CATEGORY: PRODUCTIVITY (GROWER)
Stephen Accornero might have been farming for 40 years but he’s still keen to look at ways to make his enterprise more productive.
The sugar cane farmer now includes dryland rice and maize in his cropping mix, despite being one of the only growers to move away from a sugar monoculture.
After trialling the alternative crops on a small scale and ironing out some of the potential bugs, Stephen, with his support crew of his wife Annalisa and son Brenden, has embarked on the break crops with as much enthusiasm as they have for sugar.
“We are not afraid to try to include other crops, even if they have been known to fail up here in the past,” Stephen says.
They have been growing maize for about 15 years, and in the past five years, rice has also provided a disease break from sugar.
The spread of enterprises is not the only way Stephen mitigates risk.
Instead of expanding to buy the farm next door he has chosen to split his farming interests around three different parts of the district. This has been a deliberate decision to mitigate risk in terms of disease, but also for management. In a high rainfall area (the region gets between 2000–3000mm a year), harvest can be held up because it is too wet, yet the spread of farms means there is always one that is dry enough for harvest to continue.
Stephen is passionate about the future of his area and leads by example in terms of trialling new crops. He is also involved with the local council on working groups trying to grow the agricultural base of the region as well as with Sunrice on expanding rice operations in the district.