BCG Chairman awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia

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Ian McClelland was awarded a 2008 OAM ‘for service to agriculture, particularly through the development of sustainable crop production systems, and innovative farming and land management practices.’

Born on October 24, 1948, Ian is the fourth child and third son of Alan and Doris McClelland, of ‘Windarra’, Birchip. He attended the Birchip Primary School and, until what was then Form Two, the Birchip High School. He then became a boarder at Scotch College, Melbourne, where he took on the roles of prefect, house captain and vice-captain of music.

From 1968-1971, Ian studied agriculture at the University of Melbourne, taking out his Bachelor of Agriculture degree at the end of that time.

That achieved, he could imagine nothing better than to return to the Birchip to take up his lifelong love of farming the family land.

At that time, nature was kind. In general, the years on the farm were good, with the notable exception of 1982, generally referred to as The Drought until the recent lean years stole its title. 

In 1993, Ian and a group of like minded farmers took a day off to attend the Hart Field Days in South Australia. Upon their return, they looked at each other and said, ‘There’s no reason Birchip should not have an organization like that,’ and what was then known as the Birchip Cropping Demonstration Sites was born. 

Now commonly known as BCG, the organisation operates as a not-for profit incorporated association, conducting applied research and extension. Its purpose has been redefined since its inception, and it now aims to investigate the critical success factors that ensure a sustainable and profitable production system.

BCG works under five banners: agronomy and farming systems, communication and extension, making conservation pay, climate change and Yield Prophet (a support tool for farmers to forecast crop yields), and social research (including Critical Breaking Points, a study of how farming families are coping with drought).

As Ian admits himself, he is a ‘big picture’ man, and even a cursory glance at his strewn desk at his home tends to endorse this. Not one to be either daunted by apparent obstacles, or distracted by the minutiae of detail, he is both an optimist and a realist. Once he has an idea in his head, there is little to be done to divert him until that idea becomes a reality or is discarded or modified after its virtues have been explored. As far as he is concerned, things will work. Nothing is too outrageous, nothing too speculative.

Ian McClelland is definitely a glass half full man. Passionately devoted to BCG, Birchip, the Mallee and agriculture in general, he sees the way forward in terms of empowering present day farmers by means of knowledge and understanding. He believes in growing and developing youth through education so that they can face the obvious challenges that the future holds.

He has an enormous store of energy, a fund he takes care to replenish by taking a daily nap after lunch (when he happens to be home), not to mention the odd doze in the chair after dinner or in front of his favourite programme, ABC’s Lateline Business.

 The list of Ian’s activities and achievements testifies to this energy: he is an honorary Senior Fellow of the Institute of Land and Food Resources – Crop Production, Melbourne University. He has been a member of the board of Marcus Oldham College Council for 25 years and of the selection panel for Churchill Scholarships for ten. He was the recipient of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (Victoria) Hugh McKay Innovators Award for Leadership and Innovation through BCG, 1998, and the 2004 Grains Research and Development Corporation Seed of Light Award for excellence in research and extension. He was awarded the Centenary of Agriculture medal by the University of Melbourne in 2006. In 2000, Ian was chosen to be the Buloke Shire Citizen of the Year.

During his time as Chairman of BCG, the group has been awarded the Banksia Environmental Foundation Land and Biodiversity Award, 2007 and the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships, 2005.

Ian insists that none of the successes of BCG would have been achieved without the commitment of an inspired group of farmers and the hard work of the team.

“From its inception, it has been a combined effort, with all involved committing themselves to its aims,” he said.

“Though I am honoured to accept this award, I do so knowing that as Chair, my role has been to lead a group of utterly committed people: farmers, committee members, staff and volunteers. The pleasure has been in watching the organization grow and in being a part of its development.

“BCG has been able to bring together researchers, farmers and industry, to arrive at an understanding of mutual benefits and to work together to solve some of the problems which confront us all.”

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