Lorraine Gordon and award sponsor Brett Stevenson, director/founder of MarketCheck.

A grassroots Nationals member from the Mid-North Coast has been named Rural Community Leader of the Year.

Farming Together director Lorraine Gordon has been instrumental in helping establish farming co-operatives, and was a former NSW Rural Woman of the Year and CEO of Regional Development Australia (RDA) Mid North Coast.

Lorraine is a beef cattle farmer from Ebor, in northern NSW. Her company Moffat Falls Pty Ltd runs guided fly fishing and holiday cottages and cabins adjacent to New England National Park, as well as the Yaraandoo Eco-Lodge and Function Centre. Since 2016, she has created one of Australia’s largest communities of primary producers keen to boost their margins by forming co-operatives and collaborations.

In the past year, a total of 57 new agricultural co-operatives have been encouraged to form and register. That figure is still growing, representing possibly the biggest annual growth in agricultural co-operatives in Australian farming history. The program – hosted by Southern Cross University – attracted 28,500 participants in 730 farming, fishing and forestry groups from across the country.

For Farming Together she assembled a team from three states to service people from diverse agricultural, forestry and fishing industries across the country. Projects that have been developed and delivered successfully through the program in only one year include:

  • A turf-growers’ co-operative that now represents 10 per cent of the national industry;
  • One garlic co-operative that has seen a 200 per cent lift in sales;
  • A cropping supply-chain logistics project that resulted in a 200 per cent return with its first two deals;
  • A group of macadamia growers that converted a $30,000 grant into $1.5 million investment; and
  • Australia’s first farmer-grown mutual fund, backed by several major agri-financiers including global giant Swisse Re Corporate Solutions.

Such is the reputation of the programthat Lorraine has been invited to discussions with several ambassadors seeking her input into similar programs for their countries. These talks are ongoing. Now she is using Farming Together’s momentum to launch a new venture through Southern Cross University, the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance.

“This alliance brings the most experienced and knowledgeable organisations and individuals from around the country, active in holistic and biological agriculture, to address complex issues such as drought strategy,” she said. “This group will be proactive in regenerating our agricultural industries and the environment in which they operate.”

Lorraine accepted the award, sponsored by Market Check, at a ceremony in the Mural Hall of Parliament House. It is the ninth consecutive year of the awards, this year officially opened by Federal Nationals Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.

The NSW Nationals congratulate Lorraine on her worthy award, yet another great member of the Party doing great things in the community.