Filling the knowledge ‘GAPP’
Linda Walters, Birchip Cropping Group
The Growth, Adoption, Production and Profit (GAPP) program has been a three-year pilot project funded by Agriculture Victoria and the Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) aimed at increasing on farm production and profitability, particularly among a younger farmer demographic.
Throughout the life of the project, over 170 growers have been engaged in GAPP groups and involved a diverse range of professionals within the agricultural industry including BCG and Agriculture Victoria staff. This approach has proven to be a successful forum which delivers relevant information, challenges cultural practices and encourages open discussion. This year, the pilot project was evaluated externally by Cumbre Consulting to determine if the project has met its objectives.
The program for GAPP group meetings had a strong whole farm business focus, identifying business literacy as a key learning area in addition to addressing seasonal agronomic topics. BCG targeted regions that had a strong young farmer base with small farmer discussion groups established at Manangatang, Southern Mallee (Birchip), Hopetoun, Rupanyup, West Wimmera (Nhill), Horsham (until 2016), Quambatook and a Women’s group (Birchip).
This year, the pilot project was evaluated externally by Cumbre Consulting to determine if the project has met its objectives of increasing on-farm production in ways that increase or maintain the profitability of farms in the grains industry and to determine if a new model of research, development and extension can help with on farm adoption of improved techniques.
All growers that had attended meetings over the last three years, plus all agricultural professionals that had presented to the groups were surveyed. Seventy-seven per cent of group members indicated they had done something different in their business because of the project, with 57.5 per cent agreeing that the project had improved the potential of their farm to be more productive and/or profitable.
Overall the evaluation was very positive and highlighted that the young farmer discussion groups are a successful model for continual professional development. The key benefits from this approach include:
- Involving younger farmers and women in agriculture
- The development of networking and communication skills
- Providing a platform for extension of research and development
- Targeting a business approach and not just an agronomic focus
- Access to a high caliber of presenters and agricultural professionals
- Giving farmers an opportunity to get off the farm (network, socialise, review and reflect)
An internal business and agronomic management survey was also conducted by BCG at the start and end of the project. The results have shown that overall, the knowledge among participants in areas such as strategic, financial, resource management and agronomic topics has increased as a consequence of participating in the project.
BCG will continue to host a series of crop walks in August and September for all GAPP members. For further information or to join one of the groups please contact the BCG office on 03 5492 2787.