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Innovative new co-op aims to fill market gap

Date Published: 28/05/2009

Co-ops can work really well for organic producers and processors. That’s not a ground-breaking statement, obviously. But we have been trying to spread the message for a number of years.

It’s something that’s probably easier said than done, because lots of pieces have to come together to make it work, but when it does work it puts some power back in the hands of the members and should keep more of the value from their work in their hands as well.

That’s why this piece published by Poultry World is very interesting. A group of Northumberland farmers have got together to fill a gap they’d identified in their local poultry market. Two organic farms, both OF&G licensees, will rear the chickens, ducks and guinea fowl, which will then be processed on a third site, also an OF&G licensee. What makes their enterprise even more fascinating is that they’ve been supported in setting it up by “Made in Northumberland”, an initiative which is part of Northumberland Tourism.

Capital has been provided which they will repay at a fixed amount per bird, allowing the enterprise to keep its costs predictable and relative to sales success.

The group is aiming to supply the product direct from the farms and has already received interest from restaurants and food retailers in the area.

This kind of collaborative arrangement, using public money to seed it, seems to be a great model and you can’t help but think that there are more opportunities out there to meet a market, with some co-operation and a supportive backer.

The farmers in question are Angus and Duncan Nelless (unfortunately, and incorrectly, spelt ‘Nellis’ in the article) and Graham and Michael Rutherford, with the processing to be carried out by Richard Tolson.

We wish them every success and hope that there might be an opportunity for any lessons they learn through their experience to be shared with the wider organic community.