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Newsletter: NSW State Report

By Guy Hebblewhite, 2013 Scholar and Chair

August 2017

Dubbo was the location for our annual AGM in March this year.  A good attendance with a talk from Roger Fletcher – Fletcher International, standing in front of his grain handling facility to start the tour.  At the evening dinner, we heard from Rob Peffer, Andrew Freeth, Bernadette Mortensen and Tom Quigley all 2015 Scholars on their individual travels, the CSC in France and relevant GFP trips. The next day took us to Little Big Dairy on the Dubbo outskirts where they discussed their plans for the future whilst we sampled some of their flavoured milks.  We then travelled to Warren to the tyre recycling business GDT.  An amazing business where they break old car tyres back into wire, crude and biochar.  Next it was off to Rosie’s Boutique Condiments, the brainchild of Rosie Turnbull (wife of Simon, (2005 Scholar)) where she was creating a unique Honey Mustard Dressing for the kitchens of Australia.  We moved on to the Auscott Gin at Warren where were given a guided tour of the gin and a paddock talk on the latest varieties and techniques they were employing.  The tour was a great catch up for everyone and we look forward to the next tour of the Central Coast region, north of Sydney – all very welcome.

Industry and Regional Updates

Liz Riley (1997 Scholar)

Vineyards are bracing for the start of a new season with bud burst imminent in the early regions. Winter rainfall has been a bit light but some areas such as the Central West have had good recent rainfall. The dry outlook is not overly concerning with good irrigation water availability at this time.

There is a quiet confidence across the industry in light of a near record crush in Vintage 2017 and a 7% increase in grape prices. In NSW, we are seeing a small amount of renewal planting and some grafting to address supply shortages of alternative varieties and to reduce the supply of varieties in surplus. It continues to be a long game for the wine industry.

­Dave Brownhill (1998 Scholar)

Last summer finished with good rainfall in March on the Liverpool Plains, after a hot February with the maximum temperature being 47 degrees on 12 February. Now you may ask why I talk about summer when it is winter, but that has a significant effect on our winter plans. All the winter crop is planted, but without full profiles, so it’s a hand to mouth season so far. With massive frost crops are OK but not special. Recent rain on 3 August has helped and we hope to see some spring rain. A real positive is the improvement in prices. In a sentence, the entire Northwest of NSW is on a knife edge. On a personal note, I attended the second stage of the Global Farmer’s Masterclass in the Netherlands in June. This was a brilliant experience and has really helped with business planning, strategy, storytelling and innovation; not to mention the people who were also doing the course from all over the world. A must if anyone ever gets the opportunity!

Nicky and Wade Mann (2014 & 2015 Scholars)

We’ve been extremely fortunate with a very unusual dry and relatively warm winter here on the Central Coast- so not experiencing the high disease pressure in the greenhouse due to high humidity and low temperatures that we’ve had in past years. We replanted some red roses over the winter and looking forward to a smashing spring crop with this new variety called Explorer. Strawberries have wintered well and with the sunny, dry conditions have been able to fruit throughout which has been excellent for cashflow. Our new hydroponic greenhouse crops if ginger, turmeric, kale, dragonfruit and figs continue to impress and hopefully will add value to our farm shop and farmer’s market stall come spring and summer. Wade has recently taken on a part-time job with Haygrove Tunnels (started and owned by English Nuffield Scholar- Angus Davison) selling tunnels into the cherry sector.

Nicky has recently been made the Deputy Chair of Protected Cropping Australia.

Fiona Hall (2015 Scholar)

I guess our season around Orange is similar to everyone else. The driest June and July on record compared with last year as being the wettest on record. Big frost has given plenty of chilling hours so plenty of fruit bud. Looking to be a large cherry crop compared to half of Australian crop last season. 15,000 tonnes forecasted to a 7,000-tonne harvest. With such warm days, the risk now is the trees breaking dormancy and getting a late frost accompanies with low water storage going into Spring and Summer.

Claire Booth (2017 Scholar)

Well below average rainfall around Geurie is causing dry land crops to falter, despite impressive subsoil moisture. Lamb prices have rallied in the last two weeks and finished cattle are holding firm with unfinished cattle taking a hit. Brendan was lucky to snag the ‘Corn Grower of the Year Award’ for Simplot and we travelled to Tassie for the award which was great.  Lovely to catch up with Tassie Nuffield Scholars whilst we were down there. All in all, a great year so far, just aware of things being dry and making sure we have our monthly BBQ with the neighbouring farmers to keep spirits high if things become tough.


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