Caroline Millar - Effective collaboration between rural businesses
I am the most northerly Scholar in this year's group, living at Auchterhouse, near Dundee. My husband Ross, son Finlay (7) and daughter Sophie (5) live on our 650 acre farm taking in arable, beef and sheep enterprises. We have an on-farm diversification called The Hideaway Experience which offers luxurious escapes for couples. I enjoy interacting with a lot of different rural business owners not only through the farm and Hideaway business but also through a consultancy business I run providing strategy and business development support.
I have recently completed a Rural Leadership programme run by Scottish Enterprise and as a result I am now one of four director of a new organisation called Go Rural Ltd. Go Rural will work with diversified rural tourism and leisure businesses and industry partners to make it easy for City residents and visitors to experience Rural Scotland 90 minutes from the City boundary. I am delighted to be awarded a Nuffield Scholarship and look forward to looking at best practice in rural business collaboration from around the world.
I have fallen in love with Tasmania since arriving here on Sunday. Here are some quick facts and figures.
An island the size of England with a population the roughly the same size as Edinburgh, (ust over 500,000) means that Tasmanian farmer's and business owners have to look to both the mainland and export markets as a matter of course to find markets for their products.
Tasmanian looks a lot like Scotland in places. Tasmanian food and drink is promoted as Australia's natural larder. Farm diversificaton and adding value to core agricultural products for food and drink production is an important area of growth for farm businesses.
Agriculture in Tasmania accounts for 16 percent of the states GDP, the highest of any Australian state. The current expansion of irrigation throughout the state is expected to double agricultural production every 10 years.
Nearly a third of Tasmania’s land area of 68,300 sq km is committed to agriculture. The State has some of the world’s most productive soils and the people who work in the agriculture sector take pride in using cutting-edge technology in their production methods, packaging and marketing. The Tasmanian Government has placed a moratorium on the commercial production of GM crops. Hormones and antibiotics are not used to promote growth in livestock .
Tasmanians make a disproportionate contribution to Australia’s output of vegetables, accounting for about 10 per cent of national vegetable exports. Potatoes, onions and carrots are the major vegetable crops, but farm businesses are versatile and increasingly diversified. Barley, wheat and oats lead grain production, while poppies, pyrethrum, essential oils, seeds and flowers provide innovative cropping options.
The State is noted for the excellence of superfine wool produced mainly from Saxon Merino sheep on grazing properties in lower rainfall districts. Tasmanian wool has often set world record prices at auction.
Farm diversification in Tasmania, Victoria and New Zealand - December 2012
One week from now I will get the first of ten planes as part of an exciting Nuffield study to Tasmania, Victoria and South Island New Zealand. At this moment in time I am counting down the days and have a trip to Stratford Upon Avon for the Nuffield UK Conference to come this weekend - husband Ross is in charge of everything while I am away including all Christmas preparations this year as I return on Christmas Eve.
My study topic is looking at family farms which have diversified and the impact on this diversification on the family business. Some of the businesses down under which I have researched from home before my visit are looking like great case studies to demonstrate how diversification can assist management succession in a business, deliver growth from identifying and exploiting market opportunities, encouraging economic impact in the local community.
I am also going to stay with a few different Nuffield Scholars including Michael Chilvers in Tasmania (who has just left Balkello after staying here last week), Ashleigh Fraser in Rutherglen, Victoria and one of the newly announced 2013 New Zealand Scholars, Lisa Harper from the Marlborough Sounds.
I have only been to Melbourne once before but haven't explored Victoria or Tasmania. I worked in New Zealand for almost a year in 1997 and I have found having the baseline knowledge about the South Island and contacts has fast tracked me in to various businesses and allowed me to set up some interesting meetings with government, agriculture and food and drink agencies.