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Winter 2015

A Rewarding Trajectory

Cotton Australia, the peak representative body for Australia’s cotton growing industry, announced the finalists for their prestigious annual Awards at the beginning of June. The Awards were first granted in 2004, and they recognise high achievement in, and valuable contribution to, the Australian cotton industry - from growers and ginners to product suppliers, consultants, agronomists, researchers and extension teams. Mr Adam Kay, Cotton Australia’s CEO, recognises that each of the 2015 finalists has made outstanding contributions to the industry, for all of them are ‘leaders in their fields, and each have contributed enormously to our industry in key areas such as on-farm best practice, research and development, innovation and community leadership’.

One of the finalists in the category Monsanto Grower of the Year and AgriRisk High Achiever of the Year are Tristram Hertslet (manager) and Robert and Jennie Reardon (owners), of Reardon Farms in Talwood. Robert and his wife Jennie, who have been farming since 1969, are originally from Moree, where Robert’s father helped them to get started in a 650Ha dryland cropping property they named ‘Limerick’. Reardon Farms do not own Limerick any more, but they have two other properties in the vicinity of Moree, which were acquired in the mid to late 70s, plus five properties in the Queensland Macintyre Valley area, near Talwood and Bungunya.

Robert began to develop his properties into irrigation almost thirty years ago, initially as a move forward from the hard times that the grain industry went through in the mid-80s. In addition to irrigated cotton, Reardon Farms currently grow dryland wheat, sorghum, barley, chickpeas, sunflowers and cotton. They also run cattle (400-450 head of cows) on areas that aren't growing crops, and operate a licensed feedlot. The farms provide employment for around 25 permanent staff plus a number of casual seasonal employees.

The ability to forge and maintain strong relationships, and to contribute to the community, weaves through the story of Robert and Jennie’s success. Robert, who also served as Councillor on the Goondiwindi Regional Council for eight years, stresses the importance of good business relationships, for example with his bank; Reardon Farms have always budgeted carefully (in fact, they currently review their budget on three key separate occasions every year), and this has helped them have a close relationship and earn the trust of their banker, WBC Moree Agribusiness, who, in Robert’s words, ‘has supported us when we needed it’. Robert also appreciates their Accountants, Boyce CA, Moree, highly, for ‘always been a very big part of our support team’.

Reardon Farms also have a very good relationship with Vanderfield St George, who Robert says provide ‘excellent service’. Reardon Farms have always been at the forefront of technology and used modern machinery and equipment in their farming practices, and to this end they boast a range of John Deere machinery, including cotton pickers, sprayers and tractors, and technology. Indeed, being on the leading edge of technology is one of several factors that Robert puts the success of his operation down to, and John Travers and his team at Vanderfield St George are proud to be able to come along and have a part in it.

Roberts’ goal has always been to ‘do a job as good as possible’, but being a good operator is only part of the story. One of the main strengths that Robert sees as a key element of success is surrounding oneself with reliable, capable staff, and Reardon Farms certainly has that. In an industry where it may be difficult at times to achieve this goal due to a variety of reasons, they have been able to connect with their community and build a workforce of quality employees that sometimes start as seasonal workers and end up staying on a permanent basis. Indeed, some of the staff at Reardon Farms have been with them for decades, and have no plans to move on. Their focus on best practice is supported by different workshops and initiatives on and off-farm that support the continuous development of team members. Like most everyone in the primary industries, Robert has had his share of tough times, but the Reardons know that ‘a bad year can be followed by a good one’, and, with that faith, they avoid putting people off, which results in higher security of employ- ment for their workers while allowing them to keep the knowledge base within the business.

It is not difficult to see why Reardon Farms are finalists in the prestigious and competitive Australian Cotton Industry Awards. We join Robert and Jennie, their daughters Julie, Kate and Margo and their families, Tristram, and the whole team in celebrating this achievement and we look forward to many more celebrations to come.