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Beyond the Bale : March 2019
56 ON FARM Ag EDGE is comprised of a number of unofficial ‘boards of directors’ made up of progressive agricultural business people. Each board provides a peer review function, delivering practical and professional input into each board member’s business. There are up to six individual businesses on each Ag EDGE board, with attendance welcome for all members of each business and family. Each board meets face-to-face up to four times each year and maintains regular contact in between meetings. Face-to-face meetings are professionally facilitated and each meeting is used to review each member’s business performance or progress towards their goals. Strict “in board” confidentiality allows comprehensive financial and benchmarking analysis and ensures an environment in which all members attending can fully express their points of views. Final decisions always rest with the business owners and minuted actions from each meeting help business members remain accountable to their decisions. “Allowing other like-minded farmers to sit on a professionally facilitated board of management for your enterprise brings business rigour and support,” according to Ag EDGE President, Charles Coventry. “We have found across many farming businesses and many years now that this structure helps balance the power within an organisation. It can be very empowering for younger members of a business, while at the same time validating and honouring the more experienced members. “It helps those in a business to set and align to a common goal and when this happens people become more confident to share ideas about how to achieve the stated goals.” BENEFITING FROM AG EDGE Stuart McDonald and his wife Ellen run a Merino, cropping and cattle operation on 1,360 hectares near Canowindra in the central west of NSW and have been part of Ag EDGE for more than 12 years. “Being part of a board made up of other farmers has helped us transition through succession which so many families really grapple with,” Stuart said. “It has also helped the introduction of my wife as a valuable business member, from starting out as my girlfriend in the early days right through to the manager running the farm in 2018 whilst I undertook 16 weeks of overseas travel with a GRDC-funded Nuffield Scholarship. “In relation to production, Ag EDGE has helped us enormously when looking at benchmarking and really improving the way we run our various enterprises. The issues we bring to the table for the business and family are different each time and Ag EDGE is a dynamic process assisting us all to adapt to change and opportunity. The time spent ‘working on the business’ with peer support and professional guidance is invaluable.” With input from the board, the family has decided to increase the intensity of its cropping enterprise whilst placing a greater focus on the sheep enterprise as well by utilising the services of a nutritionist, benchmarking production, focussing on key dates and undertaking the AWI-funded Lifetime Ewe Management course across the 1200-head ewe flock. “We’ve really made more of an effort with the Merinos and it has been paying off, even throughout this very difficult drought,” Stuart said. “Ag EDGE has provided us with a forum to regularly review all our decisions and evaluate performance. The ability to keep making decisions, when outside influences like the weather challenge us, is essential to achieving the desired overall outcome. The perspective and support of the Ag EDGE board means we are better informed to manage risk.” The not-for-profit organisation Ag EDGE is helping woolgrowers achieve better financial and personal outcomes through a collaborative and collective approach to decision making. Stuart says the full disclosure during Ag EDGE meetings has been empowering and allows a much more thorough discussion of the factors affecting his business than can be achieved in normal social settings. “I am as happy as the next person to quote off my lambs marked to ewes joined in any particular year, but Ag EDGE is a unique forum where you can dig into the numbers behind those statements to assess the contributing factors. This allows you to make objective decisions around how you would like to change those percentages and how it influences enterprise profitability. “Due to the diversity of experience and fresh perspective from the board members in Ag EDGE we can also address those factors that may be considered a limitation, because other board members review issues from a completely different angle, which can create opportunities. “The whole process brings confidence in farm business management and unifies business and family members to attain goals together.” MORE INFORMATION www.agedge.com.au Charles Coventry 0448 828 704 Stuart McDonald 0427 640 200 Stuart McDonald of Canowindra, NSW, has been part of Ag EDGE for more than 12 years. PUSHING THE PROFITABLE EDGE OF FARMING
In the Shops - March 2019