The Farmer September-October 2023

Page 1

Harris Farm horses –The market family’s Icelandic breeds

Science-led agriculture –

Are the ‘old ways’ really better?

Regen farming on the red carpet –

One famous farmer cuts through the hype

At the top of her game

Farming women reaching new heights of success

Farmers of the Year

–From resilience comes reward

2023 / $ 9.95


From detailed images collected by satellites and information from soil moisture monitors, through to remote monitoring devices, apps and software – a wealth of data and technology is available to farmers. But knowing how to best use it can be a challenge. Helping producers to make better use of data and technology to boost productivity in the good years and better manage during dry times is one focus of the Southern NSW Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub (Southern NSW Innovation Hub). It’s one of eight hubs established as part of the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund initiative to create more resilient agricultural systems, landscapes and communities.

The Southern NSW Innovation Hub partners are Charles Sturt University, Australian National University, Farming Systems Groups Alliance, Local Land

Services, NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI), Rural Aid and University of Canberra.

At the 600ha Superseasons citrus orchard near Hillston in the Riverina, Peter Ceccato has an ambitious goal to reduce his water use to half that needed using traditional irrigation methods without impacting yields.

Peter and his employees took part in a ‘digital irrigation masterclass’ developed by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI). The masterclasses were part of the national Drought Management for the Health and Longevity of Perennial Horticulture Plants project led by the South Australian Hub in collaboration with the Tasmania and Victorian Hubs and locally the Southern NSW Innovation Hub and NSW DPI and its Climate Smart Pilots project, part

of the NSW Primary Industries Climate Change Research Strategy funded through the NSW Climate Change Fund.

The masterclass on-farm demonstration sites showed 0.6 to 2.2 megalitres of water could be saved by using modern irrigation practices and principles.

Peter said taking part had significantly improved his orchard’s drought resilience, bridging the gap between technology and on-ground practices to understand irrigation data.

“We’re now more efficient with improved timing and management skills in irrigation practices,” he said.

Peter has made several changes including adjusting sprinkler heads and driplines for improved water efficiency, pressure changes and implementing

A soil pit demonstrating soil features under a red-fleshed navel orange orchard.

more effective monitoring of irrigation. It’s resulted in enhanced tree quality with a 20 per cent reduction in water use and Peter plans to roll these changes out across the orchard.

“We really would like to see how far we could push it and save water, which also translates into power usage reduction,” he said.

Another to benefit from taking part in the masterclass is nut producer Stahmann Webster, which has 2600 hectares of walnuts in the Riverina.

The company’s technical officer Mariano Gallardo said his team discovered a wide variability in the root area due to drainage problems, causing overirrigation in some sectors of the orchard and have now adjusted their approach to ensure they only irrigate to the root zone.

Mariano recommends the course to other growers. “If growers are more efficient with water during the drought, then this means there is more for everyone to share and benefit,” Mariano said.

The outcomes of the project are impressive. 60 growers attended workshops and 250 training days over the past two years. On-farm follow up helped 17 growers analyse 288 irrigated horticulture blocks, taking in 1440 hectares.

Technology and data is also the focus of another project that aims to help rangeland producers make decisions about groundcover management and destocking to reduce the impact of drought on farm.

The Southern NSW Innovation Hub is also partnering with the NSW Farmers’ Association, as part of the Managing Rangelands for Drought Resilience (MRDR) project.

NSW Farmers’ western division regional services manager Caron Chester said most pastoralists use sustainable farming practices but recognising the signs of an approaching drought and adjusting farming practices early can help reduce the impact on farmers and their land.

“Knowledge and tools to help pastoralists improve and prolong the

availability of groundcover and pastures during drought is important for feed for livestock and retaining soil moisture,” she said.

The project team, including consultant Dr John Leys, is working with pastoralists Bill and Pip Ryan from ‘Curragh’ at Oxley in the western Riverina.The Ryans have a well-developed drought plan that they have used for many years.

They’ll look at how satellite-based technology, the GEOGLAMM RaPP Map tool and Meat & Livestock Australia’s Australian Feedbase Monitor can complement their drought plan to predict ground cover changes and give producers an early-warning, up to six months in advance of drought to trigger management decisions.

It’s hoped this will allow pastoralists to plan ahead by exploring possible options so they can reduce stocking rates in a way that delivers the best financial outcome.

“Helping producers to predict drought and make timely business decisions can also reduce expenditure and income loss which will also help reduce stress levels for farmers,” Caron said. “It can give them the knowledge they need to plan ahead with more confidence.”

The technology will be on show at a field day for pastoralists in November and the researchers are keen to gather feedback on its use in managing rangelands for drought resilience.

The MRDR is led by the Northern Western Australia and Northern Territory Hub in collaboration with the Southern NSW, South-West Western Australia, the South Australian, the Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales, and the Tropical North Queensland Hubs.

Southern NSW Innovation Hub received funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund. You can find out more about the Southern NSW Innovation Hub and its activities at

Photos by NSW DPI. A citrus tree with a trunk dendrometer and SAP flow sensor gathering more plant sensing information for future workshops.
On-farm engagement with the course participants reaffirmed skills learned during the masterclass.









INTERNATIONAL INFLUENCE FORTRESS EUROPE Hammering out a fair trade agreement: who’ll blink first? 66 COMMUNITY NEW GENERATIONS: THE HERBERTS Farmers of the Year 2023 70 HEALTH AND WELLBEING The state of rural health 78 FARM DOGS Champagne life for Moët 84 THE SALEYARDS Time to refresh for spring 85 MEET A MEMBER A member for just two years, Jan Fletcher is asking questions and taking names 86 JOIN US – SUBSCRIBE Sign up and become a NSW Farmers member, and also receive The Farmer 88 THE TAIL END The dedication that drives farm donkey rescues 90
NEWS AND VIEWS Free range egg standards; big results and announcements from Annual Conference; Red
DATA FARMERS (PART 2) Practical applications of data capture, out in the field and in the industry 20
IN DEFENCE OF MODERN AGRICULTURE Are the ‘old ways’ really better? 26
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE Our tertiary scholarship recipients for 2023 34 MORE THAN AN EDUCATION Special Report: boarding schools 38
The Harris Farm Markets family has a passion for Icelandic horses 44
Women in agriculture who are making
and making a difference 50
MURRUMBATEMAN FIELD DAYS Special Report: the Yass Valley gets ready to celebrate once more 56
THE GROWING HUB OF WESTERN SYDNEY Developing agriprecincts and the coming airport are making this area one to watch 58
RACHEL’S FARM Rachel Ward and partner Bryan Brown are taking regenerative farming onto the red carpet 62 Contents THE FARMER SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2023 4


Farms are risky workplaces, and it is important for those who work and live on farms to always be vigilant in managing safety risks.


Sara Roche took part in a general, online workshop about on-farm safety delivered by the FSAP in 2022.

“It was all very straightforward to do at home, in our own time,” Sara said. “If we had to wait to attend something locally, and then go into town and do it, the whole process would have been slower.”

Sara, who implemented several operational changes since her involvement with the program, said the program increased her confidence to manage on-farm WHS issues.

While long term statistics of serious injuries and fatalities on farms have shown steady improvements over the years, recent data published by Farm Safe Australia indicates a reversal in 2022 with a higher number of serious injuries and fatalities occurring on farms compared to 2021. This serves as a sobering reminder for all parties involved, especially those who operate or work on farms, to invest renewed efforts to improve safety on farms.

Workplace health and safety on farm is everyone’s business, but the challenge of getting the right WHS framework in place can be complex, time consuming, and daunting for farmers.

To help make it easier, NSW Farmers delivers the NSW Farm Safety Advisory Program (FSAP), made possible with funding from the NSW Government, through SafeWork NSW. This free program provides farm businesses with specialised, practical support from advisors who understand the industry, through a series of dedicated workshops and farm visits.

Upcoming events include online workshops on emergency planning, effective farm worker induction, and harvest readiness. Please refer to for further information and registration.

Our expert advisors have been working with farmers on their WHS for years, and are accessible to support farmers in a group or one on one settings to discuss safety issues and provide practical resources.

“The advisors were very clear, they just explained everything very well and made things very straightforward,” Sara said.

“Sometimes you think something is common sense, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be reminded about that common sense.”

She encouraged other farmers to get involved: “It’s free and it’s easy to access so there are definitely some big incentives there.”

If you want more information on the NSW Farm Safety Advisory Program, visit or contact the Farm Safety Advisors at nswfarmsafety@ or on 1300 784 000.



EDITOR Jac Taylor

ART DIRECTOR Ryan Vizcarra


Jac Taylor




Ben Payne


Phone : 0403 893 668 –


Michael Burt

Nadia Cameron

Libby-Jane Charleston

Kathleen Curry

Susan Gough Henly

Bev Malzard

Carly Marriott

Julie Miller

Stephen Mudd

Ian Neubauer

Brendan O’Keeffe

Jeanette Severs

Emily Simpson

Sue Wallace


From the editor

Spring has come around fast, especially with such a busy couple of months behind us � At the very heart of NSW Farmers is the fact it is a members’ organisation, and so it gets its marching orders from you The Annual Conference in July is always a chance to do just that –to hear what is on your mind, what affects your day-to-day, your wellbeing, and your livelihood.

CEO Pete Arkle



Alicia Harrison – Membership Service Manager

Kathy Rankin – Head of Policy & Advocacy


Level 4, 154 Pacific Highway, St Leonards, NSW 2065

PO Box 459, St Leonards, NSW 1590

Head Office: 02 9478 1000


For membership, magazine subscriptions and mailing list enquiries: 1300 794 000








The Farmer magazine is published for the NSW Farmers Association (ABN: 31 000 004 651) by The Intermedia Group (ABN: 94 002 583 682) 41 Bridge Rd, Glebe NSW 2037. All rights reserved. Printed by IVE Group. Getty Images were used throughout the magazine.

The atmosphere at Conference was electric this year, with members clearly getting a lot out of face-to-face time with some of the most influential movers in the state The fact you can simply turn up and ask a question of the Premier of NSW, for example, is a pretty fantastic part of attending� Having a casual beer at the event’s social occasions with NSW Farmers CEO Pete Arkle or President Xavier Martin is really what it’s all about, too� The discussion and debate can’t help but spark real change, and this issue, we’ve included some of the biggest news and announcements that resulted from the Annual Conference this year.

Out of the conference centre and back onto the land, we’re drawing inspiration this issue from farmers sharing their stories with us this issue, too� A longtime advocate for reducing waste and putting primary producers first in business, David Harris (of Harris Farm Markets) shares his own passions for Icelandic horses out in the Megalong Valley Meanwhile, actor and director Rachel Ward reveals life off the red carpet – and decades of life on farm with husband Bryan Brown – as she promotes her new documentary on regenerative ag�

We meet 2023’s unstoppable Farmers of the Year, Tess and Andrew Herbert, and this year’s winner of the R M Williams RAS Rural Achiever Award, Keiley Noble, amongst other prominent women making names for themselves across agriculture as we get ready for the Rural Women’s Gathering in November� Tomorrow’s big achievers are also in this issue, as we celebrate the five newest recipients of the NSW Farmers Tertiary Scholarship Program

So much more packed into this issue, so please do settle in with a cuppa As always, get in touch if there’s an issue you’d like to see here in The Farmer – we love getting our marching orders from you too!

The Intermedia Group takes its corporate and social responsibilities seriously and is committed to reducing its impact on the environment. We continuously strive to improve our environmental performance and to initiate additional CSR based projects and activities.

As part of our company policy we ensure that the products and services used in the manufacture of this magazine are sourced from environmentally responsible suppliers. This magazine has been printed on paper produced from sustainably sourced wood and pulp fibre and is accredited under PEFC chain of custody.

PEFC certified wood and paper products come from environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of forests.

The wrapping used in the delivery process of this magazine is 100% recyclable.

DISCLAIMER: This publication is published by The Intermedia Group Pty Ltd (the “Publisher”). Materials in this publication have been created by a variety of different entities and, to the extent permitted by law, the Publisher accepts no liability for materials created by others. All materials should be considered protected by New Zealand and international intellectual property laws. Unless you are authorised by law or the copyright owner to do so, you may not copy any of the materials. The mention of a product or service, person or company in this publication does not indicate the Publisher’s endorsement. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Publisher, its agents, company officers or employees. Any use of the information contained in this publication is at the sole risk of the person using that information. The user should make independent enquiries as to the accuracy of the information before relying on that information. All express or implied terms, conditions, warranties, statements, assurances and representations in relation to the Publisher, its publications and its services are expressly excluded. To the extent permitted by law, the Publisher will not be liable for any damages including special, exemplary, punitive or consequential damages (including but not limited to economic loss or loss of profit or revenue or loss of opportunity) or indirect loss or damage of any kind arising in contract, tort or otherwise, even if advised of the possibility of such loss of profits or damages. While we use our best endeavours to ensure accuracy of the materials we create, to the extent permitted by law, the Publisher excludes all liability for loss resulting from any inaccuracies or false or misleading statements that may appear in this publication.

Copyright © 2023 – The Intermedia Group Pty Ltd

Science-led agriculture –Are the ‘old ways’ really better? Harris Farm horses –The market family’s Icelandic breeds Regen farming on the red carpet –cuts through the hype Farmers of the Year –comes reward At the top of her game Farming women reaching new heights of success

Look up and Live.

Download the Look Up and Live app to check the height and location of powerlines on your property using real time interactive network maps. Scan the QR code below

Know your machinery height in raised and lowered positions and always lower machinery fully before moving off

Mark powerlines at ground level or with aerial markers installed free by Essential Energy

Stay. Call. Wait. If contact occurs, Stay in the vehicle, Call 000 and Wait for the all clear to exit Order machinery safety stickers for free at

When you’re powering through the harvest,

The Muster

Over a century of knowledge sharing receives the Brownhill Cup

we are incredibly humbled to receive the Brownhill Cup, as recognition for the work the group has done within the district through successive generations of farmers – some within the same family”.

“The Ag Bureau has continued to provide a forum for our members to meet on a regular basis, share information and support each other.”

Mr Gordon Brownhill, awarding the Cup on behalf of the Brownhill family, said, “It has been a long time since a group has received the Brownhill Cup and so, this year, we wanted to recognise the importance which groups play in passing on the concepts and ideas of developing good farming practices in agriculture. Groups such as the Duri Ag Bureau bring a range of generations together for the benefit of the individuals and the district in general”.

Since 1984 the Brownhill Cup has been awarded to recognise farming individuals, families and groups which have worked to improve farming practices in their business as well as contributing to the greater agricultural industry.

The Ag Bureau’s longest serving member, Mr Jim Hombsch said, “The meetings have always been about learning and improving our farms and that has not changed since I started attending in the 1960s.

“Agriculture has seen a lot of changes over time; a few big steps and a lot of little steps have combined to make farming what it is today. The Ag Bureau has changed its scope as change has been presented to it,” he said.

The Duri Ag Bureaus still runs wheat, barley, sorghum and canola competitions which allow their members to learn from each other as they look over the fence. Members visit each other’s crops during the day and the results are shared over a BBQ, with awards presented at an annual dinner.

Initially the Agricultural Bureau’s were founded in 1910 by the Department of Agriculture to disseminate information and organise educational activities in rural areas, but today only a small number of the branches, such as Duri, remain active.

About 104 years after the first meeting of the Duri Agricultural Bureau was held, the current generation of its farmer members were on hand at AgQuip Field Days event to receive the prestigious Brownhill Cup in late August.

With more than 25 farming businesses representing the Duri, Winton and Bective localities, the Duri Ag Bureau has certainly stood the test of time.

The group meets every three months to discuss topics relevant to their mixed farming enterprises, and has always welcomed guest speakers to allow them to consider new technology and innovations which could be incorporated into their businesses.

Receiving the Cup on behalf of the Bureau, current president Ms Emily Stirling said, “As a group


Representing the Brownhill family, Mr Gordon Brownhill poses with Ms Emily Stirling, the current president of the Duri Agricultural Bureau, at the award ceremony during AgQuip Field Days in late August.

Historically the Ag Bureau once held prime lamb and garden competitions, as well as organising working dog training days and field days as part of their activities but it has been the crop competitions which have been at the core of their group.

The Duri Ag Bureau has also long been a supporter of research with members hosting trials by various organisations, including NSW DPI, for numerous years.

Ms Stirling commented at the award ceremony, “The Ag Bureau have always worked closely with public and private organisations and commercial companies to access the best information and technology to improve our practices and shared that information with our members and that remains our focus today”. l



Caltex Delo’s ISOSYN Technology,
owners and drivers can
protection, maximised engine durability and minimised operating costs.
Talk to your local distributor or find out more about Caltex fuels and lubricants.

The Muster

Egg standards implementation laid aside

While a recent nationwide meeting of state agricultural ministers saw animal welfare standards taken up, the feared early phase-out of cage egg production has been avoided, for now.

Struggling families have escaped a costof-living hike with Australia’s agriculture ministers choosing not to blindly endorse an early end to conventional cage egg production.

The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry were endorsed by agriculture ministers from all states and territories at a July meeting in Perth amid a firestorm of media reports that they would send egg prices soaring.

While the standards – which were developed by an independent panel in consultation with stakeholders and the public – were adopted as recommended, it was decided each state and territory would be responsible for implementation, meaning the timelines were still open for discussion.

Egg producers believed moving away from conventional cage egg systems too soon would leave them with stranded assets – expensive infrastructure that could not be used – which would, in turn, drive farmers out of business. Activists, on the other hand, had shown their hand in wanting an immediate end to cages regardless of the cost.


One of the key sticking points for egg producers was the ‘phase-out’ date for conventional cage egg production. The recommended date of between


Egg producers believe moving away from conventional cage egg systems too soon would drive farmers out of business

2032 and 2036 was too early, according to producers, who said many would be forced out of business as a result and argued for an end date of 2046.

Brett Langfield, an egg producer from Young who has 680,000 birds in both free range and conventional cage egg systems, says families would be in the firing line if farmers didn’t have time to properly transition their businesses.

“Eggs are an affordable and nutritious product enjoyed by most families, and with so many families doing it tough at the moment the last thing we need is anything that will make food more expensive,” Brett says.

“Australian farmers and consumers are slowly transitioning away from cage eggs, free range accounts for 47 per cent of supermarket sales now, but drastic market intervention would result in a supply crunch that will send prices soaring.

“Let’s not forget that eggs are a critical ingredient in cakes and pasta, not to mention so many other staples like chicken schnitzel, mayonnaise, pies, and fish fingers. It’s caged eggs that are often going into their production, so expect to see a flow-on effect of costs if businesses will be forking out more for free range.”

Brett’s farm produced about 600,000 eggs every day – or 50,000 dozen – equating to more than 16 million dozen eggs each year.



Living and learning together, closer to home

Scots All Saints College Bathurst is the perfect choice for regional and rural families, looking for co-educational boarding for Years 7-12 within a vibrant, welcoming College community, closer to home.

Enjoy space to live, learn and grow with academic, boarding, sports, performing arts, equestrian facilities and a working farm all on one campus. Choose an exceptional boarding experience for your family.


The Muster

An early ban on caged eggs in New Zealand had smashed consumers, leading to scarcity on supermarket shelves and prices of up to $15 for a dozen eggs.

In a recent interview with the ABC, Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand executive director Michael Brooks said supermarket egg prices had gone up by 50 per cent because of a “commercial decision” to stop selling caged eggs by 2025.

“Suddenly there are 600,000 fewer hens and 600,000 fewer eggs a day; so [that leads to an] egg shortage,” he said in the interview.

“Farmers do need some help. I think it’s the same in Australia and certainly here in New Zealand, there is no financial assistance given to farmers.

“It’s just one day you’re legal, next day you’re not.”


Farmers had warned decision makers that the egg industry could not afford to stop conventional cage egg production before 2046 without causing supply shortages and subsequent price spikes.

