Bolling with change

Re­views keep cen­tury-old en­ter­prise go­ing strong

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - Nicola Bell [email protected]­ral­weekly.com

THE Stor­rier fam­ily have been farm­ing in the Hill­ston area of south­west NSW for more than 100 years.

But that doesn’t mean they con­tinue to do things as they’ve al­ways been done.

In­stead, they’ve con­tin­u­ally adapted their en­ter­prises and busi­ness struc­ture to en­sure their suc­cess and vi­a­bil­ity.

The Stor­ri­ers first started farm­ing in the 1870s and now the busi­ness, Riverview Farm­ing, is owned and oper­ated by Paul and Ca­role Stor­rier, their eldest son Michael and his wife Stacey, with their chil­dren Char­lotte and Harry, and their youngest daugh­ter Jenny Cle­ton and her hus­band Paul, with their chil­dren Lucy, Hugh and Doug.

Riverview Farm­ing is run across 9490ha in ad­di­tion to a 390ha lease block, pro­duc­ing ir­ri­gated cot­ton, dry­land and ir­ri­gated wheat and short­horn cat­tle.

Their main crop is cot­ton, with about 1000ha grown each year.

Stacey Stor­rier said the cot­ton was 100 per cent ir­ri­gated as they didn’t re­ceive enough rain in the area to grow dry­land. Their av­er­age an­nual rain­fall is 350mm.

Ir­ri­gation wa­ter comes from the Lach­lan River and five bores spread over their five prop­er­ties.

“We planted our first cot­ton crop in 1998 when it was very new to the area. We crunched a lot of num­bers and re­alised cot­ton was more prof­itable. Prior to cot­ton there was a lot of maize and wheat grown,” Stacey said.

The av­er­age yield of the cot­ton is about 12–12.5 bales/ha.

“These days that is fairly achiev­able in most years. There are years we have done a lot bet­ter than that, there are also cooler sea­sons when yield has been be­low this,” Stacey said.

Va­ri­eties grown were the same as the north­ern grow­ing ar­eas, but the crop is man­aged with growth reg­u­lants to make sure it fin­ishes on time. Plant­ing ideally be­gins at the end of Septem­ber to mid-Oc­to­ber, with pick­ing in April and May.

The Stor­ri­ers use a pri­vate agron­o­mist and grow va­ri­ety tri­als for Cot­ton Seed Dis­trib­u­tors, some­thing they have been do­ing for about 10 years.

“It helps to see what the va­ri­eties will do be­fore they come out com­mer­cially, so the bonus is we get to test va­ri­eties, grow­ing them the same way we grow our own cot­ton.”

BIG­GER, BET­TER

RIVERVIEW Farm­ing is also a

Bet­ter Cot­ton Ini­tia­tive li­censed grower, which aims to make cot­ton pro­duc­tion more sus­tain­able.

While there is no deny­ing this year has been tough sea­son-wise, Stacey said they had man­aged to plant their usual 1000ha of cot­ton by mak­ing use of their wa­ter al­lo­ca­tions.

“We try and spread our wa­ter al­lo­ca­tions over a cou­ple of sea­sons to main­tain a steady pro­duc­tion, which is the way we have drought­proofed our busi­ness,” she said.

How­ever, she said the price of wa­ter at the mo­ment was high so this would in­hibit any wa­ter pur­chases, and the lack of rain­fall re­cently had meant there was lit­tle op­por­tu­nity to spread wa­ter al­lo­ca­tions to next sea­son.

“The next 12 months will be in­ter­est­ing. We aren’t sure what will hap­pen for the sea­son after this one,” she said.

Wa­ter mon­i­tor­ing was an im­por­tant part of the farm, with mois­ture probes in each of the cot­ton fields so they could “keep track” of mois­ture to in­form all ir­ri­gation de­ci­sions.

Stacey said they had been up­dat­ing their ir­ri­gation in­fra­struc­ture.

“We were pre­dom­i­nantly us­ing siphons 10 years ago, but grad­u­ally we have been chang­ing over and have 12 cen­tre piv­ots and one lat­eral mov­ing ir­ri­ga­tor,” she said.

They are also re­de­vel­op­ing other fields from siphons to ban­k­less chan­nels, which means they can con­trol the flow of wa­ter more eas­ily across the pad­dock.

Once the cot­ton is picked, Stacey said they mulch, root cut and plant wheat, so they are get­ting a dou­ble crop and mak­ing the most of the mois­ture left over from the cot­ton.

“The ro­ta­tion con­sisted of cot­ton, wheat and then fal­low to re­duce the risk of dis­ease,” she said.

BALE OUT

THE Stor­ri­ers mostly use all their own equip­ment and pur­chased a round-bale cot­ton picker when they first came on to the mar­ket.

“The picker is oper­ated by one per­son, with one other per­son re­quired to as­sist with the daily ser­vic­ing, which sig­nif­i­cantly re­duces any work health and safety is­sues.”

They also run a small herd of short­horn cat­tle, cur­rently with about 200 breed­ing fe­males. Stacey said the cat­tle pro­vided an in­come stream out­side of grow­ing crops and the short­horn suited their cli­mate and had a good tem­per­a­ment.

One of the keys of the Stor­ri­ers’ suc­cess is that they op­er­ate the farm by a board struc­ture.

“About 15 years ago Paul went to a Graz­ing for Profit work­shop and from there we be­came in­volved in a con­sul­tancy group called Strate­gic Fo­cus, which was a two-year pro­gram where we looked at our busi­ness and other busi­nesses to see where we could im­prove,” Stacey said.

It was after that they took on a fa­cil­i­ta­tor, who sits on the Riverview Farm­ing board with them, and meets with them four times a year to de­velop strate­gies to im­prove their busi­ness and for fu­ture plan­ning.

“It’s a fam­ily busi­ness and we all get along well, but the pres­sure of farm­ing can add stress to the fam­ily, so this struc­ture means, yes, we are a fam­ily and a busi­ness, but they are sep­a­rate things,” Stacey said.

“I think it’s a big rea­son why we’ve been so suc­cess­ful, be­cause the six of us all sit COT­TONED ON: A cot­ton crop at the Stor­rier fam­ily’s Riverview Farm­ing at Hill­ston, NSW. HAR­VEST TIME: Pick­ing and bal­ing the cot­ton crop at the Stor­rier fam­ily’s prop­erty. down to­gether and go over ev­ery­thing to­gether and we have things in place so we are all com­fort­able and happy.”

Stacey said dur­ing the process they’ve worked out what each of their strengths are, so they all have a par­tic­u­lar role within the busi­ness. They also have monthly phone meet­ings with their fa­cil­i­ta­tor, to dis­cuss what has been go­ing on, how every­one is feel­ing, and what is com­ing up.

❝ We try and spread our wa­ter al­lo­ca­tions over a cou­ple of sea­sons... — Stacey Stor­rier

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

FO­CUS: The Stor­rier fam­ily have been farm­ing in the Hill­ston re­gion for more than 100 years, but that doesn’t mean they are do­ing things the way they’ve al­ways been done. (Back) Lucy Cle­ton, Char­lotte Stor­rier, Doug Cle­ton, Harry Stor­rier, Hugh Cle­ton, (front) Michael Stor­rier, Stacey Stor­rier, Paul Stor­rier, Ca­role Stor­rier, Jenny Cle­ton, Spot (the dog) and Paul Cle­ton from Riverview Farm­ing at Hill­ston, NSW.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

FO­CUS: (From left) Michael, Harry and Paul Stor­rier in a cot­ton crop at Riverview Farm­ing, Hill­ston, NSW.

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