Small Farms

Garlic co-op’s home-grown QA guide

Bronwyn Richards in the field. Image courtesy of SCU

Australia’s garlic industry has developed an Australian-first quality framework – a legacy of the successful Farming Together program.

A co-op of 30 garlic growers from Braidwood, NSW developed the framework as part of the $60,000 funded project.

The Australian Government-backed program supported the group of small-scale growers meeting demand for Australian-grown, chemical-free garlic.

The group developed a simple model for judging the quality of garlic presented for sale and supporting growers to grow to that standard.

Branded as BraidGarlic, the growers aim to expand production of late-season garlic to meet market demand from April to November, a time when Australia normally imports garlic. Currently only about 20% of garlic sold in Australia is grown domestically.

One of the project leaders, grower Bronwyn Richards said garlic is a crop well-suited to small-scale cultivation, often as a diversified crop alongside other primary production.

“Australia imports the majority of its garlic,” she said. “We actually don’t grow enough to meet demand here.

“The aim for Braidwood is to eventually be a key growing area for some of these later varieties of garlic that like our cold climate.”

“The development of a quality framework is a first in our industry. It documents how quality can be defined, judged and achieved. We have also developed a simple and easy to apply biosecurity plan that could be used by any garlic grower,” she said. “It will help raise industry awareness of biosecurity issues across all stages of growing and moving garlic.

“Additionally, we believe the financial model developed for our project is scalable and has application to other co-operatives. In our view the model can be contextualised for other industries and co-operative business structures.”

Ms Richards added that involvement in the Farming Together program delivered immediate financial benefits to the group both in a better retail price for the crop and with a bulk purchase of mulch straw that saw the group saving $50 a bale.

Farming Together program director Lorraine Gordon said: “The project not only built capacity within the Braidwood garlic co-op, it delivered learnings that will benefit the whole industry.”

The Farm Co-operative and Collaboration Program (known as Farming Together) has been a two-year, $13.8m initiative from the Australian Government designed to help agricultural groups value-add, secure premium pricing, scale-up production, attract capital investment, earn new markets or secure lower input costs.

In two years Farming Together has had contact with more than 28,500 farmers, making it possibly Australia’s largest farmer agency. It supported more than 730 collaborative farm, fish and forestry groups. In its first year the program turned a $9.21m Australian Government investment into $20.45m of value-added production, creating 131 full-time equivalent jobs.

The Farming Together pilot program was delivered by Southern Cross University and finished on 30 June 2018.

Source: SCU

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