Centred around activity in the Taree region, it is a group of young and new farmers that is also associated with the online activities and networking of the Northern Rivers Young Farmers Alliance and other Young Farmers Connect chapters in South East QLD, Coffs Coast, South East NSW, Greater Melbourne and Western Australia.

The group shares ideas, stories, tools, equipment, skills, time and knowledge and brings together like-minded farmers in the region who are interested in promoting the local ethical food movement and natural farming systems including organic, biodynamic, holistic management, agroforestry and regenerative practices.

Why was YFC (Mid Coast NSW) founded?

YFC (Mid Coast NSW) was founded as a social and supportive group to help connect and nurture personal and professional relationships between new producers in the region.  The founding members recognised the need to support new farmers who wanted to make a start but sought inspiration, encouragement, or advice. Face-to-face contact and development opportunities were also limited for these producers due to the geographic dispersion of the region’s farmers.

The group peer-support platform helps young and new farmers to collaborate and bounce new ideas and techniques off each other.  YFC (Mid Coast NSW) creates a space for discussion and connection to occur as well as sharing job opportunities and resources, equipment and input suppliers, planting and seed materials.

Who are their members?

The Mid Coast NSW region features a growing community of small-scale, lifestyle farmers and tree changers who are a mix of young producers, new entrants and established farmers.

To date, the group has grown mostly through word of mouth. While the group numbers are at 135, YFC (Mid Coast NSW) have a core group of activated members who support and drive communications, events and networking.

There are a wide range of industry groups represented by YFC – Mid Coast, with members producing:

  • Mushrooms
  • Aquaponics
  • Small Breed Meats including Goats, Poultry, Sheep (meat and wool)
  • Ferments/Value Adding
  • Honey/Beekeeping. 

The group, while focusing predominately on young farmers, also provides a support mechanism for new farmers and aspiring farmers of all ages entering the region. The group is also fortunate to include existing farmers from a range of backgrounds who help to support knowledge exchange and industry development.

Many of the young farmers in the group share similar interests and have had their starting point with and maintain associations with the permaculture movement. There has also been a number of these farmers that have participated in the regenerative farming and holistic management space. 

What are YFC (Mid Coast NSW)’s objectives?

The groups primary areas of concern are:

  • Localism
  • Community Health
  • Connection
  • Land stewardship  
  • Ecosystems.

The group’s mission is to:

“Create a thriving local food/farming community where we can learn and support each other whilst growing a robust local food movement.”

The group facilitates and builds on a culture of cooperation and collaboration rather than competition and all members are active in their local food economies.. In keeping with this culture, YFC (Mid Coast NSW) also acts as a conduit for information and sharing between the other young farmers networks for regional activities and events.

How does the group connect?

YFC (Mid Coast NSW) is a loose network without a formal membership and functions primarily through an online Facebook group for communications, networking and coordination of activities. 

The Facebook group facilitates a wide range of targeted communications and networking for upcoming group and industry events, activities hosted by the members and through complimentary community organisations.  They share information about farmers markets, market opportunities, relevant local news and other services.

The group also prioritises bi-monthly face-to-face gatherings on the 2nd Sunday of the month on a revolving schedule of member properties and farms for short ‘field-days’ and social events.  These events are widespread over the Mid Coast region and attract committed groups of farmers from all demographics. There are approximately 20 farmers and growers from the region who have provided a bio to the group and their farm field day events generally host between 12 to 20 participants.

Being bi-regional this network is also able to provide a central communications space to enable sharing and sales of produce through coordination with onsite processing and other local food manufacturing facilities.  The group is able to coordinate bulk ordering of inputs and seeds and also share market and cropping information.

What challenges are they facing?

Need more info from Joel

What does the future hold for YFC (Mid Coast NSW)?

The group is currently exploring a range of initiatives to build on their existing capacity.

YFC (Mid Coast NSW) recognise the need and advantages of collective marketing and the development of a ‘provincial identity’ through regional artisanal food industry branding.  and sharing opportunities and and cooperative ventures for value adding. YFC are also considering the existing capacity and also the development of additional farmers markets.

There has also been ongoing discussion on the merits of developing an aggregated virtual produce sales platform and distribution system for the network. This may also include a central delivery system or cooperative transport and logistics platform. In the same vein, the group is exploring l

YFC (Mid Coast NSW) recognise that formalising their structure and an injection of external funding is needed in order to support more of these initiatives.

Summary

Profile overview:

  • Mid Coast NSW – Taree Area
  • Social Network
  • Local Food Economies / Small Scale Farming / Sustainable Farming / Organic’s / Regenerative Farming
  • Primary Contacts: Zoe Laing (Founder), Stami Donovan (Admin), Emily Little (Admin)

Links:

Regional Overview:

  • Greater Taree Area: Permanent residents approx 100,000
  • High concentration of small holdings: between 5ha – 50ha
  • Typical Regional Ag Industries profile (In order of commodity value): Dairy, Livestock, Poultry, Nursery,, Eggs, Avocados, Turf, Macadamias, Hay crops, Cut Flowers, Other

Partnerships :

  • Young Farmers Connect: Coffs Coast, SEQL, WA
  • Northern Rivers Young Farmers Alliance

Neighbouring and Associated Networks:

Young Farmers Connect – Coffs Coast www.facebook.com/groups/YFC (Mid Coast NSW)CoffsCoast/ Social Network / Peer Support  
Northern Rivers Young Farmers Alliance www.facebook.com/NRYFA Social Network / Peer Support
Macleay Valley Food Bowl www.macleayvalleyfoodbowl.com.au Information Network / Industry Group / Agribusiness Support
Coffs Coast Food Collective www.foodcon.com.au Networking / experiences / education

 

This case study is part of the Young Farmer Business Program’s series on Small Scale Scale Farming. Be sure to check out the other case studies!