A deal to stock a new line of dairy products has put the anti-chemical brand Green Pastures on Coles shelves across three states at launch.
Their launch was accompanied by a full-suite of promotion and explanatory material online including videos of the five farms around Camperdown, west of Colac, and the family businesses involved.
The deal was hatched earlier this year, and in dairy farmer Libby van Donk’s own words, it was a “whirlwind” few months which went from a meeting with Coles representatives to stock on shelves.
About five years ago, one of the five Camperdown farmers, Reggie Davis, visited New Zealand where he saw a farming practice which recycles waste into compost to be used to re-fertilise pastures.
This method replaces pesticides, fertilisers and other chemicals. Other methods they use ban the use of hormones, the wide-spread use of antibiotics (the medications are used when a cow is sick, but they are excluded from the milk supply while the drugs are in the cow’s system), and some cow welfare issues are treated differently such as de-horning cows early for less discomfort and housing calves indoors to protect them from weather.
Davis says it took a bit more effort to get started, and it cost a bit more in the beginning “because we didn’t know what we were doing”.
“In the long run it’s probably a bit cheaper to farm this way,” he says.
Davis’ family has been running the farm on Jancourt Road for five generations. They have 600 black-and-white friesian milking cows and 600 youngstock. The family of six lives on the farm with Davis’ parents. When Reggie was growing up his granddad lived on the farm too.
He says after the visit to New Zealand he told five other farmers, including van Donk, and they all adopted the practices.
“We’re all pretty close friends, we share information and that’s why we farm in this way,” he says.
Five years later their milk is packaged at Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, and is being sold in one of the chains in the Australian food duopoly in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
“Things sort of progressed, it’s sort of like a relationship, you don’t really know how it happens,” he says.
Van Donk wasn’t sure whether to say her product was good, or if it was just a lucky break. “We’re definitely not in our comfort zone, putting a product on the shelf. We’re farmers.
“I’m not sure exactly how we’d get as far as we have without the support we’ve had,” she says.
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Some other examples could point to a trend emerging. The national retailers backed other products sold as organic, healthy, or green. TOM Organic feminine hygiene products were picked up at Woolworths, and FIVE:AM yoghurt, pitched as organic, stocked at both retailers.
Green Pastures milk was launched at Melbourne’s Federation Square this morning.