After two years of drought and very low water availability, 2018 FOTY winners Glen and Julie Andreazza are entering an exciting period.
The Griffith irrigators – who supply wheat to Arnott’s for Tim Tams and Scotch Fingers – are preparing to harvest their best wheat crop in years. They’re also planting rice for the first time in two seasons and are entering their second year of growing popcorn.
“After two shocking seasons in a row, it’s exciting to have some water back,” Glen says. “Last year we didn’t plant rice and a lot of our wheat was not watered so we were back to a third of our normal tonnage.”
Glen says popcorn emerged as an opportunity last year – the crop being one of the few offering enough potential profit to offset the high water prices. “We had nearly 40 hectares of popcorn, which was mostly grown on bore water, there was nothing else we could grow which would return the same money as selling our water,” he explains.
“It’s a very rewarding crop to grow, especially when you can take it home and pop it yourself. It’s one of the first commodities I’ve been able to grow and just go from paddock to plate instantly, without it being processed.”
The Andreazzas plan to grow popcorn again this year, and they will be one of only a handful of growers kept on by their supplier after COVID-19 restrictions shut down popcorn’s biggest market – cinemas.
The couple, who was awarded NSW Farmers of the Year for their ability to balance sustainability with profits, while offsetting the risks of seasonal conditions, say the accolade led to incredible opportunities.
For instance Julia was asked to speak at events and on podcasts, telling the story of her mental health challenges after the family was confronted by just about everything life could throw at them in the year prior to their win.
“I told my story at the stump at Henty Machinery Field Days and from there I’ve been part of the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network’s program Tell It Well and was on John Harper’s Mate Helping Mate podcast,” Julie says.
She adds that the award had also inspired their four children to become even more involved with the farm, with their youngest daughter starting an ag diploma on top of her law degree and their oldest son now keen to do more on the farm.
Julie says they were honoured that the award had recognised them as a couple, and they saw it as part of their role as NSW Farmers of the Year to promote farming at every chance they got, and would continue to do so. “I think COVID-19 has been a chance for everyone to look outside the box and see that there is a real future in farming, there are career opportunities outside of the high rise buildings in Sydney,” Julie says.
If you enjoyed this story, you might like our feature on the 2019 FOTY winners.