Episode 5: The farmer-owned berry company making $200 million a year

How these fresh berries replaced bananas – in our banana capital. Interview with Stephen Thandi, former chairman of Oz Group co-operative.

 

Fiercely proud of their 100 per cent Australian ownership, Oz Group Co-op is passionate about providing their community with the freshest blueberries, raspberries and blackberries through sustainable farming. Founded by members of the Coffs Coast Sikh community in an innovative pivot after the decline of the local banana industry, it has grown to be the biggest blueberry supplier in Australia. A powerful force in Australian horticulture, they have grown from four to 140 members, with much of their success attributed to leveraging their community ties and Aussie-made credentials. Renowned agriculture journalist Pete Lewis talks to Stephen Thandi, former Oz Group chairman and local businessman about his very unique journey into farming and co-op management. For this fascinating podcast series, you will hear from real farmers who are successfully using co-operative farming business models. Through their stories and real life experiences, you will learn how this positive farming model changes lives.

Listen to Episode 5

Episode 5 transcript

Melina Morrison:

Hi, I’m Melina Morrison, CEO of Business Council cooperatives and Mutuals.  Welcome to our cooperative farming podcast series. Cooperative Farming is designed to support farmers, fishers and foresters through the formation of new farming cooperatives, and to foster the resilience and growth of developing farming cooperatives.

Today, Stephen Thandi, Chair of OZ group, a Coffs Harbour based Co-Op who are passionate about providing Australia with the freshest blueberries, raspberries and blackberries through sustainable farming.

The Oz group story is a fascinating journey of adaptability. Anyone who has driven up the mid north coast has probably pulled by the side of the road to get a selfie with the big banana in Coffs.  But what you might not know is that bananas have now given way to berries up there.  

One of the most interesting parts of the OZ Group story is that the now members, who were once fierce competitors, have worked together under a co-operative business model and today, Oz Group has grown to be the biggest blueberry supplier in Australia with an impressive turnover of 200 million dollars a year.

Here’s our host, renowned agricultural journalist, Peter Lewis. Enjoy!

Pete Lewis:

Now, as I said, we’re tonight joined by a businessman, farmer, and a leader of one of Australia’s most innovative co-operatives. The Oz Group is a locally-owned and operated berry business on the North Coast of New South Wales around Coffs Harbor, and it has between 140 and 150 members. Stephen Thandi, you’ve been chairman since last year. Tell us a little bit about the Oz Group Co-operative.

Stephen Thandi:

Pete, the Oz Group Co-operative is farmer owned. It’s essentially a packhouse and we offer other services with it, like a distribution business. Distribution’s actually done through Driscoll’s Australia who is our marketing partners. We also offer basically a one-stop shop for our farmers. We have our own rural store they can actually get their farming needs from. We source genetics for our farmers from around the world. We also supply agronomy and compliance team to our farmers.

Pete Lewis:

Now, the part of Australia where you’re based, Stephen, is possibly best known for bananas, and you had a bit of a hand in those yourself as an introduction into agriculture and getting your hands dirty.

Stephen Thandi:

Yeah, when I finished my HSC back in ’77 I went into banana farming with my farmer. As years progressed the industry wasn’t going crack shot, and around the late ’80s my brother wanted to open up a glass business and he asked me to go in with him on that. So I moved out of the banana industry into a different sort of business.

Pete Lewis:

And you circled back to the farm though due to some problems with one of your tenants.

Stephen Thandi:

The banana prices were going really bad around the early 2000 years, and the tenant, which I totally understand, they couldn’t make a living off the farm. Because I’d gone into glass I wasn’t farming anymore, so I’d leased a property here. So he asked if he could break the lease. I said, “Not a problem,” at that stage. I said, “Look, I totally understand where you are, the industry’s at.”

Pete Lewis:

Yeah, and obviously a few round the kitchen table discussions. And in the course of that your wife suggested a completely different agricultural commodity. Berries.

