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Award winners show how on-farm diversification builds a stronger future 09 Sep 2011

Successfully combining sugarcane, soybeans, avocados, mangoes, lychees, bananas, barramundi, silver perch, red claw and farm stay cabins into the one farming enterprise has seen a Queensland couple take out this year’s Diversification Farmer of the Year Award.

The Award, sponsored by RIRDC, was taken out by Jan and Colin Taylor of Childers in Queensland. The Award was part of the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards, hosted by Kondinin Group and ABC Rural.

RIRDC’s Managing Director Craig Burns said the Taylors were a great example of how diversifying on-farm can bring a range of benefits, including price risk minimisation, broadening skills and knowledge, and generating employment opportunities. 

“Jan and Colin Taylor are a great example of how on-farm diversification can be successful. The sugar industry has always been subject to considerable price and farm income variability and diversification is a key strategy to counter this,” Mr Burns said.

“Whilst diversifying your farming enterprise can be an exciting prospect it should not be done on a whim and should involve serious planning.

“In many cases there is additional capital investment required and there is also the increased demand on your time that needs to be managed effectively.

“However, with effective planning and the setting of realistic expectations moving into new areas of farm production within the one enterprise can bring great benefits.”

RIRDC research has highlighted some of the key things farmers should consider before committing to broadening their enterprise, including:

  • Take into account life stages. What effect will starting a family have on your ability and willingness to run your business? Will you be able to continue to farm at the necessary level as you get older (will your health, to the best of your knowledge, allow it)? Do your children (or siblings) want to return to the farm and do you need to have a diversified farm to support more people living on the farm?

  • Estimate the workload involved in your chosen diversification.

  • Spend some time with your family discussing your tolerance for risk and debt.

  • Consider investing off-farm as well to provide a reduction in vulnerability to market fluctuations.

  • Spend some time understanding the priorities of your family.

  • Research and network with other farmers and business people already engaged in this activity.

  • Consider whether the diversification complements and/or integrates with your existing business.

RIRDC’s research continues to highlight options for farmers to diversify through incorporating more types of farm production into the enterprise, diversifying up the supply chain through value adding, or diversifying farming systems to more successfully produce the same products.