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"I would rather attempt something great and fail. Than to do nothing at all and succeed"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Scotland - Home of Glenn Rath Farms Ltd and the fantastic Campbell Family!

Hi all, this is the last official blog of my first overseas journey.

The Eurostar delivered us to Scotland safely, where once again the cold weather met us. We hired a bus and resembling a sardine can we headed west for Kilmarnock. We had an extremely enjoyable and informative visit with Craig Stevenson who owns and operates a-game processing plant, supplying top restaurants throughout the UK. Braehead foods offers numerous exotic meats e.g. pheasant, duck, pigeon, hare, rabbit etc.

Dave explaining the processing procedures for game meat.
We checked out the Hendrie Bros dairy and beef finishing operation's, and enjoyed a farm visit stay with Hugh and Caroline Black (generational potato grower); after visiting the Albert Bartlett Potato Factory - there was always potatoes on the menu in Scotland as it is a massive potato producer. 

We then called in to Mauchline at William Campbell's farm and discussed pasture production, silage, a small number of beef lot cattle (housed in barns to avoid snow and cold weather) and yes another dairy.

Farm visit with William Campbell.

Silage feedlot at William Campbell farm.

Silage bunker at Campbell low holes house farms.

We then visited the farming enterprise connected to the Glamis Castle and had a quick tour of the ancient building where Queen Elizabeth's mother spent her childhood. After which we settled into the Carnoustie golf Hotel which overlooks the same course the British Open is played on. During dinner we heard from some keynote speakers on European agriculture.

On our last day in Scotland we were treated to a visit with John Campbell of Glenn Rath farms just out of Edinburgh. This very humble and polite man produces 1.4 million eggs a day in his 10 hen houses, much of which is free range.

John Campbells chooks
He jokes about only being a hobby farmer, with his 12,500 acres of cattle, sheep and chooks. He even has a trademark of yellow daffodils planted along the public roads that border one of his five properties. This guy has a gross turnover of $45 million and yet his children and more importantly his grandchildren are very hands-on throughout the three enterprises. His 17-year-old granddaughter gave us a running commentary on the lambing procedures while covered in afterbirth and hard at it in one of their many barn's.
At dinner with John and his Wife
The Campbell family provided us a wine and dine affair at their retirement home not far from Edinburgh. The Glenn Rath farms Ltd was the highlight of my farm visits and I look forward to catching up with the Campbell family again.

And as I close this blog, we head off on a 22 hour flight for Sydney (via Thailand), then onto our home town of Alice Springs.  Just in time to spend Easter with our boys.
A beautiful sunset in Thailand to farewell us, as we set our sights on home soil!

Thankyou all for taking the time to follow my blog, I look forward to catching up with you all to talk and look through pics of our many memories!

What next?  Well onto my next adventure - Tackling the the Tanami Track where I will drive my 4x4 wheelchair the 730 odd kms from Suplejack Downs Station to Alice Springs.  Stay tuned... ...more blogs to follow!

Cheers Rob!

France and the UK

Bonjour mes amis.

We landed in Paris then hired a car and took a drive through the extremely beautiful countryside. We payed tribute to the Aussie soldiers who made their final resting place in a war memorial in Fromelle. 
Fromelle War Memorial.
The Battle of Fromelle.
2011 scholars paying tribute.
All Australians would be extremely grateful to the French for the way they have kept the cemetery grounds in perfect order.

We met with Philippe Quignon a local farmer in the Amiens district, who showed us several of his small cropping operations and discussed issues facing their soil make up and their ability to mine chalk from under their pastures.
Philippe explaining his farming operation.
We then jumped on the Eurostar train
Catching up on a spot of reading on the Eurostar.
Sare and I at Kings Cross Station.
and travelled under the English Channel into London - King's Cross; where we caught a connecting train north to Edinburgh Scotland.

Catch you later - more from Scotland, Cheers Rob

Washington DC - Capitol Hill and Briefings

Hey all, after Canada we headed to Washington.

We landed in Washington DC and after a battle with wheelchair access we got settled into a hotel. 
At Capitol Hill - Washington DC

After a quick briefing with our host Hope Pjesky (cereal crop and beef producer from Oklahoma) we met with Simon Smalley at the Australian Embassy who gave us a talk on the Australian perspective of agriculture in the USA. We met at the farmers Federation bureau offices and received an overview of US agriculture at the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture); we discussed marketing issues with JB general marketing manager of the John Deere company.

We received a very interactive and interesting presentation from Scott Hansen, regional manager From Meat Livestock Australia at the Australian Embassy.  Alot of our discussions and presentations were based around the US Farm Bill which covered a range of topics from incentives and subsidies to the welfare nutrition section.  The Farm Bill is responsible for the budget of $628 billion over a five-year period with only 6% related to agriculture, leaving the rest to cover environmental policies and the ever-growing need of nutritional value within US citizens who fall under the low income bracket.

