Skills carried from class to the paddock

It is more than 25 years since Paul Bennett graduated from Marcus Oldham College, however the skills he learnt there have helped shape his life.
Nanjing Night Net

What Mr Bennett learntassisted his role in developing the family business from a small mixed dairy farming enterprise into a business that runs more than 5500 dairy and beef cattle, value addthrough its own factory, employmore than 100 people,supplypremium dairy products throughout Australia, and exportfresh milk to China.

Now Chairman of Ashgrove Cheese, Paul Bennett graduated from Marcus Oldham College with a Diploma in Farm Management in 1991, after completing a farmingapprenticeship in Tasmania.Upon reflecting on his time atthe College, Mr Bennett said he realises how ahead of its time the institution was, his strongest memories being the comradeship of all the students and staff of the college. “In the late 1980s and early 1990s there wasn’t an appreciation for agriculture in the community,” said Mr Bennett. “It was the first time I had experienced being in a group that was proud to be in farming and agriculture. At Marcus, we had all chosen agriculture as our careers, the college inspired in us a pride in being farmers and managers.”

Mr Bennett said the course gave himthe confidence to take a calculated risk, identifyan opportunity “when everyone else is running away”, createa plan of where you want to go, the ability to analyse a business, understand the books, and not be afraid to make changes.

Mr Bennett said Marcus Oldham also gave himthe ability to think outside the square and “see the bigger picture that is not always apparent when you have your head down working flat out” –skills he found invaluable during his time as DairyTas Chairman.

“DairyTas represented the 474 Tasmanian dairy farmers on behalf of Dairy Australia running and coordinating the regional development programs of DA,” he explained.“We developed a dairy project aimed at sustainable development of the Tasmania dairy industry, raising $1.2 million to implement it, not out of the farmers pockets, but from the state and federalgovernment, and the companies that make their living off the Tasmanian dairy industry.”

Mr Bennett saidMarcus Oldham gave him theability to run a meetingand undertake public speaking and debating with confidence.

“I can remember doing mock interviews and public speaking at Marcus thinking, ‘What the hell are we doing this for?’

“The principal of the college at the time, Graham McConnell toldus they would be skills we would need because as students at Marcus, we all would be leaders in our communities when we went home.”

Mr Bennett said he wouldhighly recommend Marcus Oldham College to anyone who was considering a career in agriculture.

“It was probably one of the most exciting times of my life. I still remain in contact with several of the boys I went through with – doing this article has reminded me to give them a call.”

RESPECT: Thanks to the popularity of celebrity chefs and the notion of paddock to plate and farmers markets, the value of the farming community has risen greatly.

RECOLLECTIONS: Paul Bennett thinks Marcus Oldham was ahead of its time and has strong memories of comradeship with all the students and staff at the college.

HISTORY: The Ashgrove Cheese company was established in 2001 by Paul’s Bennett’s father, John, uncle Michael and their respective wives.

FARM FRESH: The majority of our Ashgrove Cheese’s milk comes from sister company Ashgrove Farms, where it is delivered directly from the dairy to the factory.

PROGRESS: Paul Bennett says the business he now runs in conjunction with his family has little in common with the mixed enterprise family farm he joined in 1986.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.