Gong for a leg­end

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - KAROLIN MACGREGOR

DAIRY in­dus­try vet­eran and founder of Ash­grove Cheese John Ben­nett has been named the Aus­tralian farm­ing leg­end of the year.

Mr Ben­nett was an­nounced as the win­ner of the award in Can­berra on Wed­nes­day.

A found­ing part­ner of Ash­grove Farms, up un­til his re­tire­ment in 2012 he was chair­man of Ash­grove Cheese.

Us­ing an in­te­grated busi­ness ap­proach, Mr Ben­nett headed up Ash­grove Farms, help­ing it be­come one of the most suc­cess­ful dairy­ing fam­ily busi­nesses in Aus­tralia.

How­ever, Mr Ben­nett is hum­ble about his achieve­ments and cred­its them to get- ting on with things and do­ing what he thought was right for his fam­ily and the in­dus­try.

“My fo­cus has al­ways been the farm and how we as an in­dus­try could work to­gether to make things bet­ter,” Mr Ben­nett said.

“I ini­ti­ated the idea of start­ing on-farm pro­cess­ing dur­ing the early 1980s, when un­em­ploy­ment in North-West Tas­ma­nia was high.

“To­gether with my brother Michael and son Paul we be­gan build­ing the ‘fac­tory in a pad­dock’ dur­ing the off-dairy sea­son.”

Mr Ben­nett said back then on-farm pro­cess­ing was a new con­cept.

“It got a lot of at­ten­tion be­cause at the time it was pretty unique, but that is where Ash­grove started and I am very proud of how far we have come,” he said.

As well as build­ing a suc­cess­ful busi­ness and brand, the past 60 years have seen Mr Ben­nett help shape the mod­ern Aus­tralian dairy in­dus­try.

He played a big role in de­vel­op­ing the Aus­tralian Dairy Herd Im­prove­ment Scheme, which was formed in 1982.

“Es­tab­lish­ing the scheme in­volved sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges as it ne­ces­si­tated all states co­op­er­at­ing to pro­vide the data re­quired to iden­tify the ge­net­i­cally best an­i­mals in the na­tional dairy herd,” he said.

“We got ev­ery­one talk­ing and today we see how suc­cess­ful the scheme has been. Dairy cows in Aus­tralia are as good as any­where in the world.”

He was also in­volved in re­form­ing the in­dus­try’s mar­ket­ing sys­tem dur­ing the 1980s.

Cur­rent Ash­grove Cheese chair­man Paul Ben­nett is proud of his fa­ther’s con­tri­bu­tion.

“I don’t think there is a per­son who has done more for agri­cul­ture in Tas­ma­nia and in Aus­tralia than my fa­ther.

“To be as pro­gres­sive as he was and to recog­nise the food move­ment 30 years ago, and the con­cept of pre­mium brand­ing, shows in­cred­i­ble fore­sight.”

Fore­sight recog­nised

CA­REER HON­OURED: John Ben­nett ini­ti­ated on-farm pro­cess­ing at Ash­grove.

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