Rosnay Organic is based at Canowindra on the NSW Central Tablelands, where they grow wine grapes (20ha), figs( ½ ha) and olives (10ha). Rosnay was established by Florence and Richard Statham and family in 1997 and boasts the vines and trees have never been sprayed with “harmful chemicals”. The farm was named “Rosnay” after Florence’s mother’s maiden name, Dolly Dulong de Rosnay, and it is now part of a small group of organic growers called Rivers Road Organic Farms, under community title.
For the Statham family, organic farming is more than just not using chemicals. It’s a philosophy that takes into account the soil, and minimising weeds, pests and disease by using sustainable practices.
Certified organic since 1998, the vines and orchards have never been sprayed with chemicals. This is a family commitment that began with Richard’s father Clive Statham a doctor, a dermatologist, and an avid organic gardener. His enthusiasm for natural growing rubbed off on Richard and Richard’s children, Sam, Nick and Oliver.
The family’s wine growing heritage begins on the other side of the family, with Florence Statham’s French grandfather, Albéric Dulong de Rosnay. Albéric’s vines were at ‘Cogny’, in the Beaujolais, 30km North West of Lyon. Florence was born in 1946 in Lyon, France, and migrated to Australia in the early 1970s, when she married a farmer, Richard Statham. They raised three sons, Sam, Nick and Oliver. Florence is at the centre of the Rosnay team, giving Rosnay products their unique flavours and labels. As an artist, she uses watercolour, pastels, thin oil layers and glazing effects, as well as line drawing to share the beauty of the crops and landscapes, the colourful wildlife, the flowing river.
Richard was born in 1946 in Sydney, and spent most of his working life in Australian rural industries. He studied agriculture at Marcus Oldham agricultural college, jackerooed on pioneering irrigation projects in the Ord River, served in Papua New Guinea, completed a Commerce Degree, and in 1980 to 1995 he and Florence grew fine wool at Barraba in northern NSW.
Richard and Florence’s oldest son Sam looks after the general farm management, takes care of sales, admin and marketing for Rosnay. Sam lives on farm with his wife Simone, their daughters Molly and Georgia and their son Floyd, in a straw bale home he built with his brother Nick. Sam has worked as a farm auditor for an organic certifier and has been an active member of the organic industry. He is currently also chairman of the Cowra Region Vineyard Association. Sam’s love affair with organic farming came after completing university and spending some time WWOOFING on farms in New Zealand, which is where his interest for organic farming took root.
After his time in New Zealand, Sam expressed an interest in returning home to work with his father on the family farm. He’d seen firsthand how effective synthetic-chemical free farming had been, so he and Richard went and visited organic and biodynamic farmers like Ron Ward in Cootamundra, and Botobolar in Mudgee, and attended as many organic and biodynamic field days and conferences as they could, in order to gain a deeper understanding about organic farming and viticulture.
The family’s commitment to organics has culminated in winning the inaugural Organic Pioneers Award in 2012, through the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Rosnay’s commitment to making quality wine has led to the winning of the Greg Johnson Trophy for Best Local Red Wine at the Cowra National Wine Show, in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and the NASAA Winestate Organic Wine of the Year in 2016.
Beyond producing their own crops, the Statham’s also created a unique subdivision of the farm under Community Title, with Rosnay becoming part of what is now called Rivers Road Organic Farms (RROF). RROF is a unique model of rural development, which uses organic certification to assist in the sustainability and harmony of multiple small growers. A Neighbourhood Association owns and manages water distribution, buffer zones, native revegetation and roadways. The original farm was divided into 12 irrigated farm blocks and ten fully serviced house lots on a ridge in the middle of the farms. All housing construction is of ecological design and materials, especially straw bale and mudbrick.
It took eight years from the initiation of the project in 1998, to complete the surveying, detailed soil mapping, lodgement with Council and the Lands Department, installation of irrigation, power and phone services, gravelling of roads, planting of trees, and finding a total of six other like-minded growers to join.