While he might be legendary in the dairy industry, Ashgrove founder John Bennett’s farming success was recognised on a wider level as when he was named a national farming legend.
Mr Bennett was presented with the Kondinin Group and ABC Rural 2017 Farming Legend of the Year Award at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday.
Over the past 60 years Mr Bennett has played a significant role in shaping Australia’s dairy industry through his commitment to dairy research and helping farmers and manufacturers to grow, compete and stay relevant in the market.
His innovation in business saw Mr Bennett head up Ashgrove Farms until his retirement in 2012, with the business becoming one of the most successful family dairy farming operations in Australia.
“I initiated the idea of starting on-farm processing during the early ‘80s, when unemployment in North-West Tasmania was high,” Mr Bennett said.
He sees the secret to his success as “just getting on with things” and doing what was right for his family and the dairy industry, he said.
“My focus has always been the farm and how we as an industry could work together to make things better,” Mr Bennett said.
“Together with my brother Michael and son Paul, we began hand building the ‘factory in a paddock’ from upcycled mining equipment during the off-dairy season.
“We could process milk, cheese, cream and butter all on-farm. At the time it was pretty unique, but that is where Ashgrove started and I am very proud of how far we have come,” he said.
Mr Bennett was instrumental in the development of the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme, which was formed in 1982.
“Establishing the scheme involved significant challenges as it necessitated all states cooperating to provide the data required to identify the genetically best animals in the national dairy herd,” Mr Bennett said.
While the scheme got everyone talking, Mr Bennett said the proof was in the pudding, so to speak, because “dairy cows in Australia are as good as anywhere in the world”.
He was also involved in the industry’s marketing system reforms during the 1980s.
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