North-West brothers Chris, Mark and David Benson saw the benefits of producing organic vegetables well before the industries major players started pushing it. "We were keen to eliminate the use of chemicals for environmental reasons, and so we decided to start organic production in 1999 and haven't looked back," Chris said. "Back in the day it was quite early for any medium to large scale farms to do it but we could see was happening with plant, animal and soil health deteriorating and we thought there must be a better way, and the research we did pointed us to organics.
"Tasmania was just made for growing vegetables. It has the soil, the water and the climate to suit growing a wide range of produce well."
The brothers have received a boost to support their organic farming with a $500,000 interest-free loan from Woolworths as part of the $30 million Woolworths Organic Growth Fund. Their business, Biofarms Tasmania at Forth, produces a diverse range of certified organic vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beetroot and pumpkin.
The $500,000 interest-free loan from the fund will be used to buy new machinery and equipment, and upgrade irrigation systems to improve productivity and efficiency on the 300 acre farm.
However, while they are now receiving backing for producing organic vegetables making the shift didn't come without its challenges for the trio.
"In the beginning we were quite small and at times it was financially challenging, but we believed in the principles and the product, so stuck with it," Chris said. "Back then there wasn't really any major players pushing it but it is more mainstream now. There is now so much variety of organic food available and Woolworths has a great range, which means customers can shop in the one place and get all that they need."
Woolworths Head of Produce Paul Turner said the demand for organic fruit and vegetables was growing and believed the trend would continue over coming years. "The Bensons are rightly ambitious with their growth plans and we're excited to see what our fund will unlock for Biofarms and our mutual customers.”
According to theadvocate.com.au, Woolworths is investing up to $30 million over a five-year period with financial grants and interest-free loans for farmers through a partnership with Heritage Bank.