NATALIE Browning believes fresh ideas, increased grower engagement and effective governance is the key the CBH Group’s longevity and prosperity.
And the Kondinin grower believes she has what it takes to help the CBH board ensure the co-operative’s continued success for the next generation of WA farming families.
Ms Browning is one of four candidates vying for the District 3 position on the CBH board, following the resignation of Pingelly grower John Hassell who is not seeking re-election.
The Kondinin farmer runs a 100 per cent cropping program with her husband Karl and their three children Jace, Noah and Chloe on the family’s 6400 hectare property.
Ms Browning said it was her love of farming and strong desire for the ongoing success of the agricultural industry that prompted her to run for the board.
“My family lives and breathes farming and I think that CBH is just such an important asset for WA grain growers and a company with fantastic potential,” Ms Browning said.
“I just want to contribute and really help it to be a strong company for now and also for future generations.”
After meeting her husband and moving to his family farm, the 34-year-old has become an integral part of the enterprise and has gained more than 15 years experience in a variety roles.
She said this experience had given her a deep understanding of farming, business and the CBH Group structure.
“I’ve got a strong understanding of the financial side of the business and I understand the hands-on practical side,” Ms Browning said.
“When I was 17 I was a grain sampler at CBH and then I worked on the farm until we had kids – I’ve actually driven a truck and delivered grain and now I manage the complete financial and administration side of the business, so I think I’ve got a really good balance of skills.”
Despite her youth, leadership experience is not an issue for Ms Browning who sits on the CBH Grower Advisory Council, the Rabobank Client Council and is getting ready to start as the chairperson of the Narembeen District High School board.
Along with this, she is completing a commerce degree through Curtin University and nearing graduation of the Australian Institute of Company Directors program.
Ms Browning is a firm supporter of the CBH Group’s co-operative structure, and has participated in the Executive Leadership Program: Co-operatives and Mutuals run through The University of Western Australian and the Australian Institute of Management.
“I’m a believer in the co-operative structure and I’ve focussed some of my study around that,” Ms Browning said.
“Through my studies I’ve gained a good understanding of business structures and legal requirements, legislative acts and financial statements.
“I’ve got a bit of professional development and experience there and I’m committed to continuing to develop that.”
If elected as a member director, Ms Browning planned to focus on increasing grower engagement and consultation, particularly with “once-in-a-generation” decisions such as the Network Strategy.
She said improving flexibility for growers by expanding services would also be a priority.
“CBH is still providing its core traditional services but we store a fair bit of grain on-farm mainly because of harvest logistic issues,” Ms Browning said.
“I’m a big CBH supporter and would like to sell grain back to CBH but they’re quite often significantly less competitive, I’d really like to look at that and see whether there can be a bit more flexibility with on-farm storage grain.”
Getting Tier 3 rail services back on track and improving network efficiencies would also be areas of focus for Ms Browning if elected, along with improving effective governance and promoting a positive culture within the co-operative.
She hoped to contribute her strong communication skills to the board to ensure the next generation of farmers remained supportive of the bulk handler.
“Being a younger grower, a lot of people I speak to have almost lost their connection with CBH and I really think we need to look at that,” Ms Browning said.
“We don’t want in another 15 years – when the next lot of growers are making the decisions – to let it slip through our fingers because we haven’t engaged with our growers enough.
“I’m an analyser and a very strategic thinker and I’d like to bring a bit of refreshment and some new ideas in to try and get that connection in with the younger growers and try and build a good culture going forward.”
Ms Browning was one of four who have nominated for the 2018 CBH Group Grower Members Director Elections in District 3, seeking election in the seat held by Pingelly farmer John Hassell who has not renominated.