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Newsletter: NSW State Report

By David Gooden, 2010 Scholar and Chair

November 2016

Firstly, many Nuffield Scholars, including NSW Treasurer Guy Hebblewhite (2013 Sch) attended the first Foodbytes! event held at Sydney’s Cockatoo Island on 3rd November. It was part of the overall “Farm 2 Fork” initiative developed by Rabobank. The Foodbytes! event was designed to connect food industry leaders and investors with start-up companies that are innovating and disrupting the food chain with ground breaking ideas in food, agribusiness and technology.

Ag-tech compfarm2fork_rabobankanies pitched their business with the eventual winner being “Sprout”.  Sprout is an online marketplace where kitchen owners (café/restaurants) can list and offer their own unused kitchen space in their area helping local food businesses expand their business.

The King and Queen of The Netherlands were also on hand to congratulate the winners. The evening ended with food and beverage sampling from a range of providores overlooking the harbour bridge lights. The photo (left) shows the large group of Nuffield Scholars who attended.


Nicky Mann (2014 Sch) and husband Wade Mann (2015 Sch) were invited to speak at Agribuzz on 20th October at Westpac’s headquarters at Barangaroo.  This monthly event is hosted by the Farm Writers Association where they invite guest speakers to share their farming story vibrant and dynamic rural journalists.  It was especially significant as Westpac Bank has recently come on board as an investor of Nuffield so it seemed fitting for two Nuffield Scholars to address the meeting for the first time! Nicky and Wade shared the microphone which was a sight to behold in itself! Their story was well received and was followed by an enthusiastic question-time.

The local NSW Nuffield family were there in full support including CEO Jodie Dean, Board Member Richard Heath (2003 Sch), as well as Bernadette Mortensen (2015 Sch) and Jessica Pitkin (2017 Sch).  It was a spectacular spring evening at a magnificent venue over-looking the Sydney harbour.

Seasonal Update


Bruce Watson (2009 Sch), Grain grower at Parkes

After a very dry autumn the heavens have opened between May to September with many areas of the central west recording growing season rainfall in excess of 500mm. Significant flooding west and south of Forbes has done significant damage with some crops going under 2 metres of water around Lake Cowell. The Newell Highway was also shut for over a month between Forbes and West Wyalong. The upside is any country that is well-drained will be generating above-average yields which will help compensate for the low grain prices. Cattle and sheep prices are also exceptional and with the mild temperatures and above-average rainfall during spring, graziers should be in for a good season. The other upside of the rainfall is dam levels are high which has meant a large cotton crop in the Macquarie Valley and probably an even bigger one in 2017.

David Gooden (2010 Sch), Grain grower at Lockhart

Harvest was slow to start with the extended spring. Unfortunately, some areas have been water affected on the flat heavy soils to the west as well as the high rainfall zone to the east where it just never stopped raining. We will be above average at Lockhart but some farms in the district will experience both good and bad.

Rob Webb (2015 Sch), Wool and beef grower, Tarana

The Central Tablelands of NSW is now reaping the rewards in terms of a bumper season following an unprecedented wet winter and spring period. Graziers and croppers that were lucky enough to avoid waterlogging or a late frost at flowering in the area would be buoyant in term of summer outlook. Pasture growth was a little late due to wet and cold conditions to mid-October but has now exploded. Interestingly, with such a quick burst of feed, perennial grasses and desireables have outperformed annuals and non desireables (weeds). This will be short lived however.

Red meat prices are reaching more sustainable / profitable levels so all the stars are aligning and allowing for on farm infrastructure projects and consolidation. And wool continues to amaze. It is the quiet achiever. A quality product will always see a decent $/ha return. Finally, with lots of grass coming into summer may mean an increased grass fire risk. Get strategies for protecting your livestock genetic (and other) assets in place now.

Bernadette Mortensen (2015 Sch), Chicken Farmer, Mangrove Mountain

Spring would have to be the best time of the year for rearing free-range broilers, with litter conditions and ventilation easier to maintain.  Spring has also seen our four-year old avocado trees harvested for the first time.  Its a good time to be farming on the coast.

Jessica Pitkin (2017 Sch), Turkey Industry, Cessnock

The milder weather at the beginning of the season helped our farmers maintain litter quality while achieving great growth rates.  Higher than normal rainfall has farms looking lush and green, providing excellent looking ranges and happy healthy birds.

Ben Boughton (2014 Sch), Broad-acre farmer, Moree

We are finally enjoying some fine weather after a very wet winter.  Harvest is in full swing here with good yields on wheat and barley but chickpea quality will take a hit from waterlogging.  No summer crop for us this year unless we take a punt on a double crop mung beans into the New Year.

Rob Peffer (2015 Sch), Canobolas Eggs at Orange

We experienced the wettest season in living memory which has filled dams and left the countryside looking amazing. It’s looking like a very late harvest but hopefully yields will be up on last year.

Liz Riley (1997 Sch), Viticulture, Hunter Valley

The 16/17 Viti season is travelling well in the Hunter with timely rainfall after what was a bit of a stop-and-go start to the season, with cool, warm and hot weather all occurring on an a weekly basis through late winter and early spring. We’re a week or so behind last season which should see harvest commence in mid-to-late January. Crop loads generally look good, so it’s fingers crossed for limited rain for the back end of the growing season and the harvest period.

Wade (2015 Sch) and Nicky (2014 Sch) Mann, Protected cropping, Central Coast

Its been a pretty awesome season weather-wise – the blueberry crop came on strongly after the winter. However, poor pollination within the greenhouses has meant some of the flowers aborted which has resulted in a much lighter crop than expected.  However, the strawberries, raspberries and roses seem to be going strongly and being very well-received at the local farmer’s market every Sunday, so the increased yield is being absorbed by a brand new market not tried before, which is a good thing.  We meet Bernadette Mortensen down there too as she sells her excess avocadoes at this market on Sundays!

Forthcoming Events

NSW will host the AGM and local tour at Dubbo on 1st and 2nd of March 2017. Our annual June Tour will be on the Central Coast of NSW.

We would like to wish everyone a safe and happy harvest and holiday period.

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