Gong for a legend
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.”
CAREER HONOURED: John Bennett initiated on-farm processing at Ashgrove.