Dealing with tough harvest

30 Jul, 2014 02:00 AM
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Tara Vermeersch (left), Cascade, Hayley Wandel, Scaddan, SEPWA executive officer Niki Curtis and Jill Wehr, Speddingup East, with copies of
Tara Vermeersch (left), Cascade, Hayley Wandel, Scaddan, SEPWA executive officer Niki Curtis and Jill Wehr, Speddingup East, with copies of "Dealing with a Difficult Harvest". The womens' family farm businesses feature as case studies in the book.

"FROM little things, big things grow" was the theme of the South East Premium Wheat Growers' Association's (SEPWA) Ladies Day - and that they did.

In recent months SEPWA staff came up with the idea to create a tangible resource to help southern-based growers tackle tough times during the harvest period.

So, in a bid to reduce stress levels and improve the quality of WA grain, SEPWA developed a guide book called "Dealing with a Difficult Harvest".

Funded by the Council of Grain Growers Organisation (COGGO) research fund and helped along by the Department of Agriculture and Food, the publication was officially launched at the SEPWA Ladies Day in Esperance last week.

SEPWA executive officer Niki Curtis said many things can go wrong during harvest including breakdowns, rain and wet grain, fires, hail, staffing issues, lack of storage and grain quality issues.

"All these issues severely impact on farmers," she said.

"It results in downtime, stress, a reduction in yield and grain quality and to top it all off, profitability is affected at the end of the day."

The book focuses on managing staff, the business, crops, harvest and disaster as well as highlights key industry research and farmers who have adopted innovative practices associated with harvesting issues and crop management.

It covers effective decision making during busy times, managing stress at harvest, employing staff, workplace health and safety, mobile apps for harvest, grain marketing, biosecurity threats during harvest and weeds and pests.

It also covers barley straw strength and head loss, desiccation, sprouting, frost, pre-harvest preparation of machinery, high moisture harvesting, swathing, silo bags for on-farm grain storage, managing insurance risks and premiums and safe harvesting practices to stay ahead of crop fires.

"It doesn't matter what business you operate in today's world, managing the tensions and stresses that knock us down along the way is the primary key to our sustainability," Ms Curtis said.

During the day ladies from throughout the Esperance port zone were inspired by a range of speakers who shared their personal stories which had grown from a small idea into something big.

Click on this image to see more photos in our online gallery.

The day's keynote presenter from ABC's Gardening Australia program Josh Byrne shared his ideas on sustainable living.

Busselton dairy farmer Kate Cox shared her story about finding a way to add value to her family farm's milk by filling a gap in the premium ice cream market.

This led to the creation of the Two Fat Cows brand, with the help of her business partner Sue Eva.

Marnie Fels, who farms at Neridup with her husband Mic, had the all-female (minus two) crowd reaching for the tissues when she spoke about her personal journey of raising three adopted children from very different backgrounds.

CBH also sponsored Ronald McDonald corporate partnerships manager Rebecca Stott to make an appearance and speak about the new house being built for country families in Perth.

Mother of three and Woodanilling farmer Cathi Bessell-Browne displayed the results of her dress-making talent.

She uses vintage fabrics to create pieces which are sold worldwide thanks to her online retail business.

Kondinin farmer and deputy shire president Lindsay Tuckwell spoke about her life on the land and her role as a marriage celebrant.

Rabobank's Andrew Tasker spoke briefly about world markets and local Landmark and Farm & General agronomists Sam Repacholi and Monica Field gave an update on the latest agronomic issues in the Esperance region.

Two thousand copies of "Dealing with a Difficult Harvest" will be distributed through the Grower Group Alliance and COGGO to grower group members in WA's southern agricultural region during spring field days.

It will also be available on the SEPWA website.

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