Young growers are key for future of horticulture

Young growers are key for future of horticulture

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Ausveg SA state manager Jordan Brooke-Barnett shares his thoughts on the horticulture industry.

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Industry leader Jordan Brooke-Barnett is the state manager for Ausveg SA.

Industry leader Jordan Brooke-Barnett is the state manager for Ausveg SA.

HAVING grown up on a family farm in Lucindale, it seemed only natural Jordan Brooke-Barnett would continue his farming passion and work in a related industry. He has held the title as Ausveg SA state manager since the state association was formed four years ago.

How did you become involved with Ausveg SA?

I was working for Ausveg national office in Melbourne, leading national industry programs at the time and, being a South Australian, was asked to establish the new organisation. Having strong roots in the SA industry and with the support of key industry leaders, I decided to take up the opportunity.

How many vegetable growers are involved with Ausveg SA?

We have about 150 mainly medium and larger sized businesses and pack houses as direct members of our association who represent a significant proportion of the state’s production across a range of commodities and regions. We also deal with a much larger group of individual farmers and people through our programs and advocacy work and adopt a stance that we will help growers no matter what they grow if we can be of help.

What is the industry’s contribution to on the state?

Vegetable production contributes about $550 million in gross value to the state each year, which is a significant proportion of our overall horticulture sector. Key crops include potatoes, tomatoes and onions and key production areas include the Northern Adelaide Plains, Mallee and Adelaide Hills. In areas like the northern suburbs of Adelaide, vegetable production and horticulture in general is a major employer and holds significant potential to contribute jobs and revitalise the local economy.

What changes have you seen within the industry?

Our industry and horticulture in general is starting to achieve greater respect and consideration from state and federal governments.

Through our work I have seen our industry become more unified and cohesive and able to effectively respond to issues.

Key issues are union disputes, effectively fighting local government and state levies and rates and lobbying for water investments such as the $150m Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme. 

What projects have you been involved in?

I have been particularly proud of building a strong state advocacy and media capability to support our growers. On a daily basis we work one to one with many of our growers to support their business. In addition, in recent years we have been able to bring more resources into the association to benefit our industry including dedicated research and development extension resources to run grower courses and facilitate trials, Vietnamese speaking field staff and a dedicated part-time export development manager.

Where do you see the horticulture industry progressing in 10 years’ time?

I see a group of innovative and young growers taking the mantle from the present growers who have developed advanced skills in business management and are positive about our industry’s future in SA.

In terms of technology, I am hopeful robotics technology will be able to replace lower skilled work with mechanical and engineering jobs more attractive to South Australians. This will further open up export markets by putting us on an even playing field with international competitors such as the United States with much lower labour costs.

On an economic level I see our industry continuing to be a major employer in regional areas such as the Mallee and Riverland, as well as urban areas such as Adelaide’s northern suburbs where providing higher skilled jobs will hopefully keep our best and brightest students here in SA. 

What’s your proudest achievement?

Growing our association from basically nothing to be one of the best resourced and staffed groups in agriculture with a leading agripolitical advocacy capability that delivers real results for our member growers.

Besides your work with Ausveg SA, what are your other interests?

I like to study history and politics and spending time with my two boys doing the weekend sport run.

What is your favourite place to visit in SA?

I love getting out into the country anywhere for a drive, but the Fleurieu Peninsula would be my favourite for a beach holiday.  

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