2014 marked a significant milestone for 2012 NSW Farmers of the Year Peter and Alison Campbell. Over 100 years ago Peter’s grandfather started farming 640 acres (260 hectares) 17 kilometres west of Henty, near Albury in the Eastern Riverina area.
The Campbells have held the farm, ‘Avondale’, through three generations and two world wars. The farm has now grown to 4,500 acres (1,800 hectares) and comprises approximately 4,500 merino sheep as well as wheat and canola crops.
In the 25+ years they have been farming together, Peter and Alison have seen considerable change in farming techniques, particularly in crop rotation methods.
“I think that earlier farm practices were heavily influenced by farming in Europe and they didn’t fully appreciate the differences in our climate or soil. Over the last 25 years we have seen significant technology advancements, and we have gained a greater understanding of how to get the most out of the Australian land, especially with regard to looking after our soil and crop rotations”, Peter said.
Peter and Alison planted their first canola crop in 1992 to rotate with their wheat and, despite there being some risks associated with growing canola, it now contributes significantly to the farm’s profitability. Getting the crop rotation balance just right and staying ahead of the curve is crucial. Peter said, “It is important that you keep well informed of the latest advancements so you can maximise your harvest each year”.
Much of the Campbells’ success can be attributed to their attention to detail. Peter said, “Farming is all about the details: have I closed that gate; do we have enough feed for sheep; and where is the business at. You need to constantly remind yourself of the details and stay focused on what matters”.
As a result, the Campbells appreciate the same level of attention to detail in an accountant and business adviser. This is where RSM comes in. Peter and Alison are involved heavily within the community, running field days on their property and regularly attending activities related to the Riverine Plains farming group.
Peter said, “We were impressed that RSM has had a continual involvement with the Riverine Plains group. One year Jason Croker and Nadine Seymour were doing a presentation on restructuring. We liked the sound of what they were saying and thought this was a better way to do things so we had a chat”.
After this chat RSM went about restructuring Peter and Alison’s business from a company to a partnership. Peter said, “Jason and Nadine looked at all the details and determined that we would be better off working as a partnership. They also suggested we should set up a trust. While this was happening we also selected RSM to assist with our tax obligations and financial statements. We have been very happy with the efficiency with which Jason and Nadine go about their work. We truly appreciate their integrity and their proactive approach.”
There are always plenty of challenges when you work on the land but, according to Peter and Alison, it is the margins that present the greatest challenges as well as opportunities.
Peter said, “There are challenges every day. Everything from weather and seasonal changes to hiring the right people can affect our business. But the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity is the cost of doing business and the margins you can get. This leads to greater efficiencies, the ability to take advantage of new technology and therefore the ability to become better farmers. As a farm, your capacity to do all of this is directly affected by the way you manage your cash flow. This makes it absolutely vital to have trusted business advisers like RSM that can assist us with our needs both now and into the future”.