Open accesscreativecommonsPeer reviewed/Research article
Published online: June 2024

How accountability of Australian farmer co-operative members hinges on the farm gate. 

Linda BennisonORCID, Alexandra K. WilliamsonORCID, and Ellie (Larelle) ChappleORCID

Vol 57 No , pp. 24-38

How to cite this article: Bennison, L., Williamson, A. K., & Chapple, L. (2024). How accountability of Australian farmer co-operative members hinges on the farm gate. Journal of Co-operative studies, 57(1), 24-38.


Co-operatives are at the heart of much agricultural production, serving as crucial conduits in the food supply chain. Their impact on global food networks and contributions to economic and political stability are universally recognised and the United Nations advocates that they play a key role in global food security. This paper contributes a valuable understanding of how an Australian marketing co‑operative’s farmer members perceive their accountability for fresh produce. Semi-structured interviews are supported by an analysis of the co-operative’s documents (1996-2019) and an examination of global regulatory food safety certification programmes. The findings show the “farm gate” operates both as a physical boundary and a metaphorical accountability boundary between farmer members, the co-operative, and supply chains. Inside the farm gate, co-operative members perceived accountability as applying to themselves or their family; the term ‘latent accountability’ describes this unacknowledged accountability. Additional accountability along the supply chain was identified as incremental accountability to explain how the farmers’ accountability is linked to their produce along each step of the supply chain. As the world grapples with issues of food security, the perceptions of farmers and the contribution of co-operatives should be key considerations for planners and policy makers.



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