The emphasis on the food stamp program in America is quite evident, considering the growing unemployment rate due to the GFD.

The US beef industry is making a slow recovery after the disease outbreaks in 2008. The major growing markets are believed to be in Korea and Asian countries. The US has been strongly involved in offering aid to Japan after the earthquake disaster, because of this the relationship between Japan and the US is strengthening and we could see growth in future market access.

The major topic of discussion was based around the US budget and the possible government shutdown, creating a real buzz in American political media. Before we flew out of the US, the government stalled on a final decision by extending the due date for an answer until 14 May.

Sarah, Loretta, Jake and I then geared up for a seven-hour flight to London. We had a four-hour stopover then caught a connecting flight to Paris.

Adieu Washington, Bonjour France
Parler Bientôt Amis

Friday, April 8, 2011

Canada - Looking Towards the Future in Renewable Energy Resources

Hey All,

We landed in Toronto at midnight local time and first thing to greet us was an extreme weather front with freezing temperatures. 

We visited the Ontario's province in the most southern district of Canada. After a three hour drive from Toronto we caught up with with Carolyn and Rick Fuerth on their family farm in Woodslee as Carolyn was busy putting together a South Canadian lunch Rick walked us through the operations of their farm.  They predominately farmed their property for stock feed and also house up to 400 ewes in a custom barn all year round.
The lambs are pulled off and slaughtered through their own abattoir; where they market and sell their own meat . After discussing the ability to value add your business and target niche markets we hit the road again. 

It was interesting to view one of the many bio digester plants; creating renewable energy,
an ethanol plant and a waste crude oil plant creating bio diesel along with the numerous and sometimes heavily populated wind turbine farms, it's easy to say Canada is looking towards the future in renewable energy resources.

As we were in the heartland of the Hinze tomato company it only made sense to visit some of the glasshouse hydroponic tomato growing operations where the glasshouse is heated to maximise the growing season.

We also had a run in with some of the native bumblebees that are housed in a temporary box, 300 bees strong and replaced every nine weeks used for pollination.

The small cattle farms we visited, mainly ran British bred cattle, the average stocking rate for the southern tip of Canada is a beast to every 2 acres in conjunction with the rotational cropping operation.

We enjoyed some advancing technologies at the Guelph University including the space centre which is working towards creating a sustainable food production on the planet Mars.

Our Canadian visit finished with a stopover at Niagara Falls. Absolutely amazing - wet and ice everywhere we were in a hotel 16 floors up overlooking the falls we could hear it rumbling as we went to sleep.  

Next stop Washington.
Cheers, Rob

Thursday, April 7, 2011

California - The Salad Bowl of the US

Hey All, Sorry bout the break in blogs, here's what I have been up to.

Well we said goodbye to Mexico after a terrific three-hour drive from Obregon to Hermissilo. We then flew into LAX's and transferred to a smaller aircraft and connected to Fresno, California.  We visited with numerous farming operations throughout California's salad bowl.  We started with an overview of the Westlands Water District and discussed some of the issues affecting irrigation.  Our next stop was the perfect example of an extensively intergrated farming operation at the Terranova Ranch; It generates produce from more than 25 different trees and crops, as well as having a dairy and a chicken farm; which receives the majority of the propertys' bioproduct and waste.  We also checked out the Harris Woolf Almond processing facility which is the industry leader in almond production. 
Almonds are California's largest agricultural industry; in area and dollar value.  We had lunch with John Harris who is part owner of Harris Woolf almonds and after a short drive down the road from the processing facility it was clear John hasn't limited himself just to almonds. He also owns a 100,000 head feedlot and he owns a resort and also a resturant with a service station and RV hook up on the edge of one of his many properties.  The majority of the food on the menu is sourced from his many farming operations. 

Next we drove through the Tulare Lake Bed and visited with JG Boswell companies manager Gary Lindley.  Gary gave us a running commentary of the history surrounding the "lake bed" and the vision JG Boswell had so many years ago in turning the bottom of a massive lake into one of the richest farming districts in California. 
Above is a photo of one of three lay down areas for equipment on the Corcoran Ranch. The JG Boswell company are still facing challenges with the capture, control and distribution of the water throughout their irrgation channels. 

We drove the Salinas Valley to Marina visiting with Rabo Bank, the Monterey Co Water Treatment Plant and an owner operated Dairy Farm. Owner Mike van der Husen gave us a guided tour of his operation.
5000 head of cows are milked twice a day running a 24/7 operation.

Then onto Sacramento where I had some wheelchair issues; but it didn't take us long to source a mobility  supplier to get me on the road again.  From there, onto another plane with a direct flight from San Francisco to Toronto Canada along the way we caught a glimpse of the remarkable Rocky Mountains.
Califormia truely is the salad bowl of the US and to compliment the level of production in all forms of agriculture is their ability to add value to their businesses by utilising all waste products and the intense research behind their water resources. 

Catch You Later - Rob

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