Growing for the Future

Simon Doolin’s Great Grandfather started farming around North Star in Northern NSW in 1924, almost 100 years ago. Today, everything Simon does is with this legacy in mind, with the aim of leaving the country and community better than he found it, ready for the next generation. 

Growing up on the land was a dream childhood for Simon Doolin, who thought that being able to watch the trucks and tractors coming in and out of his front gate was everything a young boy could ever ask for. 

Many years on and he still spends his days watching machinery come and go, but now he calls it work. 

After leaving home for boarding school, spending a stint of time overseas and then at Marcus Oldham, Simon came back to the family farming operation. 

Since returning, he’s seen the district go through some incredibly high highs and devastatingly low lows, with the most recent 2017-2019 drought the worst in recorded history.

Even during the most difficult of seasons, sowing is always Simon’s favourite time of the year. 

“I love sowing wheat into the ground and aiming to get that perfect germination,”

“it’s been really challenging in the recent years trying to get wheat in the most impossible – well, nearly impossible – conditions.” 

“We were putting seed in at ridiculous depths to find moisture and going at silly slow speeds and finding that sweet spot for a seed – it’s been a real challenge.”

The drought wasn’t only tough on local farmers however, the whole North Star community suffered. 

As a village of only 40 residents, a small primary school and a community playground, Simon and his good mate and fellow farmer James Hardcastle saw the need to reinvigorate North Star in the wake of trying times. 

So, together they bought the old vicar’s house and created The Vicarage Cafe to be a meeting ground from which they supply coffees and simple meals – including takeaways for the busy harvest period – for those who come and go through the village. 

The Vicarage also stocks flour made solely from Doolin Agriculture wheat. 

This decision to take his grain directly to flour mills has been one of the biggest and most surprising rewards of Simon’s time as a farmer. 

It has meant he and his team have been able to form relationships with the bakers and brewers who turn his crops into bread and beer. 

“Every year we get a few bakers out who use our flour, they’re very passionate bakers and have worked in bakeries all their lives but a lot of them have never been on a farm.”

“So they come up here at sowing or at harvest and they’re just blown away because every day they’ll have their hands covered in flour but a lot of them had never seen a wheat plant.”

“But it’s changed the attitudes of my staff as well, the whole attitude of how we produce wheat, now we know we are growing this for Brasserie Bread in Sydney or for whichever bakery, it’s just like everyone is putting in that little bit of extra effort into growing the best quality grain.”

Simon Doolin was the Syngenta 2020 Growth Awards National Winner for their Sustainability category. To read more about his commitment to farming for the future, visit the Syngenta website here

Listen to Simon’s podcast episode on your favourite podcast app, or by clickly the button below:

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