Ten minutes with young farmer John Barden
Tell us about yourself in three points.
I was born and raised at Parkes, in Central West NSW, and attended Red Bend Catholic Collage at Forbes.
My family farming operation consists of mixed cropping and fat lambs.
I currently run my own skilled agricultural labour hire business and have a passion for rural photography, cooking and kelpie dogs.
What’s your favourite aspect of farming, or do you favour a particular crop or livestock?
I enjoy both livestock and cropping and believe they support each other well.
But my favourite aspect of farming is being
surrounded by passionate people who are always searching to further the agricultural industry, to enable us to keep producing a quality and sustainable food source for our ever-growing population.
Who are your role models in farming and outside the industry, and why?
I have been very privileged to have a met a lot of excellent farmers and business owners throughout my career and have always taken a piece of advice from each and every one of them – and tried to apply it to my own undertakings.
As for a non-farming role model, I follow Alex Malley – he has given me a very different outlook on life and how to approach the obstacles it throws at you. His book The Naked CEO is a must-read.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given from the previous farming generations?
Be open-minded and not afraid of change. Our industry and climate is ever-changing and we need to be able to embrace it and apply it to ensure our future.
What advice do you think you would give to someone young?
To get in and have a go; be conservative and aware of potential risks; but most of all, enjoy what you do!
Personally, what do you think the biggest problems are facing agriculture in your area?
It would have to be connectivity! As the ag industry embraces digital technology, our communications sector is still in the dark ages! Patchy mobile service and slow internet speed will only allow the industry to progress so far.
If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would you do or change?
I would implement an agricultural subsidy to ensure the longevity of Australian agriculture and make it more attractive to the younger generation.
I would also limit the amount of food imports – we grow the best produce in the world so it should be consumed by us, which in turn will help with disease control.
Do you think there’s a divide between agriculturalists and non-agriculturalists in your area?
I don’t think there is a divide – it’s always been a farming community and most people have some connection with the industry.
What was your biggest challenge as a younger farmer taking over the reins of an enterprise?
The biggest challenge for me is trying to implement new ideas and getting them to gel with the existing farming program to enhance the performance of our operation.
There is no room for error so everything must be evaluated cautiously.
If there’s one thing you could have done differently, what was it?
If I could have my time over, I would have liked to have completed a few more courses or a degree in agriculture – I think it would have given me a broader understanding of the industry.
In a perfect world (and unfortunately agriculture is perfectly imperfect), what would the future look like for your business?
I would like to see some expansion in the near future. I am very keen to further direct marketing – especially with the livestock, as I think consumers are wanting more traceability with our products.
If you are facing a problem on-farm, do you openly seek advice/help from others, or do you manage it yourself?
If I can’t resolve it myself, I certainly will reach out to others – that’s one of the best things about our industry; the knowledge within the generations that’s happily shared.
Do you have any hobbies/interests away from the farm?
I enjoy water-skiing, metal fabrication and engineering, picnic races, travelling… and sampling every bakery I go past!
Would you say that you are willing to try new things on the farm? Or do you try to stick with what’s worked before?
There are definitely some great improvements and ideas in our industry that come to light every day, and you have to be open to them.
A great example is when my father introduced minimum tillage at home – we were able to conserve a lot of moisture with stubble retention and lower the number of our spray applications.
If farming wasn’t an option, what would be your next dream job?
Male modelling… (I’m thankful farming is a good option for me)!