Australian Farmer of the Year awards celebrate outstanding achievements in agriculture

Australian Farmer of the Year
Michael Taylor
Kentucky, NSW

Sixth-generation wool grower Mr Taylor, from Kentucky, New South Wales, is the outstanding recipient of the 2022 Australian Farmer of the Year Award.

Mr Taylor, whose family has farmed in the New England region of NSW for more than 180 years, has built a reputation around his future-focused approach to farming and takes his role in the sustainability of the Australian agricultural industry seriously.

Through tree planting and rotational grazing, Mr Taylor has increased stocking capacity, lambing percentages, reduced degradation, and sequestered carbon for the future.

Taylors Run is both the Taylor family’s farm name and wool brand, providing a distinct marketing arm for the farm’s superfine wool merinos and angus beef cattle.

Mr Taylor is an active member in the wool industry, supporting grower groups such as Tablelands merino and as a founding member and director of the Australian Ethical merino Growers Co-operative.

Agroforestry has contributed significantly to Mr Taylor’s farm, supporting his aim to run a sustainable and regenerative enterprise.

As an active member of his local Landcare group and also as a director for Southern New England Landcare, Mr Taylor’s network and knowledge of agroforestry has been recognised nationally through awards and presentations, but most importantly, as a local mentor for other farmers wanting to manage the trees on their farms.

Mr Taylor is the 12th winner of the Kondinin Group and ABC Rural Australian Farmer of the Year award.

The annual awards program has been running since 2010 and recognises excellence in farming and farming communities across rural and regional Australia.

The 2022 Awards are supported by Platinum Sponsor WFI.

Young Farmer of the Year and Award for Excellence in Innovation
Brad Egan
Scaddan, Western Australia

A commitment to technology integration and capacity building within his community has made Western Australian grain grower Brad Egan the deserving winner of the 2022 Young Farmer of the Year Award, sponsored by McDonald’s Australia.

Brad Egan is also the recipient of the 2022 Award for Excellence in Innovation, sponsored by Telstra.

Together with his parents, Mr Egan operates a broadacre cropping enterprise in Scaddan, about 60km north-east of Esperance, WA.

He has enthusiastically introduced a range of data analysis tools and science into the farm’s management toolkit, which has impressed many within the industry.

Mr Egan has played a large part in implementing innovative farm management practices into the business, managing all of the agdata on-farm and analysing it to better characterise soils, understand production constraints, and gain valuable insight into their financial position.

He shares his knowledge and experiences with other young farmers in the region and has spoken at various field days, farm visits and industry events.

Mr Egan is the Vice Chair of South East Premium Wheat Growers Association’s (SEPWA) Youth in Ag, organising events to connect the large population of youth in agriculture in the Esperance region and promote the work SEPWA does.

Mr Egan and his family have also taken steps to support local businesses and are currently supplying raw grain to the local brewery.

Farming Legend of the Year
Richard Wright
Tamworth, New South Wales

Involved in many roles – from cattleman to past Vice President of the NSW Farmers’ Association – Richard Wright has played an integral part in the development of the Australian cattle industry.

Richard Wright’s dedication to the growth and progression of the industry, not just in NSW but across the country, has earned him the title of 2022 Farming Legend of the Year.

Mr Wright grew up on Jeogla Station in the northern tablelands of NSW, approximately 50 kilometres east of Armidale.

His family owned the station, which covered about 5650 hectares, between 1902 to 1998. While at Jeogla, Mr Wright was involved in many initiatives.

In 1984 Jeogla launched the first on-site physical cattle sale coupled with simultaneous video presentation in four states.

Further innovation after this resulted in Computer Aided Livestock Marketing (CALM). Jeogla was also one of the first properties in Australia to take up ‘Cattlecare’, an on-farm quality assurance program developed to ensure domestic and export processors’ and consumers’ continuing confidence in Australia’s beef quality and safety.

Mr Wright was the inaugural chairman of the quality assurance concept. Jeogla was also the first cattle property to adopt the International ISO accreditation.

Mr Wright has taken on leadership roles within the industry, including at NSW Farmers, the National Farmers’ Federation and the Cattle Council of Australia.

He helped establish what is now known as Auctions Plus, conducted the first trials on controlled oestrus (the forerunner to prostaglandin).

He discovered the critical necessity for selenium as a key trace element on the tablelands. He learned how to pregnancy-test cattle, and has since taught many producers the skill, and was instrumental in importing ‘simmental’ blood into traditional hereford cattle, thereby increasing carcase yields by 20 per cent.

Mr Wright was part of a major legal precedent whereby farm assets must be sold at “fair market value”, which was used as evidence in the 2018 Banking Royal Commission.

Even now that he is officially semi-retired, Mr Wright still runs some trading cattle on a small farm in the Upper Hunter Valley and has helped establish a rural skills training course for indigenous Australians at Trelawney in Tamworth NSW.

Rural Community Leader of the Year
Sarah Parker
Undera, Victoria

Dairy farmer Sarah Parker from Undera, Victoria, has been described as wearing many hats – volunteering for numerous organisations for the betterment of her community and the greater industry.

