- Not to be confused with National Farmers Union; for the New Zealand Farmers Union, see Federated Farmers
Farmers Union is a brand name established by the South Australian Farmers' Co-operative Union Ltd (S.A.F.U.).
At a meeting in Jamestown, South Australia on 28 February 1888, a committee formed to establish a grain "producers' union to combat the effects of depressed agricultural prices and the power of dealers". In October, John Pearce, Thomas Mitchell, Alex McCallum and others floated the "South Australian Farmers' (later Co-operative) Union Ltd" with a paid-up capital of under £300, ninety-four shareholders, John Pearce as managing director, Thomas Mitchell and Alex McCallum directors, and George Lake as secretary.
Pearce was elected chairman, and remained a director until 1902. His eldest son Edward James Pearce later became a director. Mitchell succeeded Pearce as chairman. Lake later became manager, and continued as secretary-manager until 1895.
In 1893 the union declared its first profit.
In 1895 the head office was transferred to Adelaide. A merchandise store was established at Port Adelaide, and business was diversified to include dealing in wheat-sacks, machinery and superphosphate. Mitchell died in 1908 after 20 years of leadership; his son Robert later became a director.
Dairying was for many years a thriving business with the South Australian Farmers' Union opening a factory in Stansbury in 1923. At its peak it produced 2400 pounds of butter a week. Increasing wool prices saw cows being replaced by sheep: less labour-intensive sheep were providing a better return for farmers. The butter factory closed in 1951.
In the early 1900s irrigation settlements were established along the lower Murray with one of the largest at Jervois. A dairy industry developed and for more than 20 years the milk was collected by a fleet of small river boats. The South Australian Farmers Union opened their Murray Bridge factory in 1922 and operated a fleet of milk launches including the Loyalty, the Union, the Co-operation and the Progress.
Its main competitor in Adelaide was AMSCOL - the Adelaide Milk Supply Co-operative Limited. The company was taken over by the South Australian Farmers Union and Dairy Vale in 1978.
Farmers Union became part of the Adelaide Steamship Group, and was included in the public float of National Foods, which was subsequently acquired by Lion Nathan, which was subsequently acquired by Kirin.
The brand continues as a wholly owned subsidiary of Kirin, and is now famous for Farmers Union Iced Coffee.
- Nancy Robinson Whittle, 'Pearce, John (1840 - 1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, Melbourne University Press, 1988, p. 183.
- Eric Richards, Joan Hancock, 'Mitchell, Thomas (1844? - 1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, Melbourne University Press, 1986, pp 534-535.
- Nancy Robinson Whittle, 'Lake, George Hingston (1847 - 1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, Melbourne University Press, 1983, pp 646-647.
- J. H. Love, 'Mitchell, Robert (1851 - 1929)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, Melbourne University Press, 1986, p. 533.
- Stansbury, www.samemory.sa.gov.au
- Tailem Bend and Jervois were primary dairy production areas, www.murrayriver.com.au
- Outstanding dairy service recognised, 17 August 2010, Stock Journal
- G. M. Messner, The Formation and Early History of the S.A. Farmers Co-operative Union Ltd (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Adelaide, 1964)
- History, Farmers Union Iced Coffee website
- (Farmers Union Iced Coffee) was first launched commercially in 1977, but was originally discovered years before by a bunch of blokes at the Farmers Union Cooperative dairy, who were creating a special recipe for the Royal Adelaide Show.