Fifth-generation Brimblecombe takes over the family farm
AFTER twelve months working the land in Africa and two years learning from one of the Lockyer Valley's biggest producers, the next generation of one of Forest Hill's most prominent farming family is returning home.
20-year-old Mitch Brimblecombe officially took over the reins of Moira Farm in February, becoming the fifth-generation to do so, as well as taking charge of another family farm in Kalbar, which has been in the hands of his mother's side for a century.
Three-and-a-half years ago he travelled to Uganda with father Linton straight out of school to assist him for a year as he managed a property owned by the Omer Farming Company in the north-west of the country.
Being half way around the world, the family leased the Forest Hill farm to Qualipac, who Mitch would work for for two years upon returning to Australia.
That lease, as well as a separate lease for the Kalbar property, both expired at the turn of the year.
Linton took up a position with Vanderfield in Gatton after finishing his Africa stint and has since been promoted to the head office in Toowoomba, so when it came around to making a decision - it was agreed it was the right time for Mitch to start running the show. "I might not have been able to pay (Linton) as much,” Mitch laughed.
"We still talk twice a day and if I've got any questions, I just keep him up to date. It works out alright.”
There hasn't been a honeymoon period and big decisions have already been made - he is working to develop the Kalbar farm by clearing the dairy on the property and dams for irrigation at Forest Hill are running low.
While vegetables are in the ground at Kalbar, the water situation in the Lockyer means they might be forced to grow sorghum as opposed to broccoli this year.
"We have about 600 irrigated acres at Forest Hill when we've got water and then a little bit of dry-land for grain and whatnot and about 200 irrigated acres at Kalbar,” he said.
"We'd be a bit happier if our dams in the Lockyer were full so we could proceed and put more a bit more of a plan together at Forest Hill but that's alright.”
His two years at Qualipac taught him to roll with the punches and he believed it was an invaluable learning experience to see the industry from a different perspective away from his family's land.
He was recognised for his work overseeing their operations in Jondaryan, Allora and Inglewood with the Young Supervisor/Manager of the Year Award at the 2017 Lockyer Valley Business, Training and Apprenticeship Awards.
"I think working for another company before coming here has certainly been a very good thing,” he said.
"Qualipac taught me a lot about the logistics if you are operating at different locations, so that was pretty handy.
"We're going to continue working with them here just supplying them with produce and maybe a few other companies down the track.”
There is lot more of a focus on long term planning and the financial side of things, as opposed to concentrating on the crop in the ground, but he was enjoying his first few weeks in charge.
"It's not easy but it's manageable as long as you make good use of the services around you so - agronomy, your employees, advice from, in my case, Dad or other growers, and your local dealerships,” he said.
"If you use all those guys correctly, you're pretty right.
"You've really got to be aware of the pulse of the businesses' agronomics and finance.”
He gained confidence from other young farmers who are in similar positions and taking on more responsibility.
"There's a few other young fellas around the place that are certainly very actively involved in their family operations that do still have their parents or relatives working alongside them but I can certainly see them stepping up in the near future and taking more of a responsibility,” he said.
"There are certainly a lot of guys like me doing it and it's good in a lot of situations because you can see the young fellas, they step up and they take more of the physical roles on the farms and the older generation can step back and manage it in a different way.”
While he admitted there was some pressure on his shoulders, especially in the early-goings, Mitch has farming in his blood, grew up with his hands in the dirt and there is no other place he'd rather be.
"I've been around here for my whole life so I know where everything is, it's just taking a bit more of a step up and running it,” he said.
"There's a lot of people watching such a young fella running a show like this.
"So there's a bit of pressure in that regard, especially at Kalbar, we've put a dent in that farm, cleared the trees and everyone's talking about it... they're all watching.”