Stephen Thandi:

Yeah, when the tenant left the property he actually cleaned it up properly for us and left it in a good state, and we did a bit of hobby farming and we dibbled and dabbled in a few avocados and a few lemons and limes and stuff like that just to keep the farm clean. Then one day she actually suggested, “Why don’t we grow our own berries there?” And that came out of from where she was working. She used to work for, we call it the big farm around here. And all her friends, as they transitioned from bananas to berries, all were leaving the big farm and going to work on their own farms. So she said, “Why don’t we go into berries?” I said, “Okay.” Yeah, it was simple.

Pete Lewis:

Now, the co-operative was first put in place about seven years ago after, what I understand was, a pretty comprehensive look at some other business models, company structures, different things. How did you, and why did you, settle on the co-operative approach?

Stephen Thandi:

Our model here was the growers had got together back probably in 2001 at one stage when it first started, the berry farming around here, the growers away from bananas. And what happened it was growing so fast. We ended up having about 60 members back in 2009, I think it was, and they wanted to look at another structure. At that time it was a company setup and I think you could only have 50 members in a proprietary limited company, and so by then we had 60 members and so we started looking around for other options. They didn’t want to go into a partnership agreement. They didn’t want to go public company. So the other option was going into a co-op, and that transpired in, I think we actually became a co-op in 2013.

Pete Lewis:

And did you know much, personally had you ever had much to do with that kind of approach? Were you aware of the others in your part of New South Wales?

Stephen Thandi:

Growing up I knew of the Banana Growers Federation, which was a co-op. Other than that I had no idea personally.

Pete Lewis:

And obviously Norco, your milk supplier in that neck of the woods, has been a real stand out.

Stephen Thandi:

Yeah, there was a Norco milk factory down at Urunga and that’s the only time I’d ever heard of Norco at that stage. They weren’t really based around like north of Coffs Harbor where we are.

Pete Lewis:

And was it your intention at the outset to eventually find yourself on the board?

Stephen Thandi:

No, no, no idea at all. No intentions at all. I was quite happy sitting at home enjoying my beers.

Pete Lewis:

And what was the trigger for you to get more involved in the direction of your co-op?

Stephen Thandi:

One of my friends was stepping down from the board, and the board were looking for someone else to replace him with, and he actually mentioned my name. They asked him if he could come and talk to me about it. I had no intentions even then, but when he said, “Oh, there’s not much involved,” I thought, “Okay, we’ll see what happens.” So that’s where it all started.

Pete Lewis:

And I guess the fact that you did have a business background separate and distinct from farming in glass, and I think in the aluminum game, do you think that was a plus for you?

Stephen Thandi:

Oh, definitely a plus. I knew how to run a business, definitely. The directors at that time, basically the only business they ran was their own farms, and the co-op was growing so quickly at that time. Yeah, I did have a bit more perception about running a business.

Pete Lewis:

And from a standing start, by last year Oz Group’s turnover was around $200 million. And I guess those sorts of growing pains are the sorts of things every organisation or every co-op would like to have, but it obviously intrinsically means you have to be on a very sound financial footing.

Stephen Thandi:

Pete, firstly, you’ve got to get the right people around you. The business was growing so fast. We’re still in catch up mode to where we should have people skills, even as we speak now.

Pete Lewis:

And do you have a wide range of experience on your board?

Stephen Thandi:

We do. We’ve obviously got a CEO. We have a Financial Officer. We’ve got four in the accounts department. We’ve got supervisors in the factories. We’ve got people there, but we’re always looking out for a better skillset.

Pete Lewis:

And what about a spread of age groups, because we hear so often that farming in this country is an elderly person’s pursuit? But you’ve been able to get a bit of young blood into the berry business and into your operation.

