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14/09/2015

Nuffield scholar returns with a global outlook

A jam-packed 42-day overseas trip across Asia, North America and Ireland has provided Nuffield scholar and viticulturist Andrew Clarke with a ‘big picture’ view of agriculture.

Yering Station’s chief viticulturist has just returned from the Nuffield Scholarship ‘Global Focus’ tour, which took in Singapore, Philippines, Hong Kong, mainland China, Canada, United States and Ireland. He travelled with a group of five agriculture scholars from across rice production, beef and dairy organisations ranging in size from multi-nationals to small family-owned properties.

‘The trip looked at every aspect of farming and agriculture from research labs, to trade, to standing in the paddocks and orchards with the farmers.  We met Ministers for Agriculture, spoke with big business, scientists and farmers,' Andrew said.

‘I was expecting a broad spectrum view of agriculture and trade, but it opened my mind to see that agriculture is a social movement as much as it is about production and global commodities. Realising agriculture’s influence in world affairs was probably the strongest take-away from this trip.

‘For example, we saw how the International Rice Institute’s development led to the green revolution. This increased stable rice production across the Asian tropical belt, which has prevented famine there for 50 years since and led to regional political stability as a result.’

Though the trip didn’t focus on vineyards, Andrew said it was a great opportunity to see and contrast similar elements of his own business and management practices.

‘Something that really became obvious was how the really good dynamic operations, including several of the smaller family-owned businesses, looked after their staff,' he said.

‘They weren’t afraid to invest in training and to encourage their staff to grow both personally and professionally. They had the results to show that as their staff improved so did their business.’

Andrew said the trip also provided the chance for a lot of two-way information sharing.

‘So many of the people we visited used the opportunity to ask us questions, get our input on their systems and business,' he said.

‘They wanted to know what we were doing in Australia, particularly when faced with similar problems, just as much as we wanted to see what they were doing.

‘It made me realise that I should be better tapping into the knowledge of those who come to visit us in the Yering vineyards.

‘I don’t think I realised, until now, how important it is to open yourself up to other people’s observations and experiences. Whether they can contribute or not to your day-to-day operations, it can never hurt to see how others see your work and region.’

Andy is now preparing for a personal four-week study trip to Europe in mid-September, where he will visit vineyards in Spain, France and Germany. Another four-weeks next year in the United States will round out the scholarship.

The trip will see him focusing on his nominated study topic, the management of challenging soils.

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