According to Australian Eggs, conventional cage production made up 40 per cent of supermarket sales, but they were also used in a range of other edible products. NSW produced the highest proportion of eggs – 36 per cent of the national total – turning out 6.6 billion eggs in 2021-2022.

With the decision on when to phase out conventional cage egg production now placed onto each state, Brett says the industry was uncertain about how that would impact pricing and supply.

“You cannot pull the rug out from under farmers and shift the goalposts, it will simply cripple their businesses,” Brett says.


Amid a cost-of-living crisis it would be politically difficult for the government to end conventional cage egg production.

“An orderly transition away from conventional cage systems is already underway, and working with industry will prevent the need for a substantial financial package from government to help these businesses make the early transition.

“We would hope to see the NSW Government follow through on the stated position of Premier Chris Minns, who ruled out considering a ban on conventional cage egg production in June.”

The announcement from the Premier came on the back of a private member’s bill from the Animal Justice Party, which sought to outlaw conventional cage egg production within a year. When questioned by media, Mr Minns said his government would not support that legislation.


The priority for the animal activists was clearly to see an end to conventional cage egg production as soon as possible, but amid a cost-of-living crisis it would be politically difficult for the government to even contemplate such a move.

Meanwhile, Brett pointed out the egg industry was already moving away from cages as the market shifted to free range.

“We’ve been transitioning for some time, we’ve been in cage and now we’re in free range with 30 per cent cage and 70 per cent free range, which is pretty much where the market is,” he says.

“Our standards and guidelines are the ideal outcome, we have world leading standards across all egg-producing systems, and I believe the consumer should be able to make their own decision.

“What we don’t want are rushed changes, where food shortages and prices become a concern – we want to make sure the consumer does not get impacted in this process.” l


First Loreto. Then the World.

New State-of-the-art Agricultural Technologies Centre opening in Term 3 2023!

Loreto Normanhurst’s new Agricultural Technologies Centre is supporting a generation passionate about agriculture and STEM and will create an environment where young women can thrive and lead in the fields of agricultural innovation and sustainability.

Visit to find out more!

Feeding the future, tackling the issues, spurring action at the 2023 Conference

This year’s NSW Farmers Annual Conference in Sydney easily filled its three days with discussion, networking, more than a few laughs, plus very real industry change, demonstrating again how effective real-life ‘face time’ can be.

The atmosphere at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse in mid-July was resolute, lively and highly social as more than 300 members of NSW Farmers converged on the conference centre to mix with movers and shakers from NSW politics, agricultural business, major industry brands and sponsor organisations as well as from within NSW Farmers itself. With this year offering a backdrop of issues ranging from climate change and supply chain gaps, through to biosecurity incursions and land access questions, discussion sessions surrounding the more than 100 motions tabled by members were never dull.


There was an undeniable undercurrent of excitement at the chance to partake in such big-picture and passionate debates, especially coupled with the chance to put questions directly to all the major players in attendance such as the Premier of NSW, the Hon. Christopher Minns MP; the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Mark Speakman SC MP; the NSW Minister for Agriculture and for Western NSW, the Hon. Tara Moriarty MLC; the DirectorGeneral of the Department of Primary Industries, Mr Scott Hansen; the Leader of the NSW Nationals, Mr Dugald Saunders MP; CEO of the National Farmers’ Federation, Mr Tony Mahar; and the list

went on as the cream of NSW agriculture and leadership attended and addressed the crowd of delegates.

One delegate who travelled from the Far North Coast region especially to ask her question of Minister Tara Moriarty, came away from the session smiling widely. Jan Fletcher (whom you can also meet on page 86 of this issue) asked the Minister for assurance that the cattle tick program would be funded, in order to improve protection from cattle tick infestation and tick fever.

“I came back on farm in 1981,” explains Jan, “and realised the serious tick problem; that’s what spurred me on to join NSW Farmers as a member and, ultimately, to help start the Far North Coast branch.

“Finally I saw the Minister and thought ‘this is my chance!’ So really, asking this question has been 42 years in the making. She gave a really positive response, too. It felt great.”

Testament to the place that NSW Farmers takes in terms of advocacy and influence, both Premier Chris Minns and Director-General Scott Hansen dedicated a full 20 minutes each to address members.

The Premier said it was a “privilege” to be speaking so directly with members at Conference, and with leaders of the farming community. “You are on the

frontline of an industry that last year contributed $23.1 billion to our economy, that supports more than 130,000 jobs, but means so much more than that.

“The work that you do, the role that you play, is the cornerstone of our regional communities and shapes our state identity. We know that NSW does not thrive unless our regional communities thrive, and our regional communities do not thrive unless our agricultural industry thrives.”

The Premier listed some of the prime concerns within the ag sector, including cost of living, input and freight costs, labour shortages and the changing climate. He also announced the key areas of focus going forward, including a commitment for the soon to be established Net Zero Commission working with farmers to map out how we can reach Net Zero targets.

“We’re focused on sustainability – managing our natural resources to improve their environmental value and productive performance, for present and future generations,” he said. “We’re also focused on biosecurity – we want to protect primary industries, our environment and the community from the increasing threat and impact of pests, weeds, and diseases while also supporting the ambition of $30 billion by 2030 for the agriculture industry. And we’re focused on responding to communities and primary

The Muster
Left to right: Craig Huf, Chair of NSW Farmers Far North Coast Branch, with Premier Chris Minns, and Sandra Hawken, Secretary of the Far North Coast Branch; NSW Farmers CEO, Pete Arkle delivers his speech; The Ag Risk Management Panel tackles resilience.


Clockwise from top left: Premier Chris Minns addresses the delegates, with NSW Farmers CEO Pete Arkle listening on; NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin; NSW Farmers staff in Rosehill Gardens; Delegates and speakers, deep in discussion;
NSW Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty enjoying the WFI social event with Robert Hawken, Far North Coast Branch; Fiona Smith speaks for WaterNSW; Jane Jones from WFI with NSW Farmers Regional Services Manager Daniel Brear.

The Muster

industries stakeholders in times of adverse events, and helping to build resilience for the future.”


Premier Minns spent time laying out the State Government’s approach to biosecurity challenges, including Varroa Mite in bees, White Spot disease in prawns, foot-and-mouth and lumpy skin disease in livestock and more, followed by a welcome announcement.

“The National Feral Pig Action Plan estimates that feral pig populations are impacting primary production and the environment at a cost to Australian agriculture of more than $100 million each year,” he said, “which is why today I can announce the NSW Government has committed $13 million over the next year towards a feral pig control program.

“This program will aim to reduce the density of feral pigs across NSW through a statewide control program that will include landscape scale aerial shooting and ground control activities, building landholder capacity in feral pig control through training and extension, and a state-wide feral pig coordinator.”

The following day, Ms Tara Moriarty expanded on government biosecurity

plans with some funding details that drew cheers from the listening delegates, announcing that a total of at least $260 million will be allocated to support NSW farmers over the next four years.

To the more than $33 million already pledged to control Varroa Mite outbreaks, the Minister announced an additional $31 million to support beekeepers and affected groups. She mentioned a recent $21.4 million response to White Spot disease, and announced a very considerable $80 million in additional funding to take protective measures against Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA).

“All of us know about the destruction caused by feral pigs,” she also mentioned. “In fact, Xavier Martin [President of NSW Farmers] was in my office last week telling me about his experience dealing with a feral pig. Feral pig populations have been growing across the State; a coordinated approach involving farmers, landholders and government has always been needed.

“I’ve learned very quickly talking with farmers that biosecurity is the number one issue, and that it’s too important to be playing politics with,” she said. “While the Australian Government has introduced measures to strengthen controls, there has been a 50 per cent increase in detections

of biosecurity matter at our national border in the past five years.

This places NSW at an even greater risk given the high proportion of goods and visitors we receive annually.

“The risk is so significant that the Commonwealth has rated the probability of one of the top five emergency animal diseases occurring in Australia by 2026 at 42 per cent.

“The risk of diseases that can spread between animals and humans is also increasing, given that at least 75 per cent of emerging human infectious diseases, such as swine flu and Covid, originate from animals. This makes the management of biosecurity threats a public health, as well as an agricultural imperative.”


On the eve of the event (see opposite) and on the final day, panel discussions presented a coordinated and interesting mix of attitudes and ideas. The Ag Risk Management panel session was facilitated by NSW Farmers CEO Pete Arkle, taking on subject matter of prime importance in these days of climate-related events, supply chain-related risk and cost-of-living hikes that squeeze profit margins.

Drought and flood preparedness were covered, especially considering two of the four panellists were Ms Cindy Cassidy (SNSW) and the Hon. Dr John McVeigh (SQNNSW), both from regional Drought Resilience and Innovation Hubs.

More ephemeral topics were also tabled, such as individual appetite for risk, as well as risk management in terms of insurance product choice and design, discussing in detail the role of sustainable business practice in mitigating risk on a systemic level. l

A MEETING OF MINDS Left to right: The WFI social event on Wednesday evening allowed members to more casually mingle with NSW Farmers staff and other organisation representatives (such as John Tracey from NSW DPI, far left); Kerry Battersby, from the Queensland Farmers’ Federation, adds another State’s perspective to the Ag Risk Management panel discussion; Delegates listening closely in-session.
“We’re focused on sustainability – managing our natural resources to improve their environmental value and productive performance, for present and future generations”


Avoiding the European model, investing in ag tech and making the most of our sustainable reputation is key to feeding the future, industry leaders pointed out at a panel discussion event at the NSW Farmers Annual Conference this year.

Executive Director, Business Western Sydney David Borger, paving the way for NSW food producers to better access overseas markets.

Opening the way for smoother supply chains, adequate investment in transport infrastructure is pivotal.

“There is no easy solution,” says Mr Cossey, adding “it is one of the greatest blockages for the growth of the economy and it is one of the great hurdles that ag faces.”

“Never before in human history have so many people relied on so few to feed them” was an opening remark made by Croplife CEO Matthew Cossey on the Feeding the Future panel, held on the eve of NSW Farmers Annual Conference.

The panel, made up of industry, tech and agribusiness experts was brought together to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing NSW agriculture in the coming years.

Facilitated by The Daily Telegraph’s State Political Reporter, Madeleine Bower, the panel covered issues including biosecurity, pest and weeds, infrastructure, and logistics, but key themes to emerge were the importance of good regulation, based on science, and the importance of emerging agtech.

Mr Cossey is advocating for policy makers to look at the real challenges facing farming in 2023 and regulate accordingly, taking advice from those on the ground, not those in the inner-city who want to “decide the best farming practices”.

Mr Cossey also wants government to take a long-term approach to proving investment in ag.

“If they don’t start looking at their investment in the agricultural sector over a 50 and a 100-year cycle, then we are going to be looking back saying: “what the hell are we doing now?”.

“Producing food is not optional,” Mr Cossey highlighted, adding, “we need to achieve another leap in productivity over the next 50 years, essentially more than doubling food production.”

Agritech will play a major role in Australian farmers achieving this.

At the forefront of Agritech is Bela Farbas, founder of 4Zero Technologies.

“Technology at its best solves a problem,” Mr Farbas said.

“[During Covid], we uncovered a lot of problems that people simply weren’t aware of before.

“Where technology really shines is when we identify an issue, when we identify a gap and then we apply the right level of technology to it in such a way that it’s cost effective, has to be easy and it actually solves that problem reliably day after day.”

Fortunately for Australian agriculture, “absolutely we’re competitive” with the rest of the world when it comes to agritech.

4Zero Technologies specialises in digital integration solutions which reduce the end-to-end risk and cost for stock feeds, as well as integrated vehicle scheduling which ensures trucks never have to wait to deliver ingredients or pick up goods.

“I’ve spent some time in the US looking at their ag sector and we’ve got colleagues over in the UK and Europe as well, and we’re pretty much up there,” said Mr Farbas.

The role the new Western Sydney Airport will play to bring NSW produce to the world was also discussed.

Opening in 2026, the single runway will be capable of carrying any aircraft in the world, with “one of the opportunities obviously to carry produce,” said

The importance of Aussie farmers making the most of their clean and green reputation was also raised by Telstra’s Strategic Growth – Agribusiness, Retail and Supply Chain, Chris Stevenson.

“We are in a unique position, he says. “Sustainability is becoming a really huge value proposition of what people are looking for overseas.”

Pointing to research with Meat and Livestock Australia, Mr Stevenson said sustainability was the main thing people saw right across the value chain and the good news is, Australian farmers are amongst the most sustainable in the world. l


Madeleine Bower – State Political Reporter, The Daily Telegraph


David Borger – Executive Director, Business Western Sydney

Chris Stevenson – Agribusiness, Retail and Supply Chain – Telstra

John Howard – RIC CEO

Bela Farbas – Founder – 4Zero Technologies

Matthew Cossey – CEO Croplife

Matthew Cossey Bela Farbas
The Daily Telegraph’s State Political Reporter, Madeleine Bower; Mr David Borger - Executive DirectorWestern Sydney Business Chamber; Xavier Martin, President, NSW Farmers; Mr Chris Stevenson – Manager Agribusiness, Supply Chain and Retail Growth - Telstra; Mr Bela Farbas - Founder - 4Zero Technologies; Mr John Howard - CEO - Regional Investment Corporation; Mr Matthew Cossey - CEO - CropLife Australia

Fire ant risk now very real

Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA) have recently been found five kilometres from the Queensland/NSW border, triggering the NSW Government to commit $95 million, over the next four years, towards protecting NSW from RIFA.

This South American pest is one of the most notorious ants in the world, due to the extensive damage it causes to ecological and agricultural systems.

While Queenslanders have been battling this fiery foe for decades, the six-legged threat is now on the move and forcing those south of the border to prepare for the worst.

These ants are known to attack as a swarm, stinging people and animals aggressively and repetitively; their sting

causes the painful sensation of being on fire, and also brings the danger of allergic reaction and even anaphylactic shock. Infestations also restrict the use of farm equipment and irrigation infrastructure.

The proximity of the fire ants to the NSW border now represents the highest biosecurity risk to to the state. As a result, the NSW Government has partnered with and helped to fund the National RIFA Eradication Program.

However, Bill Newcomen, Chair of the NSW Farmers Garah/Weemelah branch, and a broadacre cropper based between Moree and Mungindi, is worried that more needs to be done on the ground to prevent the spread.

“We’re six hours from the infestation locations, but our concern is that there doesn’t seem to be any co-ordination at the border crossings monitoring RIFA,” says Bill.

“A lot of farmers in our region run stock so, if fodder is being brought in from the declared RIFA area, there doesn’t seem to be any biosecurity controls in place,” he points out.

According to the NSW DPI, RIFA are regulated as prohibited matter under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015. The DPI advises that the possible movement of RIFA in hay or straw bales, turf, agricultural and earthmoving equipment and organic mulch is regulated under the NSW Biosecurity (Invasive Ant Carriers) Control Order 2023.

The ants are marching towards the Northern NSW border and it’s not one by one.
This South American pest is one of the most notorious ants in the world, due to the extensive damage it causes to ecological and agricultural systems.

Under the 2015 Act, the following conditions apply to anyone moving these materials and products into NSW from fire ant-infested areas in Queensland.

To move hay into NSW that has been sourced or packed in fire ant-infested areas in Queensland, it must be accompanied by a Plant Health Certificate that certifies it has been:

• treated with a chemical approved for the control of fire ants;

• handled and stored in a way that prevents infestation by fire ants immediately after treatment and until it arrives in NSW;

• inspected and found to be dry and free of all soil.

To move agricultural and earthmoving equipment into NSW from a known fire ant-infested area in Queensland it must be accompanied by a Plant Health Certificate that certifies it has been:

• inspected and found to be free from fire ants, soil and other materials such as hay, straw, turf or mulch 48 hours prior to dispatch.

Plant Health Certificates are issued by inspectors from the Queensland Government to applicants wanting to move fire ant-prone materials into NSW from Queensland.

Whilst these measures are in place there have been widespread calls from industry groups to bolster compliance and increase awareness around how to identify nests or infestations in order to curb the escalation.

The upcoming grain harvest may exacerbate the situation, with machinery

and trucks moving long distances across state borders and farmers are justifiably distressed.

“We need to ensure protocols are implemented and enforced, and that the States can work together,” says Bill. “We’ve already experienced the joy of living on the border during COVID where there were different rules for different residents facing the same problem.”

National RIFA Eradication Program General Manager Graeme Dudgeon has been quoted in media coverage recently that he expected RIFA would get into southern states, and was particularly

concerned if they made it to graingrowing areas in western NSW and Queensland.

Following on from concerns voiced by members at the NSW Farmers Annual Conference, the Biosecurity Committee are closely following RIFA movements in Queensland, and encourage farmers to familiarise themselves with current control measures and how to identify infestations.

For more information or to report fire ant sightings, members are encouraged to visit or l

GOING FURTHER FOR AUSTRALIAN FARMERS Nutrien Ag Solutions has the expertise and the resources to take your business further. Visit your local branch today or discover more online at
While Queenslanders have been battling Red Imported Fire Ants for decades, the six-legged threat is now on the move and forcing those south of the border to prepare for the worst.


Camera spraying and drone technology are giving farmers better tools to manage pests, from weeds to wild pigs. Here, a Downunder Enterprises drone surveys the land.



Blockchain, cloud servers, machine learning, nutrient mapping – the language of farming is feeling increasingly unreal. But farmers who are applying data capture in practical ways on farm are seeing very real returns.

It was tackling the adulteration chewing up to 50 per cent of his market that first led Phil Prather to blockchain technology.

“The tea tree industry is coming under pressure from competition from China, which typically offers adulterated and very impure oils,” says Phil, CEO of Downunder Enterprises and chairman of the Australian Tea Tree Oil Industry Association (ATTIA).

Thanks to well-established testing, auditing and accreditation systems for tea tree producers and distilleries, the governance – and importantly, data to support it – were there. So a pilot commenced with agtech startup, Geora, to build a digital traceability and certification management tool. Blockchain, a secure and decentralised kind of digital ledger that records and verifies transactions across multiple computers, was once better known for its use in the world of cryptocurrency, but is now applied to a wide range of uses. In this case, it was chosen for its distributed database structure and consensus-based smart ledger approach, which sees transactions coded into immutable ‘blocks’.

“We have a gatekeeper process, a check system of what quantities of oil can be placed on the blockchain, through to that distillery system verified via Code of Practice audits,” Phil says. “We were confident as an industry we could implement blockchain once we got the right solution or right tools.”

Yet even as commercialisation progresses, the impetus for blockchain is shifting to validating sustainability credentials through the supply chain.

“Use of blockchain is going to become a pull, as opposed to a push. It’s the mandate of all companies on their sustainability footprint that’s really going to drive this,” he says. “We’re exploring what types of inputs we’re going to need at an industry level to deliver traceability right through to the manufacturers, so they can meet their legislative requirements and reporting imperatives.”

Proving green compliance for lending purposes using blockchain went into pilot this year. Queensland-based Leather Cattle Company is adopting blockchain to meet reporting covenants of its NAB Agri Green loan. The aim is a standardised record of environmental impact and steps to reduce emissions, creating a trustworthy record the organic farm can share with interested stakeholders in the beef supply chain. To help, it’s planting 1,200 hectares of the Leucaena legume, shown to reduce emissions intensity of livestock by 20 to 40 per cent across grazing spaces.

“Working with NAB and Geora to track this digitally means we can actually prove the impact of these green projects,” Leather Cattle Company owner, Melinee Leather says.

Like Melinee, Phil wants blockchain to substantiate what the tea tree industry is doing so it can compare with other industries plus competitors globally.

“If you have the data and technology, then you’re going to have the operating model. But it has to be operated at both the farmer and manufacturer level,” Phil says. “We’ll then get the benefits on adulteration in the slipstream.”

“Use of blockchain is going to become a pull, as opposed to a push. It’s the mandate of all companies on their sustainability footprint that’s really going to drive this.”
PHIL PRATHER Chairman, Australian Tea Tree Oil Industry Association


Blockchain is one fast-evolving technology with mounting impact on farming. In the field, on water tanks or up in the air are an array of other data collecting technologies like smart sensors, electronic identification tags (eIDs), smart animal collars, drones, satellite mapping, smart spraying cameras and connected farming equipment.

