Building stronger farm families
Dorianne and Charles Coventry run superfine wool merinos, fat lambs and cattle on their 6 300 acre property at Armidale on the NSW Northern Tablelands. Dorianne is from San Francisco with a background in Funds Management, and Charles is a Grain Trader and sixth generation Wool Farmer from the New England. When the Coventrys joined Ag EDGE nine years ago, they expected their business to improve, but little did they know the incredible changes it would bring to their marriage and family.
“We joined Ag EDGE when we were still managing our property remotely from Sydney. We really wanted to understand how our business could improve and we had little idea of how we were performing in relation to the rest of the super-fine wool growing industry, but we got a whole lot more than we bargained for, and that was a good thing”, Dorianne said today.
Ag EDGE, a small not-for-profit group, is comprised of a number of unofficial ‘boards of directors’ which provide a peer review function, delivering practical and professional input into each board member’s business. Each ‘board member’ is actively involved in agriculture in some way and bring their business and personal experience to the table.
“One of the first exercises Charlie and I were asked to do was to sit down and write our goals and vision for the future as a couple and a business. Initially we did this separately and when we then compared notes we were surprised to find that despite good communication between us, there were some important goal that either weren’t getting enough priority, or that we were completely unaware of. That exercise sparked some interesting and important conversations and we started experiencing benefits almost immediately”, Mrs Coventry said. “Ag EGDE has helped us to clearly and objectively identify what we hope to achieve in life, family and business, and to work together in a unified way. The board structure has been incredibly valuable to support us through those conversations, to provide ideas and solutions, to flag what may be unachievable at any point, or to make us stretch even further”.
Ag EDGE meet face-to-face up to four times each year and maintain regular contact in between meetings. Face-to-face meetings are professionally facilitated and each meeting is used to review each member’s business performance or progress towards their goals.
“Without doubt Ag EDGE has been good for our business. You can’t beat having progressive and like-minded people visit your farm and share their expertise based on their own business and life experience. They understand you and they understand your business, so the information they share is practical and realistic and the best bit, they truly have your best interests at heart with no hidden agendas. They are not trying to sell you anything and they don’t benefit in any way other than seeing you succeed”, Dorianne said.
“Because of Ag EDGE, we have become increasingly nimble to make the most of every opportunity as it comes to us. A quick ‘go’ or ‘no go’ conversation between us and we know whether it fits into our overall plan. In fact, Ag EDGE has allowed us to tick off all of our ten year goals within the first five years of membership. That doesn’t mean we get to stop there though. We updated our goals again and we are working hard towards new ones. It has made us a real team”.
“I am the first to admit that it is always a challenge to get to the Ag EDGE meetings when you are juggling a young family, off-farm work and the farm, but I am always so pleased that I make the effort. The conversations around the Board table make us accountable for our planning, they keep us focussed on our goals and there are plenty of laughs too. The benefit we get from investing that time in ourselves and our business is genuinely money in the bank”, Dorianne said.