EMS is attracting young people back to the farm by Eammon Conaghan
MEMBERS OF WA's innovative Mingenew-Irwin Grower Group (MIG) have weighed into global product promotion and marketing with a two-fold quality assurance (QA) system which provides the usual food safety guarantees, along with sound environmental stewardship.
And in a heartening twist to the story, MIG members are being stimulated to embrace the future by their children, many of whom have recently returned from tertiary studies in Perth to support and drive Mid West endeavour with a range of new skills in agricultural science and finance.
Tracy Gillam, daughter of MIG members Chris and Christine Gillam of Dongara, recently completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Western Australia and returned to take a position as graduate agribusiness analyst with the National Australia Bank (NAB) in Geraldton.
"The Mid West is full of innovative people looking for new and different ideas. Being a relatively safe cropping zone, the region gives people the confidence to try new things.
"QA is inevitable as the market becomes driven more by consumers than producers, and the opportunity should be taken to include EMS in QA systems to avoid another reform in farm practices down the track."
With her employer, NAB, a corporate sponsor of MIG, Ms Gillam worked on a newly completed review of MIG, which aimed to ensure members received fair dividends from their participation. The benefits of MIG membership were separated into MIG research, landcare and access to information and resources.
Marcus Blake, son of MIG members Tony and Shirley Blake, who farm near Mingenew, also returned to the Mid West, after completing a Bachelor in Agribusiness at Muresk, to work with Wesfarmers Agronomy, Morawa, where he's witnessed increasing concern for sustainable farming.
"What MIG is doing with EMS is staying ahead of the inevitable and trying to keep environmental regulation farmer-friendly. I think this sort of system is going to become a necessity," he said.
Control of marketing
The MIG is launching a commercial arm to market members' produce which, more than likely, will be underpinned by QA and EMS. SGS certification and auditing services, which audits Great Grain and SQF (Safe Quality Food), will simultaneously monitor EMS compliance.
It's these bold moves to self-regulate, identify and research specific local problems and opportunities that are drawing home the children of the Mid West.
Wayne Parker, son of MIG members Doug and Roma Parker, of Mingenew, hopes to be involved directly with the MIG in his new role as Lupin and Farming Systems Development Officer with the Department of Agriculture, Geraldton.
"I look forward to hopefully doing lupin trials with the group because they have such a positive go-forward attitude and are willing to try new ideas." Mr Parker recently returned from the University of Western Australia where he finished a Bachelor in Agricultural Science and expects to be joined soon by girlfriend, Vanessa Gledhill, another local returning to work in Geraldton after studying nursing at Curtin University in Perth.
"I had an open mind when I left university as to where I went, as long as it was in the country. But I'm really happy to be home," he said.
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