But while innovation is still occurring in the hardware, it’s software platforms, mobile-based apps, network connectivity, data analysis and modelling, machine learning, as well as sharing and aggregation tools finally making data actionable for farming use cases. These fit into a few buckets, albeit with nuances depending on geography and farming type: productivity; supply chain transparency and product traceability; sustainability/ESG; natural capital reporting; carbon sequestration; and operational management.

Where Bralca owner and director, Ben Watts, has seen the big shift in the last 12 months is the processing, analysis and machine learning components of harnessing data for timely decision making. Western NSW-based Bralca is a grower and service provider around drone technology.

“Drones are collecting data processed in a six to 12-hour turnaround, giving us individual plant detail in a cereal, winter or cotton crop. We can run that through analytics on our cloud servers and quickly get a picture of which plants within that paddock are performing and which aren’t,” Ben says.

Farmers still need ground truth to ascertain whether an issue is moisture versus pests – for now, anyway. “But it means we can, on any given day


The Bralca trough sensor (above left) is part of a pragmatic data solution to better understand livestock movements and habits.

and at the farmer’s choice, collect data and make an informed decision,” says Ben. “We can take that plan to inspect a paddock, run it through software and turn that into a treatment plan we can load back into an existing machine. That’s where I see technology empowering us as farmers. Data that only gives you more information just gives you a headache.”

Having data at Broden Holland’s fingertips was the catalyst for an explosion of productivity gains at his family’s Koolpari Enterprises in Young. Yield monitoring in the hopes of spreading variable rates across its mixed crop farm had been underway, but complexity inhibited progress.

“The thing is how much time and effort you want to spend on trying to map maps and layers,” Broden explains. “I believe everyone has a huge amount of data they could be using. The reason it’s not getting implemented is because the software is too hard and difficult – and not convenient. I want to drive through the paddock and if I’ve forgotten to make that protein map, quickly do it on my phone.”

Broden began working with Australian-owned CropScanAG on nutrient management app, N-Gauge. “It enables me to make a contoured map with that protein layer. I convert that into a urea map, add strips, plus rates, within a couple of minutes. I can push a button, send it to my John Deere app and it’s in the tractor.”

Tackling nitrogen has seen Koolpari go from six per cent variation rates to one per cent, generating approximately $1.2 million from better yield over the last three years. “Without that data… our average protein would have been the same, but average yield would have been a tonne less,” Broden says.


Addressing nitrogen is being followed by incrementally solid gains from tackling sulfur and magnesium levels. It’s also necessary in fungicide trials.

“In the last three years, we’ve done the same trials we did 20 years ago but have clear-cut decisions now. We know when we spray a fungicide, we’re going to get a good hectare and good year because of what we’ve done with nitrogen. We didn’t see that before because we couldn’t measure it,” Broden says. “You can have all the data in the world. But if it’s not in the palm of your hand when you’re looking at that crop, you go back to your computer and second-guess yourself.”


Most importantly, Broden has learnt the valuable lesson first-mover industry sectors had drilled into them through data and technology investment trial and error: Know your ‘why’ first.

“The mentality of a lot of people is to grab all this data together, look at a map for 10 hours and still not know what to do. I’m saying let’s look at our issue, the best layer to fix the issue and use it,” says Broden.

Koolpari’s yields are climbing higher as a result and it averaged a nine-tonne red wheat crop last year. “I’d love to grow a 10-tonne crop. Now I think it’s doable,” he says. “Never would I have thought in my wildest dreams we could grow that much wheat here.”

Bralca is running workshops with NSW Farmers to help growers share thinking and up their data game. “We can have two successful farmers side by side using very different approaches. If they choose the profit drivers for their business they identify with, that’s

obviously what’s keeping them awake at night or what they’re passionate about,” Ben says.

“This is preferable to spending $20,000 on tech and waiting for it to change my business. It doesn’t work that way. Work the other way back: What is the pain point? What information do I need to help make that decision? What data processing will I need to turn that into something useful?”

Similar pragmatism lies behind the Landcare Farming Program Benchmarking Soils Project, developed to help landholders establish benchmarks for soil carbon levels and greenhouse gas emissions. Nine participants explored ways to improve carbon sequestration through groundcover and pasture management, while increasing productivity. The project involved FarmLab, CSIRO, Soil Future Consulting and Optisoil. Growers were given an Environmental Farm Assessment tool and trained in remote sensing imagery.

Participants John and Samantha Stokes, who run the Dorper prime land enterprise north of Tamworth, see better soil fertility and pasture production generating external income streams through ecological monitoring and soil biology consulting. There’s also the chance to add value to red meat products through sustainability accreditation and labelling. Tim and Courtney Skerrett at Mulla Creek, meanwhile, seek to produce sustainable quality beef while increasing soil health and biodiversity. They’re looking to earn income from Australian carbon credits by building carbon stores and biodiversity through a regenerative agriculture approach.

A Downunder Enterprises drone keeps an eye on when, where and how harvest is progressing.


At WA-based Coolindown Farms, Belinda Lay is increasingly tapping data from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, eIDs, sheep location devices and temperature collars for risk mitigation and performance enhancement. Paving the way was a co-funded research project with Meat and Livestock Australia using devices and data to generate ROI in a mixed farming enterprise.

Belinda now runs her own data store to collate historical and current data sets to uncover new data insights and test management theories. Power BI helps visualise data, while a data scientist builds models against different parameters she can manipulate.

“We compared animal movements with rainfall crop yield and soil moisture to gain insights into different areas. The correlation is only possible if your data is interoperable,” she comments.

But it had to start somewhere and for Bralca and Coolindown Farms the obvious place was water. Coolindown fitted Waterwatch level sensors to tanks, connected to an app and AxisStream data platform. This resulted in a 70 per cent reduction in inputs and ROI in a year.

For Belinda, data success is about consistency and context. “If one year you do fleece weight with bellies in and the next year you take the bellies out, you can’t compare your wool production year-on-year because 500g to 1kg of belly is out of your fleece weights. That’s consistency.”

Context requires farmers to start with the end in mind. “For me, it’s a 60kg sheep that’s cutting at least 4.5kg of wool, preferably giving birth to twins and doesn’t need mulesing,” she says. “If that’s what I’m wanting, I’m going to start recording pregnancy scanning data, recording fleece weights, and bodyweight.”


Biosecurity is the next outcome Bralca is looking for, and Ben is harnessing electronic national vendor declaration (ENVD) using blockchain and the Bioplus application for compliance, easier administration and access to premium markets.

“Consumers and customers increasingly want to know if there’s validity to the information the farmer signed off. That information we need to collect is the same information that helps us know whether we’re making the right decisions throughout the season,” Ben says.

Camera spraying and drone technology are additionally giving farmers better tools to manage pests, from weeds to wild pigs. An advancement many look forward to is enhanced satellite imagery to ascertain soil moisture and carbon analysis virtually.

At an industry level, multiple projects led by government, universities and R&D organisations are striving for ways to aggregate and benchmark data sets to better understand production, seasonal or regional trends, and support imperatives for carbon/ ESG reporting and revenue streams. Just take the


Farm monitoring tech has come a long way, such as the advanced Bralca drones (above) but classic solutions still include weather stations (right) although they contain more bells and whistles now.

Federal Government’s Integrated Farm Management program, encompassing carbon and biodiversity through a circular agriculture approach. Or there’s the ‘Know & Show Your Carbon Footprint’ initiative to develop a cross-commodity platform for growers to better understand baseline carbon emissions and residual footprint across their entire enterprise from Agricultural Innovation Australia (AIA). All point to the growing value of data management, ownership and shareability for farmers.

“The evidence has to be very sound, because we’re basically creating financial products on our farms with the development of soil carbon capture and biodiversity coming along,” adds Phil. l


AgTechData’s system is designed to serve as a single solution to existing agriculture software in collecting valid data through a seamless data capture solution that facilitates the creation, capture, and merging of data for any statutory form. AgTechData will replace your paper records for all NVD documents allowing you to fill in, lodge and share the livestock information and declaration across the supply chain in realtime.


• NLIS Certified for NVD, NFAS and MSA

• Online/Offline data entry and transfer

• QR code access to forms

• Smart messaging for Transport/Carrier

• Stock Yard and Agents notifications

• Transport authority Summaries via QR


• Issue request for contractors to complete forms

• Works across any Agriculture business

• Perfect for any Size operation

• Smart data entry improves the value of your data

• Consistent responses meeting National standards

• Aggregate data and aids in Audit preparation

The AgTechData’s solution meets all the data capture requirements in the Agriculture sector. Paper forms can be wholly replaced with an AgTechData digital solution. The solution has been designed to enable 3rd parties in any activity to satisfy their data capture requirements. This enables the managment of the entire process with a single approach.

CONTACT Mobile:+61 410977223

In defence of modern agriculture

Is the ‘old way’ always better? Our economist at NSW Farmers takes on pseudoscience with a few

facts and figures that might say otherwise.

Years ago, I was in a book club and the inaugural book chosen by a friend was The Third Plate by American chef Dan Barber. This book had garnered rave reviews as a critique of modern food systems and had been chosen by my friend who wanted to learn more about where his food came from. While this book is an entertaining description of his restaurant, dispersed with stories of where particular high-end food products come from, it also represents how celebrity and fallacy dominate messaging about where food comes from. For example, the book begins with an anecdote about a farmer who suddenly develops weakness in his arms after spraying a chemical called 2,4-D. Doctors were not able to diagnose his ailment, so he switched to organic farming. This contradicts all known toxicology data on 2,4-D and Barber provides zero factual sources.

The view that has been popularised is simple: chemicals, fertilisers, and GMOs = bad; organics = good. Commentators such as Barber have espoused the view that sustainable food must be organic, local, and small, rather than large and industrial. This is akin to agriculture in the developing world. Farmers are organic because they cannot afford fertiliser, their food is local because of poor supply chains, and farms are small scale because they are not profitable enough to invest in any improvements. It is no coincidence that nations with food systems with these characteristics are food insecure.

Consumers not only want food to be tasty, safe, nutritious, and affordable; they want it to come from farms that protect the natural environment, respect the welfare of animals, help sustain rural communities, and provide workers with fair conditions. An organic, local, and small food system would mean ignoring a century of science, would force farmers to work harder for less income, would give consumers fewer food choices, and the natural environment would in fact be worse off.

At university, I went on a study tour of The Philippines, seeing how smallholder farmers operate. These farmers were extremely satisfied with the adoption of GM corn, which had improved their productivity and profitability through decreasing their use of pesticides, which had also brought about environmental benefits. 1One additional important outcome was that the farmers did not have to work as hard to manage their pests, so had more time to spend with their families.


There is a lack of understanding by the Australian public about where their food comes from, and it is in this vacuum that pseudoscience can fill the informational void.

The Big Picture
“An organic, local, and small food system would mean ignoring a century of science, would force farmers to work harder for less income, would give consumers fewer food choices, and the natural environment would in fact be worse off.”

This good news about science-based farming, however, has been difficult to communicate to the developed world, where a litany of food writers, journalists, and commentators have found widespread acclaim in promoting pre-industrial alternatives. One of these food writers, Michael Pollan, said the following about the frighteningly uncritical support he has gained:

“The media has really been on our side for the most part. I know this from writing for the New York Times, where I’ve written about a lot of other topics,


Good news about science-based farming has been difficult to communicate to the developed world.

1Alvarez, F., Manalo, A. and Clarete, R. (2021) Economic Assessment of GM Corn Use in the Philippines, International Journal of Food and Science and Agriculture 5(1): 115-128. 2 Michael Pollan interview, Food Revolution Network, April 24, 2013,

but when I wrote about food I never had to give equal time to the other side. I could say whatever I thought … so I felt like I got a free ride for a long time”.2

There is a lack of understanding by the Australian public of where their food comes from, and it is in this vacuum that pseudoscience and emotional stories have filled the informational void. For example, a 2014 study of over 1,400 Australian children revealed that 92 per cent didn’t know bananas grew on plants.3

So let us give weight to the other side and recognise the advancements that have been made by agriculture which allow us to enjoy safe, affordable, and nutritious food that is the most sustainably produced in the world. Precision farming has made possible the production of more food while using less land, less water, and fewer chemicals, implying large benefits to the natural environment.

Firstly, Australia has the highest rates of adoption of no-till farming in the world, with 84 per cent of farmers retaining stubble and protecting their soils. Australia has some of the lowest rates of nitrogen fertiliser and pesticide application in the world, with 68 per cent of farmers optimising their use so as to reduce their reliance. The sector has even reduced emissions by 20 per cent over the last 30 years.4


Precision farming has made possible the production of more food while using less land, less water, and fewer chemicals, benefitting the natural environment.

Source: ABARES (2023)

Australian agriculture has also had to contend with deteriorating seasonal conditions due to climate change. Gains in productivity have offset the negative effects of climate change over the past 30 years, so that actual productivity levels have still increased. For example, wheat yields under dry conditions have increased by 14 per cent since 2008 as technology and management practices have changed.5



4Read, A., Rollan, J., Creed, C. and Fell, J. (2023) Environmental sustainability and agri-environmental indicators – international comparisons, ABARES Insights Issue 2, July 2023

“If we switched to earlier production methods to meet the market demands of today, the cultivated area for food production would have to increase enormously, leading to much greater levels of deforestation.”
Figure 1: Nitrogen fertiliser application rates of selected OECD countries

These advancements in productivity and the greater intensity of modern agriculture have allowed Australia to shift land use into nature conservation while still producing more food. From 1970 to 2020, agricultural output increased by 104 per cent while land used by agriculture fell by 28 per cent.6

If we switched to earlier production methods to meet the market demands of today, the cultivated area for food production would have to increase enormously, leading to much greater levels of deforestation. A study in 2019, for example, calculated that if England and Wales made a switch to 100 per cent organic farming, average national crop yields


From 1970 to 2020, agricultural output increased by 104 per cent while land used by agriculture fell by 28 per cent. R&D continues to yield high returns, with estimates indicating that each additional $1 of investment generates a return of $7.82 for farmers.

would fall by 40 per cent, and greenhouse emissions would increase by 21 per cent.7 There would also be the implications of needing to clear more land and increase food imports to feed the population, as well as increasing food prices. This is hardly good for people or the planet.

If we really want to continue to improve our food systems to make them more productive and better for the environment there needs to be a renewed trust and focus on science and R&D. This area continues to yield high returns, with estimates indicating that each additional $1 of investment generates a return of $7.82 for farmers.8

There also needs to be a strong movement towards outcomes-based certifications and production standards which can assist consumers to make choices that actually benefit the environment. There is a real chance to properly define regenerative agriculture and make this the science-based standard for industry to follow. This will incentivise farmers to adopt sustainable production practices, allow the industry to demonstrate its sustainability credentials to trading partners, and educate consumers on the benefits that come from science-based agricultural production. l

5Huges, N. and Gooday, P. (2021) Climate change impacts and adaptation on Australian farms, ABARES Insights, Issue 3, 2021. 6Read et al. 2023, as above. 7Smith, L., Kirk, G., Jones, P. and Williams A. (2019) The greenhouse gas impacts of converting food production in England and Wales to organic methods, Nature Communications 10, 4641. 8Chancellor, W. (2023) Agricultural research and development in Australia, Research report by ABARES.


have better shedding ability. black feet and the progeny showed no colour, better confirmation, body structure and more hybrid vigour as well as access to an enormous genetic pool.

Our new SheepMaster composite shedding sheep are separated from our Australian Whites by genomic parentage testing and we use an electronic tagging system on all sheep for full traceability.

The Cliffs Australian White Sheep Stud Molong was established in 2016 with the purchase of foundation animals from the AWSBA Flock No 11.

Our main focus is providing stud and commercial clients with good shedding unshorn sheep at realistic prices.

Today The Cliffs Stud runs over 300 purebred Stud Australian White ewes, the descendants of the original foundation flock as one part of its farm operations. Now we have also invested in a second arm to our sheep enterprise under The Cliffs Shedding Sheep Stud banner - Sheepmaster composites.

In 2021 we realised there was a need to improve shedding sheep. We saw a

lot of sheep being sold into the market place requiring better confirmation, hybrid vigour and shedding ability. We felt we also needed to have an open mind with the development of a composite maternal shedding sheep, basically to replace the backbone of the Australian lamb industry – the XB ewe. Fat lamb producers can no longer afford to shear sheep with lamb prices of around $4-$5/kilo.

We needed to embrace change with shedding sheep. An AI program began in 2021 using Australian White ewes and two SheepMaster sires. The results of the program were extremely encouraging. The skins of the progeny are finer haired,

The new composite shedding sheep has fast gathered interest from our commercial clients who are looking to maximise their returns and lessen their input costs. We also find the genuine commercial producers are not interested about hype of one particular breed but are more concerned about the bottom line of their businesses. And at The Cliffs, one of our main emphases is the viability of our clients.

On farm private treaty sales assures our clients of a guaranteed product at realistic prices.

Whilst we still love our Australian Whites, our clients old and new now will have a choice when it comes to shedding sheep – Australian Whites or the next generation Sheepmaster composites. With the aid of our sheep classer Andrew Hodgson, we are looking to move shedding sheep forward.

For further information on how we can help make a change in your sheep operation, please call Phil on 0419879273

Purebred Australian White flock rams, stud rams and ewes from foundation pedigree bloodlines.

Brucellosis accredited, foot rot free, full health statement with every animal. Realistic price. Molong, NSW

Enquiry welcome 0419 879 273 or find us on Facebook

Find us on Facebook BadgeRGB
This year’s flock ram prices from $800-$1000 + GST in line with current lamb market prices
Composite Sheepmaster rams.
Insurance issued by Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 trading as WFI. To see if a product is right for you, always consider the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations available from NSW Farmers is a referral partner of WFI and does not provide any advice, recommendations or an opinion about WFI’s products. If you take out a policy with WFI, NSW Farmers receives a commission from WFI of between 7.5% and 10% of the policy premium (excluding taxes and charges). Local reps on the ground to give your insurance a human touch. Find your local rep at

Investing in the future: 2023 tertiary scholarships awarded

A diverse group of five young farmers has shared $20,000 in NSW Farmers Association Tertiary Scholarships to bolster their future careers in agriculture and regional communities.

Three of the recipients are celebrated on stage at this year’s NSW Farmers Annual Conference. Left to right: Sam Johnston, Annabelle Shannon, Amelia Whyman, Hon. Tara Moriarty, NSW Farmers Vice-President Rebecca Reardon, and NSW Farmers Rural Affairs Committee Chair Deb Charlton.

The NSW Farmers Tertiary Scholarship Program was established in 1993 to reward, promote and encourage excellence in tertiary studies.

Each year the Association awards five scholarships of $4,000 each to members or their children to support their university or vocational qualification in an agriculture-related field.

Each of this year’s recipients are taking different career paths into a wide range of sectors, demonstrating just how diverse a career in agriculture can be.

This year’s recipients include Bega’s Amelia Whyman, who is studying a Bachelor of Animal Science, Megan Seis from Dunedoo, who is studying a Bachelor of Veterinary Science, aspiring Occupational Therapist Tiarna Burke from Jerilderie, Sam Johnston from Forbes, who is studying a Bachelor of Property Valuation, and Annabelle Shannon from Bugaldie, who is studying a Bachelor of Arts. Scholarships are based on academic performance, commitment to agriculture and rural communities, and all-round ability including leadership qualities and communication skills.


NSW Farmers’ CEO Pete Arkle said the scholarship program rewards students for dedication to their studies and goals to advance agriculture and regional communities.

“The program is a fantastic opportunity for students who have a genuine interest in agriculture and rural communities,” Pete says.

“The scholarships are not just about recognising the value of education to the future of agriculture. Like this year, many of the past recipients have dedicated their studies to support rural communities through a diverse range of disciplines.”

