For the first time in the award’s history, a salmon farmer has taken out the Australian Farmer of the Year award.
By Kallee Buchanan
Peter and Frances Bender from Huon Aquaculture in Hobart, Tasmania, were selected by an independent judging panel for the ABC Rural and Kondinin Group award which recognises rural champions both on and off-farm.
Kondinin Group’s Ben White said this years awards challenged the stereotypical view of ‘a farmer’, acknowledging fish farmers, a mushroom farmer, innovators and inventors.
Some of this year’s winners include:
Australian Farmer of the Year: Peter and Frances Bender (Tas)
Young Farmer of the Year: Christopher McLoghlin (Vic)
Farming Legend of the Year: Raymond Harrington (WA)
Rural Community Leader of the Year: Lorraine Gordon (NSW)
Rural Consultant of the Year: Tim Neale (Qld)
Australian Farmer of the Year: Peter and Frances Bender
Mrs Bender said it was a moment of national recognition for the often controversial industry.
Elisha Lovell with Huon founder Peter Bender and a market-weight specimen.
Huon founder Peter Bender and Elisha Lovell hold a market-weight kingfish. (ABC News: Sean Murphy)
“For us it means we’re recognised finally, publicly, as farmers, not fishers,” she said.
“We share all the same issues that farmers have.
“Like all farmers we are custodians of the land and our stock, we’re innovative and we control the process from egg to plate.”
The Benders started fish farming in the 1980s and now farm six million fish producing 25,000 tonnes of product annually.
They employ 605 staff with an annual turnover of $318 million.
Mr White said the Benders were an example of how, despite the diversity of the Australian agricultural industry, the characteristics of an outstanding farmer remain the same.
“Successful farmers are those who think innovatively about their enterprise and when faced with a challenge meet it head on,” he said.
“The Benders have demonstrated their farming excellence through their ability to operate a thriving and dynamic farming enterprise built on a thorough understanding of their stock, their sector, their staff and their region.”
Peter Bender also said he was happy to get the recognition for their decades of work, adding the family would continue to face criticism head on.
“It’s very sustainable despite what you might read on Facebook sometimes,” he said.