Farming innovation fueled by next generation

As a child, Lucinda Corrigan spent her afternoons roaming her family’s 12,000-acre sheep station in the western Riverina. With her siblings away at school, she kept horses for company and a lifelong love of the land was forged.

But by the mid-70s, the family was forced to sever ties to the countryside due to the sudden death of Lucinda’s father.

“I was shattered – the loss of Dad had a massive effect on the rest of my life as we had little choice in what happened after that,” Lucinda said .

“My siblings and I were still young and my Mum wasn’t involved in the running of the property, so we moved to Sydney for the next 10 years.”

Lucinda knew she would never stay in the city and, despite her mother’s efforts to encourage her in the fields of nursing or teaching, she studied Agricultural Science (majoring in Animal Science) at the University of Sydney with a plan to return to the countryside.

I never doubted there was a massive future in agriculture – every country needs to ensure it has sustainable agricultural production systems to secure their food.

“So every move I’ve made from then on has been about creating both opportunity and sustainable choices for the industry as a whole.”

It’s a role she’s fulfilled beyond measure at her family’s property ‘Rennylea’, alongside her husband Bryan – a fifth generation family farmer known for his unrelenting focus, honesty and telling it like it is.

Located in the Murray Valley east of Albury, the undulating hill country of Rennylea was originally settled by Bryan’s great grandparents in 1868. Lucinda joined Bryan at the helm in 1986 and have since grown the business from a small commercial sheep and beef farm to be a major player in the angus genetics industry.

“We have 3500 cattle on eight properties and produce performance angus genetics for high-quality markets in Australia and the Asia Pacific rim,” says Lucinda.

“My role involves ‘directing the traffic’, strategy, marketing, finance and HR. I also have carriage of the succession planning within the business and that is a long process which is progressing each year.”

Now, with two of her three children having returned to work in the family farm business, Lucinda is more passionate than ever about seeking out innovative, sustainable solutions for farming.

Every farming business needs an innovation strategy, a way of evaluating new technology and working out whether it is right for the business

“In our case we produce high quality protein from grass, via the animals’ genetics but for most red meat producers it’s food.

“We’ve also recently undertaken an irrigation drought proofing project to remove our reliance on seasonal rains – the model we are developing we call it sustainable intensification.”

Changes in climate patterns are another key reason for Rennylea’s innovative drought-proofing efforts. With more than 100 years of records to refer to, the family are seeing a decrease in both their growing season rainfall and total rainfall.

If it was just Bryan and I, we’d probably keep doing what we’re doing. But because our children are in the business we are looking to the future and making an early start on succession planning.

“That means exploring these different pathways, taking calculated risks, using experts and assuming nothing.”

I’m proud of what I’ve contributed to the industry, but we’re now looking to the younger generation to make their mark too.

“Of course it’s crucial we maintain our values and respect previous generations, but we must also accept that the forces of change are greater than ourselves and we need to learn how to successfully adapt.

“There are so many places to make a contribution and change the future of the Australian agricultural industry – you’ve just got to know what you love, find the job, take the opportunities and make them work.”

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