Producers Who Inspire: The Blacker Family
Family is at the heart of the Blacker farm nestled in the Lake Cargelligo-Hillston-Wallanthery heartland of central west New South Wales.
On more than 26,000 acres of mixed cropping and beef property operated by four generations of Blackers since the early-1980s, Robert and Vickie are joined by sons Andrew and Steve with wife Emily and children Molly, 2, and Billy, 4, all helping to keep the family legacy burning brightly.
“We grew up on the property and love the lifestyle,” Steve Blacker said of managing day-to-day operations alongside his brother and father also guiding their next generation.
It’s second nature for us and even though my son Billy is only four, he is mad about the farm. “I can certainly see him carrying on the farming legacy.”
While it will be a few years before young Billy is calling the shots, in the meantime he’s certainly witness to what it takes to build a successful farming dynasty.
“It’s a real family operation,” Mr Blacker told The Cultivator.
“With recent weather events and post-COVID, when it has been hard to find stable, reliable contractors, we’ve found most importantly that we all work really well together as a family.
“No two days or harvests are the same … my best advice is that you will never know everything.
“There is always something to learn and gain and the worst thing a farmer can do is just not listen to people.
“You always need to be up for a chat – whether it’s with the farmer next door, an agronomist, the grain receival operator, or the truck driver moving crops.”
Overlooking paddocks springing anew with lush-green wheat, Mr Blacker paused to reflect on the time of year of which he is most fond.
“There is nothing better than planting,” he said. “The weather is kinder, and you can take the time to enjoy the process.
“The harvest is also magical and while it is a lot of work, you get to see the fruits of your labour – and
that is so rewarding.”
Depending on the year and season, the family’s mixed beef cattle and cropping operation plants more than 4500 acres of Australian Prime Hard wheat and this year, about 800 acres of oats.
“We’re seeking the highest protein content and hoping for a stellar season but of course, you can never predict what will happen,” Mr Blacker cautioned in the wake of a record-breaking year of flooding.
Last year, we had around 300 millimetres of rain in October, but we were lucky not to be as impacted as other farmers.
“Located on the Lachlan River, we were blocked off partially, which led us to store more grain on-farm.”
Recent events precipitated a shift in the family’s farming strategy toward more investment in on-farm storage including silos, irrigation systems, and maintaining nutritious soil health.
“We’re reinvesting and modernising our current operations as opposed to property expansion,” said Mr Blacker.
“We’re looking to set up our own bunker and grain shed to allow us to sell grain continually throughout the year and take advantage of better prices.
“And we practise crop-rotation between wheat, oats, lucerne and a clover mix, with rest periods in between – which helps nitrogen fixation in the soils to create diversity in our fields and maintain a strong topsoil, reducing run-off in wetter seasons.”
The high-protein wheat grown by the Blackers is largely processed at Manildra Group’s world-class wheat gluten and starch site in Nowra, on the New South Wales south coast, with remaining wheat railed to our Narrandera Flour Mill.
“We choose to work with Manildra Group as we love to support Aussie family-owned businesses and greatly value what they do with us, for us and for regional Australia,” Mr Blacker said.
After working with “the close-knit Blacker family for many harvests now”, Manildra Group Head Grain Buyer Peter Sloan said it was “always a pleasure when their grains arrive on-site – delivering first-class wheat consistently and always up for a chat”.
“The Blackers’ proximity to Manildra Group’s Grong Grong grain storage site also makes it easy to transport and distribute their wheat to our regionally based manufacturing facilities,” added Mr Sloan.
To contact Manildra Group’s wheat grain specialists, phone 1300 MANILDRA.