Allan forges trail ahead in Clare

Allan Mayfield leads pack with citizenship

Life & Style
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AFTER years of working with farmers to improve crop results, Allan Mayfield is helping put his adopted home on the global tourism map.

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A PIONEER in the state's precision agriculture industry, who is helping drive tourism into his local area, reduce waste and raise important charity funds, has been recognised with a statewide award during the Australia Day honours.

Allan Mayfield, Clare, was named SA citizen of the year, after first being named the Clare and Gilbert Valley Council's winner.

Allan, who grew up on a farm at Kimba, was "always interested in farming", which inspired his career as an agronomist.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and a PhD in Plant Pathology, he began working with the Department of Agriculture on plant disease research, where he was able to work alongside farmers.

After a few years, he went on to work in crop protection at Clare, again working closely with farmers, before taking the step to start his own consultancy business in 1991.

Volunteer work is really the backbone of communities, they wouldn't function without it. - ALLAN MAYFIELD

"(Agronomy) is a great occupation as you're working with very keen farmers at the sharp edge of applied knowledge," he said.

"You're taking the research and distilling it down to what will work paddock by paddock, or at the end, even within paddocks.

"You're forever challenged and it gets to be quite a personal business."

As part of his desire to bring relevant information to farmers, Allan was one of the pioneer members of the Hart Field Site Group, serving 10 years as the research manager.

"It's such a popular site and they do great things," he said.

"They've stuck to the same formula of good, detailed, independent information, a tidy site, good trials and good results, and it's been really successful."

He also spent time on the on the Southern Panel of GRDC.

"In that capacity, you have a chance to direct where research funding goes and get (knowledge) out to farmers," he said.

Allan could see the potential of precision agriculture quite early on, and has worked with Southern Precision Agriculture Australia as a research coordinator.

"I could see the value for farmers in guidance systems in seeing why crops vary across paddocks," he said.

Even though he wound down his business after 20 years, Allan still keeps in touch with the cropping industry, through his involvement with the SA Grains Industry Trust - "the only professional work I'm still doing".

He uses his background in research, as well as years of working with farmers, to help assess applications and guide future research.

While many people would look at retirement as a chance to step back, for Allan it was a chance to step forward.

With so many commitments through his working years, he had not had the chance to be as involved with the local community as he would have liked.

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He said growing up in a "typical country town" of Kimba, and seeing how normal it was for people, including his own parents, to be involved in several organisations, he wanted to take on that role himself.

"Volunteer work is really the backbone of communities, they wouldn't function without it," he said.

He volunteered for the Riesling Trail committee - responsible for the 33-kilometre former rail line, converted into a walking and cycling trail through the Clare Valley - and "next thing I knew, I was the chair".

"It became apparent quite quickly the value it brings to the area and the state," he said. "At the moment more than 75,000 people a year use the trail."

Allan's background in research and funding applications came in handy, and the committee has received more than $500,000 in the past five years to rebuild the surface and finish the trail into Auburn.

"There is an ongoing need to make sure the trail is in good condition so the people who come to Clare like using it," he said.

"We're constantly getting positive feedback and we've got a great committee."

Allan said while heading out along the trail doing maintenance, he would often meet people from all areas of the world.

"It is extraordinary where people come from," he said.

Allan also decided to dip his toe in joining the Clare Lions Club, intending to just "sit up the back" and help with barbecues.

"The next thing I knew, I was president," he said.

About six months ago, after recognising the local need, the Lions Club established a second-hand furniture business.

Allan said people had been very generous about donating furniture, with the items then supplied to people in need or sold on as part of the club's fundraising efforts.

"In the past six months, we've had about 1000 items donated," he said.

"That's reducing the furniture going into waste."

The club has just begun spending the money raised, with $4000 going towards a project to provide comfortable furnishings at the local hospital, and $2000 to help feed BlazeAid volunteers following the recent fires across the state.

Allan is also a keen athlete, and regularly competes in the Masters games - with a focus on the middle distance 800-metre and 1500m and the steeplechase - both in Australia and overseas.

He is also keen to help other athletes, volunteering regularly at the Clare half-marathon and park run.

Allan said the news of the award was "only just hitting home".

He said the recognition belonged to more than just him, with it also reflecting on the work being done within the Clare and Gilbert Valley region.

"I do think it's a real pat on the back for people who are involved in the things I'm involved in," he said.

"It's also their award."

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