NSW Farmers Rural Affairs Committee Chair Deb Charlton said since its inception in 1993, the scholarship program had shown the Association’s commitment to fostering the future of farming.

“There is a wealth of opportunity in agriculture, and it’s incumbent on us as an industry body to both highlight and help improve access to these opportunities,” Mrs Charlton said.

“Opportunities in agriculture will only grow more exciting as the sector enjoys a boom period and as technology and innovation drive greater variety and dynamism in agricultural careers.

“The sector has huge potential, and the future success of agriculture truly lies in the hands of the talented younger generation coming through.”

Mrs Charlton said the scholarships had a proven track record of helping the younger generation find their passion in agriculture, and she was confident this year’s contingent would go on to achieve great things.







From an early age, Amelia immersed herself in the world of agriculture on her grandparents’ dairy farm, sparking a passion for a career in agriculture. This led to pursuing tertiary education through studying a Bachelor of Animal Science at Charles Sturt University. Balancing her farm responsibilities with school and university, Amelia gained diverse experiences, including animal care, herd health, milking, artificial insemination, and optimising cow productivity through diet and feed rations. Amelia actively networks and connects with fellow young farmers, especially those in the Bega region and also supports her father in the Dairy Development Group. Additionally, Amelia has been involved with the Sapphire Coast Anglican College’s Country Fair, assisting in the animal nursery and collaborating with the agriculture faculty on various tasks like shearing and tending to vegetable patches.






Megan grew up on a family farm in Dunedoo NSW and is currently studying a Bachelor of Veterinary Science at Charles Sturt University. Life on her parents’ mixed grazing and cropping enterprise with sheep and cattle inspired the move into veterinary science, which was nurtured by supportive parents. While attending the local primary school and later a regional boarding school, Megan assisted her parents at local events, drenching sheep and sowing paddocks. Returning home each year for the local show, Megan stewarded in the Wool Pavilion and Horse Ring, entered exhibits, and showed horses. Volunteering in the community has allowed Megan to expand her connections, collaborate with other producers, and give back to the community. Instructing at the local Pony Club and organizing Gymkhanas, Megan is proud of dedicating time to encourage the next generation of young farmers and riders while being surrounded by like-minded individuals.






Having grown up on a farm near Jerilderie NSW, Tiarna has developed a profound admiration for the hard work and dedication of farmers. Working alongside her father during numerous harvests driving the chaser bin and preparing crops for the next season inspired Tiarna’s decision to return to her community after completing her studies. Currently studying to become an Occupational Therapist (OT) at Charles Sturt University in Albury, Tiarna’s goal is to make a positive impact on rural communities and the agricultural industry. Tiarna is passionate about assisting individuals in carrying out daily activities, addressing factors that impact their functioning, and reducing the stigma associated with seeking help. Tiarna’s deep-rooted connection to the community and the desire to give back to family and mentors drives her commitment to improving the quality of life for farmers and broader community within her local area.






Forbes farmer Sam Johnson is extending his diverse agricultural career with a Bachelor of Property Valuation at TAFE NSW. Sam’s colourful career includes inventing the Johnston Multi-Hitch, a device to increase safety and efficiency on farms and setting up Beaut Utes, an Instagram page that quickly won a following of 30,000. Sam’s best-known project – Thank A Farmer For Your Next Meal – came next, shining a spotlight on our country’s agricultural sector and showcasing the people and processes behind Australian food and fibre production. Sam’s rural upbringing instilled a drive to pursue a career in the Australian agricultural industry, leading him to complete a Bachelor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Sydney. In 2020, he achieved a personal milestone by becoming a farmer himself, purchasing a neighbouring farming block to his parents and transforming it into a thriving livestock property.






The agriculture community has been an integral part of Annabelle’s life since growing up on a cattle and cropping farm near Coonabarabran. After completing high school, Annabelle faced challenges connecting to her rural background when she moved to Sydney for university. This inspired Annabelle to advocate and educate others about agricultural communities, providing a perspective rooted in lived experience. She has been involved in programs such as Secretary for a Day with the NSW Education Department and Youth Parliament, addressing issues of education, housing, and resource limitations in rural communities. As a Student Ambassador at The University of Sydney, Annabelle endeavours to empower rural students to aim higher and raise awareness about the challenges facing agriculture and rural communities within the education system. Advocating for equal opportunities, Annabelle is committed to ensuring that individuals from rural and agricultural backgrounds can pursue any career they desire, regardless of disadvantages they may face. l

Welcoming boarders in Years 7 to 12

WE’D LOVE TO MEET YOU Contact us on 02 9473 7744 or
Empowering young women since 1885
“From the moment she arrives, each girl begins the exciting pursuit to be her best self.”
megan krimmer headmistress


More students are enrolled at independent schools than ever before, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with a rise of 3.3 per cent in 2022 and a growth of 35 per cent over the past decade. According to the ABS, independent school student numbers grew by an additional 20,521 students in 2022 to 640,850 fulltime equivalent students.

Independent Schools Australia Chief Executive Officer, Carolyn Grantskalns, says independent schools firmly believe every parent has the right to choose the school that best fits their child and their family.


Boarding at Abbotsleigh is where girls develop independence as well as leadership, collaborative and communication skills

“The independent sector has been Australia’s fastest-growing school sector for more than a decade, with the latest figure of 3.3 per cent continuing that trend,” she says.

“The past two years have shown the highest enrolment growth since 2009.”

The 2022 figures show that independent schools enrol 15.9 per cent of all Australian school students, and 19.9 per cent of all secondary enrolments.

As well as the growing support for non-government funded schools, interest in boarding facilities is also increasing, providing opportunities for students to participate in peer-to-peer activities, tutorial programs, and sport and cultural activities held out of school hours.


Here’s a roundup of city- and regional-based schools aimed at providing excellent educational and boarding experiences.


Loreto Normanhurst is empowering young women in the fields of agricultural innovation and sustainability with a new state-of-the-art Agricultural Technologies Centre.

Recently opened this term, the new centre reflects the commitment to fostering students’ love of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Since the introduction of the Agricultural program in 2019 for both day girls and boarders, there has been excellent growth which led to the redesign and construction of the new building.

It includes indoor and outdoor learning zones, as well as hands-on experiences that inspire students to engage with innovative agricultural practices which support the natural environment and promote sustainable practices.

Head of Science and Agriculture, Simone Bryant says the school’s commitment to expanding agricultural curriculum offerings and providing stateof-the-art facilities demonstrates its dedication to nurturing a generation of students passionate about agriculture and equipped with the knowledge and skills to excel in STEM fields.

Boarding at Kinross Wolaroi School offers a safe, secure and warm environment for our boarders, making it a home away from home for more than 340 boys and girls from Year 7.

The school fosters respectful relationships as well as a sense of pride, loyalty and kindness. A vibrant co-curricular program also ensures students are fully engaged and challenged.


The new Agricultural Technologies Centre at Loreto Normanhurst (above) allows students to embrace STEM subjects at their most innovative.

“Our girls are not just studying science – they’re immersed in it. Through deep learning experiences ranging from our local classrooms to global platforms, we create opportunities for our girls to showcase their abilities and innovations. This is not about simple rote learning; it’s about hands-on, authentic involvement that instils confidence, fosters curiosity and motivates our learners to become the leaders of tomorrow’s STEM industries,” she says.

“Kinross Wolaroi School immerses your child in a diverse and expansive academic and co-curricular program that fosters a strong sense of self. Our unique opportunities empower students to define what success is to them.”

Dr Andrew Parry, Principal Call our Admissions team on 02 6392 0403 or email

A co-educational, Pre-Kinder to Year 12, day and boarding school located in Orange, NSW. Educating generations of successful students for over 130 years.

39 SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2023 THE FARMER 02 6392 0300 | | 59-67 Bathurst Rd, Orange NSW


This Bathurst-based Presbyterian co-educational day and boarding school offers students a rewarding learning journey from preparatory school through to Year 12, with boarding for Years 7-12.

Set on 40 hectares of park-like grounds, the College’s expansive senior campus is home to a working farm and a wide range of facilities for academic, music, STEM, agriculture, sport and co-curricular programs. There are four well-appointed boarding houses with separate girls’ and boys’ facilities.

Boarding siblings and friends live and learn together in a nurturing community, with all boarding and education facilities on one campus. Students can walk to class and easily access after-school tutorial and homework programs, special interest clubs, as well as sport and co-curricular activities. A dedicated bus transports boarders to a wide variety out-of-school activities including sport, dance, music, shopping and entertainment outings.

Specialist learning programs and extension opportunities in equestrian, cattle and sheep teams are matched with dedicated teachers and professionals, who encourage students to explore new challenges. Boarders can bring their own horses to school with weekly lessons and regular training provided by professionals in show jumping, flat work, cross country and polocrosse.

A wellbeing team of registered nurses and accredited psychologists works closely with staff, students and families to ensure students thrive.


Kincoppal-Rose Bay is a dynamic and forward-thinking community abundant in tradition. The school educates boys and girls from three years of age to the end of Year 6. From Year 7 to Year 12, the school educates young women, offering day and boarding places.

A Kincoppal-Rose Bay education aims to build students’ global competencies so that they have the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to be competitive and ready for new work and to drive innovative change for the betterment of the world.

Located just eight kilometres east of Sydney’s CBD, Kincoppal-Rose Bay provides our boarders with the opportunity to learn in Australia’s most globally connected city. By taking advantage of all the learning and cultural opportunities that Sydney has to offer, such as festivals, galleries and museums, boarders at Kincoppal-Rose Bay can expand their world through an array of rich learning experiences.

Kincoppal-Rose Bay belongs to an International Sacred Heart Network comprising 150 schools across 41 different countries. Every school in the network is connected by the educational vision of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, who founded the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1800. By sharing spiritual and intellectual resources, Sacred Heart schools foster students’ global awareness and their appreciation for other cultures and societies. This vast network has a range of benefits


Kincoppal-Rose Bay (top) is one of the state’s oldest girls’ boarding schools; Scots All Saints College (middle) is a nurturing community in the city of Bathurst; Kinross Wolaroi (above) offers two fully equipped recreational centres.

for Kincoppal-Rose Bay students from reciprocal exchanges to Sacred Heart schools around the globe and ongoing opportunities for virtual collaborations to study tours and collaborative celebrations of traditions and cultural events.

As one of the oldest girls’ boarding schools in NSW, Kincoppal-Rose Bay has been welcoming country boarders since 1882. Today, over a quarter of senior school students are boarders and while the majority of these students come from Rural NSW, the school also welcomes boarders from all over the world. The school is proud of the diversity in cultural backgrounds that its girls bring to Kincoppal-Rose Bay boarding. Its boarders have the unique experience of being part of a global community that embraces differences and celebrates uniqueness.



Located only 8km from Sydney’s CBD, Kincoppal-Rose Bay (above) takes advantage of everything this urban environment has to offer; Kinross Wolaroi (left) enjoys an extensive range of extra-curricular activities plus excellent grounds and facilities.


A leader in education for more than 130 years, with 1,100 students from pre-kinder to Year 12 and 350 boarders, this school is one of Australia’s largest co-educational boarding schools. Boarding is available from Year 7 and boarders make up 40 per cent of the senior school, hailing from both city and country NSW, as well as interstate.

The school offers co-ed boarding, with boys and girls accommodated on separate campuses.

Located in the picturesque city of Orange, it is a 45-minute flight from Sydney with easy road, rail and bus connections.

What sets Kinross Wolaroi School apart are the extensive extra-curricular activities on offer, with diverse co-curricular programs designed to ensure participation in activities such as music, drama, sport, community service and outdoor adventure.

Students are also offered one of the State’s top 10 music programs and extra-curricular choices include debating, cadets, the Duke of Edinburgh Award, musical ensembles, private music tuition and annual school musicals. As well as traditional sport options, nationally recognised swimming, rowing and triathlon programs are offered.

The refurbished boarding accommodation is set on 40 hectares with an indoor, eight-lane, 25m heated swimming pool, two fully equipped >

KRB Boarding

Visit for more information and to book into a Senior School Discovery Morning.
Kincoppal - Rose Bay is well known for its vibrant and welcoming boarding community.
As one of the oldest girls boarding schools in NSW, KRB has been welcoming boarders since 1882.
Today, a quarter of our senior school students are boarders.

recreation centres, seven playing fields, modern auditorium, an exclusive on-water rowing training facility and access to farming land.


Boarding is at the heart of Frensham, located in the Southern Highlands of NSW and attracting students from across Australia and overseas. Inspired by a strong sense of purpose, Frensham students are encouraged to make a meaningful contribution to the world.

Many rural families choose Frensham as a school for their daughters as they have the best of both worlds: a spectacular learning and living environment, on the 178-hectare campus, and a rigorous approach to studies.

Close proximity to Sydney, ensures that students can take advantage of numerous educational programmes and experiences beyond the classroom.

Sophie, a Year 7 student from rural NSW, recalls her time at Frensham: “When I wake up in the mornings, I say it’s going to be another great day of school. I have loved all the weekend activities like the movie night, Jamberoo and the inflatables in the pool. The girls are so nice, and everyone is there to help you when you need it.”

Families can join a student-led tour or attend the Frensham Open Day on Saturday 25 February 2024.

The famous Frensham Iris Country Fair, held on Saturday 18 November 2023, provides an opportunity to experience the coming together of the wider Frensham School community.


Spread across 15 hectares of leafy grounds on Sydney’s Upper North Shore, a pre-K to 12 school for girls, Abbotsleigh has a proud history of boarding since 1885.

It provides outstanding boarding facilities for girls in Years 7-12 and has 130 boarders from country NSW, regional Sydney and international students.

Boarding at Abbotsleigh is where girls develop independence as well as leadership, collaborative and communication skills that prepare them for life beyond school.

Boarders have after school access to a range of facilities including the library and assistance from boarding tutors while they are working on their homework, coursework, or assignments. The weekends are filled with opportunities to engage with each other while participating in a variety of fun and interesting activities all over Sydney as well as programs tailored to girls’ needs.

Abbotsleigh girls continue to achieve outstanding academic results with last year’s HSC 2022 results placing it in the top independent girls’ school in NSW, ranking 7th in the State.

Underpinned by Christian foundations, the school fosters values of respect, integrity,


Life at St Stanislaus’ College (or Stannies, top and middle) helps form lifelong friendships; Students at Frensham (above and top right) are encouraged to have a sense of purpose and to make a meaningful contribution to the world.

compassion, courage and perseverance so students can lead and serve in the broader community.

The school aims to deliver a deeper learning that educates and empowers students to make a positive impact on the world.


Boarding life at St Stanislaus’ College encourages a strong sense of community and belonging as boys become part of a community, forming friendships that can last a lifetime.

It provides students with the opportunity to develop strong relationships with peers from diverse backgrounds, learn self-reliance, and develop a sense of responsibility.


Located in the central west of regional NSW, Stannies offers the perfect backdrop for education based on the Transformative Learning philosophy with an emphasis on building students’ individual strengths.

A keystone to the learning culture, and embedded in all teaching faculties, is the 4Cs learning disposition – creativity, critical reflection, communication and collaboration.

Boarders are able to participate in various extracurricular activities and sports, exploring interests and staying active, developing a balance between their academic and personal lives.

The emphasis on character education and values-based learning provides the tools needed to become a compassionate, responsible, and wellrounded individual.

Experiences and skills gained will set the foundation for a positive and successful future.

Student accommodation ranges from single cubicle bed spaces for Years 7 to 8 to single rooms for Years 9 to 12, which fosters a unique sense of shared growth and camaraderie that enriches each student’s journey.

The College provides a range of boarding options, including full-time, weekly, five, or four nights. l

A Catholic boarding and day school for boys in Years 7 to 12

Stannies is a community where boys can find their place, safe in the knowledge that they will be supported and challenged to strive for personal excellence. Learning at Stannies is engaging – teachers focus on boys’ education, on students’ wellbeing and unlocking the wonders of a future full of hope. Contact the College Registrar for more information at or 02 6331 4177




If retirement means slowing down, someone forgot to give David and Cathy Harris the memo. But this couple have always gone against the grain: from entering the fruit and veg business as young university graduates, to introducing industry-reviving innovations such as the Imperfect Picks campaign, the founders of Harris Farm Markets are trailblazers – industry leaders rather than following the pack.

Now in their sprightly 70s, and having officially handed over the reins of the business in 2013 to three of their five sons – also a business no-no, in the traditional world – the Harrises are gradually shifting focus to their own venture on the land, delving into regenerative cattle farming and breeding rare Icelandic horses on their 800-plus hectare farm in the beautiful Megalong Valley of NSW’s Blue Mountains.

“When we were first looking for property 22 years ago, a mentor of mine said, ‘Think about what you want: do you want a project, do you want isolation, or do you want a community?’” Cathy says. “We considered it on those grounds: we

didn’t want a project as we were both working too hard, and we certainly didn’t want a community. What we wanted was isolation. But guess what? In our isolation, we found both a project and a community, both of which we’ve loved and are bigger than we ever thought.”

During the pandemic, the couple built their dream home on the Megalong Valley property, a low-lying, architect-designed masterpiece that embraces nature, from its raw materials to the incredible views of undulating pastures and the meandering Coxs River from every window. And as the horse-breeding business grows, so this idyllic retreat has become David and Cathy’s primary residence, with ample room for the extended family who visit each weekend.

“We love everything about this place: we love the mountains, we love the paddocks,” David says. “It’s certainly where we spend more than half of our time. It would be a very rare weekend where we don’t have one or more of the sons and wives and grandkids here – we now have a cricket team, 11 grandkids! The horses are a big appeal, particularly for the girls.”

After forging invaluable partnerships with farmers to create a grocery phenomenon, the founders of Harris Farm Markets are looking to their own future on the land, exploring regenerative farming and horse breeding during their so-called ‘retirement’.


Family has always been at the heart of Harris Farm Markets, right from its inception 52 years ago when David approached his entrepreneurial father for career advice after he and his then-fiancée Cathy graduated from a Commerce degree at university.

“He gave me some criteria to think about, and I identified two target industries: we’d either be fruit shop owners, or funeral directors,” David says. “Neither of them had big players in them at the time, so it was a logical industry to go into.”

“My father, who was Italian, was horrified!” Cathy interjects. “He was like, “I sent my daughter to the best schools, and she’s just graduated university – hello?!”

But fruit shop owners they became, opening their first roadside market at Villawood in 1971. And while today, Harris Farm Markets is sitting pretty with 29 stores and an enterprise value that’s more than tripled since sons Tristan, Angus and Luke became joint CEOs, the road to success has had more than its share of potholes.

In 1990, as interest rates spiked and Paul Keating’s infamous ‘banana republic’ speech resounded around the world, so Harris Farm Markets – which had rapidly expanded to 37 stores in the mid-‘80s – faced bankruptcy, forcing the Harrises to strip the company


Now in their sprightly 70s, David and Cathy Harris are gradually shifting focus to their own venture on the land, delving into regenerative cattle farming and breeding rare Icelandic horses on their 800-plus hectare farm in the Megalong Valley.


back to bare bones. With great tenacity and wiser decisions, however, they managed to rebuild the business, rebuying stores and establishing partnerships with growers, a business model that sets the company apart from its much larger competitors.

“We were always very connected to the farming community,” David explains. “Right through the ‘70s, we were living in Dural, and we market gardened the whole 25 acres – we had share farmers living on the farm with us, so we really understood how it works.

“We see ourselves as partners with the growers, as we’ll take the whole crop, regardless of size or imperfections. You do the job for us, and we’ll do the job for you. The ideal for us is to work with mediumsized farmers: generally we’ll take 60 to 70 per cent of their fruit, but they have other customers as well, which keeps them in touch. That way they’ll know we are being genuine.”