Stephen Thandi:

Oh, our young blood’s really good. They’re passionate about the berry industry. They’re passionate about the co-op. They’re passionate about what they do. They go out there looking to new ways of doing things. Our children here will go off to university and they’ll come back into the family farms. They’ll get their education and come back. Just recently two of my friends, their sons have gone off to university, but they’ve got one eye back on their farm.

Pete Lewis:

As we’ve seen throughout this series, a lot of the great lessons, a lot of the great mentorship and encouragement indeed comes from other co-operatives. Has that been the case with yours? Have you looked out to other existing and successfully run co-ops for some ideas and some, you know?

Stephen Thandi:

I recently reached out to the Geraldton Fishing Club, Basil over there, and asked him a few ideas which he was very happy with to tell me about. And I actually can’t recall the gentleman’s name but he was the ex-chairman of Almondco. I called him up for some ideas, how we can do things. We’re also part of the Northern Co-operative Alliance based around Lismore on the North Coast here, and they came up with some nice ideas to discuss, and you get different ideas from different co-ops.

Pete Lewis:

Are you surprised at the level of co-operation among co-operatives and the genuine comradeship virtually that other co-ops want to see new co-operatives succeed?

Stephen Thandi:

Pete, I think we’re all in the same boat sort of thing. In my long years of business I actually learned that even if you’re a competitor there’s no harm in talking to the opposition. And I think if we all do the same in the co-operative sector we’ll still have the same underlying problems, but I think we can solve them together.

Pete Lewis:

Well, let’s look in a little bit more detail about your co-op structure and the disciplines and the members and the member engagement. Going back to the beginning, what was involved in setting it all up? How did you manage to convince the members that the co-operative model was the right way to go and how did you come together as, I guess, former competitors almost to work co-operatively?

Stephen Thandi:

Well, if you go back to the start basically there’re four members involved that set up the partnership really at that time. From here so what they were doing was when the prices were good in Melbourne they’d all send their fruit to Melbourne. If it was good in Sydney they’d send it to Sydney. That all, the market would collapse in those days. So they decided to form a partnership together and send the fruit off to different markets at that time.

Stephen Thandi:

And that seemed successful, and other people wanted to be part of that business. And after a few years, by 2009, I think, they had 60 members. So from there they went to the co-operative model. There was a bit of teething issues at that stage. Because it prior was a company and they had shareholders in there, the premises were owned by about 30 shareholders. But they got eventually paid out. It took about three years to go to the co-operative model.

Pete Lewis:

And those four original members, are they still involved and still part of your co-op?

Stephen Thandi:

Oh, definitely, yeah. The families are still involved. The senior members of the families are retired or semi-retired and their sons have taken over the properties and it’s actually really expanded really well.

Pete Lewis:

Was it a lengthy process for you to be able to convince and get the trust of people that the approach you settled on was really the way forward for you?

Stephen Thandi:

The growers are very trusting to be honest. They thought that’s the best way of going because each and every one had an equal vote on it. It wasn’t share-based. It was one vote per entity, so even a small grower had a vote, and the larger growers had votes. So it was very fair to everyone.

Pete Lewis:

And, as I indicated, you’ve got now up to 150 members. Is there, generally speaking, everybody’s pulling in the same direction? How do you overcome any of the difficulties that arise from time to time with so many free spirits if you like and you know?

Stephen Thandi:

Yeah, we have regular grower meetings, normally monthly before COVID-19 came into place. And there we normally have about 40 to 50 members engaging in those meetings. There the directors mainly attend. They make a point of attending those grower meetings. We have our executive office presenting up-to-date figures to them. We also have our marketers, Driscoll’s Australia, attend there to give what’s happening in the markets.

Stephen Thandi:

And on top of that we’ll actually invite guest speakers. We’ve had from our industry body, Australia Blueberry Growers’ Association, their Executive Director come in to explain what they’re actually doing for the industry. We’ve had Department of Primary Industries Industry Development Officers there for blueberries. We’ve had Landcare. We’ve had Coffs Harbor Council come there to hand out pamphlets so growers could hand out to their contractors on their farm because a lot of their contractors are from foreign countries, and see what’s involved in going down the beach. You know, swim between the flags, or even, as such, drive on the left-hand side of the road. So we engage with a lot of the community in that.

