Gawler farmer named Simplot Young Grower of the year
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Gawler farmer named Simplot Young Grower of the year

Acclaimed for his industry leadership and innovative farming practices, Gawler farmer Stuart Applebee has taken out the 2017 Rabobank Simplot Young Grower award.

Receiving the award in front of more than 200 growers and industry stakeholders at the annual Simplot dinner in Ulverstone, Mr Applebee was chosen from a field of nominees across Tasmania’s vegetable sector.

Rabobank regional manager for Tasmania and Southern Victoria Hamish McAlpin said the accolade – which is jointly awarded by Rabobank and Simplot – recognised young growers with exceptional leadership capabilities, which would be fostered through attending one of the country’s leading farm business management programs.

“As part of his prize, Stuart has been awarded a scholarship to attend Rabobank’s Farm Managers Program, a course for progressive young farmers, like Stuart, who are looking to strengthen their operational and strategic management skills,” Mr McAlpin said.

“With Stuart’s innovative mindset, shown through his adoption of new varieties and technologies to increase efficiency, as well as his thirst for knowledge by attending field days and other industry events, this week-long course should further enhance his business and leadership skills. And with farmers from across Australia and New Zealand participating in the program, it will see him develop a broad network of like-minded farmers.”

Mr Applebee, who runs a diverse farming business together with his wife Chelsea and two children William and Jack, said he was looking forward to the Farm Managers Program next June, as “the day we stop improving, is the day we need to give it away”.

“I am always looking to do things a little bit smarter and a little bit better,” he said. “I tend to set the bar pretty high, because if we set it higher than where we expect to be, it just makes us strive to get there.”

Calling himself a ‘relative new-comer to the industry’, with the family branching out on their own five years ago by leasing 140 acres in the north-west of Tasmania near Gawler, Mr Applebee said potatoes were ‘the bread and butter’ of their business.

“We produce on average around 1000 to 1100 tonnes of potatoes each year, and also grow onions, peas, swedes, pyrethrum and poppies,” he said. “While our farm contracting business rounds out our family’s farming interests.”

Mr Applebee said this year the Applebees had increased their potato production to 2000 tonnes.

“Holding a three year contract with Simplot gives us some certainty as to where we are at, and the returns we should achieve,” he said, “and it has given us the confidence to recently go out and purchase our own potato harvester.”

Mr Applebee, who is confident about the future of the potato industry with the global population continuing to grow, said the family’s business was focused on trying new seed varieties, new methods and ways of doing things and incorporating advice from industry specialists such as their agronomist.

“Through the application of higher inputs, we are seeing a one to two per cent lift in productivity,” he said. “It might not sound like much but with the volume we grow, if you can make a one to two per cent increase, it is pretty good.”

Looking to the future, Mr Applebee said the family was hoping to purchase land in their own right, but were lucky to have the opportunity to lease land from local farmer Jim Allen, who Mr Applebee had worked for 14 years previously.

“It is great to continue to bounce ideas off Jim and turn to him for advice, as he is well-regarded in the industry,” he said.

In turn, Mr Applebee has been mentoring the Applebee’s farm employee, Jacob Clarke who had been with them since he was 14 years old.

“Jacob came to us when he was still at school, and 10 years later he is an integral part of our business, and part of the family,” he said. “I hope by attending the Farm Managers Program I can not only learn how to handle things differently but also impart some of my learnings to Jacob.”

Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is a part of the global Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has nearly 120 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 40 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 8.6 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is one of Australasia’s leading agricultural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the region’s food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 94 branches throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Media contacts:

Denise Shaw
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Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: 02 8115 2744 or 0439 603 525 

Skye Ward
Media Relations Manager
Rabobank Australia
Phone: 02 4855 1111 or 0418 216 103