Introduced in 2014, Harris Farm’s ‘Imperfect Picks’ was a ground-breaking initiative, beloved not only by savvy consumers, but also by the farmers who operate under the vagaries of nature. Last year, for instance, torrential rain all but ruined NSW’s blueberry crops. Rather than throw the damaged fruit away, however, Harris Farm Markets sold them at a heavily discounted price, marketing the berries as suitable for jam.

While other smaller companies have a similar business model, it’s Harris Farm’s reach to different demographics that have made this campaign such a godsend for farmers.

“Most shops can’t take all the sizes [of fruits], but we can because we have stores in Bathurst and Rose Bay. They’re not the same markets. Everyone wants something that eats well and keeps well. If it looks good as well, that’s a bonus – but we’ve educated our customers to actually look beyond that with these imperfect picks. A bit of a scar on the skin of a mango isn’t anything. There’s lots of people who recognise that’s value.”


During the pandemic, the couple built their dream home on the Megalong Valley property, a lowlying, architect-designed masterpiece that embraces nature, from its raw materials to the incredible views of undulating pastures and the meandering Coxs River from every window.


Meanwhile, Harris Farm Markets’ commitment to sustainability and giving back to the farmers that supply their stock has resulted in their latest innovation – transforming shop food waste into compost, thereby adding nutrients to the soil and improving the farmers’ yield. This allows the growers to supply Harris Farm Markets with higher quality, higher yield crops –a win-win for everyone, resulting in a healthier farming future.

Soil health and being part of the climate solution is an integral part of how David Harris manages his own farm, following regenerative practices that work with nature rather than against it. The Harrises even scatter their own paddocks with peels left over from orange juice production in their stores, with the cattle devouring the fermenting peels (“citrus-infused beef!” Cathy enthuses) as well as improving the soil quality.

As well as running around 500 head of cattle following ‘regen’ principals of stock rotation, the Harrises also grow organic berries – which are added to Harris Farm Markets’ yoghurt – and lavender, which

“We see ourselves as partners with the growers, as we’ll take the whole crop, regardless of size or imperfections. You do the job for us, and we’ll do the job for you.”
–DAVID HARRIS Harris Farm Markets

they bunch and sell in the shops. They also have a substantial rosemary crop, which is donated to Legacy for use on Anzac Day.


But it’s the horse-breeding business which excites both David and Cathy the most – an unlikely venture, considering David only took up horse riding at the tender age of 55.

“When it came to handing over the business to my sons, Cathy asked me what was I going to do,” David explains. “Every year I’d been going on a grand riding adventure in the world, one of which was to Iceland. And I said, ‘You know, I loved riding those Icelandic horses – I reckon we could breed them.’ And we did.”

With shaggy coats, voluminous manes and a cute demeanour, the small but sturdy Icelandic horse (“don’t call them ponies!” Cathy insists) is one of the oldest pure breeds in the world. Icelandic law prevents any other horses from being imported into the country, and no exported horse can return, meaning that the breed has retained its genetic integrity since they were first introduced by the Vikings in the 10th Century.

“There’s a few things about Icelandics,” David says, when explaining his interest in the breed. “They have quite different natures to other horses. They are friendly – if we walk into the paddock, they’ll all come down the hill to see what’s happening. And the fact that they aren’t so high means Cathy and I can get on and off a bit easier! But the most important thing is they have this unusual gait, the tölt.”

While most horses move in four paces – walk, trot, canter and gallop – some breeds possess a fifth gait, a four-beat lateral pace that lies somewhere between a trot and a canter. In Iceland, this is called the tölt –a pace so smooth, the horse is known as ‘the Porsche of horses’.

To find good breeding stock, David employed an Icelandic horse breeding judge who took him around Iceland to find quality riding horses to start his own herd. He returned with a stallion and eight brood mares, some of which were in foal; and after 10 years of breeding and purchasing other mares from a stud in Victoria, they now have 120 horses, from newborn foals to riding horses ready for sale.

Despite Australia’s climate being vastly different to Iceland’s, the imported horses have adapted well to life under the Australian sun, and have proven to be low-maintenance animals. But with Icelandic horses traditionally not broken in or bred until they are at least five years old, getting a horse ready for sale is a slow, laborious process, one brought to fruition by a team of Scandinavian women who break in the horses and train them on the Harris’ Megalong Valley farm.

“While there are other breeders in Australia, they haven’t got the people to train them. We have a house on the property where four young European women live – they’ve grown up on horse farms in Iceland or Denmark, and they know the breed and can develop the special gait the way it should be developed.

So we’ve got the finished product available, and can offer people nearly bullet-proof horses. We try to match the horse and rider, and sell them something they can actually ride and enjoy.”

The Harrises are now considered the premier breeders of Icelandics in the Southern Hemisphere, with David a representative of both the Icelandic Horse Association of Australia and FEIF, the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations.

“It’s highly regulated: every foal that’s born here has to be DNA tested and registered. We know there’s about 650,000 in the world, and about 250,000 of them are in Iceland. The country only has 350,000 people, so nearly everyone has a horse!”


As their knowledge about regenerative farming increases, and in an effort to retain a low carbon footprint in keeping with Harris Farm Markets’ ‘back to nature’ philosophy, the Harrises have learned to not only appreciate the wildlife that shares their farm environment, but to revegetate their land to be conducive to endangered species such as platypus and koalas.


The Harrises are now considered the premier breeders of Icelandics in the Southern Hemisphere, with David a representative of both the Icelandic Horse Association of Australia and FEIF, the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations.


“The idea is to create a pathway between the Kanangra-Boyd National Park and the Blue Mountains so wildlife can flourish,” David says. “We’re working with a number of like-minded people with acreage that is contiguous; and we’ve had the Science for Wildlife people out here to give advice on what trees to plant. It’s not only good for the land and the wildlife, but there’s potential for tourism – a more sustainable, upmarket tourism than what the Mountains is traditionally known for. More back to nature.

“We try and make the farm sustainable in three ways: we’ve got the cattle, we’ve got the horses, and we’ve also got a little tourism venture. We have an eco-lodge and some little cottages on the property that we’ve done up, and we let them out on Airbnb. It brings in income and we employ eight people – it’s not about making money, it’s about being financially sustainable.”

Regardless of these long-term projects based out of their Megalong Valley farm, both David and Cathy remain an integral part of Harris Farm Markets: Cathy is Chairperson of the Board and involved in the marketing side of the business, while David retains an active role in Operations, working closely with both growers and the team in the markets.

“I don’t interfere with the way the boys run the business,” David says, “but I do interfere with what figs or raspberries are in the shop. The buying team in the markets know I’ll be ringing them as late as midnight – and I’m on the computer from 5am until around 11am, keeping tabs.”

“The boys are doing such a fabulous job – they are absolutely the bosses, but David is still god in the markets,” agrees Cathy. “I keep joking that I’m the chairperson of the board, but I can’t tell the difference between a Navel and a Valencia, whereas David will pick up an orange and go, ‘That’s from Mildura, it was picked on such and such road on the left side of the hill… and they picked it three days too early.” l

SAMPLE BOARDING 14-15 September 2023 Open to current Year 5 students (scan QR code for details) Join us at Frensham for the Iris Country Fair on 18 November An outward-looking and forward-thinking boarding & day school for girls (Years 7-12) Enrol now for 2024 & 2025 Range Road Mittagong NSW +61 2 4860 2000

A seat at the table

Across the landscape of agriculture and beyond, female farmers are making a name for themselves, making policy and making a difference.



Aquick look around the room at the NSW Farmers Annual Conference this year confirmed that the old idea of women in agriculture as the farm wives and scone-makers of the farming community is well and truly out of date.

At Conference, both female and male delegates were tabling motions and raising their hands to be elected to leadership roles.

Women in agriculture in NSW are driving both innovation and tractors, milking sheep, responsible for the finances of the farm business, negotiating contracts and making decisions.

They are vitally involved in their communities, as members of the Country Women’s Association and the school parents committee, as well as volunteering in the canteen at their children’s sports events.

Of top on that they’re climbing the corporate ladder. Within NSW Farmers there are women members elected onto committees, including as chairperson.

The Vice President of NSW Farmers is Rebecca Reardon and three of the nine board members are women. Rebecca holds a degree in Agricultural Economics, is co-owner of a mixed farming business, and holds a number of directorship roles.

She has been actively involved with NSW Farmers as Chair of the Grains Committee, on Executive Council, and was Treasurer on the NSWF Board for the past eight years.

Last year, Rebecca stepped up and was elected Vice President of the organisation for two years and emphasises that women must be as visible ‘at the table’ as they are in the paddocks.

“Women are integral to the fabric and landscape of modern-day farming,” she says. “They are practical, smart, well educated, knowledgeable, hard-working and strategic. That’s why it is so important and terrific to see them at the table, helping drive agricultural policy and advocacy.

“I encourage women out there who are interested to put up their hand – the future of farming and our families will be better for it.”


The future is bright for the next generation of agricultural stars, and four of the five NSW Farmers 2023 Tertiary Scholarship recipients are young women


Keiley Noble’s efforts connecting people in her community socially through her organisation, Western Rural Connect, earned her this year’s RM Williams Royal Agriculture Society’s Rural Achiever Award.

(see page 34 for the story). The scholarships are awarded based on a wide gamut of skills and qualities: academic performance, commitment to agriculture and rural communities, leadership qualities and communication skills.

Likewise, farming women who are catching attention in the public eye are doing so since they demonstrate a breadth of experience and skills, whether they have been working in the tractor, the dairy, the paddock, or the office.

Elke Cleverdon is a cattle breeder, Cate Hardy is growing seed crops, Keiley Noble is negotiating hay contracts, and Cressida Cains is milking sheep and crafting cheese.

But there are many facets to each of their lives.


After growing up in the Dubbo region, and gaining a double degree in agriculture and business, Keiley Noble had an accelerated introduction into agriculture, marrying a harvest contractor and moving to Narromine.

The couple have a young daughter and Keiley is responsible for marketing and sales in the business.

She has taken the business online, which has expanded their sales territory.

“It can get quite intensive, and I now include dinner drop-offs in my itinerary,” she says.

Keiley also works as a drought policy officer, and she said this enabled her to contribute her lived experience and those of her community into her role in the Department of Regional NSW.

She has added marriage celebrant to her roles, specifically offering her services to people involved in agriculture.

“We work in different industries and live in different regions, but working together we can achieve great things, including social change. Social connections are definitely at the core of everything.”

It was her own experience trying to find a celebrant who understood her and Ross, taking into account their youth and connection to the land and rural areas, that led her to study to become a rural celebrant.

Living in a rural district and working remotely, Keiley noticed there were more, especially younger, women moving into her community.

The opportunity for people to work remotely and live in rural areas has been a bonus for regional and rural communities.

Keiley noticed it was easy for remote working, while an opportunity and bonus for lifestyle, could lead to social isolation.

“I noticed so many great women out here were working remotely and weren’t feeling connected postpandemic,” she says.

“I thought, what can I do for my region?”

Keiley formed Western Rural Connect to help people form more social connections.

It has helped her develop new skills and friendships.

“Forming the committee has helped each of us build connections and develop leadership abilities,” Keiley says.

“We work in different industries and live in different regions, but working together we can achieve great things, including social change.

“Social connections are definitely at the core of everything.”

Through Western Rural Connect, the wider group is planning an end of harvest social event.

“In our region, 59 per cent of businesses are in the harvest industry,” Keiley says.

“But everyone works in isolation on a daily basis.

“This will bring us together socially.”

Her work in connecting people through Western Rural Connect, and her passion for helping to build resilience in rural towns, combined to garner this year’s RM Williams Royal Agriculture Society’s Rural Achiever Award in April, throwing her into the spotlight as a mover and shaker.

Following this, Keiley is set to tell her story as a guest speaker at this year’s NSW Women’s Gathering, to be held in Orange in November.

Elke Cleverdon


Elke Cleverdon said she thought there was a lot of misconceptions about who farming women are.

“Women in agriculture are major contributors to the sector – as farmers, agricultural consultants, agronomists; in many roles including working off farm in careers,” she says.

“Virtual reality and working from home arrangements means people can live in regional and rural areas, and that’s bringing high calibre people into rural areas who complement the existing population.”

Elke is joint-owner of an Angus cattle breeding enterprise at Harden, and is responsible for financial and risk management and strategic planning for the business.

She is also a CPA accredited accountant with a


Elke Cleverdon is jointowner of an Angus cattle breeding enterprise at Harden, and is responsible for financial and risk management and strategic planning for the business.

background in rural banking, and has completed an MBA and the AICD Diploma.

“Women bring so many skills and experiences to farming and to rural areas,” she says.

“Farming is not about heavy lifting any more.

“There’s now equipment and tools and machinery that mean jobs don’t need physical strength.”

One of the innovations Elke and her husband Charlie invested in, after assessing their business risk, is an automatic weighing system in the paddock, located near the cattle licks.

“On a daily basis, the Optiweigh gives us control over animal management,” she says.

“Now we know exactly what the weight of each animal is on a daily basis.

“That naturally means we can manage our water and pastures.”

Elke works part time with Rural Financial Counselling Services NSW, and holds a number of board directorships including a regional credit union.

Before she achieved the paid directorships, Elke spent many years within voluntary roles in her local community, mostly around her children’s activities, but also including Young’s cherry festival and the Local Land Services.

“Being selected for the NFF Diversity in Agriculture Leadership program was a catalyst for me. I was paired with a mentor who helped me understand my values and skills, and we discussed what boards I might be interested in.”

“In your local community, you get out what you put in,” she says.

These days she uses a mix of virtual reality and in-person attendance to acquit her board director roles.

“The past couple of years has accelerated acceptance of virtual appearance at meetings,” Elke says.

“It’s very important to have that flexibility for rural women.

“Face to face attendance enhances your professional relationships with other directors, but virtual reality is a suitable option.”

Last year Elke participated in the Diversity in Agricultural Leadership program run by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF).

Participation directly led her to apply for and be elected to a portfolio of board directorships, and created unexpected opportunities.

“Being selected for the NFF Diversity in Agriculture Leadership program was a catalyst for me,” she says.

“I was paired with a mentor who helped me understand my values and skills, and we discussed what boards I might be interested in.”

It helped her value the skills she already had, and develop the confidence to attend events to network and identify opportunities for this next step in her professional life – gaining a portfolio of paid board directorships.

“I’ve learned to look at opportunities to network. I sit down and think about who might be there and who I might want to talk to.

“I’ve found it gets less scary the more times I do it,” she says.

This year, Elke was part of the National Farmers’ Federation sponsored group of farmers who travelled to Ireland, England and France in May.


Cate Hardy – who is involved with the CWA and local sports clubs –farms in partnership with her husband, Perry, and their two sons.

She was also a delegate at the recent NSW Farmers annual conference where she met the Minister for Agriculture, Tara Moriarty.

Elke now feels she has the confidence and capability to mentor other women.

Cate Hardy


Another farmer who has taken advantage of virtual reality to be engaged in her wider community is Cate Hardy.

Cate farms in partnership with her husband, Perry, and their two sons, Stephen and Thomas, in the Coleambally irrigation district.

Cate shares tractor duty with the rest of the team.

“I’ve always been on the tractors, ripping or mulching crops,” she says.

“In my district – principally cropping – the women and men are equally involved in farming.”

Cate’s role includes financial management – she is the primary contact for the bank manager and accountant – and liaising with the business’s agricultural consultant.

“We all have our roles outside of tractor work,” she says.

“I enjoy economics.

“Perry’s primary role is sourcing contracts.

“Stephen is responsible for human resource management.

“Thomas is the person who our specialist agronomist goes to for anything to do with the seed crops.”

Outside the farm, Cate has always been involved with CWA and local sports clubs.

She was inaugural president of the local squash club and still coaches junior squash. She is also a squash and racquetball player.

Cate was president of the Sturt Group CWA and involved with NSW CWA.

She was a member of Tocal College’s educational advisory committee because of their commitment towards leadership development and actively promoting women in agriculture into their courses, apprenticeships and the workplace.

“As an organisation, I was very impressed with them,” Cate says.

“It was a group that was really good to work with.”

The meeting formats were a mix of in person and virtual.

These days anxiety limits Cate’s interaction with people – except with the children she coaches – but virtual meeting formats enable her to participate outside the farm.

“On the farm, chronic anxiety doesn’t impact my life because I don’t have to deal with crowds and multiple people,” she says.

“I prefer to deal with people one on one and 99 per cent of the time it’s over the phone or on site on the farm.

“It’s an environment where I’m in control of what’s happening to me.”


Cressida Cains


Cressida Cains and her husband Michael are first generation farmers, turning a passionate interest in cheesemaking into a viable dairy sheep farm at Berrima.

Cressida milks the sheep, is in charge of lamb care and responsible for animal welfare and management, as well as making cheese alongside Michael.

Innovators, they engaged with NSW authorities to develop the guidelines so they could make cheese from unheated raw sheep’s milk.

Their first retail forays were at farmers markets, building a customer base, and they developed a relationship with a distributor to sell their Pecora Cheese products into the food service sector.

The business employs five people, plus themselves, on the farm and they have recently expanded their wholesale offerings into a shopfront in Robertson, a nearby town.

“Pecora Cheese and Wine is a wine bar for locals and tourists, providing charcuterie plates using our own brand and other cheeses, local wines and beers,” Cressida says.

“One of the aims of the business is to provide another small business for improving employment opportunities.”

In 2020, Cressida received the NSW Rural Women’s Award and went on to be named the national runner-up.

She is now the NSW Chair of Agrifutures Rural Women’s Award Alumni, was elected to the Australian Women in Agriculture board and is a member of her local farmers’ market committee.


Cressida Cains says participating in the Rural Women’s Award kickstarted her leadership journey with workshops and mentoring opportunities.

Cressida says participating in the Rural Women’s Award kickstarted her leadership journey with workshops and mentoring opportunities.

“It gave me a big boost in my confidence and being able to phone any of the women in the alumni, to learn from them, has really benefited me,” she says.

“Women farmers are very accomplished, very innovative and entrepreneurial.

“Farming has changed because technology is evolving; and what constitutes agriculture benefits women.

“Women are very good at taking up technology, working at the coalface, and bringing forward innovation into their farm businesses.” l


In 1992, Marg Carroll, co-owner of Redbank Corriedale stud at Molong, was working as a health worker, when she heard about the Women on Farms Gathering at Numurkah, in Victoria.

Marg and Ronnie Hazelton took a busload of local women to the gathering, and it inspired them to organise a similar gathering in NSW.

“A month later I began my new role as coordinator of the NSW Rural Women’s Network,” Marg says.

Marg and Ronnie recruited a volunteer committee to organise the NSW Women of the Land Gathering in 1993, at Orange.

They duplicated the format of the Victorian gatherings, which was farm visits, workshops and women’s stories. Their initial key guest speakers were Christine Hindhaugh and Pat O’Shane.

“We based the first Gathering and the speakers we invited around the issues we saw in our community – drought, debt, depression, domestic violence, intergenerational relations on farm, grief and loss,” Marg says.

Marg and Ronnie didn’t know at the time if it would only be a one-off conference, but in fact it has since been held annually, renamed the Rural Women’s Gathering in 1999.

The Gathering continues to be supported by the Rural Women’s Network, which recently became part of Women NSW and now falls under the auspices of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

“It was always important to have support from key managers within the department,” Marg says. “Those allies made a difference.”

It has meant seed funding for each conference, and the ability to tap into resources to assist women to attend who otherwise would not be able to.

This year the 30th Gathering is set to be held in Orange over three days, from November 24 to 26 – the format has endured.

The Rural Women’s Network and NSW Farmers continue to be supporters of the Gathering.

Noreen Byrne, a senior project officer in the Rural Women’s Network, is editing a book showcasing 30 years of Gatherings. The book includes history and anecdotes from members of organising committees and attendees.



Murrumbateman has opened the gate for hundreds of exhibitors and to welcome thousands of visitors across the weekend of October 21-22.

Murrumbateman Field Days injects millions of dollars into the local economy every year and this wellloved event has been hosted and managed by the Murrumbateman Community Association (MCA) since 1979.

