The 2013 Rabobank Simplot Young Potato Grower award has gone to a young farmer from Woodstock in southern Tasmania.
Andrew Combes received the prestigious award at the annual Simplot dinner held recently in Ulverstone in the presence of approximately 200 people including growers, contractors, cool store operators and potato industry stakeholders from around Tasmania.
The Simplot awards have been developed to promote and support exceptional young growers with a bright future in the potato industry.
Chosen from a select group of nominees, Mr Combes said he was grateful to be acknowledged, and very appreciative of Simplot and Rabobank for their support.
According to Mr Combes, he felt humbled that Simplot chose him as someone they thought could move forward in the industry. He also looks forward to seeing what opportunities arise after being awarded the scholarship to complete the Rabobank Farm Managers Program in 2014.
Mr Combes graduated with a Bachelor in Agricultural Science in 1999 and left university to join his parents’ seed potato operation, which grows early generation high-quality seed potatoes in the Huon Valley, approximately 40km south of Hobart.
The Combes family have established themselves as leaders in the seed potato industry, highly-regarded by peers as high-quality growers. Simplot entrusts many of the early generation and new variety potatoes to the Combes for growing and development, due to their deep understanding of the potato industry.
The location of the Combes’ farming operation in southern Tasmania is unique, with the majority of potato-growing enterprises located in the northern area of the state. Andrew Combes said the location of his family’s farming business made it an ideal place to grow early generation seed.
Producing approximately 1,200 tonnes of potatoes annually, the Combes grow Dutch Cream and Kennebec varieties for fresh market produce and seed varieties including Russet Burbank, Bondi, Moonlight, and Trailblazers.
The Combes’ plant approximately 25 hectares of potatoes annually, most on leased land, selling approximately 200 tonnes of fresh produce to local supermarkets in addition to growing around 1000 tonnes of seed potatoes mostly contracted to Simplot.
Mr Combes said the family operation is structured around a lease agreement to ensure the availability of fresh soil each year for their crop, minimising the risk of disease.
As part of his award, Mr Combes will enrol in the Rabobank Farm Managers Program in 2014. The program offers young farmers from across a range of agricultural sectors in Australia and New Zealand the opportunity to develop and enhance their business management skills.
Mr Combes considers the Rabobank Farm Managers Program as a good opportunity to spend some quality time with other young farmers, learning how they operate in this field. The program will not only provide him greater knowledge of the business side of the operation but also help him develop leadership and management skills that can be applied back on the farm.
Rabobank Devonport branch manager Damon Twibell believes Mr Combes would make an ideal candidate for the Farm Managers Program due to his highly-developed agronomic skills and technical ability in the industry.
Rabobank and Simplot have jointly sponsored the Young Potato Growers Award since 2006, with both organisations seeing it as an integral way of acknowledging and supporting the future leaders of the agricultural industry.