Five years ago, Dave McGiveron, 34 and Bianca Tarrant, 28, put their life savings into a beef cattle venture at Baryulgil, near Tabulam.
They bought 1300 acres and stocked it with animals - then came disaster after disaster.
First fires, then drought, then fires again.
They were struggling with debt, and as a result of the downturn, receiving poor prices for the cattle they were producing.
It's the nature of the saleyards that prices fluctuate, buy they thought it unfair that they would receive such different prices for the same product.
"We were putting the same input cost each year to this cattle, but each time the price changed we were selling them for," Bianca said, "we couldn't afford to keep doing it that way."
"We had to come up with way that we could guarantee a price for the livestock we were selling, so we decided to start a Facebook page selling our beef online."
That was in 2019, and Our Cow, as they named it, was a success from day one.
DEMAND TAKES OFF
"We started off just in this local area, and into Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, and then the demand grew that quickly for the beef that we couldn't supply it (just from our farm) anymore. So that gave us the opportunity to bring other farmers on board."
A little over two years later, they now work with a network of more than fifty farmers throughout the Northern Rivers and further afield, are processing close to 50 head of cattle a week through the Northern Cooperative Meat Company (NCMC) facilities at Casino and Booyong.
They've also expanded their operation to include lamb, pork and chicken and have this year established a new headquarters in Casino to cater for the growth of the business.
They offer home delivery all over Australia, with meat shipped out four days a week from Casino direct to customers doors.
Their main markets are in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne - they've found a huge appetite amongst city folk for knowing the story of their food, where it came from, and that it was ethically raised.
The Our Cow Facebook page now has more than 20,000 followers and Dave and Bianca use it to connect city and country, and tell the story of their farmers.
"We found so often in times of crisis, through bushfires and droughts, the amount of money that was poured to the country through aid was just phenomenal, but we thought 'why does it have to stop when the drought stops or the bushfires stop?'
"So by giving city people the opportunity to support farmers directly every day through the food choices that they make, it makes them feel like they're continuously contributing to the country community, not just when we need help."
"They can buy directly from the farmers as a way to continue to support rural communities and regional towns.
FAIR PRICES FOR FARMERS
Bianca says their farmers appreciate being able to get a guaranteed price for their cattle, as well as knowing where their product is ending up.
"Not only are we able to provide a consistent, stable market for farmers to sell to, which is extremely difficult in the volatile livestock industry but we are also able to connect them to the people who are eating and enjoying their produce.
"Our farmers like to know their produce is going to feed a family in Australia. It comes off their farm, it's processed, we sort it out from there and its delivered directly to our customers.
"It's a real sense of pride from them."
COVID gave the Our Cow business a massive boost, Bianca says.
"It was already growing quickly, but when COVID hit it just sent our business into overdrive because everybody wanted home delivery and meat became so scarce in all the supermarkets. It helped us grow and we've been able to retain a lot of those customers that were not able to source meat locally when that was happening.
Bianca says there are exciting times ahead for the business. The new facility in Casino will allow them to continue to grow, to bring more farmers on board and to build their customers all over Australia.
Once the Casino facility is fully functioning, Bianca says they have plans to set up another Our Cow facility in Victoria, "So people in Melbourne can buy from Victorian farmers."
"Eventually we'd like to do that in WA too."
SUPPORT FROM BRAND NORTHERN RIVERS
Another marketing tool that is helping Our Cow, and more than 200 businesses in the region, is their affiliation with Brand Northern Rivers.
"They have helped us connect with other Northern Rivers businesses who do exceptional things to promote all business within the area."
The development of the brand came into major focus at The Northern Rivers Brand Forum in 2019 where demographer, Bernard Salt, presented on the future of the region.
We work closely with many Northern Rivers businesses who do exceptional things and we want to be able to promote all business within the area.Bianca Tarrant, Our Cow
Some of the key stakeholder organisations representing the region's population of over 300,000 include Regional Development Australia Northern Rivers, the Department of Regional NSW, The Northern Rivers Joint Organisation, The Casino Food Co-Op, Summerland Credit Union John Williams Regional financial institution, NORCO, Stone & Wood, Destination North Coast, Southern Cross University, Business NSW (Northern Rivers), and Northern Rivers Food.
Director of the lead agency for regional development, RDA-Northern Rivers, Tim Williamson says: " the world is a big place, and the brand will help us connect directly to people and organisations that understand and align with the brand values.
General manager of Destination North Coast, Michael Thurston says the brand: "provides an amazing opportunity to promote and showcase our amazing coastline, stunning hinterland, colourful communities and event and dining scenes, the match of any region."
Executive Officer of Northern Rivers Joint Organisation, Nicole Reeve concurs: "The forward-thinking nature of the region is reflected in the myriad of businesses that have already signed up to the brand. The six councils of the NRJO have been supportive of the concept and welcome the opportunity to continue to combine with industry bodies and private enterprise to create an over arching brand for the region.
Regional Manager NSW Business Chamber, Northern Rivers NSW, Jane Laverty says the brand expands on a sense of belonging with a 'proud of place' tribe mindset that can also deliver a competitive edge which is great as businesses in the region are optimistic about 2021.