Sam finds family spirit in corporate farming

Shannon Beattie
By Shannon Beattie
December 13 2021 - 4:00am
Daybreak Cropping assistant farm manager Sam Couper.

FAMILY - that was what Sam Couper loved most about growing up on a farm and that hasn't changed now that he is the assistant manager for one of the State's largest corporate operations.

Having spent his entire childhood on the family farm at Three Springs, Mr Couper knew his father planned to sell the property, so after completing high school at Aquinas College, in Perth, he went on to do a heavy diesel mechanic apprenticeship in the Pilbara.

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While the money was great and there was a decent amount of time off, it didn't take him long to realise that the FIFO lifestyle wasn't for him and he went back to the family farm for a couple of years.

"I'd always grown up on a farm and all I ever wanted to be was a farmer, so even though I didn't mind the work up there, there was always something missing," Mr Couper said.

"I really enjoyed working alongside my dad and granddad - the relationship my father and I have and our ability to work side-by-side, I don't think many kids have that.

"He was one of my best mates and we're still like that today, even though we're five hours apart, he calls almost every day to see what's going on."

After two years back on the farm, the decision was made to finally sell it and not knowing what came next, Mr Couper jumped in a caravan with his partner Grace to travel around Australia.

At the end of their first year of travel in 2019, Mr Couper and Grace got as far as Darwin when they decided to come home a bit early for Christmas.

With time to spare, he decided to do a bit of work to make some more money and fund the next year of travel, eventually scoring a gig operating a boomsprayer at Dongara working for Paul Flanders, who was the farm manager of the property.

With Christmas done and dusted, the duo jumped back in their caravan and had made it to Queensland when Mr Couper received a call from Mr Flanders out of the blue.

"He was letting me know that he was starting a new job with Daybreak Cropping at Erregulla Plains at Mingenew and he asked me where I was and how quickly I could get home, as there was a job at the farm for me if I wanted it," Mr Couper said.

"I thought he was looking for someone to drive a boomsprayer again or to be an operator of some sort, but then he asked me how I would feel about being the assistant manager.

"I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but at the beginning of last year, just as COVID was kicking into gear, we did a mad dash home and got back into Mingenew the day the regions went into lockdown."

These days, Mr Couper operates as Mr Flanders' right-hand man by keeping the day-to-day activities running, managing the trucks coming and going and organising staff movements.

Stepping into a management level role was strange at first as he was used to being the one getting told what to do and was also the youngest in the team of full-time staff.

"We've got a great team of people so we don't really have to manage them as such," he said.

"They know what their job is and what they're doing, so they sometimes ask for some guidance or what we're doing next, but they're mostly very self-sufficient."

Mr Couper said that with the team they have, it still felt like working on a family farm.

"As much as it is a corporate farm, there is still a family feeling to it which is something I didn't expect," he said.

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"Our farm at Three Springs sold to a corporate and I vowed I would never work for one, but the way Paul treated me initially changed my mind and now that I've worked within Daybreak, I definitely see it differently."

With almost two years as assistant under his belt, Mr Couper's short-term goal, within the next couple of years, is to step up to a farm manager role and run his own property.

He holds a position on a committee for capital expenditure with Daybreak Cropping that sees him sit alongside the chief executive officer, operations managers and other farm managers across the country, providing a certain level of exposure to senior management.

"I like that we're changing agriculture for the better," Mr Couper said.

"Within Daybreak we can do a lot of things that, as a family farmer, I never would have been able to do.

"Anything we can do to grow a bigger, better and cheaper crop is the way forward, so being part of that innovation is really exciting."

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