The Field Days represent the flagship event for the Yass Valley, welcoming crowds from nearby Canberra and as far afield as the South Coast, Cooma, Young, Cowra, Goulburn and Albury.

Held across the weekend of October 21-22, the Field Days event features exhibitors who are spread across 40 hectares and a brigade of volunteers from the local RFS, schools and community organisations support the event.

And for social media fun and publicity, internet provider YLess4u offers free community WiFi connection in the Murrumbateman recreation


A proliferation of small farms around the Yass Valley has led to demand for the latest in machinery and supplies, and Murrumbateman Field Days delivers it all to this growing audience.

grounds. Post selfies with a gleaming new tractor and pictures to promote the innovative product on display, or maybe TikTok your way through the exhibits and activities!


The first Murrumbateman Field Days event in 1979 hosted 23 exhibitors, and by 1981 it had grown to more than 60 exhibitors. In 2019 there was a whopping 400 exhibitors, with similar numbers booking sites for this year.

Hobby farms and small holdings have grown in and around the Yass Valley which has led to demand for the latest in small farm machinery and supplies to this growing audience. Growth in land development around Murrumbateman and north Canberra has attracted tree changers and people seeking a rural way of life in this region, so there’ll be new faces this year at Field Days.


Farm machinery and equipment exhibitors include tractors, mowers, water tanks, shed suppliers and builders, fencing, solar panels and batteries, ploughs, irrigators, pipes, generators and more. Available for purchase – products include: hats, boots, clothing, craft and lifestyle products plus garden supplies, innovative equipment and garden art on display.

The latest farm drone technology will be demonstrated on the main oval and customers are invited to ‘try before they buy’ the latest equipment in a large pile of dirt at the earth moving demo area. Some of the biggest dealers in the small and large earth excavation equipment will be getting down and dirty.

Visitors can watch craftspeople at work on lost trades such as woodwork, leather work, yarn crafts, spinning and metal work. But that’s not all; while the farmers are checking out the latest and greatest new equipment and farm technology there’s much to be done for family members.


This year’s special treat is a first-timer to Field Days: George the Farmer from ABC Kids TV fame. George the Farmer is one of Australia’s best live farming children’s performers as he brings together his love of the country to connect children with farming practices through fun songs and entertainment.

The Field Days are also welcoming another TV celebrity to the event: Farmer Dave and the Muttley Crew from Rufftracks. In his interactive show, Dave and his super competitive agility dogs from the Muttley Crew bring together amazing canine performances and family-fun competitions including dog jumping and races.

There will be the tractor pull and display organised by the Yass Antique Farm Machinery Club, and there will be some of the Club’s restored tractors on site to enjoy.


Watch horses in their element: riders will be showing off their skills on brumbies rehomed from Kosciuszko National Park, and there will be ponies for children to ride. A proliferation of small farms around the Yass Valley has also led to demand for the latest in machinery and supplies.

Children have the chance to meet and pet many animals in the Children’s Farmyard Petting Zoo, and there are alpacas, cattle and sheep in the animal Exhibition areas. And what would a day out be without reptiles? There will be demonstrations on how to handle snakes, and a Farmyard Trail has been set up for kids to follow.

Watch horses in their element: riders will be showing off their skills on brumbies rehomed from Kosciuszko National Park, and there will be ponies for children to ride.

The village green will feature musicians, dancers and singers performing over the weekend and Dirkins Amusements will provide fairground rides for the kids (and big kids at heart) to enjoy. Don’t forget to pick up a showbag too.

There will be helicopter rides for those game to give it a try, as well as the usual fare of food and drink. l


Tickets must be purchased online this year, at There’s also an online exhibitor directory so attendees can plan their day. People and organisations wanting to showcase their product, service or business should contact the Murrumbateman Field Days team via the website as well.

Why not make a weekend of it? Combine your trip with a visit to the Murrumbateman cool-climate wineries and historic Yass with stylish cafes, superb winery cellar doors and first-class restaurants.


The growing hub of Western Sydney

An unexpected ally for the agriculture sector, and home to just over a third of the state’s population – increasing every day – Western Sydney is one of the most important areas in the state. For farmers on the fringe of Sydney and beyond, the growth and trajectory of the city’s western suburbs presents both opportunities and challenges.

It is where the recent state election was won, with Labor claiming several seats to end the Coalition’s 12-year term. It is the soon-to-be home of Sydney’s second international airport, the Western Sydney International Airport. And despite many communities in Western Sydney having little to do with agriculture, the area’s significance to the sector – and vice versa – might be stronger than first thought.

As a processing and manufacturing heartland, Western Sydney plays a key role in food and fibre supply chains. Food manufacturing is the largest component of the manufacturing sector in Western Sydney and is an important employment and economic contributor. It is also undergoing growth. Shifting consumer preferences and growing international and domestic demand for provenance-based food experiences and marketing will create stronger demand for premium processing and packaging. The growing popularity of pre-packaged meals, made famous by brands such as HelloFresh and Marley Spoon, is also contributing to this trend.

Australian meat, horticultural and dairy products continue to grow in popularity throughout countries with relative proximity to Australia, such as China, Japan and Vietnam. The new Western Sydney International Airport, slated to open in 2026, as well as the accompanying agri-precinct (which NSW Farmers successfully advocated for) will create new opportunities for producers and will directly feed into the value-adding potential of the Western Sydney area. With talks of dedicated cargo planes to transport fresh Australian produce to lucrative export destinations, the future is looking bright for local producers.

As a heavyweight in fresh food production, the Central West region would be a key beneficiary of the new airport and agri-precinct. The Central West has a gross value of product close to $2 billion per year and agriculture accounts for roughly 13 per cent of this. A strong emphasis on local produce and wine has spawned a strong hospitality and tourism economy in regional centres such as Orange.

Greater access to the Western Sydney International Airport would help Central West producers build on



As a processing and manufacturing heartland, Western Sydney plays a key role in food and fibre supply chains. Food manufacturing is the largest component of the manufacturing sector in Western Sydney and is an important employment and economic contributor.


their domestic success. Orange is just over 200km away from the new airport site, yet a journey using either the Great Western Highway or the Bells Line of Road takes at least three hours. NSW Farmers has made ongoing calls for the upgrade of the Great Western Highway to shorten this journey and enable the efficient transport of premium fresh goods destined for overseas markets. It is disappointing that projects to upgrade the highway have been stalled due to funding constraints.


Due to natural borders to the south, east and north, Sydney can only feasibly grow in the westerly direction. By 2031, Sydney’s population is projected to have increased by 1.5 million to over 5.8 million (63 per cent of the projected NSW population). Western Sydney will be home to a many of these new residents, with the Department of Planning and Environment predicting the region to supply roughly 60 per cent of Greater Sydney’s new dwellings in the period between 2021 and 2025.

Ironically, Sydney’s growing population also means the gradual loss of one of its key food sources. Food production in the Sydney Basin is worth almost $1 billion per year, with the bulk of Sydney’s vegetables and eggs coming from this food bowl. Sydney’s expanding perimeter has gradually led to the erosion of farmland, with many farmers in the area concerned about encroachment on their land. Some estimates place the loss of agricultural land at up to 60 per cent over the decade from 2011.

The Sydney Basin is a case study in the tension between competing land uses and how governments manage and plan for this. With housing a priority as Western Sydney expands, it is imperative agriculture is not seen as an afterthought. This has been an advocacy priority for NSW Farmers as land use tensions play out in various forms across the state; whether it be to do with renewable and traditional energy generation or the urban sprawl that is impacting several regional centres across the state. What is key here is that food production is not taken for granted. Once land is industrialised, its potential for productive use is diminished.


The plans (top) for the Western Sydney International Airport are now advancing, with the good news for local farmers including talk of dedicated cargo planes to transport fresh Australian produce to profitable export destinations; The Bells Line of Road (above) makes for an enjoyable drive, but an impractical produce road transport option; Bilpin and surrounds (right) are a clear agri-precinct that would benefit from better export pathways.



Country learnings, city campus: James Ruse Agricultural High School

James Ruse Agricultural High School is the top performing school in NSW, having placed number one in the Higher School Certificate 25 years in a row. One of four agricultural high schools in NSW, the selective school is based in Carlingford, in the suburban heart of northwest Sydney. It is named after James Ruse, an early settler who was the first to successfully grow a commercial crop of wheat in the new colony in Parramatta circa 1790. According to the school’s website, the subject of agriculture remains the highlight of students’ experience, with half the school’s 10-hectare premises dedicated to a working farm with livestock such as cattle, sheep and hens.

complexities – then Australians can continue to have access to affordable, healthy and quality food and fibre.


The theme of the NSW Farmers state election platform was Feeding the Future, and it is a theme we continued into the 2023 Annual Conference. The key message is that consumers are key beneficiaries of a productive agriculture sector; a poignant point amid the cost-ofliving crisis, which is disproportionately impacting communities in the western suburbs of Sydney. If agriculture is supported to be profitable – whether that is through managing land use tensions, water and environmental challenges, or increasing market


An overall planning map involving the Western Sydney area from the NSW Government shows the scope of growth and government investment in the area.

NSW Farmers held its 2023 Annual Conference at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse. Nestled in the manufacturing precincts of Western Sydney, the new venue was an apt change after years of Annual Conference being held at Luna Park. In a prelude event to Annual Conference, NSW Farmers hosted five panellists exploring the Feeding the Future theme (see more on page 17 of this issue). The panellists unpacked the risks and opportunities for the sector in meeting growing food and fibre demand as the operating, political and social environment grows more complex. l


can find NRAR at: Henty Machinery Field Days site 794, 19-21 September Murrumbateman Field Days site Y31, 21-22 October Australian National Field Days site C26, 26-28 October Learn more about NRAR Natural Resources Access Regulator | | 1800 633 362
answers to questions you have about metering, basic landholder rights, water access licences, or the conditions of your work approval. Our friendly NRAR officers have the right information and fact sheets and can show you how to use handy e-tools to help you know the rules.
NRAR is coming to a
field day near you


Earlier this year, regenerative farming met the red carpet. The film Rachel’s Farm premiered at the Sydney Film Festival and then continued on to cinemas, showcasing a new approach that challenges established farming practices, starting from the soil up.

British-born Australian film director and actor, Rachel Ward, and her husband, actor Bryan Brown, who met on the US set of The Thorn Birds, have owned a cattle farm outside Macksville in the Nambucca Valley for 37 years. What’s more, they’ve been members of NSW Farmers since the beginning.

“The farm has been central to our family and we spent every single holiday here with the kids growing up,” Rachel says.

Now her grandchildren come to visit.

For 30 years, she contracted local managers who farmed the property conventionally, which included tilling the soil, irrigating, and planting winter feed using Roundup to kill summer grasses.

“I didn’t pay much attention until the 2019 summer bushfires hit,” she explains. “They were apocalyptic. It was the worst bushfire season ever recorded and clearly driven by climate change. Our neighbour’s farm was a smouldering heap.

“I felt very frightened by it all but really struggled to figure what part I could play to help turn things around. It was so overwhelming.”

As she says in her documentary film Rachel’s Farm, released in Australian cinemas on August 3: “Who would’ve guessed that the hoon up the street would be my salvation?”

Mick Green Jr had been working with his father, Mick Green Snr, to manage their property as well as Rachel and Bryan’s farm for several years before taking everything over when his father retired.

“He came to me one day during the 2019 drought when we were handfeeding the cattle and selling yearlings at $1.50 a kilo and said, simply, this conventional way of farming is just not sustainable, either economically or ecologically. He showed me how our soil was dry and dead, and said that every bad thing on the farm came back to something we’d done.

“Here was a dinky-di small farmer with absolutely no pretentions telling me we had to do something differently,” says Rachel.

Mick had grown up travelling around Australia with his parents, who were drovers and cane workers, before the family bought a small farm in Macksville. He spent time working in and around the BHP Steelworks and the coal mines of the Hunter Valley before returning to the family farm. He and his good friend Darren Newbury, known as Normie, had been working together as fencing contractors in addition to their farm work to try and scratch out a living for their families.

“They both had become increasingly concerned about the diminishing fish stocks and explosion of algae in the river, caused by excessive urea from the industrial fertiliser run-off of excess nitrogen. Normie, who’s had many jobs over the years, from electrician to grave digger, is an autodidact [self-taught],” explains Rachel, “and started researching another way to farm.”

was something I could do. I have a farm and I could make a film about it, too.”

“I really wanted to help people look a little closer into how food gets on their plate. And I thought the film might help bridge the gap between farm life and city life. The film is really a story about climate anxiety and a first step toward making some changes. It’s light-hearted and entertaining but also, hopefully, informative,” she says.

“Most of all, I want people to understand that we’re all captive to the big supermarket chains and large multinationals driving down the prices that farmers get for their hardearned labour. I want to open the discussion about what our priorities should be. Do people really think the agricultural industry can continue spraying pesticides to the tune of billions of litres worldwide every year, and not have this get into our food system?

“The alternative paradigm based on regenerative agriculture will only succeed on a large scale if consumers demand healthier food from healthier farms, which admittedly will come at a higher cost. But how do you attach a price to a healthier diet and a healthier planet?”

As a first step, they joined their two properties – Rachel and Bryan’s 340-hectare farm with Mick’s 100-hectare farm – so they could move the cattle around a larger area.

“It was a bit of a risk and it involved a lot of trust, but we decided it was both logistically more efficient and the cattle could work optimally across a larger number of smaller paddocks,” she says. “Each paddock would have more time to regrow between grazing.”

Between them they explored the holistic principles of regenerative agriculture. Instead of oxidising the soil through over-tilling and burning with chemicals, they wanted to use the cows as a tool to manage the pastures, with rotational grazing and manure distribution, to help restore the health of the soils, which could then store more carbon and help combat climate change.

“This was the most hopeful thing I’d heard in a long time,” says Rachel. “And it

Then they began implementing some of the basic tenets of regenerative agriculture, sometimes hilariously, warts and all. It’s all documented in the film.

“The first year was the hardest, because the soil and the winter perennial grasses were used to doing no work,” explains Rachel. “We tried worm juice and our own compost and I even got an expensive shipment of dung beetles, but the soil was still hard and dry.”

“I really wanted to help people look a little closer into how food gets on their plate. And I thought the film might help bridge the gap between farm life and city life.”
British-born Australian film director and actor, Rachel Ward, and her husband, actor Bryan Brown, who met on the US set of The Thorn Birds, have owned a cattle farm outside Macksville in the Nambucca Valley for 37 years. They’ve been members of NSW Farmers since the beginning.

Rachel completed a holistic farm management course, and Mick and Normie created lots of smaller paddocks with their own water points; it was a great initiative but it blew the budget. Rachel moved up to the farm fulltime to become Mick’s eager farmhand, because they could no longer afford to pay Normie.

“I imagine the local farming community looked at what Mick and I were doing with great suspicion with the attitude of ‘what do I know about farming?’. Both of us are rebels!

“We don’t slash anymore so the whole place looks a bit rough. We’ve gone back to nature,” she says. “I must admit, they’ve been nothing but generous and welcoming down at the cattle yards, but I do think they saw me as an imposter. But hey, I’ve always felt like a bit of an imposter, both in the film industry and as an Australian.”

By the summer of 2021, at the one-year anniversary of their regen ag journey, there’d been no more devastation, they’d sold their cattle at a good price and were out of the red. Then it started not just to rain, but to bucket down in a one-in-a-century flood.

“The cattle struggle so much more with the wet than the dry,” says Rachel. “We had to get our soil healthier for better water drainage and storage.”

So, they consulted with Australian landscape scientist Peter Andrews, who showed them how to use vegetation as a filter to reduce run-off and to build contours in the landscape as a water retention system.

“We’ve now been assessed on our ground cover, water infiltration, biodiversity, soil carbon and soil health by Land to Market consultancy, and have received an Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) that our farm is moving in the right direction.

“We still have a way to go but it’s a start,” says Rachel. “With this verification, we can market our beef as a paddock-to-plate business that does right by the land and right by the animals.

Rachel and Bryan’s 340-hectare farm was joined with Mick’s 100-hectare farm – so that they could move the cattle around a larger area.

“We now have a herd of Angus and Murray Grey cross and we’re looking at Senepol and Mashona, too, because they’re very suited to our sub-tropical environment and do better against buffalo flies and ticks. We’re trying to change our genetics as a creative problem-solving tool.

“It’s crazy that Angus have become the go-to beef cow even in sub-tropical areas, just because it fits into the supermarket mould – sort of like the meat version of supermarket tomatoes. Farmers get penalised if they go with another breed, even if it’s better for their ecology.

“Grass-fed cattle should also be sold at a premium over grain-fed feedlot cattle because they do so much to pull down carbon and keep the landscape healthy and, ideally, they’re exposed to fewer chemicals. Instead, these days, almost 50 per cent of Australia’s beef is grain fed because it’s cheaper to produce,” she says.

“I want to unravel some of these assumptions to expose the truth. Consumers should really be paying attention to the impacts on our health of industrial farming, with its reliance on chemical additives.

“If we want to do a U-turn with our agricultural production and put more emphasis on caring about our environment and biodiversity, we must pay attention to where our food is coming from and push for best practice on our farms. So often, industrial farming and mining is sacrosanct in Australia, which built itself of the back of sheep and mines.

“The average age of farmers around here is 65 and they’re very entrenched about the way they farm. It’s up to the next generation to take on this new farming paradigm. There are lots of young people who want to be on the land and be part of the solution of addressing climate change,” says Rachel. “This film is for them.”

For more information on the film, including resources and screenings, visit rachels-farm. From mid-September, schools will have access to virtual or in-person screenings of the film. l



In modern agriculture, technology continues to reshape traditional farming practices.

The Thor Silenced Dual Mount Hydraulic Post Driver + Rock Breaker, a premium multifunctional machinery attachment, leads the way in applications including:

◆ fast and easy post driving and fencing;

◆ steel yard construction;

◆ driving vineyard and orchard supports

◆ solar panel mounting

◆ erosion control and river debris barriers

◆ rock breaking and excavation;

◆ demolition and deconstruction;

◆ concrete and asphalt cutting;

◆ log/firewood splitting;

◆ infrastructure and road construction;

◆ trenching;

◆ and landscaping.

Over the past 25 years, Thor’s long term investment in sophisticated technology

has been leveraged to produce an efficient and durable piston design that is easy to operate.

Thor employs a piston-driven mechanism powered by the renowned SB Power Cell, operating at 16.5 Bar Nitrogen gas pressure to generate impactful joules of energy. This robust force enables rapid and precise post installation, reducing labour, time, and costs.

The hydraulic power cell has only two moving internal parts which greatly reduces the need for after sales maintenance or repairs and maximises the driver’s reliability.

Thor’s commitment to quality is reflected in premium materials including heavyduty mounts, with a quick and easy attachment process. Thor models have rust resistant nickel plated bolts, flash

For fast & easy fencing choose the power of THOR.

Premium Attachments Fair & Reasonable Price

Aussie Family Owned & Operated Shipping Australia-Wide

THOR has a comprehensive range of different model hydraulic post drivers to suit machines from 800 kgs – 35 tonnes including:

• mini loaders • skid steers • excavators • tractors • loaders • telehandlers

chromed pins and bosses as well as high quality industrial painted power cells.

Comprehensive mechanical backup, readily available parts, and expert advice reinforce Thor’s dedication to customer satisfaction.

Thor’s owner Simon Taylor says his company’s approach is to work with the equipment that farmers already have and to understand not only their goals, but their challenges. “We listen.”

“We have engineered a premium, robust product that is fit for purpose, easy to operate, exceeds performance expectations, is low maintenance and reliable. That’s what Australian farmers, fencing contractors and machinery owners want and that’s what we deliver - at a fair and reasonable price.”

