It all started when…
2008 - a meeting was held at the Kamballup Hall to ask South Coast farmers if they would be interested in forming a grower group with a focus on improving farm productivity in a sustainable way. Support was strong and 5 key areas were identified as priorities-
1. Soil Constraints
2. Weed, Pest and Disease Management
4. Plant Breeding
2009 - a Steering Group was formed with the following members-
Ken Drummond, Warren Thomas, Shane Greenslade, Mark Adams, Iain Mackie, John Hood, Derek Curwen, Mal Thomson, Scott Smith, Chris Kirkwood, Brad Wood, Michael Cooper, Brent Pritchard (Farmanco) and Jeremy Lemon (DAFWA). Heather Adams was appointed as Administration Officer. The first meeting decided on the name “Stirlings To Coast Farmers” and set a membership fee of $220 (incl GST) for each farming business.
Activities over that first year included - 2009
-Presentation from Dr Derk Bakker from the Department of Agriculture and Food on a GRDC funded project starting in July 2009. The group will host paddock scale trials looking at Variable Rate Technology and the broadacre adoption of Precision Agriculture.
- Presentation Quentin Knight from Precision Agronomics looking at putting Variable Rate Technology into practice.
- Paddock demonstration of Irrigator, a soil wetter product used in furrow to establish crops and pastures.
- Paddock demonstration of incorporating clay with a Spader machine. As a result a farmer based trial was set up at South Stirlings looking at rates of clay and incorporation.
-GM Crops Information Session with presenter Dr David Bowran, researcher with the Department of Agriculture and Food. There are 5 group members who trialed GM canola in 2009 and the group have taken a pro GM Crops position.
-Steering Group met with the GRDC Western Panel to discuss research priorities for the area.
-Grain Marketing Workshop Module 1
-Grain Marketing Workshop Module 2
- Precision Agriculture Workshop
- Bus tour looking at sites of interest from South Stirlings to Kendenup attended by over 30 farmers.
2010 - the group hosted a Regional Crop Update for the first time, in Mt Barker. With the assistance of Jeremy Lemon DAFWA the group was also successful with securing funding from the GRDC for trials looking at the management options for hybrid canola. By April 2010 the group had a membership of 40 farming businesses ranging from Frankland in the west to Wellstead in the east, and including north of the Stirling Ranges. Member enterprises ranged from all cropping to all grazing with the majority being a mix of the two. Group activities were guided by what members were interested in and had a mainly cropping focus.
2011/12/13 - a Strategic Plan was developed and the decision was made to seek support from agribusiness in the form of sponsorship, which enabled the group to employ the first R&D Coordinator in early 2012. Ben Zamstra worked in this role until John Blake took his place in February 2013, and John continues to work with the group today.
2014/15 - the group decided to employ an Executive Officer to manage the organisation. Terry Duke was in the position briefly. The group was located in the Albany DAFWA (now DPIRD) building, conveniently across the corridor from DAFWA Senior Research Officers.
2016 - The capacity of the organisation took a major step forward in 2016 with the employment of a full time Executive Officer, Dr Christine Kershaw. A review was undertaken and the SCF organisation structure changed from a management committee with a part time EO to a Board with a full time CEO. New projects in early 2016 enabled the group to employ four additional staff and move into a larger office.
2018 - The organisation continued to grow in capacity and in February made the move to its own office in town at 75 Albany Highway, Albany. In total, SCF now has one of the most experienced R&D and Executive management teams in regional WA with eight staff, including a CEO, R&D Coordinator, R&D Consultant, Research and Project Officers, Communications Manager and an Office Manager (in addition to consultants).
In 2019, membership is over 200 members, representing 80 farming businesses, and the group continues to enjoy strong support from an increasing number of sponsors and corporate members. In 2018 SCF initiated it’s Student Connect Future Farmers project, with 19 new student members from the WA College of Agriculture - Denmark. The project expanded in 2019 to other local schools with an Agriculture focus, Mt Barker Community College and Great Southern Grammar, with over 50 students now involved in lectures, demonstrations and work experience.
SCF works with a number of research partners to conduct paddock scale trials each year, as well as coordinating canola disease surveys and herbicide resistance testing. In recent years there has been an increased focus on trials and projects looking at the value chain and post-farm gate value-adding.