Finalists of the Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Award

August 29, 2012

Producers from Victoria and South Australia have been named as finalists in the plant Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Award. Rodney Pohlner (Glenlee, Victoria), the Schwedes family (also of Glenlee), and Steve Rathjen (Murray Bridge, SA) have been recognised as outstanding entrants in the national award.

Sponsored by Plant Health Australia and Animal Health Australia, the award recognises the efforts of producers dedicated to keeping their operations free of diseases, pests and weeds.

The winner of the plant section of the Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Award will be announced at the awards ceremony to be held in Melbourne on Wednesday 12 September as part of the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards hosted by Kondinin Group and ABC Rural.

Thanks to everyone who nominated for the award.

The finalists

Rodney Pohlner – Glenlee, Victoria

Rodney Pohlner is a fourth generation farmer who currently owns and manages a 600 hectare property in the locality of Glenlee, which is north west of Horsham in Victoria’s Wimmera agricultural region.

Rodney grows varying amounts and rotations of wheat, barley, canola, beans and lentils. The rotations are employed for weed and disease control, soil fertility improvements and to maximise income.

Many of his on-farm biosecurity practices are used to manage endemic pests. He was brought up being told that what we now call biosecurity was good farming. Rodney is involved in numerous community groups to raise awareness and works closely with DPI and industry to ensure biosecurity practices are followed at a variety of levels, not just on his farm.

Harry, Greg and Adam Schwedes – Glenlee, Victoria

Harry, Greg and Adam Schwedes are three generations of farmers who currently own and jointly manage a 2,500 hectare property in Glenlee.

Harry, who is 85 years old, has been farming for 70 years. His son Greg and grandson Adam see a bright future for growing grain on their property, varying amounts and rotations of wheat, barley, canola, chickpeas, faba beans, lentils, lupins, field peas and vetch.

Farming techniques are based on proven biosecurity principles, but years of experience are also invaluable in their efforts to combat pests and weeds. The Schwedes demonstrate that integrating biosecurity practices into daily life can be done easily and cheaply, while also protecting their business in the long run. Their policy is to act quickly and attempt to eradicate new pest arrivals because they know that living with an established pest is difficult and costly.

Steve Rathjen – Delta Produce, South Australia

Steve Rathjen is a fourth generation farmer who has been producing onions in the Murray Bridge and Bordertown regions of South Australia for many years. In 2010 Steve received the Reg Miller Award from Onions Australia, acknowledging his commitment to the industry.

Basic on-farm biosecurity practices are standard on the property with gate signs and restricted entry enforced. He has dedicated vehicles and farm equipment, ensuring that they are regularly cleaned to maintain a high level of on-farm hygiene. He has also been a participant in the Onion Mallee Stunt research and development project, including hosting field trials.

Steve has introduced a range of environmentally sound alternatives to standard IPM. He is a big fan of best practice management, believing the key to future farming is relying on reduced chemical application.