From the outback to the coast, Aussie farmers & rural contractors trust the power and performance of THOR's premium range of robust hydraulic post drivers to meet their demanding workloads in often tough conditions.
Contact THOR today for an obligation free quote for a hydraulic post driver to suit your needs. Ph: 02 4964 9161 • ROCK BREAKERS I POST DRIVERS


Who’s going to blink first? Hammering out a fair trade agreement with the EU, through the pandemic and out the other side, has been an adventure to say the least.

Fresh from the May 31 implementation of a free trade deal (FTD) with the United Kingdom, Australia has been gearing up efforts to ratify a FTD with the European Union (EU). A region of 27 countries, the EU also contains the world’s largest pool of households earning more than $50,000 per year, making it an extraordinarily attractive market for net-export industries.

But the EU’s tough stance on agricultural imports –tariffs of 14.2 per cent on top of quotas for 142 products – has impeded the ability of Australian farmers to grow trade with the block.

This year marks five years since Australia travelled to the EU’s headquarters in Brussels for the first time, to hammer out a free trade agreement (FTA) and unlock trade access for agricultural products like beef, lamb, sugar, cheese, rice, wine and horticulture – and consequently reduce our reliance on China for trade.

The EU is also keen to reduce its reliance on China for trade. It sees Australia – the world’s largest producer of lithium and an important producer of cobalt and nickel – as an attractive and reliable source of rare metals for its electrification revolution. Australia’s vast potential to become a leading exporter of renewable energy made from wind, sun and hydrogen is another big drawcard for the EU as it weans itself off Russian oil and natural gas.

Proponents of the FTA hoped negotiations would conclude in July, when Australia’s Trade Minister Don Farrell flew to Brussels to ratify the deal. But after two days of talks, the two sides failed to see eye to eye.

The biggest sticking point during the final round of negotiations was the EU’s demand for geographical indications to legally protect the names of distinctive European products. It wants Australia to give up naming rights to prosecco, parmesan, mozzarella, feta, kalamata olives and scores of other foods and beverages we produce, just as the Canadians did to get their FTAs with the Europeans over the line. But as a nation of immigrants that shares Europe’s attachment to these products, Australia is refusing to bend the knee.

“I have been in the room with prosecco makers who have simply burst into tears at the prospect of losing access to that name, because they feel so strongly attached to the name,” Farrell said in a speech to the National Press Club on his return to Canberra. “This is not just an economic interest issue for Australia. It’s also an emotional issue.”

While hopeful for a FTA between Australia and the EU that “benefits everyone” involved, National Farmers’ Federation CEO Tony Mahar applauded Farrell for rejecting what he described as a “sub-standard deal”.

NSW Farmers is in accord, as is the Australian Dairy Industry Council, which claims its members would lose



Beef producers and representatives in Australia are more anxious to break the deadlock. With an annual market valuation of $3.2 billion, beef imports to the Europe are considerably more valuable than the global average.


close to $100 million per year if the EU gets its way with geographical indications.

“If introduced, this would block Australian companies from using product names such as feta and parmesan. Such a move is expected to result in lost sales, which could cost the industry up to $95 million a year,” Council chair Rick Gladigau said in a statement. “Geographical indications also hamper the ability of new Australian entrants to the market and goes against the Australian dairy industry’s support of free and fair trade.”

Rick also took a swipe at the apparent motive behind the EU’s demand. “The geographical indications claim is really just a way of facilitating greater access to the Australian market for subsidised EU products while stifling genuine competition for Australian products. The claim would also impact the


“I have been in the room with prosecco makers who have simply burst into tears at the prospect of losing access to that name, because they feel so strongly attached to the name,” said Australia’s Trade Minister Don Farrell.

sales, profitability and productivity of Australian dairy businesses,” he said in the statement.

Beef producers and representatives in Australia are more anxious to break the deadlock. With an annual market valuation of $3.2 billion, beef imports to Europe are considerably more valuable than the global average. However Australia only supplies 4 per cent of EU beef imports, more than two thirds of which go to one country: the Netherlands. Their share of Europe’s $1.7 billion sheep meat import market is even more marginal at 3.5 per cent.

“Signing an FTA will enhance Australian-EU trade across all sectors included in the agreement, improving investor confidence, and fostering economic growth by creating a more competitive environment,” Meat and Livestock Australia said in a statement.

Andrew McDonald, chair of the Australia-EU


Red Meat Market Access Taskforce, described the negotiations as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” that “will provide benefits to European consumers and the Australian red meat supply chain alike. [But] the EU has made it very clear that the protection of certain geographical indications is of utmost importance to their FTA ambitions.”

A senior lecturer in the Faculty of Law at Monash University, Elizabeth Sheargold told the ABC earlier this year that Australia’s position over geographical indications was just as firm. “Australian producers have really effectively lobbied to get this issue front and centre for government, and to make it a core part of our negotiating approach on this treaty,” she said. Australia and the EU are natural partners, with a shared commitment to democracy, human rights, a rules-based international order and free and open access to global markets. Yet with both sides resolute over the issue of geographical indications, it’s a case of ‘who’s going to blink first’: the EU, which has said a FTA with Australia could add up to $6.5 billion to its GDP by 2030, or Australia, for which the deal has a potential value of $140 billion?

The odds suggest the EU will get its way, and producers of feta cheese and kalamata olives in Australia will have to rebrand, relabel and re-educate consumers. Farrell seemed to indicate as much while speaking to reporters at a park in Brussels after the most recent negotiations failed. “I’m optimistic that with some goodwill, some hard work, some perseverance, we’re going to get there,” he said. l


If the EU gets its way, producers of parmesan cheese in Australia will have to rebrand, relabel and re-educate consumers about their product – no matter how traditionally it’s made.


The world relies on Russia and its only European ally, Belarus, for a quarter of its fertiliser, according to the US Food and Agriculture Organization.

That’s a serious problem for a country like Australia, which imports 90 per cent of its urea and which saw the cost of fertilisers skyrocket following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Indeed, NSW Farmers economist Brendan O’Keeffe comments that “prices have increased by up to 100 per cent since mid-2021”.

Fertiliser prices have fallen by a third from their peak last year as countries like Canada, now the world’s largest producer of potash, have stepped into the gap in the market left by Russia, whose exports are not blocked by embargoes but remain curtailed through disruptions to ports, shipping, banking and insurance.

But with China, the largest producer of urea, restricting fertiliser exports, fertiliser prices are still far above the long-term average, and pushing up the cost of groceries.

The only way prices are going to level out, Brendan told the Parliamentary Inquiry into Food Security earlier this year, is through “strategic investment in localised production of these inputs”. And now it seems he’s going to get his way, following an announcement in July that the world’s largest urea plant is going to be built in West Australia’s Pilbara region.

The $6 billion Ceres plant will first transform natural gas for ammonia and then into urea. Once completed in 2027, it will produce 2.3 million tonnes of urea per year, bringing our reliance on imported fertilisers to an end.



After receiving the award at Parliament House in Canberra for Farmer of the Year, the Andrew and Tess Herbert are back at work doing what they know and love - and that’s running a feedlot and farming business.


From resilience comes reward

Central West lot feeders Tess and Andrew Herbert have turned adaptability into a fine art, taking top honours for their efforts, as 2023’s Farmers of the Year.



The Herbert family has raised six generations on the property over the last 150 years and have seen catastrophic weather events over that time. However, according to Tess, the 2022 flood was extraordinary.


Thirty years ago, Tess Herbert left university in Canberra as a teacher and headed to the Central West to take up a posting at Forbes. She could not, in her wildest dreams, imagine she would one day win the Farmer of the Year Award.

Today, Tess is at work with her husband Andrew at Gundamain Pastoral just outside Eugowra with her trusty (and temperamental) Jack Russell, Mick, at her feet.

“The season is looking good so far, we had good early rain, but things are starting to dry out now,” says Tess.

In contrast, only 10 short months ago, a flood hit the nearby town and the surrounding district with such force that lives were lost, homes were destroyed and businesses were obliterated.

The Herbert family has raised six generations on the property over the last 150 years and have seen catastrophic weather events over that time. However, according to Tess, the 2022 flood was extraordinary.

“In the months following the flood you’re left wondering; how do you cope during and after such an extreme event. And how do you prepare for the next one?” she says.

“When you’re smack bang in the middle of recovery and trying to get things done, you figure out how resilient your business is, how resilient your people are and you learn a lot about yourself. We nominated for the Kondinin Group and ABC Rural 2023 Farmer of the Year Award during this time because we were asking ourselves big questions, which is what the award does too. We also wanted to keep this area in people’s minds; we wanted to remind the public of what an extraordinary event had occurred,” says Tess.

After receiving the award at Parliament House in Canberra and experiencing the ensuing fanfare, the Herberts are back at work, doing what they know and love – and that’s running a feedlot and farming business.


In the 1990s, when the couple assumed control of the operation, the business was a small, mixed farming enterprise with a piggery and a small cattle feedlot.

Tess kept a teaching job as a kind of ‘Plan B’ drought-proofing strategy for the farm. Due to a shortage of childcare, though, she decided to change lanes and work with Andrew as he began to build the feedlot.

It felt like it made sense then and, judging by her long and impressive list of industry roles, it makes even more sense now that Tess and Andrew run Gundamain together.

In 2000, the family constructed a new feedlot and, like the three children they were raising, it grew rapidly.

Gundamain now operates a 6,000-head cattle feedlot, 6,500 to 7,000 ewes for lamb and wool production, 5500ha of cropping, hay silage and pasture, and 400ha of remnant vegetation.

Tess’s off-farm pursuits include becoming the first female President of the Australian Lot Feeders Association, a director of the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC), and Chair of the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework Steering Group. She was also a board member for Central Tablelands Local Land Services and Chaired the Red Meat Panel.

In 2022 Tess became a non-executive director of the Board of Meat and Livestock Australia, Integrity Systems Company and a member of the Audit, Finance and Risk Committee.


According to Tess, Andrew would be far less likely to make a career change, as he grew up knowing full well that he would stay working on the farm.

“He has always been absolutely sure of where he’s meant to be,” says Tess.

“The farm today looks completely different to when his parents ran it. We’ve made it our own. And no doubt, the next generation will make their mark on it too,” says Tess.

The family are the 13th winners of the Kondinin Group and ABC Rural Farmer of the Year Award, which celebrates excellence and innovation in agriculture across Australia – something the Herberts have demonstrated in spades.

Gundamain fully embraces technology and data analysis within the feedlot, farm and office and prioritises strategic planning and efficient operations. As they say, if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. >

“When you’re smack bang in the middle of recovery and trying to get things done, you figure out how resilient your business is, how resilient your people are and you learn a lot about yourself.”
Tess Herbert

“You don’t react and respond; you plan ahead, then you’re ready for anything,” says Tess.

Having endured a drought, a global pandemic and a flood within a handful of years and come out the other side, certainly demonstrates that Tess and Andrew are walking the walk.

“Running a feedlot means you are heavily audited,” says Tess. “Quality assurance forces your business to think about things, you assess the internal and external risks and maintain a risk register. We must have contingency plans for when the power is out, or there’s extreme weather events. We need to know if the feed or water fails. Running a feedlot forces you to be agile and to have processes and procedures in place to drive the business.”

Gundamain works with an agronomist and feedlot consultant and uses software programs to monitor and improve their cropping and feedlot operation.

“We make data-driven decisions, which means we use a number of measurement points that then integrate. We use AgWorld for the crops, AgriWebb for the livestock, Farm Bot to remotely monitor water tank levels, Gallagher fencing to track electric fences and Cibo Labs to measure pasture growth via remote sensors,” says Tess.

By having their data ducks in a row, the Herberts can put a finger on any information required at any time.

“When it comes to being audited, we can prove what we do. It’s not enough to say what you’re

doing,” she says. “You must prove it, and good data and software allow this to happen.”

This self-awareness extends to benchmarking, which the Herberts believe is a valuable tool in assessing how their business is tracking.

“We will know if something doesn’t look or feel right, we will pick up on it because of our extensive use of systems and processes. Then you can do an internal audit and dive into the incident. You can make corrective actions and make sure it doesn’t happen again. You analyse, benchmark and measure what we are achieving in comparison to other people. This adds value to your business,” says Tess.


The business of farming has undergone a few upgrades since the Herbert family first arrived in the district back in 1873, but some things still stand.

“This is a good grain-growing and cattle-growing area,” says Tess.

With a staff of 20, Gundamain produces its own hay and silage and sources grain and cattle locally. In recent years, they sold off feedlots at Coonamble and Wagga Wagga to focus on expanding their cropping operation.

“More farms mean more grain which equals more cattle,” she points out.

Years ago, the couple could see a real opportunity for feedlots in the supply chain for price risk management, and that opportunity is being realised


Gundamain now operates a 6,000-head cattle feedlot, 6,500 to 7,000 ewes for lamb and wool production, 5500ha of cropping, hay silage and pasture, and 400ha of remnant vegetation.


today with Andrew managing the cattle-trading side of the business.

“Working directly with the processors means they know when the animal is coming in, so they can fill their customers’ demands at certain times. The capacity of the feedlot industry is growing,” says Tess.

Feedlotting cattle takes a lot of work, which means a strong reliance on the property’s workforce. Based on her experience as Chair of the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework Steering Group, Tess can see the flow-on effects of her business on their people and the community – one of the pillars in the beef framework.

“When we measure the impact red meat has on people and the community, it’s not just in the place of diet,” she says. “It’s how it influences local and regional communities. The production of red meat creates a workforce, indirect employment and services. We buy cattle and grain and that has an economic impact on regional towns in a sustainable way. It means continuity for communities.”

Admitting she is definitely ‘on her soapbox’ when discussing the red meat sustainability framework, Tess is looking toward the future as an exciting time for farmers to understand their natural capital assets.

“We are right in the middle of something big,” she says. “If you can change your mindset to think of your natural capital as an asset, you’ll benefit from it.

Think of it as your biodiversity, your soil, your animals and your vegetation.”

Tess admits it is getting more complicated, but sees opportunity in measuring carbon in the future, particularly around forage budgeting.

“If you’re looking at management of pasture and soils and you’re across your carbon and your soil condition, then you’re going to make a decision to graze and move your stock for that purpose,” she says.

Every generation will revolutionise farming in its own unique way, and Andrew and Tess are thrilled to have their eldest daughter Caitlin on board the Gundamain ‘train’.

Alongside her, comes the Herberts’ previous woolbroker turned son-in-law, Ed Thomas, bringing with him a skillset to complement the fibre side of things.

Gone are the days when the Herbert kids would catch the school bus from the feedlot weighbridge, but the family have taken an open and flexible approach to what lies ahead for the sixth generation.

“We made it clear to our kids that if they were interested in the farm, then they could come back whenever it suited them. Caitlin did dentistry and has come home, Siobhan is an economist in Sydney, and Lachlan works for Farmbuy,” says Tess.

Given the family’s long history of resilience and adaptability, it’s likely these traits are genetic and the future of Gundamain is bright. l

“We made it clear to our kids that if they were interested in the farm, then they could come back whenever it suited them.”
Tess Herbert

HANDS ON Feedlotting cattle takes a lot of work. With a staff of 20, Gundamain produces its own hay and silage and sources grain and cattle locally.


A remote chance of care

NSW Farmers is keeping an eye on the growing gap in access to healthcare for rural and remote residents. With more reports providing stark statistics on worse health outcomes for those missing out, the issue is becoming fairly black and white.



Medical services for regional, rural and remote Australians need to change to mirror their city counterparts, according to Kathy Rankin, Policy and Advocacy Director at NSW Farmers.

Ms Rankin says improved, innovative and equitable access to health services is vital when it comes to maintaining the physical and mental health of communities in isolated areas that are now missing out on adequate services.

The depleted services in urgent need of upgrading include inpatients’ and outpatients’ resources, allied health services covering mental health, paediatric and palliative care and aged care assessment, facilities and care.

Ms Rankin says many essential services are provided in larger regional cities and towns, however, for people who are not in those areas, it often means delayed access to high quality health services and specialised treatment, adding to the already significant challenge of managing ill health.

“It’s that outer ring we are most concerned about that are losing access to medical services, not densely populated areas, but places where there may be 10 patients – they need these services as much as anyone,” she says.

“NSW Farmers holds that regional, rural and remote communities deserve excellent healthcare through ensuring timely access to the full range of services to reduce the significant divide in health between metropolitan and city and regional NSW.”

Ms Rankin says there is ongoing concern across the farming community for a priority focus to fund and provide ongoing support for service delivery in regional and remote communities.

So how big is the health service discrepancy between remote residents Australian and city dwellers?

In 2019, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare noted that on average, Australians living in rural and remote areas have shorter lives, higher levels of disease and injury as well as poorer access to, and use of health services compared with people living in metropolitan areas.

Statistics from the Royal Flying Doctor Service ‘Best for the Bush’ report reveal females in very remote areas are likely to die 19 years earlier than city counterparts, with males 13.9 years earlier; what’s more, potentially preventable hospitalisation rates in very remote areas were 2.5 times as high as in the city.

Some of the key impacts in remote areas include barriers accessing GPs and specialists compared to major cities and staff shortages, which are responsible for the decline in services, some of which were never in place.

Five areas where improvements must be considered include the workforce, training, resources, services and health literacy, according to Ms Rankin.

“The financial cost of treatment and travel time to specialist health services must also be considered and subsidised for those in need,” she says.

“While telehealth has been very a positive step, it should not be seen as a replacement for a person to person contact with a GP.”

Another area of concern is how difficult it has become attracting GPs and medical staff to these isolated areas.

“We want to see more money in the system, less bureaucracy and patient services streamlined with the development of multi-service,” Ms Rankin says.

Currently, rural and remote Australians see doctors at half the rate of city residents, medical specialists and dentists at one third the rate, and mental health practitioners at one fifth. As a consequence, Australians living in rural and remote areas have up to three times the prevalence of avoidable chronic illness.

Data shows that 30 to 58 per cent of people living in outer regional and remote communities lack access to non-GP specialist services compared to six per cent of people living in metropolitan areas.

Chief Executive of the National Rural Health Alliance, Susanne Tegen says rural communities are missing essential healthcare and not receiving an equitable share of the health spending pie, despite their health needs and economic contribution to Australia’s wealth and wellbeing. >

The ‘outer ring’ of the population, too far from regional centres to benefit from town healthcare infrastructure, is largely reliant on the services of the Royal Flying Doctor (RFDS).

“Rural people have less healthcare access than they need, should have, and are eligible to receive,” she says.

“A new report recently released by the Alliance provides data on the annual health spending deficit in rural Australia, showing $6.5 billion, which, quite frankly, is embarrassing at best, and appalling for a Western economy.”

New models of care, such as community paramedics and nurse-led clinics, should be considered to improve the sustainability of health care in rural areas.

“Improving patient transport to healthcare services including outreach services is a way to improve health access and increased use of community transport and identification of patients who need transport may help,” she says.

Programs targeted at health professionals to promote the benefits of living in rural areas are needed to change the narrative around rural lifestyles from one of difficulties and stress to one of opportunities and work-life balance.

In a first for NSW, a Deputy Secretary for Regional Health, Luke Sloane (the former Coordinator General, Regional Health Division at NSW Health) has been appointed to tackle some of the key healthcare issues facing regional communities including prioritising the regional health workforce.

“I’m confident as we continue to implement the recommendations of the NSW Rural Health Inquiry, we will continue to see meaningful improvements in the provision of health care services to these important communities,” Mr Sloane says.

FACE TO FACE Healthcare is more than just direct access to doctors and medications; community outreach, correct patient preparation and scheduling for transport, and education campaigns are just some of the essential work needed in the bush.

As well as the physical medical issues, mental health is a major concern in farming communities that face the vagaries of nature, natural disasters and a rollercoaster of financial stresses.

The National Centre for Farmers Health (NCFH) says compared to the general Australian population, rural farming communities face higher risk of suicide.

The NCFH says access to mental health support is limited in rural areas, and providers may have poor understanding of the realities of a farming environment.

It has partnered with LYSN (pronounced as ‘listen’), an innovative online psychology practice, to improve access to mental health care to all farming regions through this unique online telehealth platform.

