Grains entrepreneur GROWS her expertise through AgSkilled
Author: Toni Somes | Date: 18 May 2020
An innovative entrepreneur from the grains industry is crediting a professional development course – offered by Tocal College through the AgSkilled program – with bringing a new level of efficiency to her business in south west New South Wales.
Sarah Curry runs Majors Mulch, from her family’s cropping enterprise on The Bland, near Quandialla. Her business produces sustainably made garden mulch pellets, which are sold through nurseries across southern Australia.
Mulch production goes hand-in-hand with Mrs Curry’s family’s grain growing operation on their 3650 hectare property, Major’s Point.
Mrs Curry worked as a retail agronomist, before joining the family farming business with her husband Josh and came up with the concept for mulch pellets when she needed some ‘easier to handle’ options while juggling gardening and pregnancy.
“Essentially the mulch pellets are made from by-products from our cropping operation and the concept has proved really appealing to fellow gardeners and I now sell into nurseries in Sydney and Melbourne,” she said.“
But juggling her growing wholesale operation with her farm business commitments, plus three small children, has its own challenges and the innovative young mum decided there was room to improve how efficiently and effectively she was handling the first two roles.
Last year she enrolled in Tocal’s Generating Regionally Outstanding Women (GROW) course managed and delivered by Bec Fing of House Paddock Training and Consulting, as part of the AgSkilled initiative, to finesse her time management skills and professionalise her approach to everything from on-farm staff inductions to agreements with contractors.
AgSkilled is a direct partnership between the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Cotton Australia and Training Services NSW, Department of Education, and was developed to support training to ensure the grain and cotton workforce was well prepared for the future.
The GROW program was designed to help participants develop their skills in time management, planning and organisation, communications and networking, as well as staff and team management, industrial relations and work health and safety.
“I can’t recommend the GROW course enough. It absolutely changed the way I was operating both the farm and my wholesale business, and it also importantly connected me with a network of like-minded women from the grains and cotton sectors,” Mrs Curry said.
“I did a series of face-to-face sessions each followed by homework, but what appealed to me was it was all completely practical and you could implement what you learnt straight away.
“For example, our trainer Bec Fing showed us how to set up very practical structures, like work health and safety plans, agreements with contractors and staff induction templates that provide everyone with clear outlines of expectations.
“I could also implement these improvements very quickly and easily – for example, I went home and inducted the two staff we had starting on the farm. We have two graduates from a Danish agricultural college arrive each year to work with us through harvest, so proper inductions are critical for our workplace health and safety.”
She said other key learnings from the GROW course centred on issues such as improved time management.
“My time management was all over the place, but the course helped me determine key areas to focus on and brought clear structure to what I was doing daily,” Mrs Curry said.
“Learning as part of a group really worked well for me too, because we shared experiences and practical examples of our business systems and that combined knowledge was incredibly helpful.
“Even now, six months since after the course, I am still regularly referring back to both the GROW manual and the network of women I connected with through the course. They have become a critical sounding board for our business and that’s been invaluable.”
AgSkilled co-ordinator Claudia Vicary said this was the final chance other women to enrol in the GROW course because the AgSkilled initiative finishes on June 30.
“The AgSkilled initiative has been going for three years and has seen over 3,000 people from the grains and cotton industries upskilled,” Ms Vicary said.
“During that time the GROW course has been one of the most popular development programs on offer so we would really like to see as many people as possible take advantage of this final course.”
Ms Vicary said the GROW course would be offered online and was open to those involved in the cotton and grains industry across NSW but applications close shortly.
“This is the final call for enrolments in the GROW program, as well as the other professional development courses also offered under the AgSkilled initiative,” she said.
Other courses include the THRIVE course, which is focused on improving individual productivity for business and personal progress, as well as the Workplace Health and Safety and Human Resources (WHS&HR) fundamentals course.
To enrol in the final GROW course or for more information, contact program manager Bec Fing on 0427 107 234 or email [email protected] or go to https://www.tocal.nsw.edu.au/courses/short-courses/agskilled.
Toni Somes, GRDC Communications Manager – North
0436 622 645
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