Pasture seeds tour shines a light on the value of farm diversity

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A tour of leading, innovative farms and rural enterprises in South Australia has inspired pasture seed growers to think differently about the opportunities for their businesses and provided a valuable industry networking opportunity.

The Study Tour, supported by the AgriFutures Australia Pasture Seeds Program, was hosted by Lucerne Australia in August 2022 to build capacity in the lucerne seed industry. The three-day tour included visits to a diverse group of agricultural enterprises across the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula showcasing innovative producers and how they have adapted and diversified their practice over the years. From visits to on-farm seed cleaning and packing facilities, to trial inspections, and learning about business systems, governance and planning, it’s safe to say the participants covered a lot of ground.

One of the tour stops was the Freeling, South Australia farm of the Schuster family. This stop showcased how they have embraced diversification, operating both an events and accommodation enterprise, while also growing premium quality hay for the equine market. Using a Hunterwood rebaler, the family produces highly compact small square bales which fit perfectly on to a standard size pallet, vastly improving transport and storage efficiencies.

 The next generation of pasture seed growers 

Among the attendees, two young lucerne seed growers joined the tour, thanks to a bursary from AgriFutures Australia, gaining a valuable insight into the risks and benefits that on-farm diversity provides.

“When it comes to increasing the productivity and profitability of a farm, increasing land size is not always a viable option,” said Willalooka-based bursary recipient James Allen.

“But by diversifying the business and finding ways of adding value to existing products, you can create greater market access and potentially attract premium returns,” he added.

Similarly, fellow attendee and Keith-based farmer Jeremy Lush said that the tour helped him realise the full potential of diverse farm businesses.

“For me, the key takeaway message was how business strategies and structures were used to build resilient businesses and extract the maximum amount of value from their products.”

“The farms we visited on tour weren’t bound by high input costs, poor labour availability or increasing machinery costs – a function of their business structure and diversification.”

In considering potential farm enterprises, Mr Lush said that the trip opened his eyes to the importance of research and planning as an essential risk management strategy.

“A common theme was being able to identify opportunities that were specific to each business, the products they produce and their location, and to diversify their income using enterprises that value-add their products.”

“Whilst it adds complexity to the business, it creates a significant improvement in risk profile through a reduction in the impact of localised seasonal conditions on turnover, and the improved ability to adapt.”

Likewise, the incorporation of risk management strategies while implementing diversification strategies was a lightbulb moment for Mr Allen.

“When creating and implementing these plans, it can be beneficial to include independent farm advisors to try and remove biases in the decision-making process,” said the farmer.

“It also provides the opportunity to develop alternative options that may allow the business to further increase its productivity and profitability”.

The AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program and Lucerne Australia are committed to building the capacity of members of the pasture seeds industry, sign up to the AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Program subscription list to receive updates on future opportunities.

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