Ms Rankin classifies farming as one of the most dangerous professions due to the physicality of it,

“It’s that outer ring we are most concerned about that are losing access to medical services, not densely populated areas, but places where there may be 10 patients – they need these services as much as anyone.”
–KATHY RANKIN NSW Farmers Policy and Advocacy Director

New wellbeing plan for rural agribusiness owners

The Royal Flying Doctor Service’s dental vans

There are few healthcare providers in the bush as iconic as the RFDS, but surprisingly, the service does more than just doctors on the books, and more than just flying.

Dr Lyn Mayne, Rural and Remote Dental Manager and Senior Clinician for the RFDS’s South Eastern Section, talks us through the RFDS’s dental van program.

“The dental van rotates through more remote areas, providing access to dental care for patients who would otherwise have to travel long distances or would otherwise not receive dental care,” she says.

“The van covers our network from both Broken Hill and Dubbo, extending into some communities in South Australia and Queensland, but mainly in NSW. As the dental van has full sterilisation facilities and an x-ray unit, a full range of treatment is possible.”

Treatment services include extractions, restorations, root canal treatments as well as ‘check and cleans’. “We also provide toothbrushing programs in schools, ‘Mums and Bubs’, and aged care programs where residential facilities exist,” says Dr Mayne.

“Our trainee Indigenous dental assistants are key personnel in providing community-based care, and provide a point of contact for locals, and enable us to have a better understanding of community’s needs.”

Complex or multidisciplinary cases can present challenges in terms of timing and personnel, but because the RFDS employs a range of practitioners across the spectrum of healthcare provision, there are opportunities for collaboration, to solve problems in-house –but not always.

“The dental team works closely with the RFDS primary health teams, including GP services and mental health and drug and alcohol to provide a holistic approach to patient care,” says Dr Mayne, “but some more complex procedures such as surgical removal of impacted wisdom teeth, crown and bridge work, and dentures are referred to either the Area Health Service or private dentists.

“Our team of dentists, oral health therapists and dental assistants monitor, order and stock both the dental van and outreach clinics. Radiology services such as OPG are referred to the nearest possible location. Unfortunately, this can delay treatments, and patients may have to travel long distances to access these services.”

“We recognise and appreciate the funding that has been invested in regional health, but we need an equal focus on building the number of health professionals working within these facilities and provide services across the community.”
NSW Farmers health spokesperson

Some of the complex logistics that drive rural and remote healthcare: aviation and manpower (opposite); road transportation and equipment (above); and community involvement, including allied services.

working with machinery and the unpredictability of livestock.

“If there’s an accident, the injured person needs quick access to medical help like city people have even though they may have to wait at an emergency department for some time,” she says.

“It is critical for survival and people should have access to ambulance services quickly.”

The Royal Flying Doctor Service has more than 1,000 patient contacts daily and last year, 63,481 patients in rural and remote areas used telehealth services with 65 daily clinics Australia-wide.

The RFDS says on-farm death and injury is a major problem for rural and remote communities in Australia. The injury fatality rate for farmworkers is nine times higher than any other industry and they are often called to emergencies where people have been injured on the farm, whether it be while on a quad bike or using machinery.

The NSW Rural Doctors Network agreed rural communities need expanded services in mental health, oral health, drug and alcohol services and social support, plus more deliberate team-based care co-location of allied health services in GP practices nurse-led clinics.

Retired occupational therapist and NSW Farmers health spokesperson, Sarah Thompson says rural health is not something you can improve by simply throwing money at it – it needs a rethink and new models as well as commitment and focus to deliver the services that are needed.

“We recognise and appreciate the funding that has been invested in regional health, but we need an equal focus on building the number of health professionals working within these facilities and provide services across the community,” she says.

“Ultimately, regional, rural and remote communities deserve excellent healthcare and that’s what we want to see achieved.” l

Smart & Skilled - NSW Fee Free Training

SpraySMART has been appointed as a Smart & Skilled provider for the 2023/2024 year.

Call our Enrolment Centre on 1800 872 462 to see if you are eligible for fee free training. There are limited fee free places per course.

SpraySMART is Nationally recognized and provides AQF3 Training in the following Units of Competency:

1. AHCCHM307 Prepare and apply chemicals to control pest, weeds and diseases.

2. AHCCHM304 Transport, handle and store chemicals.

10% Discount to NSWMembersFarmer

1800 872 462 | |
Spraysmart_TPH-Ad_JA23_74x194.indd 1 19/6/2023 12:13 pm 83 SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2023 THE FARMER

Champagne life for Moët

Moët the Jack Russell keeps everything in check on the farm, because she’s just as precious as the drink she’s named for.


Harden, on the South West Slopes.


My name’s Moët, like the Champagne. Sometimes I get Mojo. Other times my dad calls me a national treasure –I’m pretty sure he’s right.


When dad gets out the rifle, I’ve been known to go a bit ballistic. I love spotlighting!


We had a bit of a fox problem and dad laid a fox trap down at the creek. I couldn’t help myself! It looked so interesting… so dad had to get me back out of it the next morning. He didn’t call me a national treasure that day.


There are all these great smells on the farm! Sheep poo. Dead stuff. All so nice to roll around in. Then I score a nice wash in the laundry tub, but mum and dad don’t seem as happy as me about that.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD? Kangaroo meat. Every day!


I’m a champion truck unloader at the saleyards. I have to wear my muzzle but it’s worth it. It’s my true calling.


The road is about a kilometre away but I’m a Jack Russell so you can’t get anything past me. I’ll bark at every passing vehicle, just to let everyone know I’m onto it.

IF YOU COULD HAVE ANOTHER ANIMAL AS A FRIEND, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY? Digby the giant black cat that shares my people. He’s a legend. Don’t let people tell you dogs and cats can’t be mates.

FAVOURITE TOY OR THING TO PLAY WITH? My squeaky pink pig. I put in 20 minutes every night with it, just to keep it in line.

WHAT DOES EVERYONE LOVE ABOUT YOU? What’s not to love? I’ve got loyalty coming out of my ears – nothing is too good for my mum and dad. If someone turns up at the door, I even make sure I sit between them and my humans to keep them safe and let them know I’m here for them.


Don’t turn up when mum and dad aren’t here, because I might bite. But that’s all part of being a national treasure.


The Saleyards

Here’s a selection of top-quality Australian-made products to help you spring clean your home.

It’s that time of year when we throw open windows, and embark on the age-old tradition of spring cleaning. Here’s a chance to infuse new life into our living spaces, and get ready for summer in total serenity.


Featuring a delightful blend of pure essential and fine fragranced oils, this mist provides your home with a refreshing burst of scent. Anyone familiar with blackMILK candles knows what to expect: delicious scents from marshmallow to raspberry and vanilla, setting the perfect ambiance for relaxation and unwinding. 250ml: $20



Designed in Australia, these beautiful, generously sized bowls are ideal for kitchen use or as a fabulous way to keep the family fruit bowl on display as a reminder to ensure you tuck into those essential vitamins. Made from stoneware, no two bowls are exactly alike, yet they’re dishwasher friendly. From $79




Inspired by bush poet, Henry Lawson’s poem A May Night on the Mountains, and captured by Blue Mountains photographer, Liam Foster, Southern Sky is a tribute to the Milky Way and the vast Southern sky. Fill your home with the scent of ground spice and a dark amber accord, underpinned by smoky notes of oakmoss, evoking nights spent around a campfire under the stars. $65


Tucked away on the main street of Bundanoon, you’ll find this high-quality furniture polish; with natural ingredients, no nasties and a strong, luxurious scent, it is a great solution to natural furniture care. Best of all, the polish leaves no streaks or smears. $20



Breathe fresh life into your kitchen table settings, too – we love these tomato placemats by Sage and Clare. Made from cotton, the Amillo Tomato Placemat is part of the Goldie Collection and is the perfect little pop of colour for the kitchen. $49


This non-toxic, multi-purpose surface spray can be used anywhere, including the kitchen bench, bathroom, toilet, most fabrics and children’s toys. Fragranced with distinct native scents, including lemon tea tree and mandarin, peppermint and rosemary, and Tasmanian pepper & lavender, it’s also powerfully but naturally antibacterial. 500ml $25


Beeswax food wraps are an eco-friendly alternative to cling wrap – perfect to make environmentally friendly change one step at a time. These Blue Mountains wraps are natural and reusable, made with prewashed 100 per cent cotton, beeswax, pine resin and organic jojoba oil. With proper care, they should last a year and can be composted at the end of their life. $10-14


NSW Farmers Branch: Far North Coast

Farm: Cressvale, Piggabeen

Years as Member: 2

Name: Jan Fletcher

Straight into action

She may have only been a NSW Farmers member for two years, but fourth-generation North Coast cattle breeder Jan Fletcher has plenty more history of standing up and being counted than that number can reflect. As she says, “There was no branch within practical driving distance, so we launched our own Branch in February this year!”

She’s now the proud treasurer of NSW Farmers’ newest Branch in the Far North Coast.


I grew up on Cressvale. I had a brief period away from the farm to obtain a teaching degree and a Post Graduate Diploma in Special Education. I have a Diploma in Agriculture from Tocal College and completed an Implementation of Environmental Systems course from Monash University. I am very proud to be the fourth generation here. Our earliest deed is dated 1896.


Everything. We breed the most beautiful, gentle, adorable Herefords. It’s a wonderful lifestyle for our family.


Herefords – we just love them.


Along with drought followed by floods and far too much rain, fence replacement, pasture die-back and a session of quarantine for cattle ticks, the advances in research and technology and efforts to increase overseas markets have been heartening.


My biggest inspiration is family. From the three previous generations to my husband and children, I draw positivity and strength. They welcome research, innovation and new ‘adventures’!


Ah! The big question! Cattle ticks arrived in NSW from Queensland in 1906. Cressvale

has three kilometres of the Queensland border fence as its back boundary, and we have really been through the cattle tick ‘mill’. I was on the Tick Action Committee in the 80s and 90s, and then served on the Board of Tick Control as representative for Tweed and Ballina areas for 12 years from 1995 until it was disbanded by the then Minister for Agriculture, Ian McDonald.

I wrote letters, spoke with politicians, met with Department representatives. Being a lone voice, I was very soon branded as ‘that woman’… Realising that being only one voice got me exactly nowhere, I joined NSW Farmers.

Now, hopefully, we can overcome our isolation from Sydney (since we can feel like we’re out of sight and out of mind up here). I am looking forward to being part of a collective voice to further the interests of the livestock industries in NSW. We need to keep our state free of cattle ticks and tick fever.


Cressvale Education Centre is another passion. I teach either face to face or online. My students range from three years to 18 years of age. They need assistance for a wide variety of reasons such as learning disabilities, illness, representative sports and so on. It is very satisfying to see children increase in knowledge, and especially in confidence.


I read my students’ set texts. If I have a spare minute I delve into light reading such as Kay Hooper or Norah Roberts. We listen to the morning RuralReport and watch Landline


All of it. It’s a great read with a cup of tea between jobs. l




Annual membership options

FULL PRODUCER MEMBER $438.90 For those who own or manage 1 VOTE PER MEMBERSHIP a farm. Includes our basic workplace relations package which provides:

· Collective representation on awards, minimum wage review, workers compensation.

· Wage information, including wage guides issued annually.

· Phone advice, four calls a year.


Members can upgrade to this package to receive:

· Unlimited advice on employment matters.

· Assistance in negotiating with the Fair Work Ombudsman’s office.

· Representation in employment matters handled by tribunals, such as Fair Work Australia.


Linked to a full producer, with a 1 VOTE PER MEMBERSHIP proprietorial or income interest.

· Assistance with drafting and reviewing employment-related correspondence, policies and procedures, and employment agreements.


Linked to a full producer, most 1 VOTE PER MEMBERSHIP often a family member.




Have a small holding and do not receive majority of income from it.

Do not own a farm, e.g. teachers, agronomists, business people.

Supporters of farms from the city.

RETIRED MEMBER $100 For retired farmers

The Essentials Workplace Relations package fees start from $165 for up to two employees. Extra charges may apply for assistance required within your first four months of membership. All prices include GST.

1300 794 000.

FOR ALL GENERAL ENQUIRIES Contact the Member Service Centre on 1300 794 000 or your local regional services manager:

NORTHERN Michael Collins, 0439 958 163,

NORTH COAST & TABLELANDS Mark Bulley, 0429 330 348,

TABLELANDS & SOUTH WEST SLOPES Catriona McAuliffe, 0488 100 005,

MIA WEST RIVERINA & LACHLAN Frank Galluzzo, 0427 773 495,

EAST RIVERINA & SOUTH COAST Daniel Brear, 0487 248 731,

WESTERN DIVISION & ORANA Caron Chester, 0400 116 207,

HUNTER & SYDNEY BASIN Tanya Hayes, 0407 533 218,

MEMBERSHIP & COMMERCIAL Andrew Coughlan, 0477 393 092,



Help protect your livelihood. NSW Farmers is your voice – we are only as strong as you make us. The greater our numbers; the greater our voice.
Use your voice, become a member at or call
include The Farmer magazine delivere d to you.
Science-led agriculture –Are the ‘old ways’ really better? Harris Farm horses –The market family’s Icelandic breeds Regen farming on the red carpet –One famous farmer cuts through the hype Farmers of the Year –From resilience comes reward At the top of her game Farming women reaching new heights of success



NSWF members can access a 10% rebate on all training.

Offering NSW Farmers 10% lifetime discount on Life Insurance.* WFI-insured?

Offering NSW Farmers 10% lifetime discount on Life Insurance.*

WFI-insured? You’re eligible for a rebate to reduce NSWF membership cost.

NSW Farmers’ members receive an exclusive discount of 10% on all full priced products.

NSW Farmers’ members receive an exclusive discount of 10% on all full priced products.

HE Silos Forbes offers a 5% discount to all NSW Farmers’ members.

HE Silos Forbes offers a 5% discount to all NSW Farmers’ members.

NSW Farmers’ members save on Mobil fuels at growing network stations.

NSW Farmers’ members save on Mobil fuels at growing network stations.

Exclusive pricing for NSWF members when linking PowerPass card to membership.

Exclusive pricing for NSWF members when linking PowerPass card to membership.

For every deal Verified Lending completes, NSWF members receive a $300 fuel gift voucher.

For every deal Verified Lending completes, NSWF members receive a $300 fuel gift voucher.

Discounts of up to extra 10% off outstanding technology products. Discounts off sale prices on for select products.

Discounts of up to extra 10% off outstanding technology products. Discounts off sale prices on for select products.

Prisma offers exclusive drone packages for NSWF members.

Prisma offers exclusive drone packages for NSWF members.

Isuzu Trucks provides NSW Farmers’ members access to fleet pricing.

These are just some of the incredible savings available to our members. Scan here to find out more and take advantage.

to find out

Leonards, NSW 2065

and take advantage.

P 02 9478 1000 F 02 8282 4500 Level 4 154 Pacific Highway St Leonards, NSW 2065
NSWF members can access a 10% rebate on all training.
You’re eligible for
rebate to reduce
membership cost. NSW Farmers’ members save 25% on feral animal control fees.
P 02 9478 1000 F 02 8282 4500 Level 4 154 Pacific Highway St
These are just some of the incredible savings available to our members. Scan here
NSW Farmers’ members save 25% on feral animal control fees. Isuzu Trucks provides NSW Farmers’ members access to fleet pricing.


Donkey business

Rescuing and rehoming a dog might take a bit of logistical handling; doing the same for a donkey is a whole other level – but for Sandy Kokas-Magnussen at Good Samaritan Donkey Sanctuary, it’s in her blood.

Words and photography JAC TAYLOR

Back in the 1950s, as Sandy tells it, her grandfather owned a ranch around Terrey Hills in Sydney and ran a rodeo ground there.

Chuckwagon racing brought the punters, and clowns would keep them amused during the halftime break, using donkeys for comic relief as part of the act.

“That’s how my mum got into donkeys,” she says, “because it was her job to look after them. When she married Dad and they bought a farm of their own, there was always a need for donkeys. Mum researched donkey welfare, and donkey care and conservation –now she’s quite

knowledgeable and has written a few books.”

A need for donkeys? What roles do donkeys play on a farm?

“They’re such useful animals,” says Sandy. “A lot of thoroughbred breeders will use a donkey by putting it in with their healing foals to help calm them down. Donkeys have a very calming nature about them. Of course, I’m not talking about a $50 wild donkey that’s probably never seen a fence before. We’re talking about a quieter animal that has been educated on this kind of work.

“At the Royal Easter Show, those big bulls walking in led by a five-year-old child into the arena to be judged… well, most of the time those bulls have been taught how to lead by a donkey. They put a calf collar on the bull calf and the donkey, put it in a round yard under watchful conditions, and let that donkey drag that calf around. Whatever that donkey will do, that calf will do the same.

“Train your donkey right,” she says, “and your donkey will train your bulls and calves.”

Then there are guard donkeys. Being very territorial, donkeys like to get rid of dingoes and wild dogs in a similar vein to alpacas; being social creatures, they naturally bond with the herd they’re tasked with protecting.

“If you have two donkeys being a pair, those two donkeys will be over in one paddock, while your cattle are over elsewhere with the dogs. Donkeys won’t care because

they’re together,” says Sandy. “But if you have one donkey, it’s lonely, so it’s going to stick with the herd.”

No wonder then that Sandy has a long waiting list for farmers wanting one of her rehomed rescue donkeys – especially because she offers education, and helps farmers with understanding the particular knack needed to looking after each animal she’s put so much effort and money into rescuing. And here’s where the logistics get tricky.

Sandy might travel to Tasmania one month, then up to the Northern Territory the next, organising road transport in each place to bring a donkey back to her operations in NSW. She has well-wishers all over the country giving paddock space to her donkeys-in-transit, but the costs of running it all are still a major roadblock.

“Mum started this in 1972, and it grew until it was a registered charity by 1990. But the government doesn’t help many animal charities – horse rescue, goat rescue, donkey rescue… we don’t get any assistance, and we rely on the general public to survive,” says Sandy.

“But the roadblock is also time, because I’ll only do this if I do it properly. I say if you want a donkey, you need to come and volunteer with me first. I’ll see how experienced you are and how capable you are of handling an animal.

“Then once I’ve seen people, I go and check their property to make sure it’s OK. At the moment my waiting list is more than 150 people, nearly all approved homes wanting donkeys.” l

Sandy chats with interested visitors to the Sanctuary’s stall at Tocal Field Days this year, and stops for a quick donkey hug.
Save the dates for these workshops and events
P 02 9478 1000 Level 4 154 Pacific Highway St Leonards, NSW 2065 Women in Dairy Conference, Merimbula 12-14 Sept 2023 Henty Field Days 19-21 Sept 2023 Murrumbateman Field Days 21-22 October 2023 Australian National Field Days, Orange 26-28 October 2023 LOCATION DATE Dubbo 12-Sep-23 Cooma 13-Sep-23 Cootamundra 14-Sep-23 Scone or Merriwa 19-Sep-23 Walgett 20-Sep-23 Camden 21-Sep-23 Moree 26-Sep-23 Casino 27-Sep-23 Deniliquin 28-Sep-23 Batemans Bay 3-Oct-23 Grafton 4-Oct-23 Wagga Wagga 5-Oct-23 Mudgee 10-Oct-23 Tenterfield 11-Oct-23 Holbrook 12-Oct-23 Bourke 17-Oct-23 Cowra 18-Oct-23 Goulburn 19-Oct-23 Tamworth 24-Oct-23 Maitland 25-Oct-23 Parkes 26-Oct-23
NSW Farmers/WFI Rural Crime Workshops
Building soil carbon in cropping systems has just got easier Delivering the benefits of building soil carbon back to farmers. SecondCrop combines Loam’s ground-breaking microbial technology with farmer-focused carbon project options. To discuss if one of our options is right for your farm visit to complete our Grower interest survey or email us on Scan QR code to fill out our Grower Interest Survey.

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.