All while running a full-time dairy with her husband, Raymond.

Her enthusiasm for supporting other farmers, youth and women in agriculture has earned Ms Parker the 2022 Rural Community Leader of the Year Award.

Ms Parker is passionate about giving back to her community and supporting the growth of those in the industry.

She serves a range of organisations, working with them to improve conditions, advance causes, highlight issues and provide opportunities for people to get involved, grow their skills and knowledge and connect with others.

Ms Parker is the immediate past President and current Treasurer of Australian Women in Agriculture (AWiA), Vice President of the National Rural Women’s Coalition, and Treasurer/Secretary of a Collective Bargaining Group that works to achieve the best price for its dairy farmers.

Ms Parker is a member of the Victoria Farmers’ Federation (VFF) Farm Business and Regional Development Committee and has served on several VFF committees, including as a founding member and Vice President of the Young Agribusiness Professionals.

She is also the publicity officer and current treasurer of the Illawarra Cattle Society’s Victorian Branch and has been a Cows Create Careers Advocate since 2012. Ms Parker has visited local schools to educate students on the many career pathways in the dairy industry.

Alongside Raymond, who addresses animal care and husbandry, they deliver calves to the schools for the students to rear.

Ms Parker spends considerable time mentoring young people in various communities, including AWiA and youth in agriculture and dairy and was involved in launching the AWiA Youth Committee.

Rural Consultant of the Year
Matt Norton
Toowoomba, Queensland

Matt Norton’s collaborative and solutions-orientated approach has earned him a prominent reputation within the agricultural community and now the 2022 Rural Consultant of the Year Award sponsored by Corteva Agriscience.

Mr Norton is a town planning and environmental compliance consultant servicing intensive livestock activities across Australia, focusing on the lot feeding, pork, and poultry sectors.

He started his agricultural consulting career in 2016 and, in a short time, has achieved some major outcomes for clients. This includes achieving development approvals allowing for the growth of the Australian feedlot sector by more than 100,000 head and the pork sector by more than 200,000 pigs. These projects spanned Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

While Mr Norton has an extensive corporate client base, including many of Australia’s largest cattle producers and lot feeders, he enjoys helping family farming businesses drought-proof and diversify their operations. It is

Mr Norton’s ability to simplify and communicate regulations to farmers to ensure they get the best development or compliance outcome while minimising stress and delays made him an asset to the industry.

Recently, Mr Norton has focused his attention on the implementation of wastewater treatment technology into feedlots and piggeries.

Mr Norton’s approach to the issue, and strong relationships with clients, has encouraged ‘out-the-box’ thinking on technology adoption. Mr Norton is passionate about encouraging young people, particularly those not from a rural background, into agriculture as a career; and regularly speaks to high school students and early career professionals and often presents for AgForce’s School to Industry Partnership Program (SIPP).

He also speaks at industry events and, in 2019, presented on feedlot regulation at the TSBE Intensive livestock conference.

Similarly, he was invited to speak at the Queensland Pork Consultancy Group 2022 event on building resilience in a changing world. Mr Norton is a member of the Australian Pork Limited (APL) Environmental Technical Panel and has also worked closely with local and state governments on rural land use planning. Mr Norton was also a key author in the development of the NSW government ‘Planning Guidelines – Intensive Livestock Agriculture Development’.

Agricultural Student of the Year
James Easter
Adelaide, South Australia

James Easter is proof that you don’t need to be raised on a farm to want a successful and fulfilling career in agriculture. In his third year of a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Adelaide, Mr Easter has developed an incredible passion for agriculture and is the outstanding winner of the 2022 Agricultural Students of the Year Award, sponsored by AgriFutures Australia.

Mr Easter originally chose his field of study because he enjoyed working outside, communicating ideas with others and learning about how plants and soil work together to produce what we eat.

He received a taste for farming when he worked on his uncle’s broadacre farm after high school. During this time, he completed a Diploma in Agriculture and a Diploma in Agribusiness and then decided university was the next step. In addition to his studies, Mr Easter has taken on the role of President of the Adelaide University Agriculture Students Association.

There, he leads a committee of like-minded students in organising industry networking events such as Growing the Future, Agtivate Your Career and a mentoring program. He is also a University Peer Mentor and Pre-Arrival Ambassador and has worked as a prac-demonstrator and tutor with first and second-year students. Mr Easter has worked with the Ag Institute of Australia, South Australian Division, in developing the 2022 Student Compendium.

This is a collation of 150+ internships, scholarships, competitions, work experience, graduate programs, training and other opportunities for students or anyone interested in a career in agriculture.

Mr Easter’s other extracurricular activities include participating in the Soil Science Australia Soil Judging competition in Cairns, AgXtra Agronomy Competition, attending GRDC research updates and Crop Science Society meetings. He has attended Innovation Generation in Sydney, an Ag Excellence Forum and became an SA Career’s Hub Ambassador. He is also an Ag Institute of Australia Committee Member.

Mr Easter’s goal after finishing his Bachelor Degree is to pursue post-graduate studies while still being a strong advocate for opportunities in agriculture. He wants to get more people to consider the field of agriculture next to careers such as medicine or law, as it is just as, if not more, important.

