Rural enterprise confidence
Updated: Oct 3, 2021
By CHRIS EARL
FOR generations, agriculture has been the backbone of communities across the Loddon.
That traditional mix of sheep, cattle and crops sustaining farms and families, contributing to the production chain that puts food of the processed and packaged variety onto supermarket shelves.
Farming life is part of the DNA that has sustained the region when challenged by government focus on the capital cities and the eastern seaboard.
There’s been diversification, too, into new and important employment creation with substantial olive groves and the growing of crops like canola.
These are agricultural successes you see driving around any part of the Loddon , marvelling through the seasons of growth and harvest.
But there’s another stunning success story in this region - the rural enterprises expanding or value-adding to that traditional mix.
This week’s approval by Loddon Shire Council of a project $35 million expansion by Hazeldene’s of its Newbridge hatching farm will greatly increase the Loddon’s stake in the future of broader agriculture and rural-based industry.
Hazeldene’s is based at Lockwood but has a growing footprint in the Loddon Shire with multiple sites including around Newbridge and at Prairie. There’s also the expansion in Boort on the back of Southern Riverland Poultry having a contract with the company.
Across its farming, hatching and processing business, Hazeldene’s produces free-range chicken RSPCA-approved chickens and an extensive range of fresh and frozen products. The investment by Hazeldene’s will increase the value of the rural sector locally through employment and confidence for the future.
The Loddon Shire’s Settlement Strategy 2019-2034 says: “Agriculture is the economic foundation of the Loddon Shire. It provides over 1000 jobs (almost half of local employment) and produces over $300 million worth of productivity.
“The opportunity to operate and expand relatively unhindered is fundamental to the ongoing viability of agriculture.
“The ability to accommodate intensive animal businesses and the required buffers because there is minimal housing development in the rural areas is a competitive advantage of Loddon Shire.
“Over the last five years approval has been granted for a number of large intensive poultry, egg and pig production facilities.
“The north of the Loddon Shire has access to irrigation, and considerable investment has been made in this infrastructure in recent years.
“The large properties in the south of the Loddon Shire are well suited to wool, prime lamb and cereal production. The South West Loddon Pipeline will enhance agricultural viability and opportunities in the south of the municipality.”
It’s not just chickens where Loddon communities are the beneficiaries of investment and faith in growing, processing and preparing agriculture-based products on small and large scales.
From piggeries to garlic, chillis and safron, what at first glance appears an eclectic mix of products is actually capturing the spectrum of resourcefulness and creativity devoid of inhibition, a display of confidence and ingenuity in the same mould of local agricultural implement pioneers with grand ideas in the 19th century. Only last year, the jump in building permit approval values across the Loddon was in part attributed to more sheds and other storage buildings for the agriculture sector.
Too often, the role of agriculture and its rural-based industries is overlooked when it comes to driving confidence and economic prosperity.
Outside of government and health employment in the Loddon, the broader agriculture sector remains the largest combined single employer in the region.
The rural base is traditional, skills passed from generation to generation and a foundation for any rural reliant enterprise recognising the capacity within local communities to increase production.
Agriculture is a strength, as recognised by council plans and the companies looking to invest in the Loddon. The latter’s faith is grounds for celebration, awareness that a future can be made through blending the traditions of agriculture with the opportunities of today.