Farming symposium at UNE compares family and corporate farms

ORGANISERS: Helping farmers forget the drought for a day UNE students Forbes Corby and Joel Maguire.
ORGANISERS: Helping farmers forget the drought for a day UNE students Forbes Corby and Joel Maguire.

Third year agriculture and business students Forbes Corby and Joel Maguire at the University of New England (UNE), are good examples of why it is hosting a farming symposium to compare family and corporate run farms as part of UNE Ag-Week, on Friday August 2.

The two head up the organising committees for UNE Ag-Week. Forbes is the Chair of the Farming Futures committee and Joel is the Chair of the Robb College Rural Focus organising committee.

Forbes' family farm is in Braidwood and Joel's is at Orange.

Forbes thinks one day he may want to return to run the farm, but both men admit they were concerned about farming's long-term viability.

"Based on what we hear about the pressure to lift farm productivity and the drive for economies of scale, will we all have to get bigger to survive?" Joel said.

Chair of the Robb College Foundation Association Geoff Perry is behind organising the symposium and said their sentiments were typical of many young people trying to decide on a career in agriculture.

"This is why we chose this theme this year," he said.

"Not to be divisive, but to help farmers and graziers share, learn and compare to best practice. We are very fortunate to have some very experienced people, from both corporate and family farming, coming to Armidale to share their knowledge."

So, just how do family farms compare to corporate farming?

This conference will look at the changing landscape of farming ownership in Australia.

It will address the best and worst sides of family and corporate farming, as well a present examples of how ownership structures are changing, and co-operative examples of how both family and corporate farms can share resources and knowledge to succeed.


Heading up the speaker line-up is Professor Derek Baker from the Centre for Agribusiness at the UNE Business School who will talk about commonalities.

"Successful farm operators really have some very common practices, whether they are family or corporate owned," he said.

A strong line-up of speakers will represent both successful corporate and family-run businesses.

Two of the largest corporate-run management farming businesses in Australia are represented by Jock Whittle, CEO of Paraway Pastoral, owned by Macquarie Bank and David Sackett, CEO of Growth Farms Australia.

Jock Whittle said the best conversations happen when progressive, driven farmers get together to try and unlock the productivity gains.

Jock Whittle said the best conversations happen when progressive, driven farmers get together to try and unlock the productivity gains.

David Brownhill is a Nuffield Scholar and a partner with his brother in a very successful family farming operation called "Merrilong Pastoral" on the Liverpool Plains.

The family's farming operation has expanded from 1000 hectares in the 1990s to more than 10,000 ha of dryland and irrigation farming.

David will deliver the key-note address at the 18th annual, Robb Rural Focus dinner which opens UNE Ag-Week as well as speak at the symposium.

Other models are also represented at the conference.

Charles Coventry is the CEO of Achill Station based near Armidale. He will explain how they have used Ag Edge, a consultative farmers Board, to stay competitive and Sam Ditchfield will demonstrate Ebor Beef as another example of how local graziers can benefit from joining or forming a marketing co-operative.


Simon Fritsch from Agri-Path in Tamworth will use benchmarks to highlight high profit farms from the rest and will provide five key indicators you can use now to measure your farm while Andrew Roberts who established the on-line Farm Owners Academy will address how to run a profitable farming business while not burning out.

Symposium discussions will include;

  • How are farming structures changing?
  • What are the key measures used by successful operators?
  • How can you collaborate to grow and remain competitive?
  • What lessons do the large ag-managers have for us?
  • What are leading farmers doing to remain competitive and ease the pressure?

It will be a lively question and answer style of seminar where attendees get to interact with the speakers and concludes with a Q&A panel where you can have your questions and issues discussed.


Joel said "Family farming had a tradition of sharing expertise.

"I really hope our farmers and graziers can take a rest from the drought for a day to come and focus on the long term," he said.

"These speakers will help by bringing a combined experience that is current and relevant from years of managing very successful Australian operations."

The program is suitable for family farming members, primary producers, agricultural consultants and service providers, research and policy makers, rural investment brokers and agriculture students.

This story UNE farming symposium compares family and corporate farms first appeared on The Armidale Express.