Finalist

Community Engagement Initiative of the Year Award

Farming Together Program

Finalist of the Community Engagement Initiative of the Year Award

"Building resilience in farms and communities through collaboration"


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Summary

The Farming Together Program (FTP) is an innovative knowledge mobilisation model which empowers farmers, fishers and foresters to build resilience and profitability through collaboration.
During its two-year pilot period, FTP reached 28,500 primary producers nationwide, unlocking the power of collaboration and empowering a generation of primary producers.
The FTP flipped the traditional government-university-industry partnership approach placing the farmer as the primary partner realising unique results.

Historically, approaches of outreach initiatives across the Australian agricultural sector have focused on top-level collaboration geared to large-scale problem-solving mindsets with a trickle-down impact on farmers. These top-down approaches make it difficult to measure the impact of such initiatives as they are entangled with confounding variables.

Built around a personalised one-on-one approach, the FTP linked farmers to a range of different networks, types of training, expert advice and online resources at a critical time in their business development resulting in powerful collaborations. This type of on-demand, personalised access to quality academic and practical support is a standout feature of the FTP.

The FTP has demonstrated its ability to harness collaboration for systemic change. The relationships formed through the collaborative networks and the commercial benefits generated are being shown to continue beyond the pilot program. This sustained impact is testament to the program’s unique design focused on empowering primary producers.

This highly successful collaborative initiative has consequently led to the establishment of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance -a movement addressing land degradation, bringing industry and researchers together to solve some of the county’s most complex and urgent problems.

Key People


Ben Roche
Vice Chancellor Engagement
Engagement,  Southern Cross University



Lorraine Gordon
Director
Strategic Projects, Engagement,  Southern Cross University



Amanda Scott
Program Manager
Strategic Projects, Engagement,  Southern Cross University



Debbe Allen
Administration Officer
Strategic Projects, Engagement,  Southern Cross University


Acknowledgements

Farming Together (Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration Pilot Program) was a $14,934,000 Federal Government initiative.

Images

Grower CO John Picone and Charles Brett with Farming Together Program team member Simone Blom

Pierre and snapper -Fair Fish - a Farming Together Project

Mountain Milk Cooperative founding families - a Farming Together Project

Traprock group- Woolshed Forum- a Farming Together Project

Truffle finding - NSW/ACT Truffle Marketing Coopertive Ltd- A Farming Together Project

Quality Timber Traders- Tree Field Day- A Farming Together Project

Program Director Lorraine Gordon speaking at the 2016 Business Council Of Cooperatives and Mutuals (BCCM) Summit

IMPACT STORY

Impacting lifes

Working with over 28 500 primary producers, FTP has compiled numerous case studies showcasing producers who have worked together to achieve outcomes they could not have attained alone. Below are some case study snippets about groups who received a better return at the farm gate during the program.
(More comprehensive case studies can be provided on request).

• A milk cooperative is receiving a higher farmgate price for their unique milk pool.

• A fishing cooperative has enabled fishers to sell by-catch, earning them up to 300% increases in prices for by-catch.

• A group of garlic growers sold out its first season at double the market prices a few months after forming their cooperative. The co-operative is attracting larger order and increased prices for their garlic and has secured sizable discounts on their mulch hay.

• A timber processor co-operative has established potential markets, both domestically and internationally. The group is in the process of setting up a processing facility to turn the waste product of milling into plasticised products such as rail sleepers.

• An alpaca fibre co-operative exported its first commercial shipment of 11 tonnes of raw alpaca fleece to China. It is collecting for another 10 tonne export order and has had buying interest from Turkey and India. Additionally, it supplied almost five tonne of fleece to Australian manufacturers.

• A group of northern NSW farmers converted their $30,250 grant into a $1.5m investment in less than 12 months, and now have projected a $50m investment over the next five years to convert their floodplain farms into macadamia orchards.

LEARNINGS

Lessons learned

Taking on board lessons learnt from traditional outreach models and engaging directly with farmers as the first step in the design process, FTP took a radically different approach to engagement. By placing farmers as the primary partner, the program deeply valued the lived experience and expertise of farmers as the primary source of knowledge to guide the development of their farm businesses.

The vision was big and at first daunting, with tight time frames, ambitious objectives, and a time intensive methodology that focused on building authentic and deep partnerships. However, by enabling primary producers to join minds and resources, fuelled by shared understanding and aspirations, there were powerful outcomes.
Initially tasked by the Commonwealth to reach 2000 primary producers, support 100 farming groups and grant-fund 15 groups, by 2018 FT had reached 28,500 primary producers across 23 industries via 730 groups and funded 51 significant projects.

In order to meet the unexpected and unprecedented demand for the program, the team, led by Lorraine Gordon, modified the pathways into funding, with an innovative staged system that worked on a needs-basis. This system ensured a more streamlined and targeted process enabling FTP to support more collaborative initiatives.

FTP has demonstrated the power of collaboration in catalysing systemic change that has the potential to last beyond seed-funding. This future-focused innovative model could be implemented in other sectors needing transformational change such as affordable housing, food security, and health just to name a few.

FUTURE PLANS

What's coming?

Southern Cross University is set to lead the movement of regenerative change for agricultural resilience through its brother-sister initiatives Regenerative Agriculture (RAA) and Farming Together Program (FTP).

After its successful 2-year pilot, the proven Farming Together model has been funded for its second stage. Now a mature proven model, it will act as the engine that will the drive critical projects identified by Southern Cross University’s Regenerative Agriculture Alliance. Working together, the model is set to build resilience for farmers, communities and landscapes through collaboration.

It will take collaboration on an unprecedented scale to meet the urgency and the complexity of the current agricultural and climate challenges. Continuing to work in silos and in competition with each will not get us where we need to be.

Driven by a vision to improve holistic health and wellbeing of Australian landscapes, farmers and communities, the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance is bringing together farmers, researchers, educators and policymakers to develop strategies to inform policy through sound scientific enquiry. The Alliance is also developing on-the-ground capacity building and practice change initiatives driven by farmer needs. Utilising the Farming Together Program’s extensive network of more than 28,500 primary producers and award proven collaboration model, Southern Cross University is delivering multi-level solutions facilitating broad-scale change for a resilient future.


KEY STATISTICS

28 500+

Primary producers reached across Australia

300%

The program exceeded its government set targets on average by:

23

Worked with industries across Australia

200+

The number of independent industry experts and advisors the program worked with

69

Number of FTP-supported agricultural co-operatives. During FTP’s operation Australia experienced its sharpest increase in the number of new agricultural co-operatives.

$20.45M

Value generated

131

Full-time-equivalent jobs created

10,000

Number of subscribers

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