Pete Lewis:

Well, it’s a very good point that leads us into just the wider impact that the co-operatives can have in their neighborhoods and in their local communities, which we have seen so often throughout this series. The co-operatives are really an intrinsic part, an important part, of the fabric of their local communities. Have you seen Oz Group really develop in that way in the Coffs Harbor area and the neighboring communities?

Stephen Thandi:

Yeah, we actively get involved in sponsorship. Annually there’s a Blues and Berries Festival held up here, which we sponsor. Then also we have a Curryfest Festival up here we actually sponsor. We put sponsorship into junior sporting teams. We actually last year, first time, we had a coloring competition for the infant schools. And that went really well with the schools through the area, and the sponsorship obviously helps with the junior teams.

Pete Lewis:

And is the berry industry an important generator of employment in your area, Stephen?

Stephen Thandi:

Pete, we actually employ 40 full time staff year round in our packhouse, and the associated business. And then we will have up to 200 odd people in the packhouse during the season. And on top of that the farms could be employing up to three, four thousand people during the harvest season.

Pete Lewis:

And when’s the busiest time for you all?

Stephen Thandi:

Normally September/October it gets the really busy period. Before that the season starts to ramp up, but this year it’s been a very, very steady one from, I think, about April onwards.

Pete Lewis:

And you mentioned COVID-19. What has it done to the berry business and sales and demand for your product?

Stephen Thandi:

It has affected sales in our Victorian markets. Victoria was always a strong market for berries. Our sales obviously, restrictions from people going out to the supermarket and stuff like that, it has affected that. But fortunately ours has been a steady season this year. We haven’t hit a peak. And I think it will go through steady for some… It could have been from the drought last year. It could have been the early wet weather we had this year. So it’s multiple factors on that.

Pete Lewis:

Now, in terms of where your product goes, just how extensive is the supply lines for you? Where do Oz Group berries go, and are you in the export biz?

Stephen Thandi:

Oz Group berries are marketed right around Australia. A lot of them go through Coles, Woolies, Aldi, Costco. Some end up on the market floor. They are right around Australia, and Driscoll’s Australia do the marketing for us on that behalf. The export market, we actually, again, Driscoll’s the worldwide leader on that. They’ll do the marketing for us. But that goes in our in-house group brand to the international markets. But the export market’s really only probably a month in the year when you can really export.

Pete Lewis:

And is there any processing involved for your product, Stephen? Are you adding value in some ways?

Stephen Thandi:

Yeah, look there is a process there. The value added stuff we’re actually now looking at frozen berries, which we should have on the Coles shelves in November. We’re actually in the trial system now. Last week we actually trialed 200 kilograms of frozen berries, and from all reports it came through really well. And there is other avenues we’re touching on, so all our growers’ produce gets used up.

Pete Lewis:

And will that be an opportunity for you to scale up facilities, processing and freezing facilities in the Coffs Harbor area? How will it work, and will that then involve some significant capital investment?

Stephen Thandi:

Oh, we’ve put a fair bit of capital investment into that freezing right now. It will be good. It will take care of all our berries that we can’t put in the top niche sort of thing. So other than getting rid of them, we’ll be able to use them in frozen, fairly good berries at that too. The good quality stuff.

Pete Lewis:

And when you look around the berry world, is the co-operative model a feature of where these crops are grown in other parts of the world?

Stephen Thandi:

Oh look, Pete, I sort of can’t answer that one for you. I don’t know about the co-operative models around the world for berries to be honest. I really can’t answer that for you, mate, no. Around Australia I think we’re the only berry co-operative.

