Coastal farmer gains schol­ar­ship

Albany Extra - - News - Cally Dupe

It’s one of the most top­i­cal sub­jects in WA farm­ing but Jo­hanna Tom­lin­son hopes to un­cover some gems about tack­ling soil acid­ity dur­ing her 2019 Nuffield Schol­ar­ship.

The south coast farmer plans to in­ves­ti­gate global soil and pro­duc­tion man­age­ment strate­gies after be­ing named WA’s only Nuffield Scholar in Mel­bourne last week.

She farms a hand­ful of prop­er­ties to­talling 3600ha along WA’s south coast, with a home farm at Kal­gan and other prop­er­ties at Gar­diner.

“My eyes will be opened more widely to soil health is­sues across the globe, and I want to bring that knowl­edge back to south coast grow­ers,” Ms Tom­lin­son said. “I want to visit land­scapes with highly weath­ered soils like we have in Aus­tralia, and a mix of old and new agri­cul­ture sys­tems.

“I am throw­ing the doors open to grow­ers to see what ques­tions they would like an­swers to.”

Now in its 71st year, the Nuffield Schol­ar­ship pro­gram is Aus­tralia’s most pres­ti­gious in the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try. Ms Tom­lin­son’s $30,000 study was funded by CBH.

With eight weeks of in­de­pen­dent travel re­quired, it kicks off with the in­ter­na­tional con­tem­po­rary schol­ars’ con­fer­ence in Iowa in March.

Ms Tom­lin­son said the schol­ar­ship would re­quire an “ad­vanced plan­ning rou­tine”. She hopes to visit the US, South Africa, New Zealand, and China, among other coun­tries, as well as Europe.

Ms Tom­lin­son, her hus­band Wayne and chil­dren So­phie, 14, Cameron, 12, and Nathan, eight, op­er­ate a 60:40 live­stock and crop­ping op­er­a­tion.

They have 1800 Merino cross Poll Dorset ewes, 1000 An­gus cat­tle and about 1400ha of crop, in­clud­ing canola, wheat and bar­ley (less canola in this year due to dry sea­son). They also op­er­ate Wayjo Feed­lot at Gar­diner which han­dles 1400 head a year for Har­vey Beef and Coles.

As if that isn’t enough, Ms Tom­lin­son also op­er­ates her own con­sul­tancy busi­ness, Clear South, spe­cial­is­ing in agri­cul­ture and nat­u­ral re­source man­age­ment.

“My first re­ac­tion to the schol­ar­ship was, ‘This is so ex­cit­ing’, but I was also won­der­ing, ‘How am I go­ing to fit this all in’,” she said. “It’s a lot of time away from home, the farm, three chil­dren and our busi­nesses. I re­ally re­gard this as my fam­ily’s Nuffield schol­ar­ship as well.” Nuffield chief ex­ec­u­tive Jodie Dean said there was a “big fo­cus” on sus­tain­abil­ity.

“I be­lieve this is in­dica­tive of their pas­sion for the long-term vi­a­bil­ity of the in­dus­try,” she said.

“Our new schol­ars demon­strate all of the qual­i­ties we need in agri­cul­ture.”

Pic­ture: Lau­rie Ben­son

Nuffield Schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ent Jo­hanna Tom­lin­son at her Al­bany farm with hus­band Wayne, and chil­dren Nathan, 8, Cameron, 12 and So­phie, 14.

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