Jason grew up in the township of Carron between Donald and Warracknabeal and has operated his farm there for 20 years. Some of the crops he cultivates are wheat, barley, canola, lentils and beans, with some sheep also on the property.
- What is the best part of your job?
The best part of farming is the variety in the work; that we alternate from harvesting to cropping and the sheep etc, and working with the toys/modern machinery. I enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of growing a crop and take pride in the well run operation.
- How do you balance work from home life?
Work/life balance is tough as we live at where we work and for the most part we enjoy what we do, so we seem to work a lot. But, I make sure I take time off when I can and make an effort to attend kids sporting events and spend time with the family etc. Not to mention that during summer we often go water skiing and we have a pool on the farm. On weekends, unless it’s a busy time I normally won’t work and holidays are a must.
- Do you think the mental health of farmers is being supported? What else could be done?
Mental health in my opinion is well supported – there seems to plenty of support around if you need it – lots of resources can be accessed at Beyond Blue, the Better Health and Health Direct websites.
- What is the best part of your job?
For me, the best part of the job is in making improvements and continuing to grow and expand the business. If you plan on farming, you have to love the job and enjoy the solitude because there isn’t always a lot of human interaction.
- What is one moment where you feel like you have had a big impact on something important to you (a person, project, etc.)?
There has been many moments of impact but the ones that stand out are land purchases which allow us to expand our operations and major machinery upgrades.
- Have you noticed any significant changes to production due to a changing climate?
I have noticed production impacts due to climate, and over the last 10 years there have been much drier years which would generally result in less production. But, in my experience I have seen major yield increases over previous years due to improved farming methods and steadily adapting to a dryer climate. Increased environmental knowledge and awareness, as well as improved technology has made this possible.
- How are farms and farmers going to adjust to the increased consumer demand, whilst accommodating for the changing climate?
Increased consumer demands look after themselves – this is something that occurs in the ‘market’ – most growers would be producing as much as possible, on what area they have, with the confines of the climate at that point in time. If one crop or another becomes more valuable, then some farmers may opt to produce more of it next season. It’s important in my approach to diversify what we sew on the farm and not just rely on the success of one crop, as if it fails due to the weather or the price drops dramatically, there’s places greater pressure on the farm.
- Is there any support from the government to help farmers take up sustainable practices?
There are various grants available to growers from both the state and federal governments to take help with the uptake of sustainable practices, but it’s mainly up to grower to take the initiative to seek them out. At the moment there are a number of great grant opportunities in place for native plants, sheep, pig and fruit production. For current grant listings from the state government you can visit the page at the Ag Vic website
- What types of conservation methods do you use on your farm?
On this farm, we concentrate on a no till practice – which means that we don’t unnecessarily disturb the soil and create erosion. It also allows us to conserve moisture use and reduce unnecessary inputs, which increases the crop yield on what rainfall we get. In years gone by, it used to be common practice to burn stubble off after harvesting, or cultivating using one pass seeders with knife points and press wheels
Produce transport and food miles
- How far does your produce have to travel to reach the consumers?
Our produce travels approximately 30 kilometers to the local silo and then travels to the port in the city, where it is exported overseas. However, a certain percentage will go on our own trucks to Geelong, Melbourne etc. for export – which is roughly 300 kilometers from home and some will travel 200 kilometers to Bendigo and Ballarat for container trade from the stock mills.
- Would you ever consider growing organically?
Organic growing in the region around Warracknabeal is not an option, until it is proven to be commercially viable.
Futures / Careers
- How do you see the future of farming in Australia?
In terms of property size and ownership, I see the future of farming in Australia as heading towards bigger holdings and perhaps more corporate holdings. I see a bright future for agriculture due to better methods and crop varieties combined with improved technology, but I do see climate challenges combined with skilled labour shortages and steadily increasing costs.
I also increasing social challenges due to smaller communities resulting from bigger holdings, such as less retail shops and local sport etc.
- What advice do you have for a young person wanting to enter the agriculture industry?
My best advice for a young person is if they want to start farming then find an entry level job on a farm, but make sure that wherever you work it’s a good operation. Be smart, work hard and the rest will fall into place. Going to study is a good idea, but there’s also good money in working hard for people that are driven. If you focus and continue working to the best of your ability you’ll pick up all the necessary information from experience.
It’s important to remember that even though farming is generally more of a solitary and isolated type of work, you still need good communication skills if you’re working for a manager or as part of a small team.
Over the years, farming practice has become more professional and requires more knowledge and study than it previously did. We’d rather hire someone with a professional background who we know can learn the skills over someone who might have the experience but lacks the professionalism or reliability to do the work.
- With the Covid outbreak, has required production of particular crops increased or decreased?
Covid has not changed our production requirements so far – it’s business as usual for us at the moment.
- How do you reduce the chance of Covid 19 contamination when processing products for consumers?
We have enforced a Covid Safe plan here on this farm, to protect ourselves and staff. This includes basic measures such as social distancing, wiping down surfaces and the inside of the tractor cabin after use.
- Do you ever question your work/beliefs because of vegans and animal activists?
I have never ever questioned my work or my beliefs due to animal activists or vegans.