Pete Lewis:

Your decision to not only get on the board, but then assume the position of chairman, was that a logical step for you?

Stephen Thandi:

When the chair at that time stepped down because he went in as a member of Parliament, so there was a vacancy there. And I actually suggested to two other guys that they do it, and they luckily said, “No, you do it.” So that’s how I ended up in the chair.

Pete Lewis:

So they identified some characteristics that you had, obviously some drive, and clearly some business acumen which they thought would serve Oz Group pretty well.

Stephen Thandi:

I think it was an age factor there, Pete. I was way older than these guys and I think they gave me due respect.

Pete Lewis:

And as we said, look, you are attempting to keep several balls in the air at the same time. You have other business interests in that part of the world. It must be a pretty full schedule for you.

Stephen Thandi:

Oh, it is. Since I’ve taken the chair’s job as a board of director, I sort of haven’t walked away literally from my glass business. My brother actually looks after it a lot more than I do. I will go in every now and then and just run my eyes over stuff and that’s about it.

Pete Lewis:

But do you think they complement one another and are there things you learn on one side of your business operations and your business brain that you can employ and adapt to farming?

Stephen Thandi:

In business I learned a lot how to deal with people. You learn a lot of people skills. They came from all walks of life in the building industry. And sometimes you’ve got to keep quiet. Sometimes you’ve got to push back on them. And also in business you’ve always got to be looking out for opportunities. We started just doing repair work and shower screens when we first started. But then we got into aluminum windows and doors. It was another opportunity. Then we looked at what else can we do. We looked at security doors for people. So we actually gave people a whole package. And you’ve always got to look for growth. Once you hit a peak somewhere there’s only one side of that peak, unless you keep reaching for another peak. And I’d like to think we’re going to do the same at Oz Group. We’ve still got to strive for more and more.

Pete Lewis:

That’s terrific. Just a reminder, we are looking for your input tonight as we have this discussion with Stephen Thandi from the Oz Group Co-operative in New South Wales. And the question we’re posing tonight is, “What are the biggest pain points for a farming co-operative?” Have a go. Have your say. Click on the poll in the live chat to the right of this screen to select your answer.

Pete Lewis:

Now, looking now to marketing matters, Stephen, and capital raising and looking to the future in innovations, how does the marketing strategy for the co-operative work? We’ve noticed increasingly that the Oz Group brand itself is more prominent in supermarkets. How did that come about and what impact has it had on your sales?

Stephen Thandi:

As mentioned earlier, we use Driscoll’s Australia as 100% marketing. But probably about a year ago we actually started marketing under the Oz Group brand, the 100% farmer-owned products, you know. And we’ve had such good feedback on that. Everyone knew Oz Group, that we did berries, but they never saw the product on the shelves. Now they’re actually seeing that product on the shelves, so it’s been great branding.

Pete Lewis:

And as we’ve seen so often in this series, the back story, as consumers come to understand where the product’s coming from, how it’s produced, and indeed who produces it, it’s an important part of your selling. And as you’ve told us already in our discussion today, it started quite modestly, a pretty small packing shed, now to a truly world-class facility with automated packing lines. How do you continue to innovate? You said you’re always scanning the horizon. And what else are you interested in perhaps investing in in the short to medium term?

Stephen Thandi:

We’re always looking for something to improve performance, make sure our product goes out in first class condition, minimise recalls. We actually had metal detectors on all our packing lines before the needle in the strawberry issues. We’re all done and dusted on that. We’ve just recently, our CEO and myself went up to Bundaberg recently. We actually saw a pick-and-pack machine up there, how people were doing it up there. We installed that this year, and it’s going really well, so we’ll put more CapEx into that to make more efficiencies in the packhouse. We’ve done this frozen stuff now, so we’re always out there looking for something new.

Pete Lewis:

The food safety issue that you touched on is obviously paramount to everybody who’s in the food and food supply game in this country. I guess you learned some salutary lessons for that, and I guess a reminder to everybody who’s in this business that you are sort of one incident away from a devastating crisis.

