Fund; this has included:

– Soil and biology tests, compost and other organic inputs to restore soil biology (critical after the 1000 degree  heat).

– Emergency fodder to feed cows, sheep and goats until pastures grew back.

– Professional farm advisors provided business support aimed at building in resilience to future shocks.

– And for peer support, monthly Zoom calls that got affected farmers talking to each other.

Next up, provided we remain COVID-free, OriCOOP is planning a five month Volunteer farm blitz across five different regions.

The fires and COVID have made our connections, or lack of them, to our farmers clearer than ever but they’re also giving all of us the opportunity to become closer to each other and the land.

The Farm Blitzes below are incredible opportunities to get to know country and the people who care for it.  Even some of the affected farmers are taking the chance to visit and help out on each other’s farms.

East Gippsland

Chris & Christine from Blue Sky Organics in East Gippsland, not far from Bruthen, are seeking volunteers to plant trees, weed, and lend a hand over the coming months as well as with the planting of their 2021 garlic crop in the Autumn (April & May).  Here’s the EOI to register your interest.

Soorya from Ontos Organics  runs a mixed organic farm, incorporating garlic, heritage seed and goats.  You can assist Ontos Organics farm with weeding, sorting, processing of organic produce and their ongoing recovery work and learn about heritage seed and garlic harvesting – see their EOI here

Bega Valley

Kaye & Gregg Saarinen of Saarinen Organics were tragically burnt out over Black Summer.  They grow organic herbs, and make lovely creams and salves from these products.  They also utilise full solar in their processing, a unique business model!

They have much to rebuild and are calling out for teams of 5-10 people to assist them to restore their fencing and rebuild their garden area over the coming months – their EOI is here.

Braidwood, NSW

Both PRANA Produce and Australian Mountain Pepper Bushfoods were both hit with the tragic fires last Summer.  Both farms are unique, and continue to rebuild, replant and rejuvenate themselves, their soils and farms.  

Christina is looking for a team of helpers, to get their hands dirty, clear some of the burnt trees and get their farm on the road to recovery.  Tim runs a fantastic bushfoods farm – and has been replanting the Mountain Pepper trees and other indigenous plants in their orchard. Prana’s  EOI is here and Australin Mountain Pepper’s  EOI is here.  

Mid North Coast NSW

Red Plateau Organics (near Wingham), one of the leading certified organic avocado and citrus producers in the region is a stunning farm high on the plateau.  They were devastated by two separate fires last year.  The work includes clearing around trees, mulching and fertilising.   This farm is remote and beautiful but you need to be pretty self-contained and access is 4WD only. Red Plateau Organics are looking for help for 3-4 days between February & April here’s their EOI.

Of course not everyone can volunteer so Carolyn also sent through a comprehensive list if you’d like to contribute in other ways

Have a great week


PS – OriCOOP want to give a huge shout out to the following supporters of the Organic Farmers Bushfires Appeal, that have donated towards the recovery of these courageous farmers.

If you’re a business you can also help by;

For more in about ORI-Coop volunteering or Farm Blitzes contact Carolyn


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