Smartcane BMP facilitators

Tony McDermott

Tony has been in the industry for 30-odd years. He has seen mills in Maryborough come and go. He has witnessed the fires, droughts, and floods. Tony knows how hardworking and resilient his local canegrowers are. That’s why Tony is a facilitator for the Smartcane BMP program. Sugarcane is the most energy positive crop in Australia. Right now, we have lots of rain and a high sugar price. It is great for the growers…. But the future isn’t rain and high prices… we need to be minimizing costs.”

“I’ve spent the last 15 years farming… back then I was with Smartcane BMP as a farmer. The program just makes sense. Fertiliser pricing has gone through the roof, so it is within the grower’s best interest to find a nutrition program that maximises productivity and limits input costs. That is exactly what Smartcane BMP does.”

“Growers are scared. Between changing regulations, extreme weather conditions, and mills closing I am sure many have considered throwing in the towel. But they are strong. They are dedicated. They see a future. Part of that future is getting their farming practices reviewed. This last quarter alone 5 growers have become accredited.”

Tony thinks the Smartcane BMP program is especially valuable in terms of being prepared for potential changes to regulations. “If accredited under BMP, you have the right documents. You are aware of what will be audited. It secures a growers future, especially for small farms that will suffer due to a lack of record keeping”

Jasmine Connolly

Meet Jasmine Connolly, the Smartcane BMP facilitator for the Burdekin region….

“I have been in this role for about 5 years now. Being a facilitator for Smartcane BMP is so rewarding. You go from complete strangers to playing an integral role in someone’s farm.”

When asked about her favourite thing about her role Jasmine said, “I learn from growers and growers learn from me. From the program I have made new friends, learnt the ins and outs of canegrowing, and grown my ability to understand different perspectives. In return the growers have taken on board my advice about sustainability, dealing with pests and disease, and record keeping.”

Jasmine has seen a range of benefits from the Smartcane BMP program, “Here, we have dry wet seasons and need farms to be fully irrigated. The Smartcane BMP program means not only being water-wise with irrigation but also being cost-efficient. If you know how much water you need, and where it is going, you can be better with your water use.”

“The record-keeping component of Smartcane BMP is key in my opinion. Since the program has higher standards of regulation, growers who are Smartcane accredited will most likely be passing all government regulations.”

There have been unexpected benefits of the Smartcane BMP program for Jasmine’s region as well. “I have talked to growers who are telling me that banks are seeing the BMP program as a positive. When banks are interacting with growers, they are valuing sustainability and good record-keeping. Growers are telling me they are getting discounted loans. The banks want to encourage sustainable canegrowing.”

Jasmine says at the end of the day, the program is a way to help growers show their values, “These are people who love the land and take care of it well. They have years of experience and are confident that they know what is best. And they do. It just helps if they show it through BMP.”

Joel Tierney

“I’ve grown up around growers my whole life.”

 “I have always had an interest in the balance between productive industry and looking after the environment. I think that’s why I love being a facilitator at Smartcane BMP. The program aligns with my views on productivity, profitability, and sustainability.”

When asked what he loved about his industry, Joel said “How varied it is. In my role it is never the same thing twice. Each grower has a different landscape and different priorities.”

“I think the best thing about Smartcane BMP is that growers get the opportunity to show the community what they are doing for the environment. The audits are above regulation standards so going through that process really demonstrates the commitment these growers have to their environment.”

Jessica Turchet

Meet Jessica Turchet, a Smartcane BMP facilitator for Plane Creek. Jessica began her facilitator journey after completing a Bachelor of Environmental Science at Central Queensland University.

Jessica loves her role as a facilitator. When asked what her favourite parts of being a facilitator she said, “The farmers, they are very funny, hospitable, hard-working people, who never fail to welcome me into their homes. They’re good value.”

I also love the versatility of this role, and the opportunity to learn something new pretty much every day, whether it’s from growers themselves, the team at PCPSL, or from the wider industry, which offers a great deal of opportunities for collaboration and learning, there’s never a week goes by that there isn’t a field day, or presentation on something, somewhere.”

The Smartcane BMP program ensures Canegrowers are supported to achieve sustainable growing practices through the help of a facilitator.  “I think the BMP program is a great tool to link growers to resources that are available…I find the problems growers are having are to do with accessing information. It’s not always accessible, or reliable, or consistent, and having someone be able to highlight these potential issues, and present them with options to resolve them, or link them with a better resource for helping them to resolve them, is key to my role I feel.”

Nickolas Stipis

When he moved to North Queensland in the early 1980’s to be a school principal, Nick Stipis would have never expected to have such a key role in supporting growers.

“I came to North Queensland in 1980 as a school principal. I worked at a school in a cane district, so I would go and help the parents plant on weekends and nights as needed. This ensured the kids could get to school even in the busy season.”

In 1985 Nick bought a cane farm. “I worked the farm at night and was a school principal by day… I loved it… After that I bought six more farms and ended up producing 25 000 tonnes of cane yearly.”

Nick balanced life as a school principal, canegrower and father, as he continued to grow his business. Nick sold the farms in 2005 and was elected to the Tully sugar board in 2006.

I started as a facilitator 2-3 years in to the Smartcane BMP program. They gave an opportunity to someone in their late 60’s…that I will always be grateful for. Now, over 80% of Tully is accredited. It is because everyone knows me, they trust me. I helped on their farms, I taught their children. People appreciate the knowledge I share with them.”

Nick has seen the benefits of the Smartcane BMP program through his facilitator lens. “I think one of the greatest things about the program is that farmers get to have a close look at their businesses. Being an ex-grower, I know that you don’t get much time to stop and look at how your business is going. Smartcane BMP gives growers that opportunity to look at what the best management really is. It helps farmers develop goals and, with the help of a facilitator, figure out a map to reach them.”

Smartcane BMP simplifies book-keeping. It gives a close look at what is really going on in the farm. I think that the people that join the program end up better farmers.”