New markets in co-op’s sights

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Woogenellup farmers Ken and Karen Drummond.
Camera IconWoogenellup farmers Ken and Karen Drummond. Credit: Cally Dupe

Watching the lamb price climb sky-high has been astronomical for all WA graziers, but it is the potential to find new markets and the power to bargain collectively that has Ken Drummond wholeheartedly backing a new farmers’ co-operative in the Great Southern.

A founding member of WA Producers Co-operative, the Woogenellup farmer and his wife Karen, also an artist, have invested time and money in the venture after the idea was first floated between Stirlings To Coast Farmers grower group members two years ago.

At its foundation meeting in nearby Mt Barker last week, Mr Drummond was appointed WAPCO’s acting chairman and is expected to officially take on the role at the group’s next meeting in August.

“The co-operative will allow us to pool resources,” he said. “It is about targeting selling with a focus on the end consumer.

“It is easy to say ‘we don’t get a fair deal’ (in regards to prices). But this co-operative gives us a new vehicle.” Mr Drummond will lead a five-person board, also appointed last week, which includes three local farmers as directors and two independent directors — Shire of Albany chief executive Andrew Sharpe and Regional Development Australia Wheatbelt executive officer Juliet Grist.

Woogenellup farmers Ken Drummond.
Camera IconWoogenellup farmers Ken Drummond. Credit: Cally Dupe

The local farmer directors are Chris Enright, Sandy Forbes and Darren Moir, of Woogenellup, Narrikup and Amelup respectively.

The group also appointed its first paid staff member, WAPCO secretary Trish Ryans-Taylor, who will work from a hired space at the Stirlings To Coast office in Albany, but the co-operative will run separate from the grower organisation.

With a focus on tractability, provenance and supply, the co-operative currently has 15 members.

Second-generation farmers the Drummonds run a dual-purpose sheep flock comprising prime SAMMs and merino crosses for wool and meat.

The couple, who have farmed together for 35 years, started including meat sheep in their operation when the “wool market hit the deck” in 1989 with the removal of the floor price. No-till cropping was also on the rise at the time.

These days, the farm is about 30 per cent livestock and the remainder cropping, with the couple growing barley, wheat, canola and a range of pastures.

“In this high-rainfall zone area, sheep complement cropping so well ... they take the risk out of farming,” Mr Drummond said.

“Sheep are on an equal basis as far as the gross margin goes. The prices have never been better, it is just amazing to see.”

Mr Drummond understands that some farmers can be reluctant to “do things differently” when prices are good.

But he believes the co-operative could net him a 20 per cent increase in the profitability of his sheep enterprise.

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