Mike and Velia O’Hare from “Greendale”, Beckom, have won this year’s NSW Farmer of the Year award.
They were announced the winner during the NSW Farm Writers Christmas lunch at NSW Parliament House today.
The O’Hares run a 2200-hectare mixed farm in south west NSW producing canola, wheat and lamb in a rotational cropping and grazing system underpinned by nitrogen-fixing, hard-seeded pasture legumes headed by biserrula.
The O’Hares are passionate about the value of biserrula as a hardy pasture performer in lower rainfall areas.
Mr O’Hare said biserrula had “unbelievable” persistence during dry times and could survive “false starts” when rain teases and then disappears.
The legume, native to Mediterranean areas of Europe and Africa, has fern-like leaves and can grow up to 50cm tall in good seasons.
“It’s (biserrula) got such potential in this environment and further west,” he said.
The other finalists in this year’s NSW Farmer of the Year competition were Will Coulton, “Getta Getta”, North Star, and Troy Blackman, Waterfall Produce, Upper Orara, west of Coffs Harbour.
The annual award is a joint initiative between NSW Farmers and the NSW Department of Primary Industries and is supported by SafeWork NSW and The Land newspaper.
After the horror millennium drought (2001-09) decimated sub-clovers on “Greendale” Mr O’Hare went in search of hardier legumes.
Casbah biserrula (a public variety without PBR) emerged as the star performer on “Greendale”.
About half the farm (900ha) is planted to biserrula with the remainder a mix of bladder, gland and arrowleaf clovers. Barrel medic and gland clover are planted on heavier country.
Mr O’Hare said the introduction of hard-seeded pasture legumes was right up there with some of the biggest innovations during his time in farming including the arrival of semi-dwarf wheats, canola and direct drilling in the 1970s.
Poor wool prices triggered a switch in 2006 to shedding sheep originally based on Dorper-Wiltipoll cross ewes but Mr O’Hare has since dumped Dorpers in favour of Australian Whites.
Mr O’Hare, 62, said the switch to easy-care shedding sheep was also made to reduce the workload as he got older.
This year’s Farmer of the Year judges were Derek Schoen, president of NSW Farmers, Brett Fifield, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Tony Williams from SafeWork NSW and Vernon Graham, representing The Land.