In the nine years since becoming the 2012 FOTY Winners, Peter and Alison Campbell from Henty have noted many changes in their business.
At the time of their win they were running a mixed cropping and sheep enterprise with a focus on maximising financial performance while managing natural resources. The couple were cropping two-thirds of their 1,550-hectare southern NSW property as well as running a Merino self-replacing flock.
However when their daughter Ainslie, who was working as a vet, contracted an incredibly serious illness – myalgic encephalomyelitis (also known as chronic fatigue syndrome) everything changed and the Campbells had to prepare for a ‘worst case scenario’ in their family.
“When we won the award everything was on track for an uneventful future and a seamless move into retirement,” Alison says.
It has been a very challenging few years for the family but Alison says that now Ainslie is able to cope with day-to-day living.
“We have not made any radical change to our business as a result of these events, but continue to fine tune what we do,” Alison says. “Our age is catching up with us and will have to make a decision soon, together with Ainslie, on our farming future.”
To ease the workload, the Campbells have moved to Henty and sold a 500ha block to a neighbour, leaving them with 1,550ha.
“We also arranged for share farmers on two other blocks which meant our cropping program was reduced by half,” Peter says. “But we still run 2,600 Merino ewes with followers.”
They have been able to stick with some of their long-term principles, such as their belief that stubble retention in a medium rainfall environment should be a long term industry goal.
They also include a pasture phase for carbon/nitrogen benefits and aim to have an intensive cropping rotation and to demonstrate high yields can be coupled with full stubble retention.
The Campbells benchmark in the local crop competitions and are regularly in the top three places with their main crops of wheat, canola and lupins.
Further challenges were caused during the recent drought years, when Peter says stress was an issue as decisions needed to be made each day. But he realised there were others a lot worse off.
“Grain and stock sales meant that income was maintained, however, very little stubble hay was made as we needed to maintain groundcover,” he says.
That was an important consideration for the Campbells as they endeavoured to preserve the integrity of the top soil of their property.
Otherwise, except for a scare when a galah shorted itself on a power pole and started a fire in February, neither bushfires nor COVID-19 have impacted the business.
And as for their foray into the Farmer of the Year awards, Alison says that they were “proud to be able to tell our story at the time and to showcase both our farm and our area”.
If you enjoyed this story, you might enjoy some of our other FOTY stories such as the 2015 FOTY winners, the Fagan family.