Award for Excellence in Technology
James Venning
Bute, South Australia

James Venning is a 31-year-old father of two who manages the family farming enterprise ‘Barunga Grains’ situated near Bute on the Northern Yorke Peninsula of South Australia.

Barunga Grains continuously crops 4700 hectares of wheat, barley, canola, and lentils on predominantly dune swale country. His approach to farming has earned Mr Venning the 2022 Award for Excellence in Technology, sponsored by New Holland.

Returning to the farm after high school, Mr Venning has taken on a real leadership role, particularly when appreciating how technology can support good business decision-making. He introduced several innovative solutions to the business to improve productivity both short term and in the future, including using soil sensing technology to better understand the property and what it requires to perform.

This has allowed Mr Venning to apply Variable Rate Fertiliser based on electronic zoning of paddocks, with zones featuring sand, grey soil and heavy clay. He uses weather stations to identify frosts and inversions for better spray application, moisture probes and a protein machine on the harvester, and satellite imagery for guided crop scouting and elevation maps to identify low areas to help scout for frost damage after a bad frost.

Mr Venning has mapped a large portion of the farm which has provided invaluable insight into the land, helping determine pH variability and enabled him to introduce a variable rate liming program to combat variable acidity issues and help improve nutrient availability. Mr Venning is open-minded to new innovations and technologies and prepared to challenge established ideas and voice his opinions.

Mr Venning supports his community in many ways, including as the youngest President of the local grower group Northern Sustainable Soils (NSS).

During his Presidency, Mr Venning undertook a large-scale wheat frost trial on his property. He has hosted several trials on the property, including a phosphorus response trial under a SmartFarms grant and a deep ripping/delving trial.

Award for Excellence in Diversification
Jake Ryan
Manjimup, Western Australia

Jake Ryan knows his vegetables, livestock, and eggs; and soil biology. It is this diversification of his farming strategy that earns Mr Ryan the 2022 Award for Excellence in Diversification. Mr Ryan is an innovative young producer from Manjimup, Western Australia.

On his family farm, Mr Ryan manages an intensive program including the production of cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and kale; sheep and cows; and chickens for pasture-raised eggs.

Mr Ryan also has a focus on diversity, soil biological activity and storage and nutrient cycling.

He is passionate about regenerative agriculture and has adopted many innovative strategies to help the farm develop into a more sustainable operation. Mr Ryan is an early adopter of strip tillage in WA and of diverse pasture species mixes, developing effective perennial and annual mixes from his trials. He has hosted a cover crop and strip tillage trial through Horticulture Innovation Australia, helping to share the benefits he is seeing from strip tillage.

In pasture rotations, Mr Ryan uses a diverse mix of 6-8 pastures for both annuals and perennials. All legumes are inoculated at seeding, and paddocks are rotationally grazed, with Mr Ryan only taking 50 per cent of the biomass in any one graze. His nutrition includes trace elements tested in small plots for a response and biological stimulants such as humic and fulvic acid, kelp and fish hydrolysate.

Mr Ryan recently won Corteva Agriscience’s Climate Positive Leader award, a prestigious award that will see him travelling and meeting up with the other winners to discuss climate-positive methods to adopt and how to share this with the wider public. He was one of nine winners worldwide.

Mr Ryan wants to see his family business grow and prosper for the next generation and to be a leader in how the industry approaches climate and sustainability issues.

Award for Excellence in Agricultural Research
Kate Gunn
Adelaide, South Australia

Mental health and wellbeing – are two topics that are having a considerable impact on our industry and one that has earned Dr Kate Gunn the 2022 Award for Excellence in Agricultural Research, sponsored by the Australian Centre for International Research (ACIAR).

Farmers die of suicide at 1.6 times the rate of the general population, two times the rate of other employed people and they are half as likely to have seen a doctor in the last six months than their non-farming rural counterparts.

A clinical psychologist, Dr Gunn is a Senior Research Fellow leading a team in the Department of Rural Health at the University of South Australia.

Dr Gunn’s team combine what research shows is likely to help farmers change their behaviour and improve their wellbeing, with farmers’ strengths, beliefs, and preferences, so that new strategies are more likely to work, be meaningful and be adopted in the real world.

Much of Dr Gunn’s passion for this area of research stems from growing up on and staying closely connected to, her family’s farm near Streaky Bay in South Australia.

Dr Gunn saw firsthand the impacts of poor mental health in her community, and the consequences of people not seeking help.

Her research has shown that farmers are really good practical problem solvers, but when there are things that they can’t control, that does cause a lot of stress. It also highlighted how important to find ways to help farmers manage that stress in ways that are relatable to them.

Dr Gunn is the Founder of; a free online resource designed with farmers to help them adopt strategies to effectively manage when things are beyond their control, like the weather or market prices.

The online resource has been comprehensively evaluated and found to be acceptable, relevant and meaningful for farmers.

Module completion is associated with significant reductions in farmers’ distress and increases in their wellbeing that are maintained for at least 6-months post completion.