Cameron Warne has a wide grin on his face as he leans on his ute door looking out across his windrowed canola on his farm at Culgoa.
It’s late October and the early morning air is still, the sky grey with clouds and the rewards of the season are now almost close enough to taste.
Ruffling his black and tan kelpie Rex’s head, Cameron, who has recently been appointed to the BCG Board, is measuredly optimistic, a sign indicative of a farmer who has a lived through both the good and the challenging years.
The 51-year-old grows a balance of 50 per cent breakcrops, 50 per cent cereals on his farm in the Victorian Mallee and hopes his experience and passion can strengthen the already nationally recognised research and extension organisation.
“Every decision is expensive.”
“Every decision is expensive when farming, so you have to make every decision the right one. Rising input costs, making good returns on higher land values and reducing our environmental footprint all influence how we farm and the decisions we make.
“My father Stewart was one of the founding members of BCG and so I’ve seen the impacts the group has had in all these areas across the region and the industry as a whole throughout its 31-year history. Being a BCG member, I’ve been able to reap the benefits, particularly the independence of the work, and now I want to give something back.”
It’s not just the bottom line or the environment that Cameron has his sights set on however and as weaves his way through the freshly cut canola stalks he explains: “Farming can be lonely. As farms are getting bigger and farmers fewer, social circles are more spread out and it can be harder to catch up. I’m the type of person who likes to be around people. BCG has a strong focus on community as well as farmer wellbeing. The group’s events have always been a great way for me to catch up with friends, meet new people and share stories.” Pausing he admits: “I often see events as a social day with learning a bit on the side! As a board member I hope to further develop inclusivity, networks and strategies to boost attendance at events so more people can benefit as much as I do!”
High windrows and an almost perfect start to harvest are welcomed by Cameron but planning for the inevitability of drought is a constant line item in his business planning: “As a farmer you’re really only answerable to yourself, so naturally I’m interested in structuring our farm in a way where we can benefit from the good years and weather the bad. We have been working on setting up some passive income, with financial advisers as well as business advisors, a long-term business and strategic planning adviser and our accountant to mitigate the effects of highly variable seasons. We are looking for more diversity within the business, consolidating on the last few good years and reducing debt.”
As the ute wheels start to slowly crunch over the stubble, Cameron explains the holistic approach he takes to drought preparedness: “It’s not just capitalising on the good seasons—the research tells us timing is everything—but using best practice to conserve water and manage nutrients as well as using strategies such as N banking and carrying grain over, to smooth out some of the peaks and troughs of farming.”
“I like enjoying myself.”
Pulling up in his garage Cameron steps out of the ute and starts to cross back to his home where he lives with his wife Lisa and two boys Hugo 12 and Felix 17 [when home from boarding school]. Passing his indoor golf net with Rex by his side, Cameron explains with another trademark grin that work life balance is also important for drought-proofing: “I also like to run around with the kids, get to the local football and cricket and play golf when I can. I like enjoying myself,” he laughs.
Fiona Best, BCG CEO, is a keen observer of his farming operations: “Cameron will be invaluable to the organisation. He is a great farm operator and he is great with people. He understands the farming landscape and has lived experience of what it’s like to be a farmer. Cameron is always looking to improve and learn while having a laugh along the way.”
For more information about BCG or the BCG Board visit www.bcg.org.au or call (03) 5492 2787.