Pick of the cotton crop
IT’S taken years of hard work and dedication, but after almost 25 years Greg and Maryann Bender are finally the pick of the Darling Downs cotton farming community after recently taking home the Vanderfield Grower of the Year Award. Mr and Mrs Bender purchased the dry land property, Baradoo Plains, at Hopeland soon after they were married in the early 90s.
“I saw the value in it, at the time that was the reason. We bought this place assuming we were going to grow wheat worth $200 a ton and I think the first year we harvested it was worth $90 a ton and we thought, ‘we can’t see this paying the budget’.
“That’s what really interested me about cotton, it was a young dynamic industry whereas the grain industry was an older industry... the cotton industry is more progressive.”
Mr Bender said he was surprised to receive the award, which includes cotton farmers from across the Darling Downs and is judged not on yield but on best management and sustainable practice.
“I didn’t expect to win it, everyone’s done a pretty good job really. I don’t really 100% know what the judging criteria is but it’s a bit of a blend. Years ago, all the competitions were strictly about yield.
“Yield is now a minor part, they’re looking more at the whole farm picture – your water-use efficiency and irrigation, how you transfer and move water around the farm.”
In the past four years, the Benders have taken a new approach to irrigation, installing a 1200-metre sprinkler system which has allowed them to diversify their 810ha property.
As well as their tried and true cotton crop, they now grow corn, chickpeas, mung beans and barley.
Mr Bender said the irrigation system meant he could grow crops all year and that in the past two years chickpeas had been “a good money spender”.
AWARD: Greg Bender wins Vanderfield Grower of the year Award.