Spreading the ‘real’ word

Nile mixed-farmers Michael and Fiona Chilvers, with children Felix and Charlotte, believe farming offers an opportunity to take control of their destiny and be a part of dynamic and supportive industry.IN THE lead-up to Australian Year of the Farmer 2012, Tasmania producers are getting out and about – promoting the real tale of farming.

With the year-long commemoration striving to pat the nation’s farmers on the back for feeding, clothing and sheltering us, it seems Tasmanian farmers believe agriculture is the greatest story never told.

Michael Chilvers, who recently won a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Nuffield Scholarship, farms at Nile with his wife Fiona and their children Charlotte and Felix.

He says farming provides opportunities that few other career paths can match.

“There’s nothing like being your own boss, in charge of your own destiny,” he said.

“There are not many people in society who get a real choice in what they do and it’s not just the personal challenge, agriculture has been as good a place as any in terms of investment over the past 10–12 years.

“I think we need to promote that among young people.”

The Chilvers manage 1080 hectares, cultivating 400ha of crops including poppies, wheat, processing peas, lucerne and tic beans under centre pivot irrigation.

In addition, they grow malt barley, canola and trade in prime lambs.

“Agriculture is such a big part of our State economy,” Mr Chilvers said.

“It is so much more than just the people on farms — agribusiness is everybody’s business.”

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association CEO, Jan Davis agrees.

She says the State’s farmers are among the nation’s finest land managers, with the organisation supporting the year-long celebration of farming.

“Tasmanian farmers do things really differently; I’ve seen approaches to farming here that really blow my socks off,” she said.

“I’ve worked in agriculture across five States and what I see here is farmers who have turned a challenge of scale into their greatest asset.

“Our farmers are highly integrated and diversified on a level I haven’t seen in any other State.”

Ms Davis said Tasmania’s producers are extremely diversified.

“It is commonplace to see individual farmers producing commodities as diverse as poppies, potatoes, wheat, barley, wool, prime lambs and beef,” she said.

And it’s not just the way farmers make their assets work efficiently that has impressed Ms Davis, it’s the farming families themselves.

“The generational relationships here are robust and supportive,” she said

“We’ve got dynamic young farmers in their 30s and 40s who have been handed the reins to the business.”

She says the island’s size fosters a bond and appreciation between urban and rural communities.

“Australian Year of the Farmer 2012 offers and ideal opportunity to build this awareness and appreciation of just how clever our farmers are,” she said.

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