Stephen Thandi:

That’s right, yeah. Through our industry body we’ve got things in place, but at the end of the day anybody can do something stupid for you, but you have to get your own house in order first.

Pete Lewis:

And are you more confident now that you’re better placed and have protocols in place to deal as swiftly as possible with anything like this in the future?

Stephen Thandi:

I think we are. I think the issue that happened last year, I think it was the year before, I think it’s made everyone more and more aware of what is possible out there.

Pete Lewis:

We spoke briefly about international markets. How difficult is it to get a foothold in those, and has the past six months thrown up any extra obstacles in the way of getting your fruit from the North Coast of New South Wales right around the berry world?

Stephen Thandi:

Look, we use a marketing partner for that. We have sent fruit ourselves into Middle East. It hasn’t been an issue. We’ve sent it into India a couple of years ago. Mostly our stuff goes into existing markets in Asia. So to us, at this stage, it hasn’t been a big issue.

Pete Lewis:

In terms of the actual crops themselves, how much research and development and genetic improvement is going on in your varieties, and where are you getting those leads from?

Stephen Thandi:

We use two people for genetics. One’s Driscoll’s, who have worldwide genetics. They spend millions and millions of dollars into genetic development. And another one is a locally based firm out of Lismore. It’s called Mountain Blue Orchards, and Ridley Bell the owner of Mountain Blue Orchards, he’s they call the guru of blueberry genetics in Australia, if not the world.

Pete Lewis:

And what’s the next hot thing in terms of genetics? What are you looking at creating? Something bigger? Something with better shelf life? What is it?

Stephen Thandi:

Shelf life is improving. In the old days shelf life was about 18 days. Now it can vary up to 30 days. So the genetics are absolutely improving and the size of the berries are getting larger too.

Pete Lewis:

Now, we did touch on this a little earlier, but in terms of the value adding, and in terms of, I guess, using the entire crop, the introduction of a capacity to freeze some of your product, I guess, is a really important part of your future as well.

Stephen Thandi:

Oh, it is. That will take a fair bit of pressure off our growers during the peak season. We’ll be able to use that fruit into our frozen stuff, which will hopefully keep the prices a bit more buoyant than before.

Pete Lewis:

Now, in terms of the all important issue of capital raising, how important was it to establish, as early as you could, a good relationship with banks, and did you find they had much of an understanding about how co-ops operated and their unique capacity to raise capital?

Stephen Thandi:

Pete, Coffs Harbor’s always been a strong agricultural town, so the banks had a relationship with the existing farmers already. Even going back to 2001 when Oz Berries started up, the banks have moved with you. And as the co-op grew the bank grew with us. We, as a co-op, have never had a problem raising funds. A, because even now you’ve got the four major banks here. They’ll come and talk to us and they’ll see where the industry’s heading or what the industry’s up to. So we have a good relationship with the major banks here.

Pete Lewis:

So a pretty good level of agricultural literacy in your local financial institutions.

Stephen Thandi:

There is, yes.

Pete Lewis:

That’s good. Now, look, in terms of some of the other outreach programs that you have in your community, are you assisting growers with some of those agronomic challenges and, as you said, the incorporation of the latest and greatest genetics from either Driscoll’s or-

Stephen Thandi:

Yeah, with our agronomy team we have three agronomists on our board in-house, and since we’ve put our agronomists on we’ve noted that the growers are using less fertilizers. They’re using less chemicals. They’re using less water, which has helped because before we put our agronomists on we were actually using agronomists from the firms that supply you the fertilizers and that. But our agronomists have gone in there now and done the hard yakka and we’ve cut back a lot of the stuff. With the agronomists we have two compliance officers, which helps the farmers with day-to-day stuff, audits and if they’ve got some issue with essential energy or [Enray 00:32:16] in New South Wales, because a lot of our farmers, you know, English is not their first language. So they do need help a lot of times. And they reach out to our team.

