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Farming’s dichotomy

I SPENT some time in the country at the weekend and was once again reminded of the fickle nature of farming.

Looking out over the green fields of York it was hard to believe there is yet another crisis in our rural sector. But chatting to those who work the land revealed how difficult it is to rely on nature for your prosperity.

The heavy downpours Perth and the south coast experienced became a hit and miss affair over the Darling Range.

York is a good example.

Generally regarded as a safe farming area with good soils and consistent rainfall, even this community is divided among the haves and have nots this year.

North and south, I understand, have done well, but some in the east have not been so lucky.

Someone can get a good soaking and yet, across the road, their neighbour is desperate for finishing rains.

The same can be said of results right across the State’s Wheatbelt. It is enough to drive people away from the industry, and it is – either through immediate financial ruin or simply the uncertainty of returns for the risk involved.

It is a plight regularly highlighted but, unfortunately, no-one is really doing anything to change this course. If we want farmers to continue working the land and communities to thrive inland, it is time we became more innovative about how we recognise and reward this sector.

There are already tax incentives, spending on science and the provision of infrastructure, but these are dwindling as Australia becomes even more focused on its urban living, bankrolled by mining.

The key must be to find a new lease of life for the rural sector – one that establishes a future direction and channels energy and capital that way.

What is needed is a bit of vision.

Business winners

THE Family Business Awards went off successfully last week, with 150 people there to watch 16 finalists vying for six prizes.

As I have already stated, I am a big fan of the ideals behind the Family Business Association and the awards it created. That was reinforced at the evening’s awards, where we listened to the wide ranging trials and tribulations of the winners as they were grilled – albeit sympathetically – by MC for the night, Tina Altieri.

Deborah Thame, whose STS Health won the Best Family Business Employer award, told of the vision of her husband, who had founded the business but has since passed away.

Second generation winner Homestyle started with two mothers peeling potatoes in the back yard, while the founder of printing firm J Pilpel & Co, winner of the third generation prize, went blind, forcing his son to takeover the business.

These stories all had their lighter moments too, mostly centring around how family and business merge – so that work is almost always the centre of family life.

Congratulations to all the winners and the finalists.

Grape stuff

CONGRATULATIONS too to our wine writer, David Pike, on his prestigious Wine Press Club award.

Pikey, as he is well known in the industry and beyond, deserves the credit for the refreshing approach he has taken to writing his news and views on wine.

He came on board at WA Business News almost two years ago, with a short wine writing history, something he has enhanced significantly through his weekly column in this newspaper.

His decision to do a vintage and write a week-by-week description was innovative and successful – one of the reasons for his success.

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