Source: Cassandra Hough – ABC Rural

If there is a food that can be produced in the Cowra region, there is a pretty good chance Ed Fagan from Mulyan Farm grows it. Mr Fagan has been awarded the New South Wales Department of Primary Industry’s Farmer of the Year at an awards lunch in Sydney. The Fagan family’s 1600-hectare property produces lambs, wheat, canola, oats and popcorn, as well as horticulture crops including beetroot, asparagus, onions and baby spinach, and trades cattle.

Mr Fagan said he had been fortunate his property was well suited to horticulture as well as broad acre farming. “I know it sounds complex but it doesn’t seem that complex from day to day running. A lot of the crops don’t cross over, so you might have beetroot for a portion of the year and then we finish beetroot and then we can start onions, so it’s not as though everything is colliding.”

Processors have approached Mr Fagan to produce a number of the crops he grows, and he has been able to build his business around those arrangements. “We grow a lot of specialty crops and a lot of them we’ve been approached to grow, so it’s not as though I’ve gone out and grown something and crossed my fingers and hoped we could sell it,” he said. “The marketplace can be saturated at times and to give yourself a point of difference is something we’ve tried to do.

“So with red onions for instance, we’ve tied up genetics for a specific line of red onions that no one else has, and we’ve partnered with other companies in different areas of the country so we can have a block of marketing.”

Trying different things makes an impact…
The judges highlighted Mr Fagan’s use of innovation, management skills, environmental sustainability and community involvement as some of the keys to his win. However, Mr Fagan said he did not believe he had done any one big thing to improve his enterprise, but had tried a number of small different things that had made an impact. When the competition was so strong, there’s a lot of satisfaction in winning I can assure you, but I’m still really surprised.

Ed Fagan, NSW Farmer of the Year
“To do something and see a positive result I’ve probably had 10 failures to get to that one positive result, so it’s more of a relief than anything else.” He said a lot of work had gone into ensuring his products stood out in the marketplace. Mr Fagan acknowledged the other competition finalists including Canobolas cherry and apple growers Fiona and Bernard Hall, and Batemans Bay oyster farmer Ewan McAsh. Mr and Mrs Hall operate Caernarvon Cherry, a cherry and apple growing, packing and marketing business at Canobolas in the state’s central-west. Mr McAsh produces 60,000 dozen Sydney Rock Oysters each year on the Clyde River at Batemans Bay. Mr Fagan said he thought he had been a 100–1 chance to win. “I was lost for words really. It was such a surprise and such an honour to win,” he said. “I guess you could win an award and if the competition was really poor, I don’t think you’d get a huge amount of satisfaction out of it, but when the competition was so strong, there’s a lot of satisfaction in winning I can assure you, but I’m still really surprised.”