Pete Lewis:

So a real one-stop shop in that regard. Your part of the world is a particularly rapidly growing and a very attractive place as more people take a tree change or a sea change. Does it put you sometimes in conflict with other landholders or people moving in there and opening subdivisions and things? Do you find you’ve got issues like that?

Stephen Thandi:

Oh, we do have issues with landholders. It’s normally in only certain pockets of the area. It’s not broad-based. Where you used to have the banana farms and that, it’s not such a big issue. But where the, let’s say, people just go for lifestyle and they want 100 acres around them, it’s agricultural land, but they are not so happy to have a farm pop up next door.

Pete Lewis:

Yeah, so it’s the conundrum we see on the fringes of most of our significant cities and certainly regional cities as well. People move there for particular reasons, to be closer to nature or closer to the farming environment, but they don’t necessarily like what that involves.

Stephen Thandi:

That’s right.

Pete Lewis:

I guess, as we get to the end of our interview, Stephen, it would be good to get some thoughts from you about some of the important lessons that you’ve learnt so far in the journey that help all sides of your business operations. What are some of the things that have really stuck out for you so far?

Stephen Thandi:

I think one of the biggest lessons in a co-operative world is you’ve got to communicate a lot with your members. You’ve got to actually let them know. To them, that’s their business. They want to know everything that’s happening and they get involved in everything. The younger guys seem to actually move on a bit. They’re quite happy with the board or the executives doing their jobs. But the older growers, because they’re used to making the final decisions on their farm, they sort of get in here a bit. And you’ve got to keep explaining to them about the co-op model. It could be a month on month situation where you go over the same hash. Yeah, and that’s a big thing in co-op, because you’ve got to actually communicate, and communicate clearly with your growers.

Pete Lewis:

And I guess to the extent that you can do that, and do that successfully, you lay the foundations for the future strength of your co-op. And I guess in a sense, at the end of it, it comes down to the trust that you generate through a small number of members right up to the situation now where you’ve got nearly 150.

Stephen Thandi:

The trust comes from basically living in this area too. It comes from knowing these families, like my dad knew their dads. I knew other people, and our kids grew up together, so they do have a trust factor there. They also trust your neighbor sort of thing. They’ll go and ask them for advice and say, “What are you doing on your farm?” And that farmer will give advice back. The trust is also in having regular grower meetings. The trust is there when the directors are open to these phone calls seven days a week. The trust comes out of the executives open to these guys knocking on their door, “Can we come in? We want to talk to you.” So you’ve got to build that trust.

Pete Lewis:

Well, it sounds like things are proceeding pretty smoothly and firmly on that front, Stephen Thandi. We really appreciate your time today and your insights. It’s been fascinating to learn about the growth of the berry business in the New South Wales North Coast, and good luck with you, and good luck as the season rolls through.

Pete Lewis:

We appreciate your company.

Melina Morrison:

I hope you enjoyed this episode, and you’re inspired to find out more about the fantastic benefits of cooperative farming, and how to realise the incredible potential for your business.

This episode was followed by a round table to explore the concept of Farmer Owned and how this concept feeds into zeitgeist about both  “Aussie produced” and “paddock to plate”. We wanted to examine how the co-operative business model fits can benefit this.

Stephen Thandi and I caught up with some special guests, each coming with very different perspectives … from specialized niche products that are building their brands

You can see this video on our website, at coopfarming.coop, and don’t forget to subscribe now to the cooperative farming podcast series and rate us.

You’ll learn the benefits, tips and techniques of cooperatives as we future proof Aussie farmers.

Join us at coopfarming.coop, and in our next podcast we talk with Emma Robinson, Founder of The Beef Collaboration Project.

Remember, in a challenging world, we are all “better together”.

I’m Melina Morrison, thanks for listening.

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